The 18th Infantry Division was the primary Japanese Army formation that took part in the initial landings, numbering 23,000 soldiers with support from 142 artillery pieces. They began to land on 2 September at Lungkow, Shandong, which was experiencing heavy floods at the time, and later at Laoshan Bay on 18 September, about 18 miles east of Tsingtao.
The British Government and the other European great powers were concerned about Japanese intentions in the region and decided to send a small symbolic British contingent from Tientsin in an effort to allay their fears. The 1,500-man contingent was commanded by Brigadier-General Nathaniel Walter Barnardiston and consisted of 1,000 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, The South Wales Borderers later followed by 500 soldiers of the 36th Sikhs.
The Germans responded to the threat against Tsingtao by concentrating all of their available East Asian troops in the city. Kaiser Wilhelm II made the defense of Tsingtao a top priority, saying that "... it would shame me more to surrender Tsingtao to the Japanese than Berlin to the Russians."
The German garrison, commanded by naval Captain and Governor Alfred Meyer-Waldeck, consisted of the marines of III. Seebatallion, naval personnel and soldiers (Chinese colonial troops and Austro-Hungarian sailors) for a total strength of 3,625 men under arms. He also had a modest complement of vessels, the torpedo boat S-90 and four small gunboats, the Iltis, Jaguar, Tiger and Luchs and the Austro-Hungarian protected cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth, whose crew was initially divided in two; to man the ship and fight as part of the German land forces.