When the Russian Fleet visited Lüderitz and Dar-es-salam, Part 5, by Dr. Hans Schmiedel (1975)
When the Russian Fleet visited Lüderitz and Dar-es-salam by Dr. H. Schmiedel was published in German in the 1962 edition of the South West Africa Annual.
(continued ...) In order that his death should not be taken up as a bad omen prior to the battle, Rozhdestvensky decided to leave the body in a concrete coffin on board the flagship and to keep the Admiral's flag flying. Thus the dead admiral went to the bottom of the sea with his badly damaged ship during the battle. Some of Volkersam's ships were sent to join him as they were not ready at the time when he originally left Europe. They were the cruisers "OLEG" and "ISUMNRUD", two pocket battleships and five torpedo boats, which left the east sea harbour of Liebau on the 16th November 1904. Like the ships of Admiral Völkersam they posed quite a problem to the English and Egyptian admiralties at the Suez Canal in view of fear of Japanese attacks.
However, the worst was, that on these ships the existing revolutionary atmosphere was aggravated by the outbreak of the revolution at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg towards the end of January 1905. This again gave the English an excuse to shadow them with their battleships. Only two torpedo boats of this squadron, the "GROSNI" and the "GROMKI" entered the harbour of Dar-es-Salam on the 10th February, after having fired the customary salute. This was duly returned from the beach. The squadron was given an ultimatum by the German governor von Stuhlmann to leave Dar-es-Salam within 24 hours. They duly complied with this the next day. Thereafter they again joined Admiral Völkersam's squadron at Madagascar.
What was the reason for this inhospitable attitude by the German governor compared to the friendly reception at Lüderitz? One can only guess in view of the fact that Thiess does not mention a word about the landing of these ships in German East Africa. What I have related I extracted from the German colonial newspapers and a report from the German files dealing with the events prior to World War I. I previously mentioned the suspicions of England regarding the build-up of the German navy. After the incident at the Dogger Bank some newspapers went so far as to suggest that Germany and her navy acted as "allies" of the Russians, and were thus involved in the attack on the English fishing boats. In any event, relations between Germany and England were strained for a long time.
Emperor Wilhelm ordered the large cruiser "HERTHA" of the East-Asian cruiser squadron to return home immediately via India and East Africa. On board the "HERTHA" the son of the Emperor, Prince Adalbert, served as a lieutenant. The "HERTHA" apparently arrived at Dar-es-Salam on the 9th February 1905, where the very slow and antiquated so-called station cruiser "BUSSARD" and the station ship "KAISER WILHELM" were anchored. We have already noted that the Russian ships had entered Dar-es-Salam on the 9th February. The battle-hardened and impressive "HERTHA" apparently impressed the Russians and they duly complied with the ultimatum to leave Dar-es-Salam. Only on the 11th February did the German fleet leave the English port of Zanzibar with the Prince on board.
He thereafter visited the new railway line at Dar-es-Salam and from Tanga visited the very important agricultural settlements of Usambara. He then returned with the "HERTHA" to Germany. The strained relations with England was most probably the reason that the German governor thought it wise to comply strictly with the regulations of neutrality regarding harbour visits of foreign battleships . He therefore had to demand that the Russian fleet leave Dar-es-Salam as soon as possible. It may have also been because the feelings of the Russian crewmembers had already been stirred up by the revolution. Subsequently one read in the book "Under 3 Governors" (Unter drei Gouverneuren) written by Methner, a high colonial officer, that he felt sorry under the circumstances that the Governor had adopted an over-correct attitude towards friendly Russians. In fact, the officers of the Russian torpedo boats were made very welcome in the German club.
The officers and their crews, together with the sailors of the whole Russian East-Asian fleet which had by then gathered at Madagascar, suffered for months under the terrible tropical climate, hunger, thirst, malaria and revolutionary agitation until ultimately Rojestwenski left with 45 ships on the 16th March to the distant battle ground. His fleet was completely destroyed at Tshushima although he had worked hard with the aid of a few Russian and other German Baltic commanders to prepare his badly equipped fleet for the decisive battle. In one of his letters Captain von Erckert expressed a very definite verdict.
"This last sea battle stands alone as the greatest in history. The Russian fleet must have been completely demoralised. I will never forget that sight of it at Lüderitz. The Admiral is a tragic hero".
When the Russian Fleet visited Lüderitz and Dar-es-salam, by Dr. Hans Schmiedel, was part of the SWA Annual 1975 / SWA Jaarboek 1975 / SWA Jahrbuch 1975.
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