Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

From Tsing-Tao to Fort Oglethorpe: The Perigrinations of a German Military Band during World War I

Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

From Tsing-Tao to Fort Oglethorpe: The Perigrinations of a German Military Band during World War I

Article excerpt

During the era of colonial expansion, Germany had secured a foothold both in Africa and in China following the Sino-Japanese War in 1894, when, along with England and France, it intervened to prevent China from becoming a vassal state of Japan. All three nations, of course, expected some valuable concessions in return for having "rescued" China. Germany was awarded the village of Tsing-Tao (modern Quingdao) on the Yellow Sea opposite the Korean peninsula, in the Province of Shantung. But in the Fall of 1897, before final arrangements for the transfer had been made, two German missionary priests were murdered, and this incident provided the convenient pretext for the German navy to occupy the area that November. After negotiations, the Chinese evacuated Tsing-Tao, and four months later a convention was signed in Peking leasing the territory to Germany for 99 years. Thus, TsingTao and its port became the seat of government of the German protectorate (Schutzgebiet) and site of its Far Eastern naval base, with piers, storage and coaling facilities, electric crane and floating dry-dock. A railway was eventually built, connecting Tsing-Tao to the Yellow River valley and providing a commercial route through the province. Using the latest mechanical and technological innovations, the port became a show-piece of German know-how.1

The government in Berlin hoped to turn the port and its small village into Germany's equivalent of the flourishing city of HongKong, thus rivaling the British presence in the Far East. Characterized as hilly like San Francisco, it soon became a thriving, European-style German city, complete with shops, stately mansions, churches, schools, a hospital, military compound, and even a small Rhenish, castle-like residence for the governor. Not incidentally, a German brewery was built in 1913, producing TsingTao beer still being made to this day. The curved, sandy beaches were popular sites for sun-bathing, as was fishing from the numerous piers. And while the Chinese worked in the city, they were sequestered, and forbidden from entering the European area after 9 PM without an identifying lantern.2

Of the approximately 4,170 foreigners in the immediate area, 3,800 were German, including a military garrison of 2,300 officers and men. The so-called 3rd Naval Batallion, raised on 3 December 1897, consisted of infantry and mounted cavalry for a total of some 1,300 troops. These forces were supported by territorial militia, reservists and volunteers, as well as field artillery, howitzers, engineers, and signal personnel. The German navy consisted of a flotilla of five aged cruisers, six gunboats, two torpedo boats and an Austrian cruiser, the Kaiserin Elisabeth.3 It is important to note that, despite its name, the 3rd Naval Batallion and all other military units on land consisted of army troops. As part of the German Empire's colonial forces-as opposed to members of the federal militia on home soil-the batallion was under the command of the German navy.

The band of the batallion (Figs. 1 & 2 in the Appendix) was actually one of two such ensembles in the local military forces, the larger one being part of the artillery battery.4 Formed in 1903 with approximately 19 musicians, it was under the leadership of Otto Wille. Born in Brandenburg in 1876, he had studied at the Königliche Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, and after minor posts in Germany, opted to accept the position of bandmaster in TsingTao, apparently seeing an opportunity to spread German culture abroad. The music of the band in its official duties included the standard march repertory published in collected editions in Germany. Most preferred were quick marches (Geschwindmärsche) and the slower parade marches (Präsentiermärsche) for infantry assemblies in the field, such as the regulation Holländische Ehrenmarsch and the popular Fridericus Rex grenadier march by Ferdinand Radek.6

However, not satisfied with performing just ceremonial music associated with military functions, the enterprising Wille soon had his small ensemble participating in the musical life of the city itself. …

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