SMS Königsberg (1905)

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For other ships of the same name, see SMS Königsberg.
Bundesarchiv Bild 105-DOA3002, Deutsch-Ostafrika, Kreuzer Königsberg.jpg
SMS Königsberg at Dar es Salaam
Career (German Empire)
Name: Königsberg
Namesake: Königsberg, East Prussia
Builder: Kaiserliche Werft, Kiel
Laid down: 12 January 1905
Launched: 12 December 1905
Commissioned: 4 June 1906
Fate: Scuttled 11 July 1915
Status: Partially scrapped in 1963–1965
General characteristics
Class & type: Königsberg-class light cruiser
Displacement: Design: 3,390 t (3,340 long tons)
Full load: 3,814 t (3,754 long tons)
Length: 115.3 m (378 ft)
Beam: 13.2 m (43 ft)
Draft: 5.29 m (17.4 ft)
Propulsion: Twin triple expansion engines, 13,200 ihp (9,800 kW)
Speed: 24.1 knots (44.6 km/h)
Complement: 14 Officers
308 Enlisted men
Armament: 10 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) guns
10 × 3,7 cm MK
2 × 45 cm (18 in) torpedo-tubes
Armor: Deck: 80 mm (3.1 in)
Conning tower: 100 mm (3.9 in)

SMS Königsberg was the lead ship of her class of light cruisers built by the Imperial German Navy. Named for the capital of East Prussia, she was laid down in January 1905, launched in December of that year, and completed by June 1906. Her class included three other ships: Stettin, Stuttgart, and Nürnberg. Königsberg was armed with a main battery of ten 10.5-centimeter (4.1 in) guns and had a top speed of 24.1 knots (44.6 km/h; 27.7 mph).

After her commissioning, Königsberg served with the High Seas Fleet in the reconnaissance force. During this period, she frequently escorted Kaiser Wilhelm II's yacht on visits to foreign countries. In April 1914, the ship was sent on what was to have been a two-year deployment to German East Africa, but this was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I in August of that year. Königsberg initially attempted to raid British and French commercial traffic in the region, but only destroyed one merchant ship in the course of her career. Coal shortages hampered her ability to attack shipping. On 20 September 1914, she surprised and sank the British protected cruiser HMS Pegasus in the Battle of Zanzibar.

Königsberg then retreated into the Rufiji River to repair her engines. Before the repairs could be completed, British cruisers located Königsberg, and, unable to steam into the river to destroy her, set up a blockade. After several attempts to sink the ship, the British sent two monitors, Mersey and Severn, to destroy the German cruiser. On 11 July 1915, the two monitors got close enough to severely damage Königsberg, forcing her crew to scuttle the ship. The surviving crew salvaged all ten of her main guns and joined Lieutenant Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck's guerrilla campaign. Königsberg was partially broken up in 1963–1965 for scrap, and the remains sank into the riverbed thereafter.

Design[edit]

Line-drawing of the Königsberg class

Königsberg was 115.3 meters (378 ft) long overall and had a beam of 13.2 m (43 ft) and a draft of 5.29 m (17.4 ft) forward. She displaced 3,814 t (3,754 long tons; 4,204 short tons) at full combat load. Her propulsion system consisted of two 3-cylinder triple expansion engines powered by eleven coal-fired Marine-type boilers. These provided a top speed of 24.1 kn (44.6 km/h; 27.7 mph) and a range of approximately 5,750 nautical miles (10,650 km; 6,620 mi) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph). Königsberg had a crew of 14 officers and 308 enlisted men.[1]

The ship was armed with ten 10.5 cm SK L/45 guns in single pedestal mounts. Two were placed side by side forward on the forecastle, six were located amidships, three on either side, and two were side by side aft.[2] The guns had a maximum elevation of 30 degrees, which allowed them to engage targets out to 12,700 m (41,700 ft).[3] They were supplied with 1,500 rounds of ammunition, for 150 shells per gun.[1] A pair of 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns were later installed.[4] She was also equipped with a pair of 45 cm (18 in) torpedo tubes with five torpedoes submerged in the hull on the broadside. The ship was protected by an armored deck that was 80 mm (3.1 in) thick amidships. The conning tower had 100 mm (3.9 in) thick sides.[1]

Service history[edit]

Pre-war photo of Königsberg

Königsberg was ordered under the contract name "Ersatz Meteor" and was laid down at the Imperial Dockyard in Kiel on 12 January 1905. She was launched on 12 December 1905, where the Oberbürgermeister of Königsberg, Siegfried Körte christened the ship, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet for sea trials on 6 April 1907. Her trials were interrupted at the beginning of June when she was tasked with escorting Kaiser Wilhelm II's yacht Hohenzollern during three sailing regattas including Kiel Week. The two ships then cruised the North Sea and stopped at Nordkapp, where from 3 to 6 August, Wilhelm II met Czar Nicholas II of Russia. After returning to Germany, Königsberg resumed her sea trials, which lasted from 9 August to 9 September. She visited her namesake city from 21 to 23 September and was later assigned to the fleet scouting forces to replace the cruiser Medusa on 5 November. At the same time, Königsberg was again used to escort Wilhelm II's yacht, this time in company with the new armored cruiser Scharnhorst and the dispatch boat Sleipner on a visit to Britain. The ships stopped in Portsmouth and the Thames, and were visited by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.[5]

On 17 December, Königsberg was tasked with another goodwill visit, this time escorting the Kaiser's brother, Prince Heinrich, and a delegation of naval officers to Malmö, Sweden to meet King Oscar II. The visit lasted until 20 December. Königsberg participated in the normal peacetime routine of individual and squadron training for 1908 without incident. The year ended with a major training cruise, first in the Baltic and North Seas and later into the Atlantic that ended in early December. The ship then went into drydock over the winter of 1908–09 for periodic maintenance, emerging for service again in early February 1909. The typical training routine followed for the next two years, interrupted only by a collision with the new cruiser Dresden on 16 February 1910 in the Kiel Bay, and two trips escorting the Kaiser to Helgoland on 9–13 March and to Britain from 8 to 27 May. She also won the Kaiser's Schießpreis (Shooting Prize) for excellent gunnery in the reconnaissance force.[6] From December 1909 to September 1910, then-Fregattenkapitän Adolf von Trotha served as the ship's commander.[7]

From 8 March to 22 May 1911, Königsberg cruised in the Mediterranean Sea with Wilhelm II aboard Hohenzollern. On 10 June, Königsberg was replaced in the reconnaissance force by the new cruiser Kolberg; Königsberg was transferred to Danzig, where she was placed out of service on 14 June for modernization work. On 22 January 1913, the ship was recommissioned for service with the fleet, to replace the cruiser Mainz which was also being modernized. This service lasted until 19 June, when Königsberg was again placed in reserve in Kiel. During this period of active service, she was briefly assigned to the training squadron from 1 to 18 April. In early 1914, the high command decided to send Königsberg to German East Africa, where she would replace the current station ship, the old unprotected cruiser Geier.[6]

SMS Königsberg at Bagamoyo, June 1914

On 1 April 1914, Fregattenkapitän Max Looff took command of the ship. Three and a half weeks later, on 25 April, the ship left Kiel, stopped in Wilhelmshaven until 28 April, and then left for a two-year deployment to German East Africa. She steamed into the Mediterranean Sea and stopped in Spanish and Italian ports before entering the Suez Canal.[6][8] After passing through the canal, she stopped briefly in Aden before arriving in Dar es Salaam, the capital of German East Africa, on 5 June. Two days later, the Schutztruppe (Protection Force) celebrated their 25th anniversary in the colony; the deputy commander of the Schutztruppe presented Looff with a model of the cruiser Schwalbe, which had been the longest serving warship with the unit. Königsberg surveyed the harbor at Bagamoyo later in the year.[9] The African colonial subjects considered the ship to be quite impressive, particularly her three funnels, which were assumed to signify a warship more powerful than one with only two funnels. The ship acquired the nickname Manowari na bomba tatu, or "the man of war with three pipes."[10]

As tensions in Europe rose in the aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Looff decided to abandon the normal peacetime training schedule and returned to Dar es Salaam on 24 July to replenish his coal and other stores. Looff also made efforts to organize a coast watcher network to report enemy ships and to protect German shipping in the area. On 27 July, Looff received a message from the Admiralstab (Admiralty Staff) informing him of the worsening political situation in Europe.[11] Concurrently, the cruisers of the British Cape Squadron, HMS Astraea, Hyacinth, and Pegasus, arrived with the intention of bottling up Königsberg at the colony's capital Dar es Salaam. Looff got his ship ready to sail and left port on the afternoon of 31 July 1914, with the three slower British ships shadowing him. Looff used a rain squall and his ship's superior speed to break contact with his British pursuers the following day.[12] Königsberg steamed off Aden until 5 August, when word of the outbreak of hostilities between Britain and Germany belatedly reached the ship.[13]

World War I[edit]

At the outbreak of World War I, Königsberg was ordered to attack British commerce around the entrance to the Red Sea. A lack of coal hampered Looff's efforts; the British prevented his collier Koenig from leaving Dar es Salaam and purchased all of the coal in Portuguese East Africa to deny it to Königsberg.[14] The German cruiser then radioed the German steamer Zieten from heading to the Suez Canal where she would have been confiscated. Königsberg chased after the German freighter Goldenfels, whose officers also mistook the ship for a British cruiser and refused to stop. Königsberg was forced to fire a warning shot across the bow of Goldenfels to force the ship to stop so that Looff could warn her captain of the state of war.[15]

On 6 August, Königsberg found a British ship off the coast of Oman, the freighter City of Winchester. A prize crew took the ship along with Königsberg, and the two vessels met Zieten four days later in the Khuriya Muriya Islands, where coal from City of Winchester was transferred to Königsberg. The freighter was thereafter sunk. The British crew was taken aboard Zieten, which departed the following day and stopped in Mozambique. Meanwhile, the steamer Somali, under the command of Korvettenkapitän (Corvette Captain) Zimmer, had left Dar es Salaam with a cargo of 1,200 t (1,200 long tons; 1,300 short tons) of coal on the night of 3–4 August to resupply Königsberg; the two ships met ten days later.[15] By the time Looff rendezvoused with Somali, his ship was down at a mere 14 t (14 long tons; 15 short tons) of coal. Somali transferred some 850 t (840 long tons; 940 short tons) of coal to the cruiser, which permitted a sweep to Madagascar. No British or French ships were found, however, and so Königsberg met Somali again on 23 August and took on coal for four days of cruising.[16]

In the meantime, British warships bombarded Dar es Salaam and destroyed the German wireless station there.[17] By this time, Königsberg's engines were in need of a thorough overhaul, and Looff needed to find a secluded area where the work could be completed. He settled on the Rufiji Delta, which had recently been surveyed by the survey ship Möwe.[15] On 3 September 1914 at high tide, Königsberg passed over the bar at the mouth of the Rufiji and slowly made her way up the river. Coast watchers were stationed at the mouth of the river and telegraph lines were run to ensure the Germans would not be surprised by British ships searching for them.[18] Zimmer, who was sending small coastal steamers to resupply Königsberg, observed a British cruiser patrolling the coast for two weeks. He deduced that the ship would likely have to coal at Zanzibar on Sundays, and so Looff decided to attack the ship in port before he began his overhaul. He considered the action justified, since Britain had rejected a German proposal to keep central Africa neutral according to the Congo Act of 1885.[19]

One of Königsberg's guns emplaced in the delta

On 19 September, Königsberg left the Rufiji and arrived off Zanzibar the following morning. She opened fire at a range of about 7,000 meters (23,000 ft) at 05:10; within 45 minutes, Pegasus caught fire, rolled over to port, and sank. Crewmen aboard Pegasus had raised a white flag, but it could not be seen aboard Königsberg due to the heavy smoke. Pegasus's crew suffered 38 dead and 55 wounded; Königsberg was undamaged and had no casualties. After sinking Pegasus, Königsberg bombarded the wireless station and dumped barrels filled with sand into the harbor entrance to simulate mines.[19] While leaving the harbor, Königsberg spotted the picket ship Helmut and sank her with three shells.[20]

The cruiser then returned to the Rufiji River to begin the overhauling of her engines; the parts would need to be transported overland to the shipyard in Dar es Salaam where they could be rebuilt.[19] While moored in the town of Salale, the ship was heavily camouflaged and defensive arrangements, including landing soldiers and field guns along with the network of coast watchers and telegraph lines, were erected.[20] An improvised minefield was also laid in the delta to keep the British ships from entering the river.[21]

Concerned with the threat Königsberg posed to troop transports from India,[19] the British reinforced the ships tasked with tracking down the elusive German raider, and placed the ships under the command of Captain Sidney R. Drury-Lowe.[22] The sinking of Pegasus convinced the British that Königsberg must still be in German East Africa.[19] On 19 October, the cruiser Chatham found the German East Africa Line ship Präsident at Lindi. A boarding party searched the ship and discovered documents indicating she had supplied Königsberg with coal the previous month. On 30 October, the cruiser Dartmouth located Königsberg and Somali in the Delta.[22] Chatham, Dartmouth, and Weymouth blockaded the Rufiji Delta to ensure Königsberg could not escape.[23]

Battle of Rufiji Delta[edit]

The battered Königsberg after she was scuttled

On 3 November, the British began a bombardment in an attempt to destroy or neutralize Königsberg and Somali.[19] Königsberg was protected by the thick mangrove swamps, which concealed the ship and offered a degree of cover from British shellfire, especially while the British ships remained outside the river. A collier, Newbridge, was converted into a blockship to be sunk in the main channel of the delta to prevent Königsberg's escape. Despite heavy German fire from both sides of the river, the British successfully sank Newbridge across one of the delta mouths on 10 November, though the German raider could still put to sea via other channels.[19][21] Looff decided to move his ship further upriver, to make it more difficult for the British to destroy her. In doing so, his ship would occupy a disproportionate number of British vessels that could otherwise be employed elsewhere.[21]

A civilian pilot, Denis Cutler of Durban, South Africa, was commissioned into the Royal Marines and convinced to make his private Curtiss seaplane available for the British Empire.[24] The Royal Navy requisitioned the passenger ship Kinfauns Castle to serve as a makeshift tender for Cutler's aircraft.[25] On his first attempt to locate the cruiser, Cutler, who did not have a compass, got lost and was forced to land on a desert island. On his second flight, he successfully located Königsberg, and a third flight with a Royal Navy observer confirmed his observations. His aircraft's radiator was damaged on the flight and he was grounded until replacement parts could be brought from Mombasa. A pair of Royal Naval Air Service Sopwiths were brought up with the intention of scouting and even bombing the ship. They soon fell apart in the tropical conditions. A trio of Short seaplanes fared a little better, though they too were quickly disabled by the conditions.[25]

Also in November, the British sought to use the 12-inch (305 mm) guns of the old battleship Goliath to sink the cruiser. The attempt was unsuccessful, once again because the shallow waters prevented the battleship from getting within range.[26] In December, Lieutenant Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck requested as many crew members from the ship as possible for his guerrilla campaign; a total of 220 men were left aboard to keep the ship in fighting condition. This was not enough, however, to permit the ship to go to sea.[21] Königsberg moved further up the river on 18 December.[19] On 23 December, the British used a pair of shallow-draft ships to sail up the delta. They hit Somali once before German defensive fire forced them to retreat.[27]

Aerial photo of Königsberg after her scuttling; note the removal of her guns

In the meantime, conditions were deteriorating on Königsberg. There were shortages of coal, ammunition, food, and medical supplies. Although safe from the British, the crew was ravaged by malaria and other tropical ailments. Generally cut off from the outside world, the morale of the sailors fell.[28] However, the situation was marginally improved with a scheme to resupply the ship and give her a fighting chance to return home. A captured British merchant ship, Rubens, was renamed Kronborg. It was given a Danish flag, papers, and a crew of German sailors selected for their ability to speak Danish. It was then packed with coal, field guns, ammunition, small arms, and various supplies. As the freighter approached East Africa, Königsberg prepared to sortie to meet the ship and attempt to break out and return to Germany. Instead, Königsberg was trapped in the river by two cruisers and several smaller vessels. Kronborg was intercepted by the alerted Hyacinth, which chased her to Manza Bay. The trapped ship was forced aground and set on fire, but the Germans salvaged much of her cargo and put it to use later in the East Africa Campaign.[29]

Finally, in April 1915, the British Admiralty agreed to a plan submitted by Drury-Lowe the previous November, which envisioned attacking the German cruiser with shallow-draft monitors, capable of navigating the Rufiji River. Two of the warships, Mersey and Severn, armed with a pair of 6 in (150 mm) guns each, were brought from Britain.[30] Königsberg had in the meantime been moved a third time, even further upriver.[19] On 6 July 1915, the two monitors crossed the outer sandbar and steamed up the river, despite heavy fire from German positions on the river banks. They stopped at a point they thought to be 10,000 yd (9,100 m) from Königsberg, which would be in range of their own guns but farther than the smaller German guns could reply. Aircraft were used to spot the fall of shot. The monitors' navigation was faulty, however, and after opening fire, found themselves to be within range of Königsberg's guns as well. In the span of three hours, Königsberg had forced both British ships to withdraw.[30] She had hit Mersey twice in the engagement; one shell disabled the forward 6-inch gun, and another holed her below the waterline.[31] Königsberg was hit four times in return, one of which struck beneath the waterline and caused some flooding.[32]

Königsberg gun in the field (1916)

They returned again on 11 July, after having repaired the damage sustained in the first attempt. The two monitors conducted a five-hour bombardment that destroyed the cruiser.[30] Königsberg opened fire at 12:12, initially with four guns, but after 12:42 only three guns remained in action, two guns after 12:44, and only one gun after 12:53. The two monitors did not respond until 12:31, once they had been anchored into their firing positions.[33] The monitors scored several serious hits that caused a major fire at the ship's stern and inflicted heavy casualties. By 13:40, Königsberg had run low on ammunition and her gun crews had suffered very heavy casualties, and so Looff ordered the crew to abandon ship and to drop the breech blocks for the guns overboard to disable them. Two torpedo warheads were detonated in the ship's bow to scuttle her; the ship rolled over slightly to starboard and sank up to the upper deck with her flags still flying. Nineteen men had been killed in the battle, with another forty-five wounded, including Looff.[34]

Later that day, the crew returned to haul down the ship's flag and gave three cheers for the Kaiser. The guns and other usable equipment were salvaged from the wreck starting the following day.[35] The guns were converted into field artillery pieces and coastal guns; together with the ship's crew, they went on to see service in the East African land campaign under Lieutenant Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck.[36] All ten guns were repaired in Dar es Salaam over the next two months; one was mounted on the converted ferry Götzen of the inland Lake Tanganyika fleet.[37] The surviving sailors, organized as the Königsberg-Abteilung, eventually surrendered on 26 November 1917 and were interned in British Egypt. In 1919, after the war, the men took park in a parade through the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate them and their ship.[38]

In 1924, John Ingle, the former captain of Pegasus was tasked with clearing wrecks from the harbor in Dar es Salaam. At that time, he bought the salvage rights to Königsberg for the price of £200; he sent divers to extract non-ferrous scrap metal from the wreck and in turn sold the rights. Salvage work continued into the 1930s, and by the 1940s, the hull had rolled over to her starboard side. As late as 1965, salvage work continued, but in 1966 the wreck collapsed and finally sank into the riverbed. Three of the ship's 10.5 cm guns are preserved, one in Pretoria, South Africa, one in Jinja, Uganda, and one in Mombasa, along with a gun from Pegasus.[39]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes
Citations
  1. ^ a b c Gröner, p. 104
  2. ^ Gardiner & Gray, p. 157
  3. ^ Gardiner & Gray, p. 140
  4. ^ Farwell, p. 127
  5. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, pp. 138–139
  6. ^ a b c Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 139
  7. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 138
  8. ^ Farwell, p. 128
  9. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, pp. 139–140
  10. ^ Patience 2001, p. 27
  11. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 140
  12. ^ Farwell, pp. 128–129
  13. ^ Farwell, p. 129
  14. ^ Halpern, p. 77
  15. ^ a b c Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 141
  16. ^ Farwell, p. 131
  17. ^ Bennett, p. 131
  18. ^ Farwell, p. 132
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 142
  20. ^ a b Farwell, p. 133
  21. ^ a b c d Bennett, p. 133
  22. ^ a b Halpern, p. 78
  23. ^ Bennett, pp. 132–133
  24. ^ Turner, pp. 39–40
  25. ^ a b Patience 2011, p. 70
  26. ^ Burt, p. 158
  27. ^ Farwell, p. 138
  28. ^ Farwell, pp. 137–138
  29. ^ Farwell, pp. 139–142
  30. ^ a b c Bennett, p. 134
  31. ^ Patience 2001, pp. 114–115
  32. ^ Patience 2001, p. 121
  33. ^ Patience 2001, pp. 122–123
  34. ^ Hildebrand Röhr & Steinmetz, p. 144
  35. ^ Patience 2001, pp. 131–132
  36. ^ Herwig, pp. 154–155
  37. ^ Patience, pp. 133–134
  38. ^ Yates, p. 289
  39. ^ Patience 2011, p. 72

References[edit]

  • Bennett, Geoffrey (2005). Naval Battles of the First World War. London: Pen & Sword Military Classics. ISBN 1-84415-300-2. 
  • Burt, R. A. (1988). British Battleships 1889–1904. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-061-0. 
  • Farwell, Byron (1989). The Great War in Africa, 1914–1918. New York, NY: Norton. ISBN 0-393-30564-3. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1984). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1922. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-907-3. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships: 1815–1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-352-4. 
  • Herwig, Holger (1980). "Luxury" Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-286-9. 
  • Hildebrand, Hans H.; Röhr, Albert; Steinmetz, Hans-Otto (1993). Die Deutschen Kriegsschiffe (Volume 5). Ratingen, DE: Mundus Verlag. ASIN B003VHSRKE. 
  • Patience, Kevin (2001). Konigsberg: A German East African Raider. Bahrain: Kevin Patience. OCLC 37615728. 
  • Patience, Kevin (December 2011). "Sink the Königsberg: At All Costs". Britain at War (Stamford, UK: Key Publishing Ltd.) (56): 67–72. 
  • Turner, Charles Cyril (1972). The Old Flying Days. New York, NY: Arno Press. ISBN 0-405-03783-X. 
  • Yates, Keith (1995). Graf Spee's Raiders: Challenge to the Royal Navy, 1914–1915. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-977-8. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Looff, Max (1936). Tufani: Sturm über Deutsch-Ostafrika. Berlin: Bernard & Graefe Verlag. 

Coordinates: 7°52′6″S 39°14′24″E / 7.86833°S 39.24000°E / -7.86833; 39.24000