Monday, October 15, 2012

Germany's Colonial Ambition In the Philippines 1898

Following the defeat of the Spanish fleet at the hands of Dewey's American squadron in Manila Bay, Berlin then dispatched its "Ostasiatische Kreuzergeschwader" (East Asia Squadron) under the command of Admiral Otto von Diedrichs to the Philippines, the instruction: to protect German interests, and if possible, seize a colonial concession in the Philippines. 

It took a while before von Diedrichs was able to assemble his fleet , but by mid June 1898, the German squadron numbering to 5 ships (consisting of SMS Kaiser,SMS Irene,SMS Cormoran,SMS Kaiserin Augusta and SMS Prinzess Wilhelm) were at the entrance of Manila Bay, enough to post a serious challenge against the American fleet. This led Dewey to imposed a naval blockade not only against the Germans but also against the other foreign warships (of Great Britain, France, and Japan) lurking at Manila Bay. But the provoking actions and presence of the German fleet did not end there, the Germans violated Dewey’s blockade of Manila by bringing in supply of flour to the trapped and beleaguered Spaniards and even treating the Spanish residents aboard the German vessels.

The breaking point came when the German gunboat Cormoran refused to acknowledge signals from the Americans to be boarded for inspection. The gunboat had to be stopped by firing a shot across its bow. Von Diederichs then sent an officer to complain about Dewey’s provocative acts. The incident almost got the Americans and Germans to an exchange of fire. Finally, realizing that Spain would not sell the Philippines to her and with the arrival of the American expeditionary forces, Germany abandoned her colonial ambition in the country. Few weeks later, the Treaty of Paris was signed.

Admiral Otto von Diedrichs  (1843-1818). Commander of the "Ostasiatische Kreuzergeschwader"  or East Asia Squadron that was sent to Manila Bay 1898 (Photo -"Das Bundesarchiv")

The cruiser SMS Kaiserin Augusta- Became the temporary flagship of von Diedrichs fleet due to the unavailability  of the "SMS Prinzess Wilhelm" and the "SMS Kaiser" at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, May 1898.  
(Photo US Library of Congress)


SMS Kaiser 1874 later renamed "Uranus"
(Photo courtesy

SMS Irene


SMS Cormoran  
SMS Prinzess Wilhelm
After the fall of the Manila, most of the German ships departed the Philippines; only Prinzess Wilhelm remained on station to protect German nationals in the islands. She was replaced by Arcona in October. In mid-November, Kaiser ran aground and had to go into drydock for repairs; Diederichs therefore made Prinzess Wilhelm his flagship. The ship remained in Asia for only a few more months and returned to Europe in July 1899.

 In celebration of the 40th birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the “Ostasiatische Kreuzergeschwader" (German East Asia Squadron) treated its officers and crew with a sumptuous meal. Starter: Asparagus soup, then comes “fish with potato”, “braised ham in burgundy sauce” with sauerkraut , “fried beef tenderloin w/ vegetables, “goose with salad”. For dessert, choice of cheese, fruits and pastries-cakes. Of course coffee in the end. Looking at the menu, one can say that it was really typically German. One could ask whether the German fleet was really sent to Manila to try to seize it or they were just there for a holiday cruise? (laden with those German gourmet delights.)

Deutsche Marine Schiffpost. Postcard featuring Malacañang Palace sent by a sailor from the German fleet in Manila 1898.

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