1914 two companies of the Gold Coast Regiment, West African Frontier Force
(WAFF), landed as part of a British force that captured Duala
in the German Cameroons. These two
companies were placed along with two companies of the Sierra Leone Battalion,
WAFF, in a composite battalion. This
battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel R.A. de Burgh Rose, Commandant of
the Gold Coast Regiment.
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part in minor operations near Duala the composite battalion was nominated as
part of a force tasked with capturing Buea, a German administrative centre 3,000
feet (915 metres) above sea level on Cameroon
Approximately 400 German troops were thought
to be on Cameroon
Mountain and the Allies
wished to capture them. The force was
split into two columns. One column, the
Tiko column, contained Nigerian and French Senegalese infantry supported by Royal
Navy and Nigerian gun detachments. The
second column, the Mbonjo column, contained the composite battalion supported
by a section of Gold Coast Artillery.
Each column contained half a company of Gold Coast pioneers,
cable-laying and medical detachments and several hundred porters. Lieutenant Colonel Rose commanded the Mbonjo
column. Simultaneously a detachment of the
Royal Marine Light Infantry under Captain C.L. Hall was to capture Victoria from the sea,
and another column under Lieutenant Colonel A.H.W. Hayward, 2nd
Nigerian Regiment, was to advance up the Northern Railway line to seize Muyuka.
Right: 2nd Nigerians at Muyuka
column, commanded by Colonel E.H. Gorges, moved by water transport from Duala to Tiko on 12th November 1914 and two
days later it was advancing on foot towards Buea. At Dibamba
Heights enemy outposts
were driven in and an entrenched position was attacked by the Nigerians,
supporting fire being provided by the Nigerian mountain guns.
The defenders, 4 Germans and 50 soldiers,
fled in haste sometimes discarding boots and equipment. The Germans were eventually captured, whilst
the Allies suffered two casualties. Just
before reaching Molyko Colonel Gorges halted his column for the night; climbing
up through thick forest for nine hours on a contested route had been tiring for
all ranks, and especially the porters.
the 15th November the advance continued into Buea, which was
surrendered by the German District Commissioner to Colonel Gorges at 1345
Colonel Rose’s column had concentrated at Mbonjo on 11th
November. Two days later the column
advanced westwards on both banks of the River Mungo, fire support being
provided by a naval flotilla of shallow-draught vessels. After exchanging fire the enemy evacuated
Mpundu as the British arrived. Colonel
Rose pushed on for three miles but found the ground difficult as many cocoa and
rubber plantations were encountered. Plantation roads and light
railway lines were plentiful and had to be crossed with caution as they
provided good fields of fire for possible enemy ambushers.
During the 14th December as Colonel
Rose’s men advanced to Ekona they were repeatedly confronted by a small enemy
group of one or two Germans and 30 soldiers.
This enemy party used its local knowledge to keep withdrawing safely to
prepared positions. German troops were
not the only hazard as a British patrol was forced to flee when it disturbed an
elephant and bees attacked another British group, severely stinging some
soldiers. Ekona was reached with the loss of two British casualties and a
detachment was sent to hold Lisoka. Possible
German escape routes to the north were now blocked by the composite battalion.
Above: The "other enemy"
day Colonel Rose sent out several patrols, one of them making contact with Colonel Gorge’s column. Another
patrol captured the local German commandant, Captain Gaisser, whilst a different
patrol returned with the official German mail bag from Yaunde in the
On the 16th
November Colonel Rose marched into Buea but left Lieutenant J.F.P. Butler, Gold
Coast Regiment, with 30 men and a machine gun near Lisoka. Lieutenant Butler’s task was to attempt the
capture of enemy groups reported to be sheltering in the neighbouring forest.
The next day,
whilst patrolling the forest with 13 soldiers, Lieutenant Butler and his men
surprised the rearguard of a strong German detachment with a machine gun. Initially the enemy fled, abandoning stores
and ammunition, but further up the forest trail a stand was made. Lieutenant Butler had followed up so fast
that he had left about half of his men behind when he came under enemy machine
gun fire at a range of 30 yards (27 metres).
The British troops with him immediately returned fire whilst Lieutenant
Butler shouted orders to imaginary rifle companies to fix bayonets and
attack. The bluff worked and the enemy
withdrew again, leaving three German corpses and the machine gun behind.
Above: Captain Butler in action
The destruction of Chang Fort.
Hayward’s 2nd Nigerian Regiment seized Muyuka on the 13th
November. Major General C.M. Dobell, the
Allied commander in the Cameroons, then ordered
Colonel Gorges to clear the Northern Railway, and a force was assembled at
Muyuka on 2nd December 1914.
Colonel Gorges was allocated a 12-pounder gun and two machine gun teams
from the Royal Navy, the Nigerian artillery battery and a section of the Gold
Coast Artillery, a Field Section Royal Engineers, the 1st and 2nd
Nigeria Regiments, half of the Gold Coast Pioneer Company and various administrative
detachments. Captain Butler was serving with the Gold Coast pioneers.
troop movements on either side of them, the 1st Nigerians moved up the railway
line to Lum. On the 5th
December a Nigerian reconnaissance party found that the Nlohe railway bridge
over the Dibombe River had been demolished and that the
river appeared to be unfordable. The
Germans had prepared an ambush and sprung it as the reconnaissance took place,
killing Lieutenant H.H. Schneider, Royal Engineers, and a soldier.
Above: Nlohe bridge demolished
During the next
four days the British built a temporary footbridge at Nlohe and reached
Manengole. German snipers were always active.
The night of 7th December saw
the Germans rolling a truck load of explosives down the railway line towards
the British, but rails had been removed ahead of the British forward position
and the truck de-railed and exploded harmlessly. On the 10th December the Germans
sent an officer under a white flag to see Colonel Gorges with a message from
Lieutenant von Engelbrechten, the local German commander. This led to the railhead, Nkongsamba, and all
the surrounding countryside up to Bare being surrendered to the British. Bare was occupied on the following day and
amongst the stores found here were two uncrated German aeroplanes, the first to
arrive in West Africa. Colonel Gorges was ordered to pursue the
enemy northwards but he first needed to build up his supplies, so depots were
stocked at Bare and Melong.
Day the British advanced on Chang with two columns. The main column followed the direct route via
the Nkam valley whilst a smaller column under Colonel Haywood advanced via
Mbo. On Boxing Day Colonel Haywood
encountered serious opposition but drove the Germans back, losing twelve men in
the process. One of those killed was
Colour Sergeant J.J. Winter, East Yorkshire Regiment and Nigeria Regiment,
Right: The naval 12-pounder in action near Chang
the direct route Captain Butler was sent out with a patrol to disperse a German
detachment which had been harassing the main column. Captain Butler achieved his mission, during
which he swam alone across an unfordable river under fire to make a
reconnaissance. Two of his men were
wounded during the action.
now had to force parties of German soldiers out of entrenched positions in
steep and often heavily wooded locations.
Sound British scouting and picqueting skills were important factors in
the advance. Elephants kept British
linesmen busy by destroying telephone lines in the rear. On the 2nd January 1915 both
columns met at the road junction southwest of Chang and pushed on at once. The British artillery had to suppress enemy
fire from the surrounding hills but by 1700 hours the town was occupied and
Chang Fort, the main objective, in British hands. The Germans had been surprised at the speed
of the British advance over difficult country and they had not stayed to fight.
did not want the British force to remain in an exposed position for too long
and so Colonel Gorges was ordered to destroy Chang Fort and then withdraw
speedily to the railhead.
pursued the withdrawing Germans down the Bamenda road whilst the brick and
cement fort was being demolished by the pioneers. Then all the British troops marched south,
reaching Nkongsamba on the 10th January. The operation had been a success but the
British withdrawal from Chang was seen by the Germans and local Africans as a
sign of weakness.
in the London Gazette dated 23rd August 1915 awarded the Victoria
Captain John Fitzhardinge
Paul Butler, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, attached Pioneer Company, Gold Coast
Regiment, West African Frontier Force.
For most conspicuous bravery in the Cameroons, West Africa.
On 17th November 1914, with a party of
13 men, he went into the thick bush and at once attacked the enemy, in strength
about 100, including several Europeans, defeated them, and captured their
machine gun and several loads of ammunition.
On 27th December 1914, when on patrol
duty, with a few men, he swam the Ekam
River, alone and in the
face of a brisk fire, completed his reconnaissance on the further bank, and
returned in safety. Two of his men were
wounded while he was actually in the water.
was also awarded a Distinguished Service Order for his service in the Cameroons. Sadly
he did not survive the war, as a subsequent article will show.
Military Operations, Togoland and the Cameroons
by Brigadier General
The Great War in West Africa
by Brigadier General E.
The History of the Royal West African Frontier
Force by Colonel A.
Hayward and Brigadier F.A.S. Clark.