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and machine-guns were busy all the time, but our
boats were also armed, and replied as well as they
could, though the Germans took good care to keep
themselves in hiding. The Duplex was there to
lend her support, and did useful work in keeping
down the enemy's fire. But her commanding oflicer,
Lieutenant Triggs, Il.N.R., received a nasty wound
in the back of his shoulder from a bursting shell.
The coxswain of one of the steamboats and the
leading torpedo man in the picket-boat were un-
fortunately killed, and eight other men were wounded.
But considering the nature of the work to be per-
formed, our casualties were remarkably light.

So the Suninga Channel was blocked, and at the
time wc confidently believed that the Konigsberg
was bottled up. But after a few days the Kinfauns


Castle arrived, bringing a seaplane with her, and
the aerial reconnaissances started. The officers of
the R.N.A.S. would seem to take a positive delight
in upsetting everybody's preconceived notions, and
they found that the Rufigi River gave them endless
scope for this pastime. First of all they said that
the Simba Uranga was a beautiful channel, such as
would delight the heart of the Konigsberg's navi-
gator; whereat the Senior Naval Officer said, "Then
we will block it," and began to make arrangements
to bring another old packet from Zanzibar to be
sunk as an obstruction. Then the airmen said that
the Kikunja Channel, although not so attractive to
a navigator as the Simba Uranga, was sufficiently
tempting to induce a bold spirit to try his luck
there. Finally they said they that did not believe
that the Suninga Channel was blocked by the New-
bridge, as there seemed to be quite a lot of space
between the wreck and the north bank. And then
the Senior Naval Officer decided that he would sink
no more vessels in the Rufigi River, for he might
continue that game until he had sunk the whole of
Great Britain's mercantile marine, and even then
the R.N.A.S. would not be satisfied. He still had
his own private opinion that the Konigsberg was
securely bottled up, but in view of these reports
of the airmen there was no alternative but to keep
watch outside, until measures could be taken to
destroy the Konigsberg in her lair. He knew that
she was short of coal, even if she could negotiate the
channel, but in war-time the Navy must take no
risks, and so the Chatham, the Fox, the Kinfauns
Castle, and the Weymouth by turns kept guard
over all the exits from the Rufigi Delta.

The Chatham spent Christmas Day upon this
wearisome job, and it was only natural that her
officers should have felt that something should be
done to mark the occasion. In those early days of


the war, before our stubborn English minds had
received an adequate comprehension of the German
species, the practice of fraternising was rife every-
where, and the illustrated papers of December 1914
contain many touching little pictures of Tommy and
Fritz expressing their brotherly love for each other.
It is not easy, however, to fraternise with an enemy
some twelve miles away, when he stoutly refuses to
come any nearer. The Chatham's officers saw this
difficulty, and so they had a raft built, and on the
raft they placed the largest lump of coal which could
be found in the bunkers, and on this lump of coal
they affixed a message of Christmas greetings, and
then they let the raft float up the river with the
tide. The message ran, " Wishing you a merry
Christmas. Get up steam for fifteen knots, and Come
Out." But neither the present nor the invitation
was even acknowledged.

The occupation of Mafia Island took place early
in January 1915. It was a necessary preliminary to
the maintenance of a strict blockade on the coast
of German East Africa. Several dhows, which had
been trading with the enemy, were captured, and
these we armed and turned into patrol vessels. Before
long the German forces were faced with the fact
that they must rely upon internal resources for food
and stores, since the great ocean highway was com-
pletely closed to them.



On 7th November 1914 the Newbridge was sunk
in the Suninga Channel of the Rufigi River, with a
view to botthng up the Konigsberg, but shortly
afterwards our seaplanes reported that in their
opinion the German raider could still find a passage
out of the river. Consequently a strict guard was
kept over all the outlets, until such time as means
could be found of giving the raider her quietus.

Six months later two of our monitors, the Severn
and the Mersey, arrived on the scene, and under
the directions of Vice-Admiral King-Hall preparations
were made for the attack. The Germans were still
strongly entrenched on either side of the only
channels which were believed to be navigable, and
they had taken the guns of the Konigsberg's second-
ary armament to support their men in the trenches.
Both trenches and guns were well hidden in the
mangrove swamps, forests of palm trees, and
thick undergrowth, which fringe the banks of the
river, so that it was impossible to say what was the
strength of the enemy's forces here. To land in a
mangrove swamp, and make a frontal attack on
hidden trenches and guns, is bound to be a costly
operation at all times, and was certainly to be
avoided if other means could be found of getting
at the Konigsberg. The monitor seemed to offer
the best solution of the problem, for its light draught
would enable it to proceed by channels which were



impassable by the ordinary ship, and its long-range
guns would be able to compete with the guns of the
KoxiGSBERG with some degree of equality. In
fact, the guns of the two monitors were of larger
calibre than those of the Konigsberg, but the latter
had the advantage of better facilities for spotting,
and the still greater advantage of having the
ranges of various points along the river carefully

The spotting for the monitors could only be carried
out by aircraft, for in that dense belt of vegetation
it was impossible from their fighting tops to see
anything more than the Konigsberg's masts, and
even these were invisible to the gunlayers below.
The hull of the ship was never seen throughout the
operations by anyone except the observers in the
aeroplanes. The enemy on the other hand had no
aircraft for spotting purposes, but a very simple
device took the place of it. They knew all the
possible positions from which we could attack, and
so they stationed men in the tree-tops somewhere in
the vicinity of these positions, and arranged a simple
code of signals. As will be seen later on, it was
some time before we discovered this device.

On 6th July 1915, about four o'clock in the morning,
the Severn and the Mersey proceeded to cross the
bar, and by half-past five they had entered the
Kikunga (Channel of the river. As will be seen from
the map (p. 19), this is the northernmost channel,
which, according to seaplane reconnaissances, afforded
a possible exit for the Konigsberg, but according to
the opinions of the natives was not navigable by any
large craft. The monitors were followed as far as
the entrance to the channel by a variety of craft,
which came in to support them. The Tweedmouth,
a light draught steamer, bore the flag of the Com-
mander-in-Chief ; two small whalers, the lOcno and
Fly, swept ahead for mines, while the Childers


sounded to find the channel ; and the hght cruisers
Weymouth and Pyramus also crossed the bar.

The Weymouth then proceeded to bombard a
position on the delta known as Pemba, where we
were informed that the enemy had a spotting station.
It meant long-range firing, without the satisfaction
of knowing the result, for there was no aircraft
spotting for the Weymouth. It seems fairly certain,
however, that the German observation station at
Pemba, assuming that it existed, was of very little
service to them. More important work for the Wey-
mouth was that of keeping down the fire of the
enemy's anti-aircraft guns, for it was essential that
our aeroplanes should be as free as possible from
interruption in their work. It is at all times un-
satisfactory to fire at an invisible target in the thick
of a forest, but there is no doubt that the Weymouth
succeeded in planting shells near enough to the anti-
aircraft guns to restrict their activities within reason-
able limits.

It must be remembered that the Konigsberg was
defended by a good deal more than her own guns,
that military forces and military guns of unknown
strength were hidden in the thick vegetation, and
that the destruction of a ship, situated as she was
behind an impenetrable delta, was no ordinary naval
operation. The operation would, in fact, have been
almost an impossibility had it not been for the
assistance of the aeroplanes. The aerodrome was
on Mafia Island, some thirty miles from where the
Konigsberg was lying, and as there were only two
aeroplanes available, and they necessarily had to
relieve each other from time to time, there were
some wearisome pauses in the proceedings.

Flight Lieutenant Watkins started off at half-past
five from the aerodrome, carrying six bombs, which
he dropped as near as he could to the Konigsberg,
to keep her attention occupied while the Severn and



the Mersey were getting into position. The two
monitors on their way up the river had been Hberally
fired on by pom-poms and 3-pounders, but this had
not worried them much, and by half-past six in the
morning they were anchored head and stern at their
allotted stations. By this time the second aeroplane
had arrived, with Flight Commander Cull as pilot,
and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Arnold as observer, and
the monitors opened fire.

Let no one imagine that spotting from an aeroplane
is a simple job. It is hard enough for a stationary
observer to declare with any degree of accuracy the
number of yards by which a shot falls beyond or short
of its objective, but when the observer is moving
through the air at a speed of eighty miles an hour
or more, the problem is rendered a good deal harder,
and when shells from anti-aircraft guns are popping
all round him like champagne corks at a banquet,
he is apt to be distracted by the thought of such
pleasant associations. The aeroplane observers over
the Rufigi Delta had other little troubles all their
own. The climate was responsible for the worst of
these, for the effect of a cool monsoon wind blowing
over a surface of land heated by a tropical sun is
very startling at times. A " bump " of 250 feet is
not uncommon, and I suppose the scientific explana-
tion is that a stratum of warm air rises rapidly
through the cold air, and when the aeroplane strikes
it the diminished density has much the same effect
as releasing the catch on a winch with a heavy weight
at the end of the hawser. Another trouble was the
thickness of the palm forests surrounding the Konigs-
BEKG. In these the monitors' shells fell to explode
unseen, like flowers wasting their sweetness on the
desert air.

On Cth July the two aeroplanes between them
covered a distance of 950 miles. The first one broke
down soon after midday, and the other one followed


suit about half-past three in the afternoon, whereat
it became useless to continue the operations, and the
two monitors had to withdraw from the river.

Their experiences had not been by any means
devoid of excitement. The Severn had no sooner
reached the river entrance in the early morning than
she saw two men seated in the boughs of a tree
overhanging the water's edge. Beneath them was a
log, and alongside the log was a torpedo. Three
rounds of lyddite promptly fired from one of her
guns left nothing recognisable of either the torpedo
or the log, and the two men disappeared completely.
When she got into her position up the river, the
KoNiGSBERG opcucd fired on her with four and
sometimes five guns, and the firing was marvellously
accurate for range, but slightly out for direction.
This was a fairly clear indication that the Konigs-
berg's gunnery lieutenant had been carefully cal-
culating the ranges of certain points on the river.
Presently the Mersey was hit twice, one shell striking
the gun-shield of one of her big guns on the port
side, and killing four men, while part of the burst
shell went through a bulkhead into the sick bay,
and wounded the sick berth steward. The other
shot struck a motor-boat lying on the port side, and
sank it, but did no further damage beyond making
a dent in the ship's bottom. It was a piece of luck
that the motor-boat was there, or the Mersey
would undoubtedly have had a big hole below her

After this she retired, and had only just left her
anchorage when another salvo fell upon the exact
spot. She anchored 500 yards lower down-stream,
where she found the atmosphere rather more
healthy. The Severn then received the enemy's
attention, and later on, after a long pause occasioned
by the absence of our aeroplanes. Captain Fullerton
came to the conclusion that it would be wise to try


a change of billet. As the stern of his ship swung
round three lyddite shells fell together on the position
he had just vacated, showing beyond doubt that the
enemy had both range and direction to a nicety.

It was just about this time that somebody in the
Severn spied a party of four men up a tree. Here
was a complete explanation of the Konigsberg's
accurate firing, and it showed that she had a very
shrewd idea as to where the monitors would come to
make their attack. A few shots from a 3-pounder
gun brought those four down with a run, and after
that the Konigsberg's firing was far from accurate.
Captain Fullerton, however, suspected the presence
of another observation post at Pemba, and was
careful to keep well in to the west bank, so that the
hull of his ship could not be seen from that direction.
Soon afterwards the second of our aeroplanes broke
down, and a withdrawal from the river became

The result of the day's proceedings was not alto-
gether satisfactory. According to the aeroplane
observers, four hits were recorded on the Konigsbeeg,
but it was quite evident that a fiu'ther attack would
have to be made in order to complete her destruction.
It was not by any means a pleasant occupation to
take ships up that shallow channel, WMth every possi-
bility of running aground at any moment, and with
unseen field and naval guns firing continually from
tlie recesses of the forest to supplement the shells
coming from the Konigsberg. The Mersey already
had four men killed and four wounded (of whom two
subsequently died of their wounds), and one of her
port guns had been put out of action. The Severn
was more fortunate, having neither casualties nor
damage to report. But the day's experiences were
enough to show that the task undertaken was far
from being a light one.

Five days later, on 11th July, the aeroplanes were


again ready for service, and the two monitors crossed
from Mafia Island and entered the Kikunga Channel
shortly before noon. Their progress up the river
was heralded by a chorus of field-guns, machine-
guns, and rifles, mostly from the east bank, and the
Mersey had three men wounded by a 9-pounder
shell. But our return shot, crashing blindly through
the thicket in the direction of the sound of the hostile
guns, soon had the effect of quieting them. Shortly
afterwards the Konigsberg opened fire with four
guns, concentrating her fire on the Severn. This
was inconvenient, because the arrangement was that
the Severn should get into position first, and the
operation of anchoring bow and stern is not an easy
one under fire. So the Mersey remained in the
open to attract the Konigsberg's gunners, and in a
very short time the Severn was in position 1,000
yards nearer the enemy than she had been before,
and comfortably steady between her anchors. A
sharp look-out was kept for spotting parties in the
tree-tops, but apparently they had come to the
conclusion that it might be too warm up there to be

None the less the Konigsberg's fire was uncom-
fortably accurate. The splash of her shells flooded
the quarter-deck more than once, but fortunately
no damage was done. About half-past twelve one
of the aeroplanes came on the scene with Flight
Commander Cull and Flight Sub-Lieutenant Arnold,
and the Severn opened fire. The first five salvoes
were lost in the thick forest of palm trees, and the
aeroplane could give no account of them. But the
officer in command of the Severn's guns took upon
himself to make a big reduction in the range, which
turned out to be a fortunate guess. The sixth salvo
was signalled by the aeroplane to be 100 yards over
and to the right. The necessary adjustment was
made, and the gun fired again. This time the



aeroplane signalled too much to the left. Again
the direction was adjusted, and another round
fired. All eyes were impatiently watching the aero-
plane to learn the verdict. As it gracefully swooped
round in its circle Sub-Lieutenant Arnold signalled
the joyful message — a hit ! The Severn's guns
were all adjusted to the ascertained range and
direction, and for the next few minutes Arnold was
kept busy making the same signal. Occasionally,
however, he had to record a short, or an over, or a
left, or a right, but the finding of the range had been
accomplished, and the hours of the Konisgberg
were numbered.

In the Severn they were all so much engrossed in
their task, which had now for the first time promised
a successful issue, that they had no time to notice
any peculiarity in the movements of their friends in
the sky. The aeroplane had been at an approxi-
mate height of 3,200 feet, but just as the first of the
Severn's shells had been spotted, a lucky shot from
the anti-aircraft guns burst beneath them, and a
piece of it hit their engine. There was no room for
doubt about it, for the behaviour of the engine
afforded ample evidence, and in ten minutes Flight
Commander Cull found that he had descended to
2,000 feet. The situation became decidedly ticklish,
for at that height a direct hit by a shell was well
within the range of possibilities, and the chances of
coming out of the ordeal alive would be remote, to
say the least of it. But Commander Cull realised
that the crucial moment had come, and that to
leave the scene just when the Severn was getting
on to her target might very well ruin the chances
of the whole undertaking. So he set his teeth,
and determined to hang on as long as ever he

Then Sub-Licutcnant Arnold signalled the first
hit, and the excitement grew as the hits became fast


and furious. But all the time the anti-aircraft
shells were bursting round them, and presently
another fragment struck the aeroplane's engine.
Nothing remained now but to volplane down as best
they could, so they made a signal to the Severn,
" We are hit ; send boat for us," and Commander
Cull steered with a view to landing in the river
somewhere near the two monitors. During the
descent Sub-Lieutenant Arnold continued to send
his spotting corrections, until the machine dipped
below the tree-tops and the Konigsberg was lost
to view. The observer's last signal to the Severn
was to bring her salvoes farther aft, and he had the
satisfaction of seeing her shells fall into the Konigs-
berg amidships before the palm trees obscured his
view. By that time nine salvoes had been signalled
as having hit the enemy.

The aeroplane fell into the river not far from the
Mersey, who promptly sent a boat to the rescue.
Sub-Lieutenant Arnold was thrown clear of the
machine into the water, but Commander Cull was
strapped to his seat, and was in an awkward pre-
dicament, as the machine turned right over. But
Arnold went to his assistance at once, and managed
to extricate him ; within a few minutes both of
them were safely in the Mersey's boat. The wreck
of the aeroplane was blown up by gun cotton, as a
precaution against its falling into the hands of the

By this time two of the Konigsberg's guns had
ceased fire ; a few minutes later only one of the guns
was firing, and after another minute or two there was
silence. But the silence did not last long, for almost
immediately a loud explosion was heard, and dense
clouds of smoke rose up above the palm trees, and
drifted away in the wind. The Severn still con-
tinued firing with two of her guns, and soon there
were no less than seven distinct explosions heard,


and the yellow smoke made a big cloud over the tops
of the trees.

The monitors were then ordered to proceed upstream
and close to within 7,000 yards of the enemy. The
navigation was no easy matter, as there appeared to
be a bar right across the river, but they crept up
gradually, and w^hen the soundings showed eight
feet of water, the Mersey put her helm over and
dropped anchor. By this time the other aeroplane
had arrived with Flight Lieutenant Watkins and
Flight Sub-Lieutenant Bishop, and with her third
round the Mersey scored a hit. The Konigsberg
was now visible from the topmast heads of the
monitors, in their new position, and Captain Fuller-
ton himself went aloft to reconnoitre. He saw that
the enemy was on fire both fore and aft, that her
foremast was leaning over and looked on the verge
of collapse, and that streams of smoke enveloped her
mainmast. In fact she was a complete wreck, and
at half-past two in the afternoon the Admiral, satisfied
that the difficult task at last had been accomplished,
signalled to the monitors to retire.

Captain Fullerton of the Severn, Commander
Wilson of the Mersey, Squadron Commander Gordon
in charge of R.N.A.S. detachment, Wing Commander
Cull, and Flight Lieutenant Arnold were all awarded
the Distinguished Service Order for their respective
shares in this achievement. It was a task which in
many of its features was unique in the annals of
the Navy. Certainly no naval engagement has ever
before been fought under circumstances even remotely
similar, for it may be described as a naval battle
in the midst of a forest. It is equally certain that
the new branch of the Navy, the Royal Naval Air
Service, had never before been called upon to carry
out such important work under such chmatic con-
ditions. Perhaps only flying men can appreciate
how difficult those conditions were, but the story of


those exciting minutes wlien, with damaged engine,
the spotters were guiding the Severn's shots nearer
and nearer to the target, is dramatic enough to appeal
to the imagination even of the most prosaic among


AN airman's adventures

At Chukwani, in the island of Zanzibar, Squadron No.
8 of the Royal Naval Air Service established its head-
quarters for the purpose of making reconnaissances
over enemy territory in East Africa, taking photo-
graphs, dropping bombs, and otherwise aiding the
military operations. The seaplane carriers, H.M.S.
Himalaya and Manica were lying off the island,
and the Flag Commander, the Hon. R. O. B. Bridge-
man, D.S.O., had general charge of the operations.
Although he was not an airman himself, he was
keenly interested in the airman's craft, and moreover
he fully appreciated the special difficulties attending
aviation in that climate. The R.N.A.S. had every
reason to be grateful to him, for he helped them in
their work as only an officer M'ith a sympathetic
understanding of their troubles could help them.

In January 1917 the Manica and Himalaya Avere
lying off the island of Nyroro near the Rufigi Delta,
and on the 5th of the month the former ship sent
Flight Sub-Lieutenant Deans over the delta in a
seaplane. On his return journey, when he was just
over the wreck of the Konigsberg and was circling
round to get a photograph of a pinnace in her
vicinity, he was fired at by rifles, one shot hitting his
port Aving. He was fired at again lower down the
delta, but suffered no further damage, and returned
in safety. His machine had refused to ascend with



an observer on board, and he had therefore made the
flight alone.

Sinee the Maxica's seaplane was temporarily in-
capable of carrying both pilot and observer, it was
decided next day to send up the Himalaya's machine,

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