I was fascinated to read the article by Andrew Bell on the sinking of the SNS Konigsberg in the October 2014 issue of Sea Breezes.
My father, Thomas Allen, left the City of London School at the age of 17, and joined the Royal Flying Corp just as war was declared in 1914. He was appointed to HMS Manica, an Ellerman and Bucknall cargo ship taken over by the Royal Navy, and converted to a Kite Balloon carrier. During the course of events of which I am not aware, father was transferred to the Royal Navy with the rank of Writer, a rank which I understand still exists and performs the activities of a Purser.
The Manica, fondly known as HMS Maniac, had three forward holds made into one, which then contained the balloon, and hundreds of bottles of hydrogen. When the Konigsberg escaped into the Rufiji delta, she retained her smaller armament and removed one heavy 16 inch gun onto a railway wagon, from which they were able to shell British Positions, in and around Mombasa. While it was known where the ship was in the delta, having run out of coal, the railway wagon was mobile and difficult to find. The balloon from HMS Manica was put into use, and having spotted the mobile gun, enabled the monitor sent from England to destroy the train and its gun. It was later used to spot for our guns, which later sank the Konigsberg. As Andrew Bell mentioned, aerial spotting worked.
My father was invalided out of the Navy at the end of 1917 with Malaria. Any City of London schoolboy who joined up voluntarily was made a Freeman of the City of London.
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