RNAS in East Africa – Mtwara/Mikindani, September 1916

Further to my earlier posts with DG‘s photos, especially those which were credited in GTG‘s photo album as Gallipoli but I believe are of the RNAS in East Africa (see these posts here and here),  I have received some very interesting information from Kalla in South Africa. I quote from the email inserting the images at the relevant part of the mail:

“The photos from GTG’s photo album include some aerial shots (taken by David Gill according to your caption) which show a ‘lake’ or ‘river’ somewhere in East Africa.

I was fascinated by these images and tried to identify the location. Two images show the same area and must have been taken seconds apart. I have stitched them together and then figured out that it shows the lagoon (inner bay) at a place called Mtwara which is located South East of Mikindani Bay along the Southern end of Tanzania (German East Africa)

Unfortunately the pictures are not of sufficient detail to allow identification of the ships in the bay. However based on my research these could include the ‘Whalers’ Thistle, Pickle and Fly with the larger vessel possibly Thistle (or even Rinaldo), a Bramble-class old 1st Class Gunboat.

Troops appear to be taken to shore, several landing craft visible in the river mouth and also around the larger vessel.

Shipping logs and Naval Dispatches indicate that operations against the three Southern Ports of Mikindani, Sudi and Lindi commenced on 13 September 1916 and that there was activity in the Mikindani area until the 16th of September 1916 when Whalers entered the inner harbour (thought to be Mtwara) experiencing no resistance.

My guess therefore is that the the pictures were taken during the troop landings at Mtwara/Mikindani on the 16th of September 1916. Now if only I can lay my hands on the RNAS records for that day, we may be able to identify the aeroplane and pilot/photographer.

I’ve attached some Google Earth images of Mtwara as it is today. Please note that the old pictures were taken at low tide and that the shoreline and little islands visible then are not exactly matched on the colour images.

Kind Regards

South Africa”

I’m very impressed by the stitching of the photographs, and for recognising that they might join. The two separate photos appear on completely different pages of GTG’s photo album and I assume he never suspected that they were originally taken as a single panorama. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any records of the operations for DG’s No. 1 Kite Balloon Section for September 1916 but there are still a number of files at the National Archive on Kite Balloon Sections which I have not yet seen and which may still reveal some relevant information. And there are also files for the HMS Manica itself which I have not yet seen.

If anyone has any relevant information or observations, please feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email.


Photos of the crew of HMS Manica (and the RNAS contingent)

In previous posts I have explained how David Gill, ARG’s first cousin, was serving in the RNAS and commanded No. 1 Kite Balloon Section, which was located aboard the HMS Manica, in the East Africa Campaign in 1916 – the very same time that ARG went out to East Africa and joined the campaign.

Many thanks to John Dixon for these great photos of the crew of HMS Manica taken at this time, and which I understand include the RNAS contingent.  John’s grandfather was S-Lt John Edward Loveluck, the First Officer on the Manica, who is the fifth officer in white on front row in the first photograph. (You can enlarge the photo by clicking on it).

John believes the first photograph was taken at Gallipoli in 1915. You can see tents on land in the background of the photo on the right hand side. However the officer seated in the centre of the first row appears to me to be Commander W.E. Whittingham (who was identified in one of the photos in an earlier post of mine, together with the Sultan of Zanzibar). John believes that if this is Commander Whittingham, then the photo must be dated during the East Africa Campaign. I assume the officers and men in darker uniforms are the RNAS contingent. Unfortunately, I cannot identify anyone who looks like David Gill.

John believes the second photo is during the East Africa campaign and features only one naval officer in white.  So I understand the rest are the RNAS contingent although there seems to be a range of different uniforms. I cannot identify David Gill with any confidence, but he may be seated second from left on the front row.

If anyone can identify any others or shed any other light on the photos, please feel free to let me know. John Dixon has more superb photos of his grandfather and other crew members of the Manica and I can put you in touch if anyone is interested.

DG at Gallipoli

In earlier posts (here, here and here) I showed the various photos from GTG’s photo album, attributed to David Gill serving with the RNAS in Gallipoli. I have since received a number of emails from visitors to the site confirming my thoughts that the photos relate not to Gallipoli but to East Africa and show the sunken SMS Königsberg.

But they have also corroborated that David Gill did serve with No. 1 Kite Balloon Section of the RNAS in the earlier Dardanelles campaign. I thought that David had joined No.1 KBS on HMS Manica only after the Manica had returned from the Dardanelles to England in late 1915. However,  I was shown the following roll of RNAS officers in the campaign:

So GTG was correct that David Gill was at Gallipoli. I expect the error on the subject of the photos is because GTG probably compiled his photo album much later, maybe in the 1940s, after returning from India to England. Maybe he was passed David Gill’s photos on the death of David’s father, AA Gill, in 1938 with no other information on where or when the photos were taken.

SMS Königsberg

I have dicovered some excellent photos of the SMS Königsberg posted on a web forum here: SMS KONIGSBERG: Sea Wolf in Lair.  The photos are taken from the Digital Picture Archive of the Federal Archives in Germany – the Bundesarchiv – which has a large number of very interesting photos of German East Africa before and during WWI.

These photos further confirm my suspicions that the photos in GTG’s photo album are not of Gallipoli but East Africa and must have been taken by David Gill when he was commanding the No.1 Kite Balloon Section of the RNAS aboard HMS Manica in 1916/17 – and the sunken ship in two of the photos is indeed the SMS Königsberg.

Photos from GTG’s photo album – I believe these were taken by David Gill

You can see the two shell holes in the river bank on David Gill’s aerial photos (you can enlarge the photos quite considerably if you click on the image), and you can see the same shell holes on the ground in close up in the Bundesarchiv photos.

I was originally doubtful because the Königsberg had three funnels and the sunken ship in David Gill’s photos only seems to have two. But the Bundesarchiv photos clearly show the extensive damage to the Königsberg  and how she seems to have lost one of her funnels.

The rest of the web forum on which the photos are posted (SMS KONIGSBERG: Sea Wolf in Lair) deals in detail with the history and fate of the SMS Königsberg and the subsequent history of her various guns and her crew.

Other photos – possibly of the RNAS in East Africa

These photos were also in GTG’s photo album without any captions and may also have been taken by David Gill whilst he was serving with the RNAS in East Africa in 1916-1917.

copyright Gill all rights reserved I think it may be David Gill pictured of the left. Maybe he is examining the effects of his Kite Balloon spotting. Maybe in Bagamoyo?

copyright Gill all rights reserved  Perhaps this is a photo of one of the Royal Navy’s monitors that was in action in East Africa in 1916 – HMS Severn or HMS Mersey?

copyright Gill all rights reserved I believe this may be a photo of the waterfront of Zanzibar Town. Compare this photo of Zanzibar Town in 1902. Notice the twin spires towards the far right of the panorama.

copyright Gill all rights reserved Surely East Africa, but could be any village on the coast or an offshore island.

copyright Gill all rights reserved I assume the chap in the centre is a Naval Officer. Can anyone identify him, or perhaps just his rank? I assume the two either side are local dignitaries. Maybe from Zanzibar?

[25/06/12 Good news. I have recived a positive identification. This photo “shows the Sultan of Zanzibar, on the right, with Cdr W.E. Whittingham, probably during the Sultan’s visit aboard Manica.”  Many thanks to Colin Huston of Cross & Cockade International, The First World War Aviation Historical Society: www.crossandcockade.com]

This extract is taken from THE NAVY EVERYWHERE by Conrad Gato:

“At Chukwani, in the island of Zanzibar, Squadron No. 8 of the Royal Naval Air Service established its headquarters for the purpose of making reconnaissances over enemy territory in East Africa, taking photographs, dropping bombs, and otherwise aiding the military operations. The seaplane carriers, H.M.S. Himalaya and Manica were lying off the island, and the Flag Commander, the Hon. R. O. B. Bridgeman, D.S.O., had general charge of the operations.”

copyright Gill all rights reserved Perhaps this is a drawing of the HMS Manica – see here for an earlier posting of David Gill’s photos of the HMS Manica and the Kite Balloon in action.

Any help with identifying the places, ships or persons in the photos would be gratefully received.

Flt. Cmdr David Gill

As I have reached ARG’s arrival in East Africa in July 1916, this seems to be a good moment to turn my attention to ARG’s first cousin David Gill, pictured far right in the above row of photos and as a boy in my last post and below.

David Gill was the only son of ARG’s uncle Ormonde motorbike and forecarriage - AAG & son, David (copyright GILL all rights reserved)Albert Augustus Gill (AAG or “Uncle Bertie”), who was chief engineer at the Chelsea Water Company. His brother, ARG’s father, George Henry Gill (GHG) was company secretary.

David Gill - service record (click to enlarge)David Gill was three years older than ARG and considering their fathers worked together, they must have seen a lot of each other as boys. I have obtained a copy of David’s file or service record from the National Archives. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) on 21 May 1915. Just before ARG was wounded at Ypres. David’s previous occupation is recorded as Electrical and Mechanical Engineer and it says he had been in the Officer Training Corps between 1904 to 1906, so presumably at school although the name of his school or any subsequent college is not given.

David was pictured in Flight magazine June 1915 in No.3 Kite Balloon Section.

Flight - June 1915

His service file records his promotion from Flight Sub-Lieutenant to Acting Flight Lieutenant on 29 December 1915 and his location seems to be Roehampton. On the same day his file records that he was promoted to Command of No.1 Kite Balloon Section.

No.1 Kite Balloon Section was an interesting unit of the RNAS providing observation for naval gun bombardments from a hot air balloon tethered on a fixed line to a ship. There were a number of these sections but No.1 Kite Balloon Section was aboard HMS Manica which had been operating in 1915 at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles, with great success. Useful background on HMS Manica and the No. 1 Kite Balloon Section, particularly the operations at Gallipoli can be found here,  here and here. There is also a series of paintings and drawings done by the official artist Herbert Hillier aboard the HMS Manica during the Dardanelles campaign in the IWM on-line archive

I also found the following photographs in the album of ARG’s older brother Theo (George Theodore Gill – GTG), which suggest that David served at Gallipoli. However, there is no indication from his service file that he was transferred to No.1KBS before 29 December 1915, by which time the historical references record that HMS Manica was back in Britain to be refitted, ready for service in British East Africa (‘The Manica continued to lend ‘highly valuable service’ until mid-September, when she returned home for a refit by Cammell, Laird & Company‘) . Certainly the photographs look more like Africa to me than my image of Gallipoli. It may be that GTG was mistaken as I believe the photo album was compiled many years later possibly in the 1940s.

Click on the images to enlarge:
GTG photo album - p.17 (copyright GILL 1916/2010 all rights reserved)GTG photo album - p.23 (copyright GILL 1916/2010 all rights reserved)

GTG photo album - p.21 extract 2  (copyright GILL 1916/2010 all rights reserved) GTG photo album - p.21 extract 1  (copyright GILL 1916/2010 all rights reserved)

GTG photo album - p.21 extract 3  (copyright GILL 1916/2010 all rights reserved)

HMS Manica left Birkenhead on 10 March 1916 bound for East Africa and in addition to the Kite Balloon, they carried a seaplane which may be the subject of one of the un-marked photos in GTG’s album above. David’s service file records that he was ‘mentioned in dispatches by C. in C., Cape for high state of efficiency of his K.B. section & for good work in connection with capture of Bagamoyo by naval force on 15th August 1916’. A detailed account of the operations can be read here. Could the above photos from GTG’s album actually be of the RNAS in East Africa. Perhaps the photo on the top left of page 23 could be Tanga, Pangani or Bagamoyo? And could the sunken ship or ships pictured on page 23 be the Königsberg? [I think so. Look at this photo of the sunken Königsberg in the IWM collection]. The HMS Manica / No.1 KBS were not involved in the sinking of the Königsberg which occurred in July 1915 before they arrived in East Africa, but they were in the area in January 1917 as this account recalls. It’s not clear to me whether these are two photos of the same ship at different stages of its sinking or photos of two different ships. Further research might possibly reveal some likely candidates in the East Africa campaign that my help identify the location of the photos.

While the flagship was lying off Bagamoyo, Admiral Charlton conceived the idea that he would like to make an ascent in the kite-balloon. It was fortunate that the sea was fairly calm, for I have heard of an occasion when an admiral went up in a kite-balloon, and, on descending again to his quarterdeck, was obliged to beat a precipitate retreat into his cabin. It is a curious fact that the motion of a ship, when communicated to the kite-balloon she is towing, becomes accentuated to such a degree that only an extra hardy mariner can hope to escape the effects of it. Admiral Charlton, however, was quite pleased with his experience, and later on he made a signal to the Manica.

“I am very much pleased with the efficiency of the Kite-Balloon Section, and the smart handling of the balloon. I wish to assure them that they are doing good and useful work.”

The tribute was much appreciated, for it is often the misfortune of those who labour with a new device to receive more criticism than encouragement. That it was also well deserved I hope that this record may afford ample evidence.

The best tribute, however, to the efficiency of the kite-balloon, and to the accuracy of its control over gunfire, has been paid by the enemy himself, both in East Africa and at Gallipoli. If the Manica came within range of the German guns with her kite-balloon down, they invariably opened fire, but, if the kite-balloon was up, the Germans in East Africa, like the Turks at Gallipoli, preserved a dignified silence. Experience had taught them wisdom.
‘The  Navy Everywhere’ by Conrad Gato, 1919 – Chapter XII, H.M.S. “MANICA” in East Africa

Probably as a result of his experience of the seaplane on HMS Manica, David put in an application to train as a seaplane pilot in May 1917 but he was turned down “on account of Fleet requirements of KB pilots’ which must have been rather a disappointment. His service file then records his ‘Returning to England 3.5.17′. David and ARG would have been in East Africa together between July 1916 and May 1917 but there is no record of any correspondence or meeting, which seems highly unlikely.

On return to England, David was attached to “Air Dept. N. 6 Section(A), Roehampton’ on 16 July 1917. I cannot find any information on this unit and what it did, but assume that if he was not released from KB duty on account of the requirements of the service for KB pilots, he may have been involved in training KB recruits.

On 9 November 1917 he was promoted to Acting Flight Commander and on 31 December 1917 was promoted to full Flight Commander. His promotion appearing in Flight Magazine in the King’s New Year Honours List in January 1918.

On 2 March 1918 it recorded that ‘Flt. Surgeon, Roehampton reports sick from 9/2/18 to 27/2/18 Malaria’ which seems to be the standard price that was paid for service in East Africa. Finally, on 16 May 1918 it seems David was granted his longstanding desire to train as a pilot and was posted to ‘Aircraft Establishment, S. Farnborough’.

I assume that David continued to train as a pilot for the duration of the war, which must have been good times for him. Unfortunately I understand that David succumbed to Influenza in the great epidemic of winter 1918/19. But I cannot find any record to confirm the date and cause of his death.

His medals were kept by ARG and I have them in the family collection. The spray of oak leaves on the Victory Medal for being Mentioned in Dispatches. It seems they were mounted onto blue card and then removed at some point. But when and why is unknown.

D GILL medals large obverse (copyright GILL 2012 all rights reserved)D GILL medals large reverse (copyright GILL 2012 all rights reserved)