The country lies on the west coast of Africa, east of Nigeria. As with many other African countries, Britain took an early interest in this one because it wanted slaves it could transport across the Atlantic. And, again, as with a lot of other African countries, once we had turned against the slave trade we took an interest in suppressing it here, attempting to enforce a number of slavery abolition treaties.
However, it was the Germans who took over Cameroon, establishing their rule here in 1884. They weren’t to control it for long, though.
In 1914 we were at war with Germany and Cameroon was an early target for us, and we probably thought a pretty easy one. It wasn’t that easy. Things didn’t start well from our point of view. Three columns sent into Cameroon all ran into trouble due to difficult terrain and German ambushes. But the French and Belgians were also advancing from other directions. With British and French ships shelling targets ashore, Douala fell on 27 September 1914. Garoua fell to our forces in June 1915. But this, a fiercely fought and little-known war, did not finally end until 1916. After the First World War, Cameroon became a League of Nations Mandate territory and was split into a British-controlled part and a French-controlled part.
We sort of almost helped to invade Cameroon again during the Second World War. On 27 August 1940, the Free French emissaries LeClerc and Boislambert set off from the British Cameroons to the French Cameroons by canoe to take control of the territory. And after the disastrous episode of Dakar (see Senegal), in 1940, the British and Free French flotilla headed south to Cameroon instead. But when it got to the Wouri River in Cameroon, our ships were called elsewhere, and so it was without us that De Gaulle and the rest of his Free French contingent landed in Douala to popular acclaim on 8 October. It was a huge step on De Gaulle’s road to building up the Free French. A huge step he ultimately took without us.
In 1960, the French part of Cameroon became independent and in 1961 the UN organised a plebiscite in the British-controlled part. Under this plebiscite the northern part of the territory we controlled opted to become part of Nigeria, while the southern part opted to become part of Cameroon.