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Siege of Mora
Part of the Kamerun Campaign in World War I
Date26 August 1914 – 18 February 1916 (1 year, 5 months, 3 weeks and 2 days)
LocationMora, northern Kamerun
Result Allied victory
Belligerents

United Kingdom British Empire

  • Flag of Nigeria (1914–1952).svg British Nigeria

France France

  • Flag of France.svg French Equatorial Africa

German Empire German Empire

  • Flag of Deutsch-Kamerun.svg German Kamerun
Commanders and leaders

British Empire Brigadier General Frederick Hugh Cunliffe British Empire Captain R. W. Fox France Lieutenant Colonel Brisett

France Captain Ferrandi[1]

German Empire Captain Ernst von Raben[2]

German Empire Lieutenant Siegfried Kallmeyer
Strength

British Empire 150

France 300[3]
German Empire 204
Casualties and losses

27 killed 45 wounded

10 captured[3][4]

The Siege of Mora or Siege of Moraberg between Allied and besieged German troops from August 1914 to February 1916 on and around the Mora mountain in northern Kamerun during the Kamerun Campaign of the First World War. After more than a year of siege German forces on the mountain surrendered following the escape of many German troops to the neutral Spanish colony of Rio Muni.

Background[]

In early August 1914, the First World War broke out in Europe and the Allies set out in the task of conquering Germany's African colonies. The German West African colony of Togoland was defeated on 26 August, freeing up British and French troops to invade Kamerun. In preparation, British columns had stationed themselves at various intervals along Nigeria's border with the German colony, the northernmost of which, commanded by Captain R. W. Fox, was stationed at Maiduguri, across from the German fort at Mora. This Nigerian detachment consisted of one infantry and one mounted company and had entrenched itself across from the frontier awaiting orders and gathering intelligence about the German forces in the region.[1]

The fort at Mora, about 100 miles south of Lake Chad near the colony's western frontier with was guarded by a company of Schutztruppen (protection troops) under the command of Captain Ernst von Raben.[2] Initially the garrison consisted of 14 European and 125 African soldiers but von Raben managed to recruit 65 more before the Allied siege came.[3] The German commander relocated the garrison from the fort on the plain to partway up the Mora mountain, on 13 August. This the position offered a commanding view over the surrounding area and had easy access to water. The Mora mountain, which would become a fortress during the siege was approximately 30 miles around at its base and 1,700 feet high.[5] German forces prepared for British attack by heavily fortifying their positions on the steep slopes of the mountain.[6]

British occupation of Sava[]

On the morning of 19 August, German sentries detected around 50 mounted British soldiers near Mora. Captain von Raben and 30 of his soldiers descended from mountain and forced the British to retreat following some fighting. Afterwards, the German commander ordered the destruction of the fort at Sava so it could not be used by the Allies.[3] British scouts continued to harass German forces in the region. On 20 August, upon receiving orders to attack Mora by Colonel C. H. P. Carter, Captain Fox sent his forces marching towards the town. They arrived on 26 August and occupied positions at Sava, about three kilometers from the German defenses on the mountain where they joined with 16 French soldiers from French Equatorial Africa. The Allied position was on the road between Mora and Garua to prevent any contact between the two German garrisons.[7]

First allied attack[]

During the night of 27 August, Captain Fox led a detachment of French and British troops to the very top of the Mora mountain, in hope that he would later be able to attack the German trenches from above.[3] When morning came the Allied forces began to shoot down into the German trenches which were however, out of their range. This detachment was then attacked by the Germans who forced them to retreat back down the mountain.

As they made their way down the mountain, a thick mist fell upon them causing a group to get lost and wander away from the main detachment. When the fog rose, the group of British soldiers saw counter-attacking German troops in the distance wearing red fezes and mistook them for the similarly-uniformed French troops and did not initially engage them. The German force overwhelmed the British, killing three including a doctor, capturing one and forcing the rest to retreat back to Sava. The Germans lost one African soldier in this encounter.[1]

Both sides reinforce their positions[]

After returning from their first attack on the German positions, the British began to build defenses on a hill near Sava, closer to the Mora mountain, while Captain Fox requested artillery to be brought up from Nigeria. At this time, the small French force under Captain Ferrandi returned to Fort Lamy in French Equatorial Africa. Learning the vulnerabilities of their position on the slopes of the mountain from the first allied attack, the Germans relocated their positions to the summit in early September. The German force at Fort Kusseri under Lieutenant Kallmeyer withdrew to Mora in late September, fortifying von Raben's position further.[3] Similarly, around 300 French forces under Lieutenant Colonel Brisett, were freed up after the Battle of Kusseri joined with the British forces there, occupying numerous hills surrounding the Mora mountain. By late October, the Allies had positioned machine guns and artillery on these hilled and were prepared for a long siege. Throughout October 1914, in preparation for the imminent siege, the Germans sent scavenging parties to gather as much food as possible and were quite successful in this pursuit.

Siege in 1914[]

German commander at Mora, Major Ernst von Raben

On 29 October, Allied artillery began to pound the German positions while machine guns fired at the Schutztruppen. Two days later a French Senegalese unit attempted to storm the German positions atop the mountain but failed and was almost completely destroyed.[3] Further waves of French troops continued to charge up the slopes of the mountain but continued to be cut down. This action resulted in many supplies being captured by German forces from the Allied dead including ammunition and even some machine guns. A short truce ensued with the purpose of burying those who had died in the attacks.

On 4 November, artillery bombarded the northern forward German positions. A French infantry attack followed which resulted in the death of two German officers and three soldiers, and the Allied occupation of the outpost. The remainder of the German force withdrew but fighting continued there through the night after which German forces under the command of an African sergeant stormed and retook the position.[4]

As time went on, German forces began to run out of supplies, especially food. Scavenging parties could no longer venture into the countryside in search of food because they were surrounded. The horses, donkeys, and camels that had been brought up to the mountain for transportation were slaughtered and eaten. Water sources were unprotected and prone to machine gun and artillery attacks.[3] Further allied attempts to dislodge the Germans from their trenches failed.[8]

Christmas truce[]

After almost four months of siege, the German defenders saw a white flag from the Allied positions on 24 December 1914.[8] Cut off from any sources of information, the garrison believed the war in Europe had ended. In fact, the British merely wished to send Sergeant Taylor, who was in German captivity, a few gifts. The German commander, Captain Ernst von Raben received a parcel of gifts as well from Captain Fox that contained blankets, cigarettes and even a Christmas tree. The British offered a cease-fire for the 24 and 25 December, to which the Germans agreed.[3] British and German officers met several times on these days to exchange gifts. On 1 January 1915, the British raised the white flag once again, and a meeting between von Raben and Fox, who had been acquaintances before the war, was arranged. French forces during this time however, did not comply with the cease-fire and continued to shell the German positions with artillery.[8]

Siege in 1915[]

In early 1915, the Germans were facing extreme thirst as the dry season was underway and their water sources had been poisoned by cadavers which had been thrown in by French troops. On 22 January the final cow was slaughtered and rations were cut further on the mountain.[3] Allied guns continued to target water sources, making it more difficult for the Germans to retrieve what water there was. At the end of April however, the dry season ended, crushing any Allied hopes of forcing a German surrender due to lack of water on the Mora mountain.[4] At this time, desperate for food, the Germans began to send patrols down the mountain and behind the Allied lines during the night to scavenge for more food. This was very dangerous but yielded some results for the starving force on the mountain.

At this point the German fortress at Garua had been taken in the Second Battle of Garua and other German forces were retreating to the center of the colony. The Allies tightened their lines closer around the mountain but their attacks slowed in the Spring. Realizing the situation in the rest of Kamerun was dire, he offered the African soldiers a chance to leave but none did.[3] Later, Germans sent Sargeant Batinga and 13 men out during the night who burned down the British camp at Sava. Throughout May and June they continued to send out patrols to raid the Allied camps of guns, ammunition and other supplies while killing ten Allied troops and wounding four.[4]

On 6 August, French forces attempted to take the village of Kilwe, belonging to a tribe that supported the Germans. German forces under Sergeants Weissenberger and Steffens counter-attacked, killing one French soldier and pushing the rest back to their lines. They left a force of a dozen soldiers in the village to prevent another Allied attack. On 1 September, the Allies brought up larger artillery pieces and resumed their bombardment of the positions on the slopes of the mountain. The next day 42 French soldiers again attacked Kilwe and were repulsed, leaving seven dead.[4]

General Cunliff, commanding Allied forces in northern Kamerun, began to push for stronger efforts to defeat the Germans on the Moraberg. In preparation for an attack, on 7 September, artillery bombardments on German positions had increased and continued throughout the night, especially on their northernmost outpost, commanded by Lieutenant Kallmeyer. The next morning, a British infantry assault on the outpost followed which broke under fire from German guns. A British captain and 15 African soldiers were killed in the attack while the Germans suffered five wounded.[4] Two more attempts to storm this German post were undertaken in the night, but got lost due to the darkness. After this series of assaults failed, General Cunfliff decided to slow their pace and instead continue to bombard enemy positions more fiercely.

Captain von Raben was wounded by a bullet to the head on 30 September during a visit he made to the German forward positions. Due to the lack of adequate medicine at Mora, he was confined to a sickbed while his second in command, Lieutenant Siegfried Kallmeyer, took temporary control of the company. Food stocks continued to dwindle and on 8 December, British troops burned the village of Wudume that had been supplying food to the German troops.[3][4]

German surrender and aftermath[]

In early 1916, the German forces had been under siege for almost a year and a half. Their food stocks had been exhausted, although their munitions were still plentiful (they still had 37, 000 rounds of ammunition).[9] On 15 February 1916, Captain Ernst von Raben received a letter from British General Cunliff offering to return the Askaris safely to their homes and the Europeans, to internment in England. At this point, Kamerun had been effectively surrendered to the Allies, as the colonial government and most of the remaining army had fled to the neutral Spanish colony of Rio Muni. Realizing their situation was dire, and that any continued resistance would be fruitless, the German commander surrendered along with the remaining 155 men under his command on 18 February 1916.[9]

The surrender of the German force at Mora signaled the end of German resistance in Kamerun and the beginning of the British and French occupation of the country. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919, partitioned the colony between the two powers, creating the new colonies of British Cameroon and French Cameroon.

Notes[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Fecitte.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Henry 1999. pp. 113–114.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Dornseif 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Damis 1929.
  5. Dane 1919, p. 167.
  6. Strachan 2001. p. 522
  7. Dane 1919, p. 182.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Robinson 2010.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Strachan 2004. p. 56

References[]

  • Damis, Fritz. Auf Dem Moraberge – Erinnerungen an Die Kämpfe Der 3. Kompagnie Der Ehemaligen Kaiserlichen Schutztruppe Für Kamerun. 1929. Berlin. German soldiers' collective account of the siege
  • Dane, Edmund. British Campaigns in Africa and the Pacific, 1914-1918,. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1919.
  • Dornseif, Golf. Kameruner Endkampf Um Die Festung Moraberg. 2 June 2010. Web. .
  • Fecitte, Harry. Lake Chad Area: 1914. Harry's Africa – The Soldier's Burden. Web.
  • Henry, Helga Bender. Cameroon on a Clear Day. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1999.
  • O'Neill, Herbert C. The War in Africa and the Far East. London: London Longmans Green, 1918.
  • Robinson, Dan. Publication. Mandaras Publishing, 2010. Web.
  • Strachan, Hew. The First World War. Vol. I: To Arms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Strachan, Hew. The First World War in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004 ISBN 0-199-25728-0

Coordinates: 11°03′N 14°09′E / 11.05°N 14.15°E / 11.05; 14.15

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