Remains of the Radio Station at Kamina, Togo
Photos by Marcia Faria 2010 at WikiCommons

Radio Station at Kamina in 1914
From from WikiCommons

  In 1911 it was decided to build a large radio station in Togo. It would have with masts 120 metres tall and be capable of sending and receiving telegraph messages from Germany to forward to other smaller stations in the African colonies and to German ships in the South Atlantic.

Work on the station was only completed in June 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.

British and French forces simultaneously invaded Togo in August 1914 with the intention of capturing the radio station.

The Germans had no regular troops in Togo only local Polizeitruppe and German reservists so a strong defence was not mounted. Instead they retreated to Kamina fighting small skirmishes along the way.

Around the radio station they had constructed defensive trenches and machine gun posts but realising they were out numbered the German force prepared to surrender without a fight.

They destroyed the radio station on the night of the 24th August 1914  so it could not fall into enemy hands and opened negotiations for a truce on the 25th. On the 26th August 1914 the acting German governor, Major von Doering accepted the surrender.

Today the remains of the radio station can still be seen scattered around the area.

A more complete account of Kamina Radio Sation is told by Marshall Pixley below.

Remains of a building, possibly a water storage facility for the generators

Generators destroyed in 1914

Generator turbine

Foundation of the masts holding ropes showing blast damage from 1914

Steam boiler for the generator

An underground tunnel as part of the station



The History of the Kamina Radio Station
by Marshall Pixley

At the same time that African colonization was taking place, the development of wireless was also beginning. In 1896, Marconi first demonstrated his system of wireless telegraphy and in 1901 conducted the first successful transatlantic radio transmission. He quickly established the Marconi Company, to provide long distance telegraphic communications. Meanwhile in  Germany, two other companies were pursuing the same goal. Due to a patent dispute, the companies merged, forming Telefunken.

In 1911, in order to maintain fast and reliable communications with its African colonies, the German government ordered the creation of a large sending and receiving station in Kamina, Togoland. Telefunken had a massive research station in Nauen, in the north of Germany, with antenna masts up to 650 feet tall and a transmitter range of over 3000 miles. The Kamina station would be able to receive and relay messages from Berlin to its further outposts in southeast and southwest Africa, and to ships at sea in the south Atlantic.

Telefunken sent Baron Anton von Codelli to Togoland, to supervise the construction. Initially, the station was to be built near the town of Anie but the intended site was destroyed by a hurricane. Kamina was selected as a second site, it being more protected. Codelli first built a construction camp, to include housing for 100 forced labourers, a brick factory, a woodworking shop, and a 4 1/2 mile railway to haul stone and materials.

Building of the station itself began in the summer of 1912, when the first of the antenna towers were erected. Nine antennas in total were put up, each with a height of almost 250 feet. The footprint of the entire complex was over 43,000 square feet, and included the receiver/transmitter station, a steam generating plant, a cooling tower, wells, pumps, and administrative offices. The two steam generators produced 1000 horsepower, enabling the transmitter to put out a 100 kilowatt signal. This allowed for communications of up to 5900 miles.

The sending and receiving equipment were connected on 1 April 1914, and made successful contacts with the station in Nauen.

War broke out in Europe in July 1914 and word of the opening of hostilities quickly spread to Africa. Between August 6 and 9, 1914, British and French troops entered Togoland from both the eastern and western borders, and through the port at Lomé, on the southern end of the country. Their aim was to subdue German forces in the colony, but more importantly, to capture the radio station and disrupt communications with Germany's colonies further south.

There were few regular German troops in the colony. Only a handful of officers and NCOs, who commanded a force of about 700 native police and paramilitary. Allied troops soon pushed the German and native forces back towards Kamina. By 21 August, the Germans had formed a well-defended position around the city, along the River Chra. The French attempted a number of assaults on the 22nd, all of which failed. Despite good defences and plenty of supplies, the Germans abandoned their lines during the night of the 22nd, and formed a new line around the radio station itself. Two nights later, the German commander, Major Hans-Georg von Döring, ordered the destruction of the station. The antennas were blown up, along with all the electrical equipment. Then von Döring surrendered his remaining men to the British.

During its short life, the station at Kamina sent 229 messages between Germany and its colonies. The station was never put back into operation. Today you can still see the remains of some of the buildings and parts of the generators lying about the site, in surprisingly good condition.



Recommended External Links
Axis History Forum with a photo of the generators in working order
German Wikipedia Page on the Kamina Radio Station
German Wikipedia Page on Colonial Radio Stations

Funkentelegrafie und deutsche Kolonien by Michael Friedewald



Please contact me here if you have more information or photos on this topic. 

Back to Main Menu for German Colonial Uniforms