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piloted by Flight Commander E. R. Moon, and with
Commander Bridgeman himself as observer. Soon
after seven o'clock in the morning they started off,
taking with them a camera and enough petrol to
last for three hours, and they flew over the delta
with the intention of making a thorough recon-
naissance of it. As the hours slipped by, and there
was no sign of them, their shipmates began to grow
anxious, and, when anxiety had given place to alarm.
Flight Sub-Lieutenant Deans was sent off from the
Manica to discover what had happened to them.

He searched up and down the various channels
and creeks, but at first could see no trace of them.
On his return, just as he was passing over the Suninga
Channel, he noticed something lying on the water
at a spot which he estimated to be about six miles
from the mouth of the channel, and on descending
towards it, he found it to be the wreck of the missing
seaplane. He came down close beside it, and saw
that it was lying upside down with the bottom of
the floats just above water, and that large portions
of the wings, tail, and rudder were burnt. For some
time he remained alongside, firing a Verey's light to
attract attention, but of the pilot and observer he
could see no trace. So he returned and made his
report.

Several days later the squadron received infor-
mation from the enemy that Commander Bridgeman
had been drowned, and that Flight Commander :Moon
was a prisoner of war. The full story, however, re-
remained unknown for nearly a year, until the pro-
gress of the allied forces brought about the flight of
the Germans and the liberation of their prisoners.



44 THE NAVY IN EAST AFRICA

I tell the story of Flight Commander Moon in the
form of a personal narrative, but it must be under-
stood, of course, that I do not profess to quote the
exact words in which he told it to me on his return
to England. He has assured me, however, that the
following account is correct both in substance and in
detail. I need only add that at the time when these
events occurred he had been awarded the D.S.O.
for many meritorious performances in aircraft work,
and that he has since been awarded a bar to the
decoration.

" Commander Bridgeman and I started off about
a quarter-past seven on the morning of 6th January
1917 from the Himalaya at Nyroro Island. It has
always been my practice to wait until I return from
a flight before taking a meal, because I believe that
work of this kind is better done on an empty stomach,
and so I had nothing more than a cup of tea before
leaving. If I had known what was in store for me,
I might have been tempted to stow enough inside
me to last me a week, after the manner of the pelican.

" We made a very thorough reconnaissance of the
delta, flying over all parts of it, and at the end of
an hour or so the commander said he was quite
satisfied, and ordered mc to return. We were over
the south end of the delta when the engine revolutions
suddenly began to drop, so that I was obliged to
descend. I steered for the inshore end of the Suninga
Channel, and landed in a creek which forms a junction
between this and Kiomboni Channel to the south of
it. I taxied along the creek, while the connnander
took the pilot's seat to give me an opportunity of
attending to the motor.

" I found that the after magneto drive had failed,
and presently the pressure in the petrol tank gave
out, and the engine stopped altogether. I made
several attempts to restart it, but without success.



AN AIRMAN'S ADVENTURES 45

The only way to discover wliat was wrong with it
was to take it to pieces, but of course I had no idea
whether I should be able to repair the delect when
I had found it. The commander decided that under
the circumstances there was nothing for it but to
destroy the seaplane, and to try to make our
escape to the mouth of the river, where we might
either be picked up by one of the ship's boats, or
find a native boat in which we could pull off to the
Himalaya.

" We happened to have come down close to the
spot where a party of Germans had fired at the
Manica's seaplane on the previous day, and it was
therefore probable that the enemy was not far away.
Owing to the windings of the creek and the thick
vegetation on either side of it, we could not see far
in any direction, and we quite expected that a party
of Huns might come round the corner of a bend at
any moment. We felt certain that they must have
seen us coming down, and must have sent men to
look for us. As a matter of fact I learnt afterwards
that the search party misjudged our position, and
wandered along the Kiomboni Creek some miles to
the south.

" The first thing we had to do was to destroy our
seaplane, which we did by soaking it with petrol
and setting fire to it with a Verey's light. We
watched it burn until it wds a useless wreck, and
then we started off down the creek, swimming across
it after a while with the idea of covering our tracks.
The commander had a Perrin belt, which served him
in good stead so long as it remained inflated, but
unfortunately the air gradually leaked out of it. I
happen to be a fairly strong swimmer, and conse-
quently 1 had no need of anything of the kind. When
we reached the Suninga Channel we found the bush
on either side so dense that it was impossible to make
our way through it, but, as the tide was well down,



46 THE NAVY IN EAST AFRICA

we were able for some time to walk along the mud
bank without entering the mangrove swamp.

" It must have been about noon when we saw the
Manica's seaplane flying over the delta. We had
anticipated that it would be sent to look for us, but
we knew that we should never be able to attract its
attention. Of course we waved our arms and did
all we could, but it was quite useless. That the
pilot would see our machine we fully expected, but
it was clearly impossible for us to remain in its
vicinity if we wished to escape capture. I confess
that it never occurred to me that, when he saw the
burnt wings and tail, he would come to the con-
clusion that we had caught on fire before we de-
scended and had been burnt to death.

" The tide was coming in fast, and it was about
high tide when we reached a point just opposite the
wreck of the Somali. This was the ship which had
been a tender to the Konigsberg in the days of her
glory, until a shell from one of our ships set the old
packet on fire, and she burned herself out from stem
to stern. We thought we saw a green-painted native
boat lying alongside the bank close to the wreck,
and I decided to swim across to examine it. I
thought, too, that I might find a receptacle of some
kind or other on the wreck where the rain water had
collected, for we were beginning to get thirsty, and
of course the water in the channel was as salt as
the sea. I left the commander on the south bank,
as his belt had become deflated, and it was a fairly
long swim for anyone but a strong swimmer. As it
turned out, 1 found it quite an easy swim, for the
current seemed to strike right across the channel
towards a creek leading northwards to the Simba
Uranga Channel, and I was carried across with it
fairly rapidly. But, alas, I found that the boat was
no boat at all — only the trunk of a tree overhanging
the water's edge. I scrambled on to the wreck to



AN AIRMAN'S ADVENTURES 47

search for water, and here again I was disappointed.
There was not a vessel of any kind, and the deck had
buckled upwards with the heat of the fire, so that
there was no cranny or hollow in which a pool of water
could collect. There was just one small spot where
a few drains had gathered together, and by lying
flat on my face I just managed to wet the tip of
my tongue.

" My next task was to swim back to the south
bank and rejoin the commander, but I found this a
more difficult undertaking than I had anticipated.
The current which had helped me across to the
Somali was now against me, and was running at
such a pace that I could do little more than keep
myself from being carried backwards. I had to give
up the attempt, but when I heard the commander
shout and fire his revolver to attract my attention, I
made another effort to get across. It was equally
unsuccessful, and though I shouted at the top of
my voice to reassure the commander that I was all
right, I failed to make him hear me. Five times
during the night I tried to swim to the south bank,
but could make no headway against the current, and
finally I decided that there was nothing for it but to
wait for slack water.

" As soon as the sun goes down the mosquitoes in
the Rufigi Delta come out in their myriads, and hang
over the surface of the water. I must have swallowed
some scores of them when I was trying to swim across,
and I found them a most unsatisfactory form of diet.
While I was waiting for slack water, they swarmed
round me, and the only way to keep them off was to
stand in the water up to my neck and duck my head
from time to time. They had been bad enough even
in the daytime, but at night the whole air seemed to
be thick with them.

" It was just before daybreak when I managed at
last to struggle across to the other bank. I found



48 THE NAVY IN EAST AFRICA

that the commander had gone on downstream, so I
swam down with the current (for the tide had turned)
until I came in sight of the deserted village of Salali,
which lies on the north bank. Opposite to it on the
south bank is a solitary hut, and here I saw the
commander, but I was carried past him by the current
some considerable distance before I could gain the
shore, and I had to wade back to him. Standing
near the hut was a clump of palm trees, and we were
lucky enough to find some cocoanuts on them. In
the hut we found tAvo empty bottles, into which we
poured some cocoanut milk. We next came across
three wooden poles, which we tied together with
wisps of sisal, and across them Ave lashed some old
window frames with lattices. It was a poor make-
shift of a raft, for the materials were too scanty to
bear our weight, but it was the best we could impro-
vise,

" The commander sat amidships, while I sat aft,
trying to manipulate an old canoe paddle which I had
picked up, but it was no easy matter, for the water
was always up to my shoulders, and occasionally up
to my neck. It must have been some time after
midday when we shoved off. We soon found that
three submerged poles do not provide the most
comfortable of craft, especially in a river where there
arc plenty of sharp snags to tear one's clothes and
scratch one's skin. My stockings were torn beyond
the possibility of repair by the most conscientious of
darners, and my khaki shorts also became consider-
ably less than respectable. As luck would have it,
I was wearing nothing better than a service cap, which
is all very well for a flight in the early morning, but
is hopelessly inadequate to protect the head from
the noontide sun.

" As wc passed Salali wc saw a few liroken boats
and canoes lying on the bank, but they were too far
damaged to be of any use to us. Just before night-



AN AIRMAN'S ADVENTURES 49

fall we reached Mnasi Moja Point, where we saw
another smashed canoe, on which we carried out a
rapid survey and decided to report that in the
absence of docking facilities this vessel could not
be recommended even for temporary commissioning.
We spent the night near the Point, dodging the
attentions of the mosquitoes by keeping as much as
possible of their rations beneath the surface of the
water. The commander suddenly started laughing,
and when I asked him to let me share the joke, he
said, ' I cannot help seeing the funny side of our
predicament. There really is something very comical
about it.' Undoubtedly there was, and, strange as
it may seem, the humour of the situation was always
uppermost in our minds, in spite of our physical
discomforts. Of course we never had any doubt
that we should get back to our ship somehow or
other, and we talked as though it were a certainty.
I remember the commander reminding me once that
we were not yet out of the wood, when I was looking
rather too far ahead, and discussing future projects
after our return to safety.

" Next day (8th January) we started off at dawn,
and presently we sighted the wreck of the New-
bridge — the old packet which had been sunk to block
the channel before the Konigsberg was destroyed.
I tried to bring the raft alongside her, but overshot
the mark, and iinally had to beach the raft some dis-
tance to the east of the wreck. We now found that
the salt water had penetrated both our bottles of
cocoanut milk, making it unfit to drink, but for-
tunately we still had an untapped cocoanut, with
which we were able to quench our thirst. By this
time the necessity of finding food and drink com-
pletely outweighed all thoughts about the risk of
capture, and we decided that we must push away
from the river through the mangrove swamp in the
hope of coming across some natives who might be

4



50 THE NAVY IN EAST AFRICA

able to supply us, and Avhom we hoped to bribe into
giving us a passage in a boat or canoe to our ship.

" It was a brave decision, but we had reckoned
without the mosquitoes. I had no sooner pvished
my way into the thicket than the buzz of a mighty
army sang in my ears, and the swarm was upon me.
The plague of flies in Egypt may have been a pretty
bad business, but the virtue of the common fly is
that he feeds on jam and dead meat, like a civilised
human being. The female mosquito feeds on live
victims, and with a callous selfishness almost unsur-
passed in the scheme of creation, she injects a poison
which makes her food more digestible for her, but
makes her bite ten times worse for her prey. Before
five minutes were up I was rushing out of that
mangrove swamp as though all the furies of hell had
been let loose on me. We had to giv^c up the idea of
getting away from the river by a tramp through the
bush ; for no human being could endure the ordeal
of it, unless he was armed like a bee-keeper wrestling
with a swarming hive. Our only way was to con-
tinue our course downstream until we reached the
river mouth.

" In the meantime the question of food and drink
was becoming urgent. We looked across the river
towards the wreck of the Newbeidge, and the hope,
which springs eternal in the human breast, made
us dream of the possibility of finding something
there which would be of service to us. As soon as
it was slack water wc pushed oil on our raft and
managed to make the wreck without much dilliculty.
I don't know exactly what wc really expected to find
there, beyond perhaps a small pool of rain water
collected in some hollow of the upper structure, which
was sticking out abov^e the level of the river, but
even in tliis wc were disappointed. There was
al)S()liitcly nothing on the wreck which could be of
the least use to us in our predicament. The star-



AN AIRMAN'S ADVENTURES 51

board stanchion of the bridge, being painted white,
presented to us the idea of writing a short note to
serve as a guide to any of the ship's boats whieh
might happen to eome along in search of us, and
the commander took a pencil from his pocket and
scribbled a few words on the paint. It is a curious
illustration of how one loses count of the passage of
time when one is deprived of the ordinary routine
of regular meals and sleep, that he and I could not
agree as to the day of the month. It was really
the 8th, but he insisted upon dating his message the
10th. Long afterwards I heard that that message
was seen after several days by some of our ship-
mates, but that they could not make up their minds
whether it w-as genuine or not.

" At nightfall we had another drink of cocoanut
milk, w^hich very nearly exhausted the supply, and
then we settled down to the usual game of hide
and seek with the mosquitoes. Once I tried to
snatch a little sleep by lying down on the wreck, but
I might as well have chosen a bed of red-hot needles ;
sleep was impossible in the company of that voracious
horde. Only the salt water could keep them off,
so there was nothing for it but to get back into the
river again, and to keep my face and head wet by
constant immersion. It was a process which soon
grew monotonous, so much so that we did not wait
for daybreak before shoving off again upon our raft.

" Our plan was to cross to the east bank of the
river, run the raft on the mud, and then wade towards
the mouth of the channel, where we hoped to come
across a native boat or canoe, or, better still, to find
one of the ship's boats coming in to look for us. At
first we were carried upstream by the tide, but when
it turned, we were carried rapidly towards the sea.
All the time I was struggling hard with my paddle
to bring the raft to the bank, but the tide was too
strong for me, and, almost before 1 realised it, we



52 THE NAVY IN EAST AFRICA

were being taken right through the entrance of the
channel. At first I failed to appreciate the full
extent of our danger. The thought that we had
escaped from that horrible delta, with its swarming
population of winged torments, was uppermost in
my mind. But when we reached the open sea, and
found that the wind was blowing up against the tide
and causing heavy waves, the full possibihties of the
situation dawned upon me.

" Our raft was overturned, and, though the poles
hung together, they were in a hopeless tangle, and
gave us little more support than a single floating
spar would have given us. I watched the shore grad-
ually recede into the distance, until I could not see
the tops of the trees above the waves, and still the
tide seemed to be drawing us farther and farther
away from land. Of course I knew that when it
turned it would carry us back again, but the question
was whether we could remain afloat long enough. Of
those next few hours I cannot speak in detail, for the
tragedy of Commander Bridgeman's death blots out
all other memories of them. When I saw that his
strength was giving out, I tried to encourage him by
telling him that the tide had turned and that we
should soon be on the beach, but 1 realise now that
he had lost all consciousness of his surroundings, and
that, although the instinct of self-preservation made
his muscles retain their hold, he was already wrapped
in the long last sleep. I could not make myself
believe this, and even when his grip relaxed I still
clung to tlie idea that I could save him. 1 caught
liold of him and struggled to keep his head above
water. How long 1 struggled 1 do not know ; it
may have been but a few minutes, or it may have
been an hour ; but to me it seemed like a lifetime.
And then my own strength failed, and 1 was forced
to let go of him.

" It was fortunate that I was not in a mental



AN AIRMAN'S ADVENTURES 53

condition to appreciate the full force of the tragedy.
My mind was dazed through lack of sleep and my
actions had become subconscious. So long as my
strength had lasted I had clung tenaciously to the
idea that my one aim and purpose was to save the
commander, and even though I dimly realised that
he was dead, I could not relinquish the struggle.
When my strength gave out, I had no very clear
idea of my own circumstances, but the ordinary
animal instinct kept me clinging to the remnants of
the raft, until the tide had carried me well inshore.
Then I struck out with such strength as I had left
in me, and gained the shallow water, where I sat
down in the surf to regain my breath. How long I
sat there I have no notion, but after a while I must
have staggered up the slope of the beach towards
the belt of palm trees skirting it.

" My next clear recollection is of meeting a native
• — a young man with only a loin-cloth round his
waist, to whom I uttered the magic words ' British
man-of-war,' and went through the motions of
paddling a canoe. Then I said ' Rupees,' which was
a word he well understood, and I indicated with my
fingers that his reward should be considerable.
Presently an older man came up, wearing a pair of
blue trousers, adorned with many patches. I went
through the same pantomime again, and he nodded
his head in comprehension. I had four rupees in my
pocket, which I handed to him as a token of good
faith, but he gravely returned the money. I also had
a large pocket compass, which I handed to him,
fearing lest he might suspect that it was some kind
of infernal machine, and that I was going to anni-
hilate him. He kept this at the time, but handed
it back to me next day.

" The elder man took me by the wrist, and led me
towards a grass hut, where I remember sitting down
on something or other — probably a wooden bench,



54 THE NAVY IN EAST AFRICA

though I have no recollection of seeing any furniture
in the hut. By this time my mental faculties were
almost dormant. I was conscious that I was in
need of food, but beyond the need of expressing this
elementary desire I had no definite thought. I
pointed to my mouth, and the natives nodded their
heads. Presently a woman appeared on the scene,
and brought me two mangoes, which she cut into
slices for me. I think of those mangoes now as
the most luscious fruit I have ever tasted. I am
afraid that my manner of eating them must have
resembled that of a wild beast rather than a human
creature, for it was nearly five whole days since I
had had any solid food.

" I was so much absorbed in satisfying the first
primitive desire of a live animal that I had com-
pletely forgotten my surroundings. But presently,
when I had eaten the fruit, I looked round, and
noticed that the two men had put on blue tunics,
and were winding khaki puttees round their legs. I
also saw that each of them had a rifle, but my mental
condition was such that I attached no significance to
these phenomena. It would have been all the same
to me if they had put on surplices and carried a
couple of big Bibles. The one idea firmly fixed in
my mind was that they were going to take me back
to my ship, and when they made signs to me to
follow them, I struggled to my feet, and passed out of
the hut.

" Of that walk through the palm grove by the
seashore, I can only remember one or two trivial
incidents. I have since calculated that it must
have occupied an lionr and a half, but I was not
conscious of fatigue ; I was not conscious of anything
but a feeling that the whole situation was quite
unreal, and that presently I should wake up. I
remember that the younger of the two natives showed
great concern about my stockings, which had slipped



AN AIRMAN'S ADVENTURES 55

down to my feet, and he kept on making signs to me
to indicate that the mosquitoes would attack my
bare legs. At last he stooped down himself, and
pulled them up for me. Later on he took olT his
red cap — a very dirty relic of what had once been a
Turkish fez, but all the stiffness had long since
departed from it, so that it looked more like a skull-
cap. Before I had realised his purpose, he was very
tenderly wiping my mouth with it. I suppose that
the remains of the mangoes were clinging to my lips
and cheeks, and the good-hearted fellow was shocked
to see me in such a condition.

" The place to which they brought me must have
been one of the German outposts. I should observe
that, although all the harbours and towns along
the coast were by this time in the hands of the Allies,
the Rufigi Delta had been left in the undisturbed
possession of the enemy. It was not such a desirable
spot as to be worth the expenditure of any effort to
acquire it. In an open space a large number of
natives were congregated round a fire, stoked with
cocoanut husks, whose smoke drove away the mos-
quitoes. Here I sank down on the ground, and
was dimly conscious that many pairs of inquisitive
eyes were staring at me ; but somehow they seemed
to belong to another world than my own. I kept
on saying to myself, ' They are going to take me back
to my ship,' and this was the only idea that my
bemused mind was capable of entertaining. During
the march my guides had spoken to a group of women
whom we encountered, and I had assured myself
that they were telling them of the reward which I
had offered, and were impressing on the women the
need of holding their tongues about me.

" I am not quite sure what happened next. I may
have gone off in a faint, or I may have simply fallen
asleep. The Germans told me afterwards that I was
in a faint, and it is not altogether improbable. The



56 THE NAVY IN EAST AFRICA

next thing I remember is that a big man with a beard
was leaning over me, and as I looked up into his
face I saw that he was a European. He said some-


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