March 1916

Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck and the SMS Königsberg

The story of the light cruiser of the Kaiserliche Marine SMS Königsberg, is inextricably linked to Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870 – 1964), the general who led the German troops in the East African Campaign. The cruiser, in service since the beginning of the war, was commanded by Captain Max Loof, who sank a cargo and a British cruiser, before finding shelter in the delta of the Rufiji River in Tanzania, due to a failure of the boilers. The British forces began a campaign to hunt the cruiser, engaged in flushing out the Königsberg from the intricate river delta, using reconnaissance, seaplanes and informants. Spotted the cruiser, on two occasions – on 6 and 11 July 1915 – the British attacked the Germans, finally forcing them to abandon the ship; the battle costs to the German 32 dead and 125 wounded. The survivors were rescued from Lettow-Vorbeck, who ordered to retrieve some 105 mm guns from the cruiser, knowing that being replenished from mother country was difficult. These naval guns were converted into field artillery pieces, mounted on wheeled carriages: the ship had been sunk but its guns would continue to shoot. Even today three of them are still exposed in Africa.