Friday, July 11, 2008

Fullbore Friday

What is duty? What can leadership accomplish? What is the ultimate price one pays for the two? What is your measure? How do you measure? Is your crew ready when the call comes? Are you ready?

While we are at it - tell me what is really "new" and "revolutionary" and "unknown" about asymmetrical warfare at sea?

Back to the old school - a story almost beyond belief, the
SMS Konigsberg.
With Captain Max Looff in command, SMS Konigsberg sailed out of Kiel on the 25th. of April in 1914, she passed through the Mediterranean, passaged the Suez canal, stopping at Aden, where her Captain even dined there with the British Governor, all very civil in time of peace, but even the , war clouds were looming on the horizon.

The cruiser made it to Matzetumbe, outside the port of Dar-es-Salaam by the 6th. of June 1914.
The Austrian Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Serbia on the 29th. of June...Captain Looff received the code word EGIMA, meaning his country was at war with England, now Konigsberg became the hunter.

First Blood.
On the 6th. of August 1914, the British SS City of Winchester was in the Gulf of Aden, making her way to London, She was crammed full of general cargo, including the 1st. of India's seasonal tea crop. Her Captain, George Boyak, now found his ship in company with a cruiser, which he thought was British, searchlights lit up his command, and he was asked by signal lamp " What ship and nationality?" He dutifully responded with the ship's name and port of registry, but was then ordered to stop.

The arrival on board of a German Naval Officer with his boarding party made the Captain suddenly realise his ship was now part of history, the first British ship to be captured by Germany in WW1, and the first victim of the Raider Konigsberg.
The afternoon tide of the 19th. of September carried Konigsberg out to sea, and she set a course for Zanzibar. The following morning she destroyed the Channel Pilot Boat off the harbour entrance, and Pegasus came within range at 9,000 yards, and the German ship opened fire. Within 20 minutes the British cruiser was down by her bows and giving off heavy smoke. Looff made good his escape heading back out to sea, and a broken piston rod crosshead in one of the ship's main engines forced her Captain to return to the Rufiji Delta...Two days after Konigsberg had sunk Pegasus, the German cruiser Emden ( a sister ship to Konigsberg ) had boldly steamed into the harbour of British Madras and bombarded it. The British had now had enough, and the 5,400 ton Royal Navy cruisers Chatham, Weymouth, and Dartmouth, were all sent out on a find and destroy mission seeking out Konigsberg.

When Chatham stopped and searched the German ship Prasident, she found orders to ship coal out to the Rufiji Delta, then on the afternoon of the 20th. of October a landing party from the British cruiser was combing this Delta area. A sailor shinned up a tree, and was able to detect the disguised masts of both Konigsberg and Somali poking up through the forest canopy. Chatham promptly called up her sister ships, and the blockade began.

The attack begins.
On the 2nd. of November the three British ships commenced their bombardment, but Looff promptly moved his two ships 2 miles further upstream. A few days later, Somali was hit by Chatham's gunfire, set alight, to soon become a total loss, one down and one to go! On the 9th. a British freighter Newbridge was sunk as a block ship in the mouth of the Ssuninga channel, but really to no effect, as Konigsberg never was able to obtain enough coal for her to make a dash for the open sea.
The British went about very systematrically charting all of the cruiser's defences, and two shallow draft River Monitors, Severn and Mersey were sent off on their way to the Delta where they finally arrived in June of 1915.
At 0645 ( 6.45 AM ) the Monitors opened fire at a range of 10,000 yards, and soon after the German cruiser responded with return fire, and by 0740 ( 7.40 AM ) she had gained two hits on Mersey who was forced to retire, leaving Severn to continue the assault, she opened the range another 1,000 yards. Although the rather incredible number of British rounds fired added up to 635 from their 6 inch guns, only 3 of them actually struck Konigsberg.
Now four days of quietness descended on the scene, but early on Sunday morning of the 11th. of July, British aircraft circled Konigsberg, to announce a renewal of the action.

By 1115 ( 11.15 AM ) the Monitors had entered the River, and within 30 minutes the German ship opened fire with four guns of her main armament, but she could not match the rate of fire from the Monitors who began to score hits along her entire length. In addition, the German was short of ammunition, her middle funnel was brought down, smoke poured from her hollow mast, a fire started close to the forward magazine, by 1300 ( 1. PM ) Konigsberg was lost.

Abandon Ship was ordered, and the crew scrambled down the ship's side, taking their wounded with them. Shells from the Monitors continued to pour into the stricken German cruiser. First Officer Koch placed torpedo heads in position to blow out the ship's keel, and at 1400 ( 2 PM ) on the 11th. of July 1915, these heads detonated, SMS Konigsberg heaved slightly, then with a roar, the hull blasted apart, she heeled over to port, and sank into the ooze of the Rifiji River.

Konigsberg armament salvaged.
The Germans quickly salvaged the ten main armament guns from their stricken cruiser, to use them in the East African land campaign. In Dar-es-Salaam workshops, gun carriages were fashioned to carry these Naval guns, now formed into land artillery.

Fate of the crew from Konigsberg.
From the original crew of 350 Officers and Sailors, only Captain Max Loof and 14 others survived WW1, to eventually return home to Germany.

This rather bizarre chapter in the early part of WW1, stage in the more remote region of German East Africa, proved that a resourceful Captain Looff, and his crew could tie up more formidable enemy forces for many months before sheer numbers overcame his resistance. An intriguing story from a now distant past.

By a strange twist of fate, two 4 inch guns from Konigsberg have survived today, one is in Mombasa, and the second in Pretoria. The Mombasa gun sits close to one salvaged from the British Cruiser Pegasus, in WW1 each ship fought against each other at Zanzibar, now the two guns peacefully coexist side by side.
You SUPPOs and CHENGs should read the whole thing - and it is a good example of how the British took one bit of carelessly kept information to their advantage, for you N2 types. What a story.

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