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German New Guinea Surrenders

21 SEP 1914: World War I and German New Guinea surrenders. The former German New Guinea was placed under a military government until 1921, when Australia received a mandate from the League of Nations to govern the country. German New Guinea (German: Deutsch-Neuguinea) was the first part of the German colonial empire. It was a protectorate from 1884 until 1914 when it fell to Australian forces following the outbreak of the First World War. It consisted of the northeastern part of New Guinea and several nearby island groups. The mainland part of German New Guinea and the nearby islands of the Bismarck Archipelago and the North Solomon Islands are now part of Papua New Guinea. The Micronesian islands of German New Guinea are now governed as the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, the Northern Mariana Islands and Palau.

The mainland portion, Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, was formed from the northeastern part of New Guinea. The islands to the east of Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, on annexation, were renamed the Bismarck Archipelago (formerly the New Britannia Archipelago) and the two largest islands renamed Neu-Pommern (“New Pomerania”, today’s New Britain) and Neu-Mecklenburg (“New Mecklenburg, now New Ireland). Due to their accessibility by water, however, these outlying islands were, and have remained, the most economically viable part of the territory.

With the exception of German Samoa, the German islands in the Western Pacific formed the “Imperial German Pacific Protectorates”. These were administered as part of German New Guinea and they included the German Solomon Islands (Buka, Bougainville, and several smaller islands), the Carolines, Palau, the Marianas (except for Guam), the Marshall Islands, and Nauru. The total land area of German New Guinea was 249,500 square kilometres (96,300 sq mi).

At the outbreak of World War I, the German East Asia Squadron, consisting of the armored cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the light cruisers Nürnberg, Leipzig, Dresden and Emden, under the command of Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee, was cruising in the Pacific Ocean. The threat posed by the German squadron caused concerns about possible attacks against Allied merchant shipping in the region. Accordingly, Britain requested that Australia destroy the German wireless stations and coaling stations in the Pacific. Britain had already severed all German undersea cables passing through British controlled areas.

Australia hurriedly raised the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF), consisting of 1000 soldiers and 500 sailors. The ANMEF was tasked with the capture of the Imperial German Pacific Protectorates within six months. This included capturing or destroying the radio stations and coal stations supporting the German East Asia Squadron. The AN&MEF comprised one battalion of infantry of 1,000 men enlisted in Sydney, known as the 1st Battalion, ANMEF and 500 naval reservists and ex-sailors who would serve as infantry.[3] Another battalion of militia from the Queensland based Kennedy Regiment, which had been hurriedly dispatched to garrison Thursday Island, also contributed 500 volunteers to the force.

A reconnaissance of the area was undertaken by the Australia Squadron, consisting of the battlecruiser HMAS Australia, the second class protected cruiser HMAS Encounter, the light cruisers HMAS Melbourne and Sydney and the destroyers HMAS Parramatta, Yarra, and Warrego, under the command of Vice Admiral Sir George Patey, entered Blanche Bay on 12 August. The destroyers entered Simpson Harbour and Matupi Harbour at night searching for the German East Asia Squadron. Landing parties from the destroyers were sent ashore to demolish the telephones in the post offices in Rabaul and at the German gubernatorial capital of Herbertshöhe (now Kokopo), located 20 miles (32 km) to the south-east. Intelligence was sort about the location of the radio station, although no information was forthcoming. After threatening to bombard the nearby settlements if the radio station continued to transmit, the Australian warships withdrew. HMAS Australia captured Sumatra and HMAS Encounter captured Zambesi whilst patrolling St Georges Channel on 12 August. HMAS Melbourne requisitioned the cargo of coal of the collier Alconda off Rossel Island on 13 August.

Imperial Germany had a paramilitary force in New Guinea of Polizeitruppe, generally used to put down rebellions. The Polizeitruppe at Bita Paka consisted of about 50 German officers and 240 native police soldiers. Rabaul was well stocked with the coal for use by the German East Asian Cruiser Squadron.

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