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A First World War Soldier

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To the Navy that alone has made this campaign possible, we soldiers owe our grateful thanks. But there have been times when, in our blindness, we have failed to realise how great the task was to blockade 400 miles of this coast and to keep a watchful eye on Mozambique. For before the Portuguese made common cause with us, there was a great deal of gun-running along the southern border of German East Africa, which our present Allies found impossible to watch. Two factors materially aided the Germans in making the fight they have. First, there was the lucky "coincidence" of the Dar-es-Salaam Exhibition. This exhibition, which was to bring the whole world to German East Africa in August, 1914, provided the military authorities with great supplies of machinery, stores and exhibits from all the big industrial centres; and these were swiftly adapted to the making of rifles and munitions of war. To this must be added the most important factor of all, the Königsberg, lying on the mud flats far up the Rufigi, destroyed by us, it is true, but not before the ship's company of 700, officers and men, and most of the guns had been transported ashore, the latter mounted on gun carriages and dragged by weary oxen or thousands of black porters to dispute our advance. In due course, however, these were abandoned, one by one, as we pressed the enemy back from the Northern Railway south to the Rufigi. Last, but by no means least, was the moral support their wireless stations gave them. These, though unable, since the destruction of the main stations, to transmit messages, continued for some time to receive the news from Nauen in Germany. By the air from Germany the officers received the Iron Cross, promotion, and the Emperor's grateful thanks.

But if you would see what work the Navy has done, you must first begin at Lindi in the south. There you will see the Präsident of the D.O.A. line lying on her side with her propellers blown off and waiting for our tugs to drag her to Durban for repair. And in the Rufigi lying on the mudbanks, fourteen miles from the mouth, you will see the Königsberg, once the pride of German cruisers, half sunk and completely dismantled. The hippopotami scratch their tick-infested flanks upon her rusted sides, crocodiles crawl across her decks, fish swim through the open ports. In Dar-es-Salaam you will see the König stranded at the harbour mouth, the Tabora lying on her side behind the ineffectual shelter of the land; the side uppermost innocent of the Red Cross and green line that adorned her seaward side. For she was a mysterious craft. She flew the Red Cross and was tricked out as a hospital ship on one side, the other painted grey. True, she had patients and a doctor on board when a pinnace from one of our cruisers examined her, but she also had machine-guns mounted and gun emplacements screwed to her deck, and all the adaptations required for a commerce raider. So our admiral decided that, after due notice, so suspicious a craft were better sunk. A few shots flooded her compartments and she heeled over, burying the lying Cross of Geneva beneath the waters of the harbour. Further up the creek you will see the Feldmarschall afloat and uninjured, save for the engines that our naval party had destroyed, and ready, to our amazement, at the capture of the town, to be towed to Durban and to carry British freight to British ports, and maybe meet a destroying German submarine upon the way. Further up still you will find the Governor's yacht and a gunboat, sunk this time by the Germans; but easy to raise and to adapt for our service. Strange that so methodical a people should have bungled so badly the simple task of rendering a valuable ship useless for the enemy. But they have blundered in the execution of their plans everywhere. The attempt to obstruct the harbour mouth at Dar-es-Salaam was typical of their naval ineptitude. Barely two hundred yards across this bottle-neck, it should have been an easy job to block. So they sank the floating dock in the southern portion of the channel and moored the König by bow and stern hawsers, to the shores on either side in position for sinking. Instead of flooding her they prepared an explosive bomb and timed it to go off at the fall of the tide. But the bomb failed to explode, and an ebb tide setting in, broke the stern moorings and drove her sideways on the shore. Here she lies now and the channel is still free to all our ships to come and go. We found, at the occupation, the record of the court-martial on the German naval officer responsible for the failure of the plan. He seems to have pleaded, with success, the fact that his dynamite was fifteen years old. After that no further attempt was made, and for nearly a year before we occupied the town our naval whalers and small cruisers sailed, the white ensign proudly flying, into the harbour to anchor and to watch the interned shipping. It must have been a humiliating spectacle to the Hun; but he was helpless. Woe betide him, if he placed a mine or trained a gun upon this ship of ours. The town would have suffered, and this they could not risk.

Yet further up the coast, near Tanga, the Markgraf lies beached in shallow water, and the Reubens a wreck in Mansa Bay.

In most of our naval operations our intelligence has been excellent, and Fortune has been kind. It seemed to the Germans that we employed some special witchcraft to provide the knowledge that we possessed. So they panicked ingloriously, and sought spies everywhere, and hanged inoffensive natives by the dozen to the mango trees. One day one of our whalers entered Tanga harbour the very day the German mines were lifted for the periodical overhaul. The Germans ascribed such knowledge to the Prince of Evil. The whaler proceeded to destroy a ship lying there, and, on its way out, fired a shell into a lighter that was lying near. In this lighter were the mines, as the resulting explosion testified. This completed the German belief in our possession of supernatural powers of obtaining information.

Again at the bombardment and capture of Bagamoyo by the Fleet, it seemed to the Hun that wherever the German commander went, to this trench or to that observation post, our 6-inch shells would follow him. All day long they pursued his footsteps, till he also panicked and searched the bush for a hidden wireless. He it was who shot our gallant Marine officer, as our men stormed the trenches, and paid the penalty for his rashness shortly after.

The little German tug Adjutant, which in times of peace plied across the bar at Chinde to bring off passengers and mails to the ships that lay outside, has had a chequered career in this war. Slipping out from Chinde at the outbreak of war, she made her way to Dar-es-Salaam. From there she essayed another escapade only to fall into our hands. Transformed into a gunboat, she harried the Germans in the Delta of the Rufigi, until, greatly daring, one day she ran ashore on a mudbank in the river. Captured with her crew she was taken to pieces by the Germans and transported by rail to Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika. And there the Belgians found her, partly reconstructed, as they entered the harbour. A little longer delay, and the resurrected Adjutant would have played havoc with our small craft and the Belgians', which had driven the German ships off the vast waters of this lake.

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