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thing to a smaller man, who was dressed in the rig
of a sailor, and, as my scattered wits returned to me,
I recognised the German tongue. Then, and only-
then, I reaUsed for the first time that I was a prisoner
of war.

"For some time I was allowed to rest, and then
the smaller of the two men, who spoke quite good
English, told me that I should have to walk inland
with them. I told him that I was quite unfit to
walk, but he asked me to make an effort, explaining
that it was impossible for me to stay where I was.
He turned out to be a very good fellow, and before
we started he had a chicken cooked for me. I was
sensible enough to appreciate this kindness, for roast
chicken is a rare delicacy in the Rufigi Delta, but
when the food was put in front of me I found
myself quite unable to touch a morsel of it. I could
see that this genuinely distressed him, and I told him
how sorry I was, but I could not explain to him
why a man who has been five days without food
loses the power to eat it when it is put in front of
him. I only knew that in my exhausted condition
I should have turned away from the most tempting
delicacy that a Paris chef could devise. Later on
this little sailor man proved a good friend to me by
rigging me out in an old suit of khaki clothes belong-
ing to him — the only clothes I had from the Germans
during my captivity.

" My experiences as a prisoner of war hardly belong
to this story. Suffice it to say that they were not
such as to give me any great pleasure in dwelling on
them. To start with, 1 went down with fever, and
remained on the sick list more or less continuously
for the next six months. The prison camps were in
a constant state of ))eing moved from place to place,



AN AIRMAN'S ADVENTURES 57

as the progress of the Allied troops drove the Germans
from pillar to post, I estimate that altogether I
travelled 600 miles during my imprisonment, walking
when I was well enough, and being carried by natives
at other times. To make matters worse it was the
rainy season of the year, and frequently I had no
other bed to lie on than the wet grass.

" One piece of news, which the Germans gave me,
brought me some comfort. They told me that the
body of Commander Bridgeman had been washed
ashore, and had been buried with full military
honours. In these days of wholesale carnage, when
hundreds of men are hurled in a few hours across
the gulf between life and death, many of us have
grown callous about our fallen comrades. But the
thought that one who had been so closely associated
with me, and had shared with me the hardships of
those four days in the Rufigi Delta, had gone to
some unknown resting-place in the wide ocean had
preyed on my mind. It was an indescribable comfort
to me to know that he had received Christian burial,
and the honours due to a brave officer. His memory
will long live in the minds of those who knew him,
and no man can have a truer inscription on his
monument than that which is engraved upon the
hearts of his fellow-men.

" I have to thank a strong constitution rather
than the German doctors for the fact that I survived
those months of sickness, and have come back little
the worse for them. The medical service of the
Germans in East Africa used to remind me of Alice
in Wonderland, who had jam yesterday and jam
to-morrow, but never jam to-day. At every camp
the doctor told me that, although he was unable to
give me proper treatment, I should receive it all right
at the next camp. Occasionally I was given a dose
of quinine, and occasionally some ointment for my
sores, but there was an element of chance as to



58 THE NAVY IN EAST AFRICA

whether I got even these, and the attitude of the
doctors was always perfunctory. Nevertheless, I
had gone far to regain my health when at last the
rescue came. I shall never forget those last few days
in the prison camp. We heard the guns drawing
nearer and nearer as the Allied forces steadily closed
in from two directions. Then the commandant gave
us the joyful intelligence that the prisoners were to
be left behind, together with all the sick Germans,
and those who were not likely to be of service in
future fighting. Only about 200 Germans and some
1,800 Askaris made their way across the border into
Portuguese East Africa ; all the rest were left behind
and were made prisoners. The senior German
officer in our camp, accompanied by Lieutenant-
Commander Paterson, and armed with a white flag,
went out to meet our troops. And then our fellows
started singing ' God Save The King.' I betook
myself to a quiet corner, for I knew that, if anyone
had spoken to mc, I should have broken down and
sobbed."



THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS



59



r




CHAPTER V

THE STORY OF "KING BELL "

When H.M.S. Cumberland first cast her anchor off
the bar of the Cameroon River in September 1914,
this German colony in Darkest Africa was a sealed
book to most of us. We had seen it on the map,
and were therefore quite ready to believe that it
existed, but as to what the country was like, what
kind of people inhabited it, what industries were in
progress there, our knowledge was meagre in the ex-
treme. We had heard perhaps that German efforts at
colonisation had proved to be costly failures for the
most part, but few of us had ever worried our heads
to find out why they were failures.

On her way down the coast the Cumberland had
called at Lagos in Nigeria, among other places, and
there had picked up a small band of natives who had
fled from the Cameroons early in August, and were
now eager to lend their aid to the British in driving
the Germans out of the country. One of them
explained that he was King of Duala, and that the
others were his courtiers in attendance on him.
This came as rather a shock to the officers of the
Cumberland, who were not quite prepared for the
honour of receiving a reigning monarch into their
midst, and were in some doubt as to whether they
had committed a grave breach of etiquette in not
firing a salute and providing a Marine guard of
honour at the gangway. His Majesty, however, was
quite unassuming in his manner, and put them all

61



62 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

at their ease by agreeing to accept, as remuneration
for his services, the regal sum of one shilhng a day.
He was even democratic enough to allow his courtiers
to be rewarded at precisely the same rate. The only
difficulty that arose was in entering their names upon
the ship's ledger. The Accountant Officer's staff
grappled in vain with the orthographic problems those
names presented, and finally compromised matters by
rechristening the entire suite. One gentleman became
known as " Jack Friday," while another, who ful-
filled the functions of Prime Minister, was named
" Lloyd George." The king himself was entered on
the books as " King Bell."

Now this was not the original King Bell. In fact
the original " King Bell" dates back many genera-
tions, for the name has been preserved throughout
the ages. Just as there were sixteen kings of France
called Louis, so there have been quite as many
kings of Duala called Bell, but somehow or other
the exact number has been buried behind a veil of
antiquity, so that the present monarch can only be
designated as King Bell the Umteenth. This story,
however, is not so much concerned with him as with
his predecessor, who was his uncle.

Before I go any farther, let me explain how it is
tliat the kings of Duala glory in such an English name
as Bell. The explanation is that amongst the West
African natives for many hundreds of miles up and
down the coast the English language is the lingua
franca, the common vernacular by means of which
all the tribes can communicate Avith each other. It
is a kind of pidgin English, which seems to have
grown on the coast in some mysterious way, and to
have spread itself inland to a considerable distance.
It was not deliberately invented as a new language,
like Esperanto, but accidentally it has l)ecome the
Esperanto of Western Africa. By a curious irony
of fate the natives of the Canieroons speak better



THE STORY OF " KING BELL " C3

English than any other natives on the coast. This
must have been very galhng to the Germans, who
were obhged to learn pidgin English before they
could drill the native troops, or even issue orders to
the servants in their own houses.

The story of " King Bell," the uncle of the exile
whom the Cumberland found at Lagos, is a tragedy.
It was first introduced to me by an entry in the
diary of Lieutenant Nathnagel, the German military
officer, who was found at Duala when the town
surrendered. The bulk of the German forces, both
European and native, had been withdrawn when the
Germans realised that they could not hold the place,
and Nathnagel had been left behind to hand it over
to the British forces. He happened to have kept a
diary, and here is one of the first entries after the
commencement of the war :

" 8th August 1914. — In the afternoon Rudolph
Bell and Ngoro Din were hanged in front of the
prison for high treason. A great outcry among
the populace all night long."

I start thus with the end of the story because that
is how it happened to come to my notice. There is
nothing in the diary to tell us who were these two
malefactors, Rudolph Bell and Ngoro Din, what was
the treasonable act committed by them, nor why
the populace expressed so much sympathy with them.
All the rest of the story I had to collect from other
sources, and, although I cannot guarantee its
accuracy in every detail, I have no reason to doubt
that it is true in its main essentials. Of Ngoro Din
it is sufficient to say that he was associated with
Rudolph Bell in the charge of treason, but I have
not inquired into the particulars which caused him
to be implicated.

Rudolph Bell was chief of the Duala tribe, as his



64 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

father and his grandfather had been before him.
His kingdom extended over the town of Duala and
its vicinity. The chief industry of his subjects was
fishing in the numerous creeks and rivers, and trading
in fish. Now the German governor was faced with
a problem which sometimes occurs when civihsation
sets its great foot upon a country. The traffic of
the port of Duala was increasing, and more accommo-
dation was needed for wharfage. The only solution
was to clear out a native settlement along the river-
bank, and commandeer the space for building new
wharves. Where the German governor blundered
was in his choice of a new home for the evicted
natives. For some incomprehensible reason he
ignored the fact that they were fisherfolk, and planted
them in a settlement at some considerable distance
from any of the rivers. The natural result was that
they were profoundly discontented by the change.

" King Bell," as their accredited chief, took up
the matter with the German authorities, but the
governor, now conscious of his blunder, had not the
courage to acknowledge it. He feared that, if he
were to show any irresolution in the matter, it would
be construed in the native mind as weakness on the
part of the German governor, and power on the part
of " King Bell." So he told this officially unrecog-
nised monarch that the natives in a colony belonging
to the All Highest Emperor of Germany must go and
live where they were told, and be thankful that they
were allowed to live at all. At this " King Bell "
flew into a regal rage, and said, " Your Emperor
plentee much beeeg man, but lUidolph Bell he know
plentee nmch beecger man, and he will write letter
to English Emperor and ask him to come to Duala
in a plentee beeg sheep, and take the C'amcroons away
from you. Then we shall have nice English governor
• — no more German governor."

Here was a flagrant case of Usc-majcsti. Apart



THE STORY OF "KING BELL" 65

from the insult to the German Emperor contained in
the suggestion that any mortal man could be greater
than he, there was an invidious comparison of the
merits of German and English governors, which
could not be overlooked. So "King Bell" was
promptly clapped in prison. I am told that he did
actually write a letter to King George, and with
child-like innocence requested his captors to forward
it, but I cannot vouch for the truth of this part of
the story. The letter has never been discovered,
and, if it was written, it was probably destroyed by
the German authorities. This is very regrettable,
for it must have been a wonderful piece of composition.

When the curtain next rises upon the drama, the
momentous fourth of August has come round, and
England and Germany are at war. Up and down
the coast of West Africa, and far inland along the
banks of the many rivers which water the country,
the news is passed from village to village that the
great Emperor of the English has ordered the Emperor
of the Germans to release " King Bell " from prison,
and if he does not do so at once, then the English
Emperor will send his big ships and mighty armies
to take the Cameroons from the Germans.

Of what transpired at the trial of Rudolph Bell I
have no record, but I have no doubt that it was a
simple matter to produce sufficient evidence to con-
vict him of high treason. He had many relations
and friends eager enough to do his behests, and from
the German point of view he was an inconvenient
person to have even in prison when the country
might at any moment be invaded by hostile forces.
Probably the German governor felt that so long as
the man was alive he would be a danger in the
country, and that neither native jailers nor native
troops could be trusted to keep him safely in prison.
The simplest solution of the problem was to hang
him, and so Rudolph was hanged.

5



66 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

The Germans were in an awkward fix, for they
knew that the natives had no love for them, and
that their only chance of maintaining their ascendancy
was by ineans of a reign of terror. The diary of
Lieutenant Nathnagel contains many indications of
the official distrust of the native, and of the strained
relations subsisting between governors and governed.
Thus on 17th August— nine days after Bell was
hanged — we find the following entry :

" If the English do not come soon, we shall
be going for each other."

Then came the report that an English man-of-war
was off the coast of Togoland, shortly followed by
the report that Togoland had been surrendered. Both
these reports were received at Duala by wireless. On
27th August the diary says :

" From to-day all telegraphic work is to be
carried on by Europeans."

The native telegraph clerks were no longer to be
trusted at such a juncture, for they might use the
instrument for conveying information to the enemy.

On 31st August H.M.S. Cumberland arrived at
Fernando Po, the Spanisli island off the mouth of
the Cameroon Kiver, and three days later prepara-
tions were begun for the invasion of the country. It
became ol)vious at once to the (krmans that the
majority of tlie natives regarded the advent of the
Britisli forces as the dawn of their deliverance.
What perhaps they did not realise was that the
sequence of events had caused the natives to connect
the arrival of the British Navy at the mouth of the
Cameroon River with the hanging of Rii(lol})h Bell.
Such, however, was, and still is, the idea in the native



THE STORY OF ''KING BELL" 67

mind. It is useless to try to persuade the West
African people that this war was brought about by
trouble in the Balkans, or in any other of those far-oil"
countries which they associate merely with travellers'
yarns. The cause of the war was that the Germans
hanged " King Bell " and the English came to avenge
his death.

The Germans, realising that the people amongst
whom they lived were all potential enemies, pro-
ceeded to issue stringent orders to prevent them
communicating with the English. The diary on
7th September tells us :

" All canoe traffic in the creeks is stopped.
No less than 48 Dualas have been captured by
the patrols and brought up for judgment. Eight
are to be hanged. No Duala native may cross
the road after dark."

The order stopping the canoe traffic in the creeks
meant starvation for those natives who made their
liveUhood by fishing. And yet it is only fair to say
that from a military point of view it was necessary
in order to stop communications with the enemy.
As a matter of fact it failed completely in its object,
as will be shown later on. The German method of
enforcing it was characteristically thorough. Sentries
at the outposts along the river-banks were ordered
to shoot any natives they saw passing them in canoes.
Long after Duala had surrendered, and when the
scene of the operations had been shifted far inland,
it was quite common to see canoes floating down the
streams with no other occupants than the dead
bodies of natives.

On the arrival of the Cumberland at the mouth
of the Cameroon River, " King Bell the Umteenth "
and his suite were landed by night, in order to
obtain information as to the nature and position of



68 THE NA\"i" IN THE CAMEROONS

the German defences, and to collect river pilots.
The pilots, it may be mentioned, did not prove to
be of much assistance, for they failed to grasp the
fact that a British man-of-war cannot go exactly
where a native canoe goes, but they all meant well.
The information collected by the natives was valuable
as far as it went, though it usually lacked precision.
Thus they reported that the ship channel all the
way up to Duala had been extensively mined, but
they had no idea where the mine-fields lay. They
also stated that ships and lighters had been sunk
to obstruct the fairway, but they did not know
whether they were all sunk in the same locality, or
whether there were several barrages.

As it turned out, the enlistment of the exiles
whom the Cumberland found at Lagos proved
superfluous, because there were plenty of native
volunteers all too eager to supply information. For
the attempt of the Germans to stop the canoe
traffic was a failure, and no sooner had the Cumber-
land anchored at the mouth of the river than canoes
came alongside filled with natives, who seemed to
regard the ship as an asylum. The reign of
terror had begun in grim earnest, and many of these
miserable creatures had tasted the cup of bitterness.
Of the tales they told, and of the marks on their
bodies, which bore testimony to the truth of their
statements, I prefer not to speak. War is a long
succession of horrors, and no useful purpose is served
by dwelling upon the details of them. Suffice it to
say that the ship's doctors were kept busy patching
up these wretched victims of German Kultur, and
let us disabuse our minds of the notion that the
mcdiieval practice of inflicting torture on human
beings has been stamped out by the march of civilisa-
tion. For these natives had been literally tortured,
until the mere sight of them was enough to turn one
sick. A parliamentary committee was afterwards



THE STORY OF " KING BELL " 69

appointed to investigate the matter, and its report,
together with some photographs that no one can
look at without shuddering, is available to all who
care to read it.

In the absence of reliable information from the
native spies, the Senior Naval Officer had to proceed
with caution in approaching the problems presented
to him. Fortunately he had the assistance of the
officers of the Nigeria Marine, who were thoroughly
familiar with local conditions, and with the creeks
and waterways of Central Africa. The initial work
consisted mainly of mine-sweeping and recon-
noitring, followed by the gradual approach of the
Cumberland into the mouth of the river, and the
establishment of a naval base inside Suellaba Point.
The next work to be undertaken was to clear a
passage through the obstruction which the Germans
had made by sinking ships and lighters. This was
rather a lengthy operation, and was necessarily
attended by some risk, for it was not very likely that
the Germans would leave the working parties to carry
on their work unmolested.

On 23rd September six transports arrived, under
the escort of H.M.S. Challenged, bringing British
and native troops from Nigeria and the Gold Coast.
Two days later five more transports arrived bringing
French troops. The Navy, however, was not quite
ready for them, for there was nowhere to land them,
or establish a base for them. One attempt was
made to send a detachment up the Dibamba River,
and to land them with a view to cutting the enemy's
line of retreat along the Midland Railway. A portion
of this force was actually landed, but they found it
impossible to make any progress through the man-
grove swamp and dense bush bordering the river,
and so they had to be re-embarked. Until the Navy
had prepared the way the Army could not even make
a start with its work.



70 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

The abortive attempt up the Dibamba River was
not, however, without its effect. It made the Ger-
mans nervous about their Hne of retreat, and un-
doubtedly put a period to their hopes of holding
the port of Duala. A more cogent influence was,
however, brought to bear on them by H.M.S.
Challenger, who, after lightening ship, managed to
scrape through the barrage of sunken ships, and so
bring her guns to bear on the town. On 27th Sep-
tember, after one day's heavy bombardment,
Lieutenant Nathnagel, who was then in command of
what troops were left at Duala, received instructions
by telephone to destroy the wireless station and all
military stores, and to hoist the white flag.

We captured quite a nice little haul of ships at
Duala, including eight large and three small vessels
of the Woermann line, one Hamburg-Bremen liner,
an armed yacht, a stern-wheel gunboat, tugs, trawlers,
launches, and lighters. There was also among the
booty a floating dock capable of accommodating
ships up to 1,200 tons. Later on the Navy pro-
ceeded to raise the vessels which had been sunk to
obstruct the fairway, to repair them, and commission
them for service.

The capture of Duala marks the end of the purely
naval operations in the Cameroons. Next day the
transports anchored in the harbour, and the troops
were disembarked and billeted in the town. From
that point onwards the campaign became amphibious
for some months, and finally, when the scene of
operations had gradually receded inland, it became
purely military. There are, however, some rather
curious incidents in the early operations, which I
will describe in another chapter.



CHAPTER VI

SOME INCIDENTS OF THE EARLIER OPERATIONS

It is not my purpose to give a detailed aecoiint of
the earlier operations in the Camcroons, preceding
the capture of Duala. There are, however, a few
incidents deserving special mention, not because they
had any important bearing upon the operations, but
because they are sufficiently extraordinary to have
some historical interest.

The first two of these incidents take one back a
hundred odd years to the good old days when
cutting-out expeditions were of common occurrence,
and when naval warfare was largely made up of a
succession of duels between ships at pistol-shot range.
Cutting-out means capturing an enemy ship from
beneath the protection of shore batteries. It was
accomplished by manning the boats on a dark night,
quietly stealing up to the prize, and boarding her
before the enemy had realised what was happening.
The cable was then cut, the sails set, and the prize
taken out of the harbour. The ship had to run the
gauntlet of the shore guns, but this was not a very
serious matter, because the gunners were naturally
reluctant to fire on a ship manned by their own
friends, even though those friends were safe prisoners
under hatches. The real risk in the undertaking
was that the boats might be detected before they
reached the prize, and so come under the fire both
of the ship's guns and the shore guns. This some-
times happened with disastrous consequences, but

71



72 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

on the other hand many successful cutting- out
expeditions are recorded in the annals of the Navy
extending from the seventeenth until the early part
of the nineteenth century.

The twentieth century example of a cutting- out
expedition took place on 6th September 1914, and
the prize consisted of six large lighters, which were
moored of! the pier at Victoria, a small port in
Ambas Bay, on the north side of the Cameroon
River estuary. It was a fairly dark night, and our
men took the precaution of leaving their white-
covered caps behind, and of wearing shoes with
india-rubber soles, so that they could board the


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