Home      RUFIJI TOW 1915

THE RUFIJI TOW

One of the most arduous towing jobs carried out during World War One, for a variety of reasons, must have been the towing of three monitors from the UK to Malta and two of these thence to the Rufiji River delta in German East Africa to destroy the German cruiser Konigsberg, which had taken refuge in one of the delta’s creeks.

Initially three Monitors were involved HMS Severn, HMS Humber and HMS Mersey. These had been built by Vickers Ltd at Barrow in Furness, during 1913 and 1914, for the Brazilian Government, and shortly before the outbreak of WW1 were awaiting delivery at Barrow. The British Government,  stepped in and purchased them.
The monitors measured 265’x49’x6.5’, displaced 1260 tons and were armed with one 6” gun forward, one six inch and one 4.7” gun aft and 3” and machine guns each side. They were lightly built, flat bottomed,  unarmoured and intended for use in river conditions only. It soon became obvious that the very shallow draught coupled with the large area above the waterline exposed to the wind made them very difficult to handle in any sort of wind or sea conditions above a flat calm and the light construction would also cause problems when working in a seaway. It may help illustrate the difficulties encountered in towing these vessels by detailing some of their early history.

PRELUDE

July 1914
German cruiser Konigsberg cruising in Indian Ocean, based at Dar-es-Salaam.

4th August 1914.
The Admiralty signals all Ships and Establishments to commence hostilities against Germany.

5th August 1914 23.30
Commander Fullerton, Commander Snagge and Lt-Commander Wilson, appointed to command the three vessels, depart from Euston Station for Barrow in Furness.

6th August 1914
The three commanding officers are viewing the Solimoes [Severn], Madeira [Mersey] and Javery [Humber], still in caretakers hands at Vickers yard, with a view to deciding what would need to be done to get them into fighting condition. Several facts amazed them, more were to astound them. The vessels had no more than 3.5’ of freeboard fore and aft and carried an 80’ mast. Coal capacity was only 187 tons plus 90 tons of shale oil. Speed was alleged to be 12 knots but was to prove over-optimistic. Internally the vessels sported oak paneled cabins, Turkish carpets, curtains and a multitude of brass fittings. These fittings were soon stripped out and stored and the brass fittings and white hulls painted grey. Fullerton would command HMS Severn, Wilson HMS Mersey and Snagge HMS Humber.
 
The three monitors newly completed. Photo courtesy Keven Haydon colln.

August 1914
The officers assumptions that these vessels would be very difficult to control received a nod when they were ready to depart on sea trials, the local pilot deeming it indispensable to have no less than three tugs to assist each 1500 ton twin screwed vessel. The trials confirmed that the vessels were ridiculously slow and practically uncontrollable with the wind at right angles to the hull. Many times in the future the monitors would have to hoist ‘not under command’ signals whilst trying to pass through crowded anchorages.

22nd August 1914
Mersey is laying at anchor off Barrow, acting as guardship. The wind increased and the anchor began dragging. It was decided to weigh anchor, a very difficult task due to waves constantly breaking over the foredeck and soaking the First Lieutenant and anchor party.

24th August 1914
HMS Humber departs from Barrow.

25th August 1914 22.30
HMS Severn and HMS Mersey depart Barrow with orders to reach Dover with all despatch. At this stage none of the vessels had carried out any sort of gun drill.

26th August 1914
Both vessels in the Irish Sea in a fresh breeze with hatches battened down, Mess Decks flooded and the crew accommodated in the wardroom and captains quarters, the only spaces free of water.

29th August 1914
Both vessels arrive at Dover, having taken three and a half days to steam 610 miles.

31st August 1914
HMS Humber arrives at Dover and all three vessels coal.
15.30; All three vessels ordered to Ostend for bombardment duty.
24.00; Vessels at anchor off Ostend when the orders are cancelled and all three ships ordered to Sheerness.

There now followed six weeks of patrol duty off the Nore and the vessels were also modified at Chatham Dockyard by having armoured plates affixed over the magazines.

September 1914
The German cruiser Konigsberg destroys a number of Merchant vessels in the Bay of Bengal.

20th September 1914
Konigsberg sinks the British cruiser Pegasus off Zanzibar.

11th October 1914
07.30. After rendezvousing in the Downs with destroyers the three monitors leave to assist in the evacuation of Ostend.
13.30 Severn suffers from engine failure and is taken in tow by Humber.
18.00 All three monitors anchored off Ostend

13th October 1914 p.m.
All three vessels recalled by Admiralty to the Downs and later into Dover Harbour.

During the rest of October and November the vessels carried out many bombardment duties along the Channel Coast, to the extent that their gun barrels became badly worn and Severn and Mersey were both sent to Chatham Dockyard for exchange barrels to be fitted.

30th October 1914
Konigsberg located in Rufiji Delta by RN.

10th November 1914
Collier Newbridge scuttled across Rufiji to act as blockship and hopefully contain Konigsberg in the delta.
 
19th November 1914
The three monitors are dispatched from the Medway to The Wash [via Great Yarmouth], in response to the British Government’s fear of an invasion in the area.

9th December 1914.
The monitors are anchored off Hunstanton at instant readiness as there is fear of an invasion the following day.

10th December 1914.
The invasion not materializing the Monitors are recalled to Dover and have a very stormy trip down the East coast, coaling at Harwich prior to setting off again for Dover. This leg of the journey also proved very rough, so much so that at one time the squadron was making 50 degrees leeway and eventually turned around and returned to Harwich, where Humber reported that her fore mess deck had been buckled by the seas and she was leaking badly.

15th December 1914
The trio depart Harwich, Humber going to Chatham Dockyard for repairs and the other two to Dover where they coaled and departed again at 22.00 for Dunkirk.

10th January 1915
Severn and Mersey depart Dunkirk for Dover. Another very stormy uncontrolled passage that forced Mersey to set a sail aft made from the canvas bridge dodgers to assist in keeping her on course. This was so successful that the monitors were later provided with specially made sails for the purpose.

11th January 1915
All three monitors anchored in the River Medway. Severn was sent into Sheerness Dockyard for attention to leaks where it was found that at least ten percent of her rivet holes were leaking copiously. All ships had repairs and modifications carried out whilst in the Medway, these taking until early March.

19th February 1915
Admiralty commences operations to try to force a passage through the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara.


5th March 1915
Gangs arrive on the monitors from the Dockyard to shore up the monitors forward bulkheads in an effort to prevent further buckling of the decks. This was followed by visits to Sheerness Dockyard in turn where all portable fittings were removed and stowed below, all boats removed, topmasts stowed, all hatches made watertight and the funnel tops covered with plate. Special towing spans were fitted around the fore gun mountings and false breakwaters constructed on the foredecks. Fullerton as senior officer was informed that the three vessels were bound for the Dardanelles via Malta and Lemnos, and a decision had been made that due to their poor sea-keeping qualities and limited range they were to be towed rather than proceed under their own power. He was told NOT to pass the destination on to his officers and men, that the voyage should be made avoiding as far as possible normal shipping lanes, out of sight of land wherever possible, and that refuge should only be sought in ports due to stress of weather and any ports used should preferably be Portuguese  rather than Spanish. During the voyage passing vessels were asked by light or flag signals not to report the position or makeup of the convoy.
 
HMS Severn. Photo courtesy Kevin Haydon colln.

THE MALTA TOW

 

March 1915
Salvage expert Captain Frederick W Young RNR was made responsible for selecting and fitting out the six tugs that would tow the monitors. Those chosen were the Liverpool tugs BLACKCOCK, SARAH JOLIFFE and T A JOLIFFE whilst from the Thames fleets came Tilbury Contracting’s DANUBE II and SOUTHAMPTON and Elliott’s REVENGER. All six tugs had been requisitioned by the Admiralty  at the beginning of the war. Commander Vigers RNR in BLACKCOCK was appointed senior officer of the tugs and was responsible for course and speed, whilst naval signals ratings were also appointed to each tug. Because the monitors would make the voyage unmanned the Royal Mail Lines SS Trent was requisitioned to carry the monitor’s officers and crews and fitted with guns and stored whilst in the Royal Albert Dock, London. She also carried the monitor’s lifeboats.
 
SS TRENT

12th March 1915 00.01
The convoy departed from the Medway.  In the lead were BLACKCOCK and DANUBE II each with a line to Humber. Astern of this trio came SARAH JOLIFFE and SOUTHAMPTON towing Severn. The rear was brought up by T A JOLIFFE and REVENGER towing Mersey. Trent, commanded by Captain Hayes RNR, took up a position on the port beam of the convoy.

14th March 1915
The convoy reached Devonport without incident. Here the crews of the monitors, sent by train to Devonport, boarded the  SS Trent.
23.30. The convoy, without lights, departed from Devonport escorted by the destroyers HMS Lookout and HMS Foyle. The destroyers stayed with the group until 1500 hours the following day when they were clear of the English Channel.

18th March 1915
The convoy passed Finisterre, averaging 6.5 knots since leaving Devonport. This was also the day that a major naval effort was mounted to force the Dardanelles passage and resulted in major damage to the French battleship Gaulois, which had to be beached to prevent sinking, The French battleship Bouvet was sunk by Turkish shellfire. British warships damaged by shellfire were Inflexible, Lord Nelson, Agamemnon and Charlemagne, whilst Irresistable hit a mine. Going to assist Irresistable HMS Ocean also hit a mine and came under heavy shell fire and both ships were abandoned. Several other smaller vessels also suffered damage. It now became apparent that a shore landing would be necessary to subdue these Turkish batteries and forts before the Turkish minefields could be swept.

The tugs were now becoming short of coal but Fullerton had received a radio message from the Admiralty stating that the monitors were NOT to be taken into Gibraltar.

22nd March 1915. 05.30
With the convoy abreast of Gibraltar they stopped. DANUBE II transferred her towing hawser to BLACKCOCK, SOUTHAMPTON hers to SARAH JOLIFFE and T A JOLIFFE’s hawser was transferred to REVENGER. The three released tugs then went into Gibraltar to coal, whilst the convoy proceeded at a lower speed. When coaled the three tugs returned, a similar operation took place to release the other three tugs and they then returned to Gibraltar for bunkers.

24th March 1915
BLACKCOCK, SARAH JOLIFFE, and REVENGER rejoined after coaling, reconnected to their original monitors and the convoy resumed normal speed.

29th March 1915
The ten vessels arrive at Malta. Some rough weather had been encountered in the Mediterranean but all arrived undamaged and without a single towing hawser breaking.

MALTA INTERLUDE

After entering Grand Harbour, Valletta, the convoy was moored in Lazaretto Creek. The tugs were almost immediately pressed into service towing lighters of military equipment to the Dardanelles and Lemnos as part of the build up before the Gallipoli Landings. The monitors remained battened down and on a visit by the Governor of Malta he could only walk over their upper decks.
 
T A JOLIFFE [right] with one of the TC&D tugs and the monitors at Malta.

3rd April 1915
Orders were received for Trent and the available tugs to raise steam in order to depart with the monitors at 10.00 hours on the 4th April. The only tugs available at this stage were BLACKCOCK, DANUBE II and the RESCUE which had just arrived from Gibraltar. Owned by Bland’s of Gibraltar she had been requisitioned by the Admiralty in March to serve as a salvage and  balloon tender for service in the Eastern Mediterranean. Libertymen were recalled, stores taken aboard and all made ready. The weather however decided not to cooperate and departure was delayed because of heavy seas running outside the harbour.

6th April 1915
With the convoy still weather bound in Grand Harbour orders were received canceling the sailing and fires were drawn and leave granted on all the vessels. The reason for this cancellation was that Admiral de Robeck, in charge at the Dardanelles, had wished to have the monitors available to give covering fire for the planned landings at Gallipoli. This meant that they must arrive at Mudros by the 12th. On learning that not only had they been delayed by the weather but would be at least five days towing to Mudros and then require at least a fortnight to unbatten and be ready for service he realized that they could not fit into his schedule. Thus the monitors remained at their moorings and BLACKCOCK, REVENGER and RESCUE departed with more lighters for Lemnos. This was proving not to be the simplest of tasks. SARAH JOLIFFE returned after a very rough trip with her starboard lifeboat stove-in and damaged upper deck fittings. Three out of four lighters bound for Lemnos on one trip sank and SOUTHAMPTON returned to Malta soon after departure with one of her lighters in a sinking condition.


21st April 1915
Fullerton received instructions that Humber would remain at Malta for the time being but Mersey and Severn would soon be journeying further afield accompanied by Trent. Over the next few days Humber had all her equipment put on board from Trent. Severn and Mersey had their propeller shafts disconnected so that the props could freewheel, lessening drag. Bullet proof shields were fitted around the tugs wheelhouses and all vessels were fitted with heavy canvas sun awnings. Fullerton was again instructed that secrecy must be maintained but the fitting of the awnings must have been a pointer to all that they were bound for hotter climes. BLACKCOCK, REVENGER, T A JOLIFFE and SARAH JOLIFFE were the four tugs tasked with the next stage of the tow, which Fullerton was now informed would be to Zanzibar via the Suez Canal. This was over 5000 miles away and Fullerton became concerned about the tugs coal capacities, especially as rough weather could well be encountered in the Red Sea. With this in mind he decided to have Trent and Kendal Castle, a collier carrying 6000 tons of coal which had been attached to the convoy, fitted with towing gear, so that they could be used for towing if necessary. Fullerton was ordered to use his own judgement over the voyage, seeking shelter if really necessary or even aborting the mission should the Red Sea weather prove too bad to continue. Humber would eventually proceed to Gallipoli and carry out bombardments of the Turkish positions above Anzac Cove, so now disappears from this story.

25th April 1915
Due to the lack of success in forcing a passage by sea through the Dardanelles the first landings of the Gallipoli campaign take place.

THE RUFIJI TOW

28th April 1915

The convoy departed from Grand Harbour in perfect weather and sea conditions. BLACKCOCK and REVENGER had only recently returned from Lemnos and were still in dockyard hands so their place was taken by SOUTHAMPTON temporarily. Leading the convoy was SARAH JOLIFFE towing Mersey. Astern came SOUTHAMPTON and T A JOLIFFE towing Severn. A mile astern the collier Kendal Castle brought up the rear and Trent took up her customary position on the port beam.

2nd May 1915
Kendal Castle was detached and sent on ahead to Port Said to make arrangements for coaling the convoy. She was under strict orders that no shore leave was to be granted, no strangers allowed on board and all letters must be censored.

3rd May 1915
During the afternoon BLACKCOCK and REVENGER caught the convoy up and SOUTHAMPTON was released to return to Malta.  Captain A P Weir now commanded BLACKCOCK and was in overall charge of the tugs.

On arrival at Port Said the convoy topped up with coal, water and provisions in seven hours and then entered the Suez Canal.

5th May 1915 23.30
In the Suez Canal, midway between Ismailia and Suez, SARAH JOLIFFE came under sniper rifle fire from Turkish forces on the Eastern Bank. The six shots fired flattened harmlessly against the armoured plating fitted to the wheelhouse in Malta.

6th May 1915
Out of the canal with Suez fading astern the convoy encountered a rough sea from astern.

9th May 1915 05.00
Trent intercepted a radio message being passed from one German warship to another. Fullerton, worried there may be German raiders nearby or even that the Konigsberg may have escaped from the Rufiji decided to reverse course and head back toward Suez where there were allied warships. The tugs were ordered to make preparations for slipping the tows if ordered and if this took place then to scatter and head back for Suez independently.
08.00 After failing to make radio contact with the naval units at Suez, and hearing no more exchanges from the German ships Fullerton decided to reverse course again and continue on towards Aden.
23.59 A large steamer was seen astern rapidly overhauling the tugs. Almost with reach of the convoy she suddenly doused all her lights. Fullerton in Trent, fearing it to be a German raider, immediately swung towards the stranger at full speed. However an exchange of light signals identified her as the British transport Trioba bound for Bombay and that she had suddenly had a dynamo failure. With apologies and best wishes exchanged all became peaceful again.

10th May 1915
A very hot day. Fullerton signaled to Weir in BLACKCOCK that when the sea state allowed he would send the tugs some ice and fresh meat.

11th May 1915
Another very hot day but the sea had calmed and Fullerton halted the convoy to fulfill his promise of transferring ice and meat to the tugs. Captain Weir reported that all was well but his crews were beginning to feel the effects of the heat. Fullerton replied that he would try to engage some Arab firemen when they reached Aden. Over the next few days the temperature at night rarely fell below 87 degrees and on SARAH JOLIFFE one engineer and a firemen were rendered unconscious when her engine room temperature reached 145 degrees one afternoon. On T A JOLIFFE two firemen also succumbed as did BLACKCOCK’s mate. Lime juice was issued instead of rum and it became necessary to use salt water for washing. Many of the tug crewmen were aged between 45 and 65 and the tugs had not been built or modified for tropical service and therefore possessed no fans or iceboxes. Despite all this the average daily run down the Red Sea was 157 miles.
 
REVENGER taking on casked water from TRENT in the indian Ocean.

12th May 1915
Kendal Castle was again detached to proceed to Aden to make arrangements for the convoy’s arrival.

15th May 1915
The squadron was anchored off Aden. Unfortunately the 2nd engineer of the Trent died from heat stroke during the morning as did a member of Severn’s crew, also aboard Trent, during the following night. Several of the tugmen were placed under the care of Trent’s doctor for a couple of days.

17th May 1915
The convoy departed from Aden, the tugs having been supplied with Arab firemen, ice and ice chests.

18th May 1915
Fullerton detached Kendal Castle with orders for her to seek sheltered water off Cloch, Italian Somaliland, so that the tugs could coal from her. BLACKCOCK and SARAH JOLIFFE duly made their way to the anchored collier before returning to the monitors and relieving their sister vessel so that they could bunker, carrying out a similar procedure as that undertaken off Gibraltar. Whilst this was going on the vessels were invaded by a huge swarm of locusts and temperatures reached over 100 degrees in the shade.

19th May 1915
The convoy meet an old adversary of the Konigsberg, HMS Chatham, proceeding in the opposite direction. Chatham signaled the unwelcome news that they were heading into an area of strong SSW winds and adverse currents.

20th May 1915
Cape Guardafui was rounded at a distance of three miles. The weather was now cooler but almost immediately the convoy encountered the strong SSW winds and adverse currents advised by HMS Chatham. The daily distance run dropped to 77 miles and for three days the convoy hugged the coast but then abandoned this course as the currents here were running at up to five knots.

22nd May 1915
Fullerton realized that at this current rate of progress the tugs would run out of coal before reaching Zanzibar. Therefore, although in rough seas, Trent took over the towing of Mersey. Trent towed from each quarter on 100 fathoms of 5.5” wire rope attached to 110 fathoms of 14” hemp rope attached in turn to another 100 fathoms of 5.5” wire finally attached to 150’ of Mersey’s anchor chain. This much improved the rate of progress and Kendal Castle was then employed to partially tow Severn. On Severn’s starboard hawser was BLACKCOCK connected ahead to SARAH JOLIFFE. Kendal Castle towed on Severn’s port hawser, connected ahead to REVENGER. T A JOLIFFE steamed abeam independently ready for any emergency.

24th May 1915
The days distance run today improved to 142 miles under the new towing arrangements. About this time Fullerton assembled his officers and informed them that their final destination was Chaki Chaki Bay, Isle of Pemba, NNE of Zanzibar and explained that there they would fit out the monitors and eventually enter the Rufiji to destroy the Konigsberg.

25th May 1915 03.00
A thick fog descended on the convoy which did not lift until noon. Fullerton then realized that T A JOLIFFE and REVENGER were missing. Kendal Castle signaled that she had last seen T A JOLIFFE three miles away to port and that at 06.00 REVENGER had got athwart the tow line and had to slip the tow. The crew of Kendal Castle had managed to recover some of the tow but had to sever the remainder and let it sink to the sea bed. REVENGER had then steamed off in search of Trent. At sunset Trent pointed her searchlights at the sky in the hope that the missing tugs would be able to locate her. T A JOLIFFE had previously been informed that if she lost contact with the convoy to proceed independently to either Mombasa or Pemba Island.
20.00. Two green lights were  noticed a long way off to port.
21.15. From the same direction three red lights were noticed, signifying ‘in need of assistance’. Trent, still towing the monitor gradually altered course to close the lights.
22.00 The loom of a vessel was identified as REVENGER. She reported having two injured men on board, one of them in a serious condition. Her 2nd Mate and cook had apparently been injured when she slipped her towing hawser which is why she had gone off in search of Trent. The injured men were now transferred to Trent so that their injuries could be treated.

26th May 1915 12.00
With 700 miles still to go Kendal Castle reported that Severn had developed a heavy list to port. During the last 24 hours the convoy had been set 25 miles to the East by a strong current and although averaging 9 knots through the water the actual distance run was only 72 miles. A party boarded the Severn and found two feet of water on the mess deck and along the port side. This appeared to have been caused by loosening of the rivets in the hull. Relays of men were sent over to pump and bail out the water.

27th May 1915
Most of the water having been pumped out of Severn the leaks were sealed with lead wire and oakum, all whilst still being towed at 5 knots.

28th May 1915. The weather had improved a little and although a strong swell was still running the noon to noon distance run was 149 miles, the best distance covered since leaving Aden. During the afternoon the Equator was crossed, albeit without much celebration.

29th May 1915.
Distance run noon to noon today was 153 miles and wireless communication was established with Admiral King-Hall at sea off Pemba Island, who informed them that T A JOLIFFE had already joined him. Severn however had developed another list to port and Mersey was seen to be considerably down by the head.
The weather had now changed to rainy squalls with overcast skies and for the next 36 hours no sights could be taken.

31st May 1915 12.00
Dead reckoning placed the convoy 47 miles NE of Pemba Island and some 28 miles off the African coast. It was decided now to change the towing arrangements again so Mersey was towed by SARAH JOLIFFE and REVENGER whilst BLACKCOCK towed Severn alone. This changeover took some three hours during which the ships drifted North with engines stopped. Getting under way again consequently found them thirteen miles abreast of Mombasa from whence came a steam launch carrying the examination officer. Fullerton impressed on this officer the need for total secrecy to which the officer replied that he had been expecting them for some days as a Norwegian steamer had reported them after passing the convoy at sea.

1st June 1915
BLACKCOCK now being unable to tow Severn at any more than two miles an hour over the ground unaided Fullerton ordered REVENGER and SARAH JOLIFFE to proceed to Chaki Chaki independently with Mersey. Later in the morning the remainder of the convoy caught up with Mersey and her tugs stopped close to Kegomacha lighthouse on Pemba Island. Both tugs were flying signal flags indicating they were aground. Trent anchored close to them and lowered her boats. Reaching the tugs Fullerton found SARAH JOLIFFE hard aground on a coral reef. REVENGER was still afloat but with her tow wire snagged on an obstruction on the sea bed. On taking soundings Mersey was found to be still afloat but with seven inches of water beneath her bottom and the tide ebbing. Kendal Castle was ordered to take the towing of Severn from BLACKCOCK. Once free Captain Weir backed BLACKCOCK in close to Mersey’s stern, very conscious of the facts that his tug drew at least twice as much water as the monitor. With great haste monitor and tug were connected and the monitor towed stern first into deeper water. The immediate danger over the convoy got under way again, BLACKCOCK still towing Mersey and Kendal Castle towing Severn. REVENGER was left standing by SARAH JOLIFFE. During the afternoon they closed Chaki Chaki and made contact with HMS Hyacinth, who was in company with T A JOLIFFE, the latter very short of coal. Trent now took over the tow of Mersey and BLACKCOCK and T A JOLIFFE were ordered into Chaki Chaki to coal from HMS Hyacinth. Admiral King-Hall on HMS Hyacinth had not appreciated the amount of work that would be involved in making the monitors fit for action again so decided to send them on to Barakuni Island, 200 miles further south and much nearer the Rufiji. The remnants of the convoy therefore plugged on against the current and worsening weather, making little better than three knots.

2nd June 1915
BLACKCOCK and T A JOLIFFE rejoined after coaling and a wireless message was received saying that SARAH JOLIFFE had floated off the reef, undamaged, on the high tide. REVENGER had been forced to slip her towing gear, now all lost on the sea bed. She had also snapped off two propeller blades.

3rd June 1915 1900.
At last the tow was over. Trent was at anchor off Barakuni Island with a monitor lashed either side and the work to make them fit for action had commenced. How and where the propeller of REVENGER was repaired is unknown but she did rejoin and was present during the action during which the monitors entered the Rufiji and sank Koningsberg. The following part of a dispatch from Admiral King-Hall was published in the London Gazette;- ,
“ I also desire to bring to their Lordships' notice the Master of the tug "Revenger," John Osment Richards, and the following members of her crew, who most readily volunteered to serve in their tug and to proceed into the river to the assistance of the Monitors and tow them out if necessary:
Frank Walker, Navigating Master.
George Edward Milton, Mate.
Frederick James Kennedy, Chief Engineer.
Lewis John Hills, Second Engineer.
Sidney Robert Rayner, Third Engineer.
 
The four tugs "Blackcock," "Revenger," "Sarah Joliffe," and " T. A. Joliffe" were manned by Naval Officers and men, with the exception of the above named, and although their services were not called for I consider the example they set was most praiseworthy.”
 
POSTSCRIPT
 
 
REVENGER and SARAH JOLIFFE were certainly still in East African waters on 19th August 1915 when a raid on the harbour at Tanga was proposed but their services were not called upon.
 
3-1916
Severn was towed to Durban by Trent for repairs.
 
4-1917
Severn and Mersey still based in East Africa with Trent
.
22-3-1918
Mersey towed by Trent from Zanzibar to Alexandria for overhaul.
 
4-1918
Severn towed by Trent from Zanzibar to Alexandria for overhaul.
 
10-1918
Humber, Mersey and Severn all together at Mudros and later sailed to Constantinople.
Humber and Mersey spent the winter of 1918/19 at Galati on the Black Sea.
 
10-4-1919
Humber arrives at Devonport.
 
9-5-1919
Mersey arrives at Devonport.
 
20-5-1919
Humber is towed to Murmansk.
 
23-5-1919
Severn arrives at Devonport.
 
7-1919
Severn and Mersey go into care and maintenance layup at Queenstown.
 
24-10-1919
Humber pays off at Chatham Dockyard. She was sold to shipbreaker  F Rijsdijk of Holland for £5510 and converted into a crane barge, working on many contracts in Holland. In 1925 Humber was sold to Upnor Shipbreaking and used on the River Medway in the dispersal of the wreck of HMS Bulwark which had blown up early in the war. During the 1930’s she was used in the demolition of the liner Celtic off Queenstown. Sold to French interests in 1939.
Severn was scrapped by T W Ward Ltd at Preston in March 1923.
Mersey was scrapped by T W Ward Ltd at Morecombe in 1922.

----------------------------------------------

 

THE TUGS

 
BLACKCOCK
 
 Built 1885 by Laird Brothers Ltd.,  Birkenhead. YN 534. 254 GRT, 49 NRT. 146.2'x21'. 1200ihp. 3ccylTE by builder. ON 91283
 
1885 Delivered to Liverpool Screw Towing & Lighterage Co Ltd.,  Liverpool. 11-8-1914 Hired by Admiralty. 4-11-1915 Purchased by Admiralty. 18-1-1918  BLACKCOCK commanded by Lieut. Robert Weir RNR sailed from Vardo late 17 Jan with stores and passengers for Murmansk. At 07.45 the next morning she ran aground; with water entering forward two boats were hoisted out and all passengers and some crew were taken to the shore. They walked along the shoreline in bitterly cold weather, with regular snow squalls until they reached a settlement named as Tsip Navalock; a rescue party was organised with dog sleds to get rest of crew. All survived although some suffered frostbite. The tug was believed later crushed in the ice and lost.
-------------------------------------------------

DANUBE II
 
Built 1910 by Philip and Son Ltd., Dartmouth. YN368. L100.2'. B25.6'. 227grt. 150hp 3cylTE 16"x24"x40" 27" stroke 180psi steam engine by Earles Ltd., Hull. Official No 129105. Call sign MDJW.
 
1910 Delivered to T.C. & D. Co Ltd., London. 1914 Req for war duties, renamed Danube and assisted  a Monitor through the Mediterranean enroute to the Rufigi River delta, East Africa, in order to destroy the German raider Konigsberg. Returned later to UK and served as a rescue tug, including the rescue of the American ship Haverford, 300 miles out in the Atlantic 27 to 29-6-1917. 7-12-1917 Whilst towing a battle practice target from Portsmouth to Scapa Flow, under command of Lt. Harry Jewiss RNR, the target took a sudden sheer to port and struck and sank the Norwegian steamer Norona, which was anchored in the Thames Estuary. Later served at Archangel before returning to the Thames in 1920 and renamed Danube II. 1935 Sold to Falmouth Towage Co. Ltd., renamed Norgrove. 23-12-1941 Req by Admiralty. 7-7-1945 Returned to owner. 1959 Owners Falmouth Towing Co. Ltd., renamed St. Eval. 1962 Scrapped by T. W. Ward Ltd., Briton Ferry.
------------------------
 
REVENGER
 
Built 1905 by M van der Kuyl, Slikkerveer. YN328. Screw Tug. L123.1'. B 21.6'. D12.4'. 243grt. 900ihp 3cyl TE by Alblasserdam Masch. Fab. Alblasserdam. Official No 135304.
 
5-1905 Delivered to Internationale Sleepdienst Maats. NV, Rotterdam, named Maas. 12-1913 Acquired by Elliott Steam Tug Co., London renamed Revenger. 3-8-1914 Req by RN served Falmouth. 1915 Assisted in tow of Monitors HMS Mersey and HMS Severn from UK to Rufiji River, East Africa prior to the destruction of the German Cruiser Konigsberg.  Her crew were commended for their work by the RN Vice-Admiral in charge of the operation, the commendation appearing in the London Gazette. 23-4-1919 Foundered in St. Brides Bay (Preston for Plymouth); master rescued by ss Pyrope (452g/1890) but 10 crew lost.
--------------------------------------------

SARAH JOLIFFE
 
 
Built 1890 by John Readhead & Sons., South Shields. YN 262. 333GRT 43NRT. 138'x25.6'x13.5'. 850ihp T3cyl by shipbuilder. ON 97815.

9-1890 Delivered to John Woodburn & Sarah Ann Jolliffe, Liverpool. 1894 Transferred to John Woodburn & Sarah Ann Howard nee Jolliffe. 1897 Transferred to W. & T. Jolliffe, Liverpool. 1908 Taken over by  Alexandra Towing Co Ltd.,  Liverpool. 10-10-1914 Hired for War Office service. 8-3-1915 Requisitioned by  Admiralty as examining vessel and DY tug. Assisted in towing the monitors HMS Mersey, HMS Humber and HMS Severn from UK to the  Rufiji delta (Zanzibar) to sink the German cruiser Konigsberg. 13-1-1920 Returned to owners 1920 Chartered to London Salvage Association for £120 a day. 1924 Sold for scrapping at Garston.
---------------------------------------

SOUTHAMPTON
 

Built 1910 by Philip and Son Ltd., Dartmouth. YN369. L100.2'. B25.6'. D12.4'. 227grt. 3nrt. 63nhp 3cylTE 15"x24"x40"x27"s steam engine by Earles and Co Ltd., Hull. Official No. 129132. Call sign HTCD later MDPJ.
 
9-1910 Delivered to T.C. & D. Co., London. 1914 Req for RN service, renamed Hampden. Served in Mediterranean. 1924 Returned to owners, renamed Southampton. 3-2-1926 Rescued 20 crew and the pilot from the sinking SS Marcato following a five vessel collision in fog near Barrow Deep buoy. 1934 Sold to John Cooper Ltd., Belfast. 1967 Demolished by Hammond Lane Foundry, Dublin.
--------------------------------

 
T A JOLIFFE
 

 Built 1901 by J.P. Rennoldson & Sons, South Shields. YN 213. 199 GRT, 14 NRT. 113.0'x23.7'x12.1'. 650ihp T3cyl by shipbuilder. ON 115238.
 
1901 Delivered to W. & T.Jolliffe, Liverpool.  1908 Taken over by Alexandra Towing Co Ltd.,  Liverpool. 12-8-1914 Hired by Admiralty for War service. 16-11-1914 Transferred to War Office Service. 9-3-1915 Transferred back to Admiralty. 1915 Assisted towing monitors HMS Mersey, HMS Humber and HMS Severn from UK to Rufiji River to destroy German cruiser Konigsberg. 14-2-1920 Returned to owner.  1923 Sold to Martin Constant, London, renamed EASTLEIGH. 1924 Sold to James Dredging, Towage & Transport Co Ltd.,  London. 1924 Sold to Charles Roberts & Sons Ltd.,  Bristol. 1930 Owners Samuel & Thomas Henry Roberts, Bristol. 1936 Owners Charles Roberts & Son Ltd., Bristol. 1947 Sold to C. & J. King & Sons Ltd., Bristol. 1949 Scrapped at Newport, Mon.
 

THE SHIPS

 
TRENT
 
Built 1899 by R Napier Ltd., Glasgow. 5525grt. 410’x50’x23.3’. 3cyl 37”x58”x97”x66”s TE steam engine by builder. ON112664.
 
18-9-1899 Launched. 1899 Delivered to Royal Mail Line Ltd., London.  16-1-1909 Ashore for nearly four months near Cartagena. 18-10-1910 Rescued crew of airship America 410 miles SE of Sandy Hook during first attempt to cross Atlantic by air. 1914 Requisitioned by Admiralty as Depot Ship for monitors. 7-2-1917 Towed mined troopship Tyndareus into Simons Bay, South Africa. 1922 Scrapped.
------------------------------
 
KENDAL CASTLE
 
Built 1910 by Short Bros. Ltd., Sunderland. Steam Collier. 3885grt. 351.8’x50.1’x25.7’. 3cyl TE steam engine by G Clark Ltd., Sunderland. ON131282.
 
1910 Delivered to Kendal Castle SS Co Ltd [J Chambers and Co] Liverpool. 15-9-1918 Sank after being torpedoed by UB103 4 miles SE of Berry Head, English Channel whilst on passage Havre to Cardiff in Ballast. 18 crew lost including master.
------------------------------------
 
NEWBRIDGE
 
Built 1906 by William, Doxford Ltd, Sunderland. Steam Collier. 3737grt. 342.1’x46.6’x24.8’. 3cyl TE steam engine by builder. ON123648.
 
1906 Delivered to Temperley Steam Shipping Co Ltd., London. 1914 Scuttled as blockship in Rufiji River.
-----------------------------------------
 
The logs of the monitors are available to read online at
 
 
 
---------------------------------------------------

 

If any visitor can add to, or modify, any of the above please contact me. Input, as ever, is appreciated.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++