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Despatches from the Front ...

-- 2nd February 1915 - describing events over the severe winter months in France and Flanders - November 1914 to January 1915.


All Despatches transcribed by the Lynsted with Kingsdown Society

Imperial War Museum War Partnership logoFirst World War - Three Despatches to War Office by N.W. Barnardiston, 9th and 29th October 1914 - describing the seige of German port of Tsingtau (alongside Japanese units) from September to November.

World War 1 soldier at rest

Source: Supplement to The London Gazette (30th May 1916), No. 29601/page 5401. War Office, 30th May, 1916.


[Despatch No. 1] From Brigadier-General N. W. Marnardiston, to the War Office. Investing Line before Tsingtau, 9th October, 1914. SIR,-

I have the honour to report that the force under my command embarked at Tientsin on the 19th September in the hired transports "Kwang Ping," "Shao Shing" and "Shuntien," and, escorted from Taku Bar by H.M.S. "Triumph" and the torpedo-boat destroyer "Usk," arrived at Wei-hai-wei at 2.15 p.m. on 20th September.

The number of mules necessary to complete our requirements in transport, which had been purchased by Captain Knaggs, Indian Army, were there embarked, that officer offering valuable assistance both there and also on disembarkation at Lao Shan Bay.

The s.s. "Shenking," chartered by the Naval Authorities as a hospital carrier, for conveyance of sick and wounded to Wei-hai-wei, joined us, and the whole left at 4.0 p.m. on 21st September.

Before leaving, I inspected the arrangements made by Captain House, R.N., and Fleet-Surgeon Clarke, on the hospital carrier, and also on shore for the reception of the sick and wounded. These two officers, especially the last named, deserve the greatest credit for the excellent arrangements made to meet all our requirements.

Lao Shan Bay was reached at 2 p.m. on 22nd September, and arrangements were made with H.M.S. "Triumph," the Japanese Navy and the Military Disembarkation Authorities for the disembarkation of the Force on the following day.

Accordingly, on 23rd September, the 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers disembarked at 8 a.m., followed by stores, ponies, mules and carts, &c. The men worked hard and cheerfully at landing and stacking stores, &c., and the entire disembarkation was accomplished by 6 a.m. on 24th September, with the exception of Base stores not immediately required, which were left on board the s.s. "Kwang Ping" in anticipation of a change of Base to Shatzukou Bay, within about 10 miles of the lines of investment.

The 24th September was spent in transferring stores from landing place to Base Supply Depot. I sent Major H. G. Pringle, General Staff, to Chimo, to ascertain the wishes of the Japanese Commander-in-Chief, who, I was informed, had just arrived at that place.

I despatched Captain C. D. Hamilton Moore, D.A.A. and Q.M.G., to reconnoitre two roads over the Lao Shan Range, by which I thought I could move the force towards the left of the line of investment, which would be the most convenient position for purposes of supply, as my transport was only sufficient to carry 4 days rations.

One of these roads was found to be quite unsuitable and the other only possible with a complete re-organisation of the transport, using pack mules or coolies over the worst parts of the Pass, and man-handling such carts as were necessary for use on the further side.

I was prepared to make this re-organisation if necessary.

On arrival, however, on the 25th, at Pu-li, about six miles from Lao Shan Bay, I learned that the Japanese Commander wished to use the Force under my command in the centre of the line, and he desired me, therefore, to march via Chimo and Liuting towards Litsun.

I also gathered that the Japanese plan of operations was to advance south from Chimo on 27th and 28th, and to attack on 29th and 30th the German advanced line; extending from Prince Henry Hill to Ku Shan, in order that siege materiel might be brought up to bombard the main position in front of Tsing-tau.

To comply with the wishes of the Japanese Commander implied a very heavy strain on my transport, and probably very short rations, as it implied a line of communications nearly 40 miles in length, over a single, bad, narrow and congested road, or rather track.

It was essential, however, to make the effort, and I decided to do so, even if we had to exist on half rations.

On the 26th September the Force marched to Chimo, about 13 miles, where it arrived at 11.30 a.m., the transport arriving later in the afternoon, and a convoy of supplies from the Base about 11 p.m., after experiencing the greatest difficulties, owing to the blocked roads.

I consider that the officers and others concerned deserve the greatest credit for accomplishing what seemed an almost insuperable task, and I desire specially to bring to notice the excellent services rendered by Captain Don, Indian Supply and Transport Corps.

To the men, the marches, although not long, were very trying, owing to the constant halts and checks owing to the road being blocked by Japanese artillery and transport, but, with the exception of a few cases of fever, no men fell out.

On arrival at Chimo my supply difficulties were greatly lessened by the offer of the Japanese military authorities to use their transport for the purpose of establishing an advanced supply depot at Chimo, from which point our own transport would be able to work forward to the refilling point.

On the 27th the force moved on about 9 miles to Liuting and halted. I rode on to Divisional Headquarters, where I was received very cordially by Lieut.-General Kamio, the Japanese Commander-in-Chief, who gave me an outline of the following day's operations, in which we were to take part.

On the 28th, in accordance with his orders, the force proceeded towards Litsun with a view of participating in the attack on the German advanced position, which was then being reconnoitred by the Japanese troops.

The Germans holding the position retired, however, before the Japanese advanced troops, who occupied the position which it was General Kamio's intention to have assaulted on the following night and morning.

The force under my command was therefore not engaged, and marched on to a village about 2½ miles in rear of the Japanese line, where it bivouacked.

This position, however, proved to be unsuitable, as we were exposed to the enemy's artillery fire, luckily without suffering any casualties; but on the 30th September I moved the force to the reverse slopes of a hill about 1 mile to the eastward of our former position, where the men were under cover, and were able to make splinter proof shelters.

I have, &c.,

N. W. BARNARDISTON, Brigadier-General, Commanding Tsingtau Expeditionary Force.

[Despatch No. 2.] From Brigadier-General N. W. Barnardiston, M.V.O., to the War Office. Investing Lines before Tsingtau, 29th October, 1914.


In continuation of my despatch dated 9th instant, I have the honour to report that on the 10th instant I received orders from the Japanese Commander to the effect that the Force under my command was to take its place in the front line of the investing force, a front of about 600 yards being assigned to us.

Accordingly, on the 11th instant I directed the Officer Commanding 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers to take up, with 2 companies, a line running approximately north-west and southwest through a point a little north of Point 177 on Shuang Shan, furnishing two piquets with their supports and a local reserve. The remaining companies of the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers were distributed in such nullahs, south of Huang-Chia-Ving, as afforded the best cover from shell fire.

2. The range of heights forming the position of the line of investment south of that village, with their under features, is intersected by numerous deep ravines of clay, excellent for protection and accommodation in dry weather. In wet weather, however, such as we have been unfortunately experiencing, the loose sail is washed away, the sides of the nullahs fall in, carrying with them the shelters for the troops; every valley becomes a torrent and every road or track a mass of deep mud. Cover for the men both from fire and weather becomes impossible. The men have been soaked through and through for as much as 48 hours, and equipment has been buried by falls of earth, and ammunition has rusted, but in spite of all hardships and privations the spirits and health of the troops have been excellent, and they have worked continuously at digging and at the heavy fatigue work of carrying rations and ammunition and heavy beams for head cover 1 miles to the front where wheeled traffic, has been impossible - often in liquid mud halfway up to the knees.

3. By degrees, and as I can obtain space, I am moving the rear companies up towards the front line preparatory to the attack on the fortress. Considerable delay has taken place in the preparations of the Japanese owing to heavy rains, but I learned yesterday that the bombardment will commence on., the 31st instant.

4. The health of the troops, notwithstanding the hard work and trying weather, is most satisfactory.

5. The line of investment we now hold extends from Kiao-Chau Bay to the sea, running approximately through Kushan, 119 degrees 21 minutes, 36 degrees 8 minutes (Lat. 36° '8' N., Long. 119° 21' E.), the high ground south of Chia-Lien-Kow to Foushan (Prince Henry's Hill).

The following is a summary of the order for the attack on the fortress, so far as concerns the British Force :-

The whole of the enemy's main line of defence will constitute the front of attack. All arrangements are calculated for a deliberate advance, but. any opportunity of attacking which presents itself will be seized upon.

The front of attack is divided into four sections, the right central section being assigned to the force under my command. One front of about 600 yards is roughly bounded by two parallel lines running north-east and south-west - the right flank line passing through Tashan, 119 degrees 22 minutes, 36 degrees 7 minutes (36° 7' N., 119° 22' E.), village and Point 375, 372 ? the left, the north¬west corner of Ho-Hsi and the eastern corner of Tiu-Tung-Chien (T'ai Tung Chen ?).

To-morrow the line of investment will be advanced to a line running through Kushan, Shvang-Shan, 119 degrees, 6 minutes, 36 degrees 6 minutes (36° 6' N., 119° 6' E.), Tung-Wu-Chia-Tsun, Tien-Chia-Tsun, Hsin-Chia-Chuang in the construction of which working parties from each section are employed daily and nightly.

When the bombardment begins, the Infantry and Engineers of the front line will prepare for the subsequent advance, and during the night of the 1st November will occupy a line through the high ground west of Han-Chla-Chuang, and south of Tung-Wu-Chia-Tun, and north of Fou-Shan-So - also that village.

The first position of attack will be prepared on this line, and during the first two or three nights will, be strengthened, communicating trenches completed, and preparations made for the next advance.

The second position of attack will be strongly constructed, approximately on the line Pump Stratton, Hsi-Wu-Chla-Tsun, the high ground' east of Kang-Chla-Chuang and the ridge west of Fou-Shan-So, and in this position preparations will be made for the destruction of obstacles and the subsequent approach.

The main portion of the siege artillery will first fix on the enemy's forts and the remainder against his war vessels. Subsequently, as the first line advances; this portion of the artillery will fire on the enemy's redoubts.

Co-operation with the Navy is arranged for.

6. I am collecting 12. days' supplies at a suitable place in 'rear of the advanced position to provide against the eventuality of its being found impossible, in this very difficult country, to bring them up during the bombardment. A suitable place for my Brigade Ammunition Reserve, about 2 miles in rear of the first position of attack; has been selected. The Field Hospital has been established at Che-Chla-Hsia-Chuang, about half-way between Litsun-Erh-Shan and: Prince Henry Hill, and, dressing stations have been arranged for in nullahs in rear of the front line.

7. The half battalion of the 36th Sikhs under command of Lieut. Colonel E. L. Sullivan disembarked' at Lao-Shan Bay on the 22nd instant and arrived yesterday at the front:

I have,. &c., .


Brigadier-General, Commanding Tsingtau Expeditionary Force.

[Despatch No. 3.] From Brigadier-General N. W. Barnardiston M.V.O.,.to the War Office. Tsingtau, 10th November, 1914.


I have the honour to report the .successful conclusion of this Expedition in the surrender of Tsingtau on the 7th instant.

The operations in which the force under my command have taken part proceeded as outlined in my Despatch No 2, dated 29th October.

The advanced position indicated in that despatch was occupied on the 30th October: The bombardment commenced on the 31st, the enemy not replying to any great extent. During the first day some oil tanks and coal stores near the dockyard were burnt, and the forts and redoubts-suffered. severely: Through-out the bombardment the practice of The Japanese artillery was surprisingly good, and the accuracy of their fire and, their superiority in guns no doubt proved the principal factor in compelling the enemy's surrender. It is stated that the Germans expended all their gun ammunition. The bombardment continued with slight intermissions until the fall of the place.

On the 1st November the First Position of attack (see my Despatch No. 2) was occupied, and the preparation of the Second Position commenced. This position was ready for occupation on the 3rd instant, but owing to its location in the immediate vicinity of the bed of the river, it was impossible to drain it or to occupy it permanently, and as it was everywhere under close infantry fire from the First Position, I merely held it during the night with piquets.

On the night of the 4th November somewhat heavy artillery fire was directed on our trenches, the 36th Sikhs losing 2 Sepoys killed and 2 officers wounded; while the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers had also several casualties.

On the 5th November was ordered prepare a Third Position of attack on the left bank of the river. This line was to a great extent enfiladed on both flanks by Nos.1 and 2 Redoubts, especially the latter, from which annoying machine-gun fire was experienced.

The bed of the river (a small stream running over a broad bed of sand) had also to be crossed, and in doing so the working parties of the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers suffered somewhat severely, losing 8 non-commissioned officers and men killed and 24 wounded. The 38th Sikhs had only slight losses. Notwithstanding this, a good deal of work was done, especially on the right flank.

I considered it my duty to represent to the Japanese Commander-in-Chief the untenable nature, for permanent occupation, of the portion of the Third Position in my front, but received a reply that it was necessary for it to be held in order to fit in with the general scheme of assault.

On the evening of the 6th, accordingly, I occupied it with piquets, and the working parties continued to improve it.

During the night, on hearing rumours of the evacuation of one or more of the redoubts, I sent out officer's patrols to ascertain if the enemy were still holding the trenches in front of us, and prepared to advance should the front be clear. They were met, however, with rifles and machine-gun fire, and reported that No. 2 Redoubt, on our left, was still held.

Between 5 and 6 a.m. on the morning of the 7th, the enemy started a further cannonade for field. artillery and an occasional shot from their heavy guns, and I issued preparatory orders for an advance as soon as I knew the redoubts were captured. At 7 a.m. all firing ceased, and I was informed that the enemy had sent out a flag of truce. About 7.30 a.m. I received orders to advance, and, the enemy along the whole of our front having then retired, I marched into Tsingtau.

The troops under my command have behaved extremely well under trying conditions of weather and those inseparable from siege warfare, and all ranks have worked loyally and hard.

I propose in a subsequent despatch to bring to your notice those who have merited special mention.

The total casualties in the force up to the present date are given in the annexure to this despatch.

I have, &c.,



Commanding Tsingtau Expeditionary Force.

[Despatch No. 4.] From Brigadier-General N. W. Barnardiston, M.V.O., to the War Office. Tsingtau, 13th November, 1914.


In continuation of my Despatch No. 3, dated 10th instant, I have the honour to forward the names of the following officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the force under my command whom I consider deserving of special notice for their services.

These names are in addition to those mentioned in my despatch, dated 9th October.

Major H. G. Pringle, Royal Artillery.
Captain C. D. H. Moore, R. Warwick Regt., Deputy-Assistant Adjutant and Quarter- master-General.
Captain J. Gray, 36th Sikhs (attached). Captain J. A. Hamilton, Army Service Corps, Base Commandant.
Major J. A. Hartigan, M.B., Royal Army Medical Corps, Senior Medical Officer.
Lieutenant-Colonel H. G. Casson, Commanding.
Major E. C. Margesson.
Captain J. Bradstock.
Captain and Adjutant G. H. Birkett.
Captain D. G. Johnson.
Lieutenant R. L. Petre.
Lieutenant H. J. Simson, Royal Scots (Japanese interpreter), attached.
Captain G. H. Dive, Royal Army Medical Corps, attached.
No. 2/10423, Serjeant J. J. Ward (killed).
No. 2/9972, Private G. C. Snow.
No. 2/9004, Private A. Green.
No. 2/9980, Private T. Jenkinson.
No. 10171, Drummer W. I. Jones (killed).
No. 10634, Private (Lce.-Corpl.) C. J. Foley.
No. 10614, Private H. Evans (killed).
No. 2/9952, Private J. West (died of wounds).
No. 2/4528, Drummer C. W. Lewis.
No. 2/9244, Co. Serjeant-Major G. A. Davies.
No. 7309, Serjeant H. Leach (died of wounds).
No. 3/10249, Corporal (Actg. Serjeant) W. S. Rosier.
1st Class Staff-Serjeant-Major S. C. Warner (now Quartermaster and Hony. Lieutenant).
1st Class Staff-Serjeant-Major A. Goodwin (now Quartermaster and Hony. Lieutenant).
No. 17933, Quartermaster-Serjeant D. E. Dean (now Serjeant-Major).
No. 11313, Corporal A. Bateman (now Serjeant).
No. 19823, Corporal T. J. Kilyon.
No. 1884, Corporal E. S. Gaughan (now Serjeant).
Lieutenant-Colonel E. L. Sullivan, Commanding.
Major E. F. Knox.
Captain A. D. Martin.
Lieutenant and Adjutant S. des Voeux.
Subadar Gurmukh Singh, I.O.M.
Jemadar Sundar Singh.
Jemadar Jaimal Singh.
No. 1707, Havildar Massa Singh.
No. 2711, Lance-Naik Bhagat Singh.
No. 2757, Lance-Naik Harman Singh.
No. 2829, .Lance-Naik Hari Singh.
No. 3126, Sepoy Fakir Singh.
No. 3785, Sepoy Ram Singh.
No. 3782, Sepoy Bent Singh. I have, &c.,
Commanding Tsingtau Expeditionary Force.