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Massacre at the Rio del Rey, South-West Africa (1899)


The Elder-Dempster steamer Niger arrived at Liverpool yesterday morning from South-West Africa, and reported the massacre of Lieutenant Queis [Quise], the German Governor of Rio del Rey, Herr Lohmeyer [Loomeyer], and about a hundred native soldiers and carriers.

According to the information which had come down the river, it seems that Lieutenant Queis and Herr Lohmeyer went up the Rio del Rey towards the Cross River to quell some disturbance which had broken out between natives in the Hinterland. The Governor was accompanied by about one hundred troops and carriers, the majority being carriers. The Cross River, whither the expedition went, is said to be the boundary of the German and British [English] territory. The German expedition took as a guide a chief from a village on the road. It is said that this chief proved treacherous, and led the expedition into an ambush, where it was fired on while crossing a bridge. The chief was promptly shot by the Germans, and then the natives made a determined attack on the white men. The Germans fought with great courage, but being outnumbered and getting little or no assistance from their carriers the whole party is said to have been massacred.


After their victory the natives attacked a neighbouring factory. Fortunately there were no white men in it at the time, but the black clerk in charge was killed and the factory was plundered. Some friendly natives, seeing the warlike spirit of the marauders, hastened to the British [English] factory a short distance off and warned the two English-men there. They [on hearing the cries of the approaching natives] just had time to get into their canoe... [The canoe, in the hurry, capsized, but was righted in time to enable the two white men to make their escape.] They had, however, to leave their factory and its contents to the mercy of the savages.

The two white men, after being thirteen hours in their canoe, arrived at the parent factory in the lower Rio del Rey, where the steamer Niger was at anchor. [The circumstances of their escape were then related by the white men and also the massacre of Governor Quise. Loomeyer, and the members of the expedition, as related to them by the natives, whose friendly warning enabled themto get clear with their lives. The white men reached Rio del Rey on the 16th September. They said they heard the natives attacking factories and yelling over their captures as the white men were leaving with all speed in their canoe.]

The greatest excitement prevailed in Rio del Rey, where there were only one white German official and about half a dozen native soldiers. On the opposite side of the river are the British and Dutch factories. It was not thought, however, that the natives would come down to them, as the distance between the factories they had plundered and those in Rio del Rey would be nearly a hundred miles.

The Niger left Rio del Rey on September 17. At that time a German merchant steamer was entering the river, and if the natives came down from the interior the people in Rio del Rey could seek refuge on board her. Word was being sent to the headquarters of the German Administration [at Cameroons River], so that assistance and probably a relief expedition might be dispatched to the Rio del Rey territory. The trade of the river when the Niger left was at a standstill owing to the massacres and general disturbance.


[Reuter's representative yesterday afternoon interviewed] The Ambas Bay Trading Company of Liverpool, the only British firm having factories in the Rio del Rey... [The company had just] received mails by the Niger confirming the reported massacre. [The German official killed was given as Lieut van Queis, who was District Commissioner at Rio del Rey.] ... Although not Governor, he was still in charge of the Administration. [The other white gentleman murdered is said to be Mr. Lohmeyer, of the German Trading Company.] The Ambas Bay Company's letter from its agent states that two Customs officials were also killed, as well as one of their own black clerks in charge of one of their interior factories. This factory is situated at a place called Akonco. When news came down to Rio del Rey that the Akonco factory had been attacked and the black agent killed, two agents of the Ambas Bay Company - Englishmen - who were at the Rio del Rey factory at once proceeded up the river and succeeded in bringing down most of the goods in the place. With these they arrived at the parent factory on September 14, and two days later the two white agents came in from the factories at Muco. [These agents are the two who were 13 hours in the canoe, and said they owed their safety to the warnings of friendly natives. These latter said the natives who killed the Germans were marching down to Moco to kill all the white men they came across. The agents had to fly for their lives, leaving goods and produce in the factories. The letters did not say anything of the carriers, or native troops in the German expedition who were killed, and it is believed that the custom officers killed are likely to have been plack men in the service of the German administration. All the white agents and clerks of the Ambas Bay Company were safe, and the company in Liverpool said they did not fear the natives coming down to the factories in the Rio del Rey, as the German authorities in the Cameroons could, if necessary, send troops into the Rio del Rey in a few hours to protect all interests there.

Source: The Morning Post, Friday 13. October 1899, p.6. (at the UK National Archives) with additional information in italics from the corresponding article in The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, Friday 13. October, p.6.