Tsingtao and the German Far East Squadron

Maxwell Mulholland (BlauerMax@AOL.COM) posted the following on MARHST-L during the summer of 2000 - posted here by permission.

[it was asked:] "What I would like to know is which ships (with related per-ship data) would have made these trips just prior to the opening of WWI; what their usual loading port in Germany was; and how often such exchanges, especially of dependents, were organized and made."

As so ably described, the thriving naval base and commercial city of Tsingtao was a marvel of rapid modernization. Between 1897 and 1914 the German government, in a truly amazing feat of civil engineering and urban development, turned a sleepy Chinese fishing village into a first-rate forward naval base and a bustling little European-style metropolis. Volker Plagemann, in his book "Uebersee: Seefahrt und Seemacht im deutschen Kaiserreich" ("Overseas: Seafaring and Naval Power in Imperial Germany", CH Beck, 1988), describes the advanced facilities and progressive amenities of this outpost of German navalism and imperialism. Photos of steamships tied up at the modern port and harbor installations can be found in Volumes 2 and 3 of Arnold Kludas' history of the German passenger ship industry. Diagrams of the port, city area, and landward fortifications (gun batteries, searchlights, command posts, and infantry positions), as well as several photos of the town and its defensive works, can be found in Volume II ("Krieg auf sieben Ozeanen" - "War on the Seven Seas") of Fritz Otto Busch's series "Unsere Marine im Weltkrieg" ("Our Navy in the World War", Brunnen-Verlag, 1935).

I have found it difficult to find much data on shipping to Tsingtao. Kludas' books include dozens of tables that detail shipping routes and passenger fare prices from Hamburg and Bremen to locations all over the world, but these show no direct connection from Germany's northern harbors to Tsingtao. The only relevant remark I saw was that a China-based but German-owned shipping company made regular round trips from Shanghai to Tsingtao. The Far East travel schedules for the two major German passenger lines Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL) and Hamburg-Amerika (HAPAG) show routes from Hamburg/Bremen to Yokohama making stops in Shanghai. It is possible that Tsingtao-bound civilian passengers had to make a trans-shipment layover in Shanghai. However, Karlheinz Graudenz in his book "Die deutschen Kolonien: Geschichte der deutsche Schutzgebiete" ("The German Colonies: a History of the German Protectorates, Weltbild Verlag, 1989) claims on the other hand that both NDL and HAPAG did make direct trips to Tsingtao. Graudenz records that the annual shipping traffic to Tsingtao rose steadily from 182 steamer visits in 1900, to 509 steamer visits in 1909. Of the latter number, 266 visits were by German vessels, 113 British, 68 Japanese, 36 Chinese, 22 Norwegian, and 4 "other".

Regarding transport of naval and government personnel (and their dependents) to Tsingtao, from what I know it was the policy of the German government to specifically charter steamers to do this and not to depend on commercial ships sailing scheduled routes. The warships of Germany's overseas-based Cruiser Squadron regularly received "drafts" of new crewmembers at stipulated periods (a common practice in all navies of the age). I believe that this activity was conducted twice a year. Hans Pochhammer in his book "Graf Spees letzte Fahrt" ("Graf Spee's Last Voyage", Koehler Verlag, 1924) states that the relief ship PATRICIA had in fact arrived at Tsingtao on June 2, 1914, to carry out the rotation. I can not find any additional information on PATRICIA and do not know if this was a one-time event or a dedicated use of this particular ship. However, Pochhammer's use of the expression "this time the steamer PATRICIA" leads me to believe that many different vessels were chartered for this purpose.

As to the port of embarkation, the documentation I can find is silent on this matter. One anecdote of interest is that the German Expeditionary Force (Ostasiatisches Expeditionskorps) sent to China in the course of the Boxer Uprising boarded their transports in Bremerhaven harbor. A photograph in one of my books shows Kaiser Wilhelm II giving his infamous "Hun Speech" to these departing soldiers, who are drawn up in parade formation in their overseas uniforms in front of the Bremerhaven embarkation hall of NDL (just prior to their marching up the gangway). Indeed, Bremerhaven has long been used as a port for shipment of government goods and people - the United States made the city the gateway for its military forces in Europe from 1945 to the early 1990s.

For those who are interested:
A *SUPERB* comprehensive German-language website devoted to German colonial history (including, among other things, statistical information, historical data, color pictures, and maps of Kiautschou/Tsingtao) can be found:

A second excellent German-language site dealing with the topic (with color pictures and a detailed chronological timeline of Germany's occupation of Kiautschou) can be seen at Tradition League of Former Colonial Troops:
Traditionsverband ehemaliger Schutz- und Ueberseetruppen

The photographic archives of the German Colonial Society have been put on the internet and can be viewed online at:
Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft

Lastly, a long list of remarkable historic postcards of Tsingtao (now known as Qingdao) can be viewed (and purchased for that matter) from the following site:
Postcards from Qingdao

Last Updated: 16 October, 2000.

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