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Naval Operations by against German East Africa Aug-Sept 1916

On Friday 15th June 1917 The London Gazette published a second supplement with a dispatch sent from Rear Admiral E. Charlton, Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope Station in which he describes the operations by the Royal Navy along the coast of Tanzania from August through to September 1916, including the capture of Dar-es-Salaam.

The following is the Rear Admiral's dispatch as Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette), issue 30133, 15 June 1917.


15th June, 1917.

The following despatch has been received from the Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope Station, describing the later coastal operations by H.M. ships against German East Africa

H.M.S. "Hyacinth,"

25th January, 1917.

SIR, — Be pleased to lay before their Lordships the following report of the later coastal operations against German East Africa by H.M. ships under my orders.

Rear Admiral Edward Charlton in 1916.

These operations may be said to have commenced with the occupation, on the 1st August, 1916, of the town of Saadani by naval forces, assisted by a detachment of the Zanzibar African Rifles. The capture of this coast town was undertaken at the request of General Smuts, and was well "and effectively carried out under the immediate supervision of Captain A. H. Williamson, M.V.O., of "Vengeance" (flying my flag) for the outer squadron, and of Captain E. J. A. Fullerton, D.S.O., of " Severn " for the inshore squadron; Commander R. J. N. Watson of "Vengeance" being in command of the landing party.

The force was landed in boats from "Vengeance," " Talbot" (Captain R, C. Kemble Lambert, D.S.O.), " Severn," and "Mersey" (Commander R. A. Wilson, D.S.O.) about one mile to the north of the town at 6 a.m., " Severn" and " Mersey " covering the landing with their guns. But slight opposition was experienced, only three casualties being sustained. The fort was enclosed in a "boma," which had been constructed originally to keep out leopards and savages, and was surrounded by the native village and dense bush, which had to be cleared.

During the period of naval occupation a few encounters took place between our advanced patrols and those of the enemy, but no attack in force was made and our energies were confined to consolidating the position.

On the 5th August the whole of the naval forces, except the Marines and a few special details, re-embarked on military forces being landed to relieve them.

'On the 13th August I received a wireless message from the military officer in command at Saadani, giving the enemy force at Bagamoyo at about ten whites and forty Askaria, and asking if the Navy would take the town, as I its earliest occupation was essential. I replied

that this would be done and issued orders accordingly.

'Although the information given me indicated that the enemy force was small, I knew

that it would be strongly entrenched and would have Maxims, and I therefore decided to land

what force I could raise from the ships immediately available, together with all machine

guns, and to have a strong covering force of light-draught ships inshore with heavy-draught

ships outside.

As it turned out the intelligence was very much at fault, the enemy having one 4.1-in.

gun, one five-barrelled pom-pom, and two Maxims, their total force being more numerous

than the landing party.

HMS Vengeance in about 1908. Q 40396 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain,

At 5.0 p.m. on the 14th August, "Vengeance" (Flag), with "Challenger" (Captain A. C. Sykes) and " Manica " (Commander W. E. Whittingham, R.N.R.) in company, left Zanzibar, anchoring at 3.24 a.m. on the 15th off Bagamoyo, the landing party leaving " Vengeance " at 4.40 a.m., under the command of Commander R. J. N. Watson. 'There was a slight swell, little wind, and a bright moon, so that a complete surprise was not to be expected; but the landing turned out to be as near a surprise as was possible in the circumstances, and it is believed that the boats were not seen until they had left the monitors at 5.30 a.m. * Owing to the skill with which the advance was conducted by Commander Watson and Commander (acting) W. B. Wilkinson, and an alteration of course when some little way from the shore, the enemy were completely deceived as to the point of landing, and found themselves under a heavy fire from the monitors and motor boats, which effectually prevented them from firing on the landing party.

The latter proceeded and landed close under the 4.1-in. gun position to the left of the town, at a point where the gun, owing to its position some 30 feet back from the ridge on which it

was sited, could not be sufficiently depressed to bear on them. On the other hand this1 gun came under the enfilading fire of the 3-pounders, one each in my steam barge, " Vengeance's " picket boat, and the tug " Helmuth." This fire, at. from 800 to 500 yards, so seriously discomposed the enemy that they abandoned the gun as so'on as attacked by the shore party. This gun had come from Tanga in tow of 500 coolies, and had arrived at the position in which it was taken on the 9th August. Its capture was, in my opinion, a most remarkable piece of work, reflecting the greatest credit on .the boats and the attacking section.

A Kite Balloon flying from HMS Maniac.

Meanwhile the " Manica" had got up her kite balloon and was spotting, but her seaplane

had engine trouble and was forced to come down in the breakers at the mouth of the Kingani River, returning undamaged. I accordingly called on "Himalaya" (Captain Colin Mackenzie, D.S.O.), which was just leaving Zanzibar, and at 6.0 a.m. her seaplane flew across from Zanzibar, and at once dropped bombs on the enemy in trenches, afterwards spotting. " Himalaya " herself followed and took a useful part in the subsequent bombardment.

At 6.30 a.m. it was reported from three sources—kite balloon, portable W./T. set ashore, and W./T from seaplane—that the enemy were retiring between the French Mission and the sea, and were around the Mission.

The cause of this retreat was the endeavour of Captain von Bok to rush the troops round to the opposite side of the town to oppose our landing. About this time the pom-pom gun was hit by a 6-in. shell from. "Severn" (Commander (acting) W. B. C. Jones) and nearly pulverised, Captain von. Boedecke being killed. Shortly after Captain, von Bok was also killed, and with both leaders gone all initiative on the part of the enemy was lost, and our men were able to firmly establish themselves in a small but important quarter of the town, from which they subsequently spread and gathered in all the Arabs, Indians, and natives. Beyond slight damage from shell fire and a fire in the native village— where an occasional fire is beneficial the town is intact.

The importance of the capture of this town on the native mind was very great, as it is the old capital of the slave trade and the starting place of the great caravan routes into the interior.

The result from a military point of view was immediately apparent in the demoralisation of the enemy forces, particularly the native portion, and in the evacuation of the Mtoni Ferry, a strategic and strongly defended position about six miles above the town over the Kingani River, thereby giving our troops moving south from Saadani and Mandera an open road.

It is with deep regret that I record the death of Captain Francis H. Thomas, D.S.C., Royal Marine Light Infantry, whilst gallantly leading his men. He had taken part in all recent operations and was a most promising officer. Our other casualties were two seamen and two marines wounded, while the Zanzibar African Rifles had one sergeant and one Askari killed and one Askari wounded. Two native porters were also wounded.

The enemy casualties were estimated at two officers, one' white soldier, and eight Askaris

killed, three white and eight Askaris wounded, and four white and fifteen Askaris taken


On the 20th August the naval forces were relieved by the military and re-embarked in

their ships.

British air reconnaissance photograph of Dar Es Salaam. Courtesy of Cross and Cockade International

On the 21st August, in continuance of the policy of harassing Dar-es-Salaam, "Vengeance" and "Challenger" bombarded various gun positions; and during that night. " Challenger " carried out a further bombardment, firing 50 rounds of 6-in. over the town into the railway station. On the 23rd, 26fch, 28th, 30th and 31st August, and on the 1st September, other limited bombardments took place, and on the 3rd September the whalers "Pickle" (Lieutenant H. C. Davis, D.S.C., R.D., R.N.R.), " Fly " (Lieutenant D. H. H. Whitburn, R.N.R.), " Childers " (Lieutenant V. C. Large, R.N.R.), and "Echo" (Lieutenant C. J. Charlewood, D.S.C., R.N.R.), under Flag Commander the Hon. R. O. B. Bridgeman, D.S.O., simulated a landing at Upanga and attacked the front at short range from West Ferry Point to Ras Upanga. They were received with shrapnel fire from a field battery, but escaped injury.

Meanwhile preparations for the advance en Dar-es-Salaam were in full swing, and on the 31st August the military advance started from Bagamoyo, the main body marching south and being strongly reinforced at Koiiduchi on the 2nd September, for which landing they themselves formed the covering party. The plan succeeded admirably, the enemy retiring and making little attempt to oppose the advance, so that in the end the final reinforcements actually landed in face of the very formidable entrenchments at Mssassani Bay.

With the military column "went six naval maxims, six Lewis guns, one 3-pounder Hotchkiss on field mounting, and a medical section, the party being under the command of Commander H. D. Bridges, D.S.O., of "Hyacinth." Communication between the main column And the small craft inshore was maintained by a naval wireless party.

The march of 36 miles proved exceedingly arduous, the road turning into little better than a sandy track through a waterless district. Porters were short and speedily dropped behind

with provisions, to add to which the first regiment of African descent which arrived at Mssassani consumed the 12,000 gallons of water and three days' provisions for the whole


On the 3rd September, following on the simulated landing from the whalers, a brisk bombardment of gun positions to the northward of the town, and in advance of our troops, was carried out for half an hour until 7.0 a.m., when firing ceased and our troops continued their advance to the outskirts of the town.

As matters now appeared ripe to demand the surrender of the town, on the morning of the 4th September, " Challenger," flying a "white flag, proceeded to Makatumbe with a written demand, signed by me and by the Officer commanding troops. This was transferred to the " Echo," which took it as far as the boom and then sent it ashore in her boat. About 8.0 a.m., the deputy burgomaster, the bank manager, and an interpreter came off in the " Echo " and agreed to the conditions of the demand, giving all the required guarantees.

Our troops were at once told by wireless to advance into the town. All ships entered Dar-es-Salaam Bay, and during the afternoon the monitors entered the harbour after destroying the hawsers of the boom across the entrance. I landed with my staff at 2.30 p.m., and at 3.0 o'clock the Union Jack was hoisted over

the Magistracy with full honours.

Following on the occupation of Dar-es- Salaam it became necessary to seize other coast towns further south, and thus prevent the enemy from retreating by the coast to Lindi

and the southern ports.

In consequence, on the 7th September, a simultaneous attack was made on the two Kilwas (Kivinje and Kisiwani), with the object of getting possession of these towns and holding the two hills, Singino Hill and Mpara Hill, which command Kilwa Kivinje and Port Beaver respectively. After four 12-in. shrapnel had been placed on the top of Singino Hill by " Vengeance," a white man was seen endeavouring to haul down the German colours at Kivinje and to hoist his boy's white "kanzu" in their place. This waa observed just in time to prevent fire being opened from "Vengeance" with 6-in. guns on the trenches along the beach. A flag of truce was sent in, the town surrendered unconditionally, and a force was landed and occupied the town and the hill. Meanwhile, Kilwa Kisiwani had surrendered unconditionally to " Talbot," who landed a party and occupied Mpara Hill.

Operations against the three Southern Ports of Mikindani, Sudi and Lindi commenced on the 13th September, when 200 Marines, 700 Indian troops, 200 Zanzibar and Mafia African Rifles, 12 naval machine guns, 2 hotchkiss guns and 950 porters were landed at Mikindani in boats from " Vengeance," "Talbot," "Himalaya," and "Princess" (Captain C. La P. Lewin), assisted by the gunboats "Thistle" (Commander Hector Boyes) and "Rinaldo" (Lieutenant-Commander H. M. Garrett), and the kite balloon ship "Manica" and the transport "Barjora." There was no opposition, and the town was occupied by 9.0 a.m.

On the 14th September our troops commenced their advance towards Sudi, while "Vengeance," "Hyacinth," "Talbot" and "Himalaya," with "Barjora," proceeded round to the anchorage outside there. Whalers entered the inner harbour at daylight on the

16th, experiencing no resistance.

The whole force, having left a garrison of 100 men at Mikindani, marched to Sudi,

arriving thare at noon, when the marines, naval guns and African Rifles were embarked,

the intention being to land these as a covering party outside Lindi under the guns of the

squadron, while the main force marched from Sudi to Lindi, where, if any resistance was put

up, they would have held a commanding position on the south side of the river.

Early on the 16th the ships1 proceeded to Lindi Bay and the Naval Brigade was landed

after a short bombardment of the selected beach with 6-in. guns. An attempt to send in

a flag of truce was made, but no answer could be obtained, and from seaplane observations

the town appeared to be deserted. Supported by " Thistle," the force advanced along the

beach and occupied the town.

The troops—who were thus saved a long and arduous march from Sudi to Lindi—were reembarked at Sudi on the evening of the 16th, leaving a garrison of 100 men there. They

arrived at Lindi on the 17th, and relieved the Naval Brigade and African Rifles, who were


The same evening "Talbot," "Thistle," and "Barjora," with a detachment of Indian troops on board, left Lindi, and by 8.0 a.m. on the 18th Kiswere was occupied without any opposition, the troops remaining as a garrison.

This was the last town of any importance on the coast of German East Africa, and the whole

coast line is now occupied with the exception of the Rufiji Delta.

In connection with the operations covered by this despatch I append a list of officers and men whom I specially desire to bring to the notice of their Lordships for meritorious services.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

(Signed) E. CHARLTON,

Rear Admiral,

Commander in Chief.

To see the list of recommendations for military honours follow this link to The Gazette (London Gazette), issue 30133, 15 June 1917.

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