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BNR 1915, was S.S. CECIL RHODES sunk by S.S. GOETZEN?

Holger Kotthaus

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Holger Kotthaus

BNR 1915, was S.S. CECIL RHODES sunk by S.S. GOETZEN?


In many internet platforms and blogs, and even now in books, the claim appears that the

“German steamer `Goetzen´ sank the British steamer` Cecil Rhodes´ in summer 1915.”

However, not by gunfire, but “. . . towed it from land and sunk it in deep water.”

Does anyone know the original source of this claim?

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This web site has, with the implication that SS Cecil Rhodes was alreeady a wreck


The Goetzen’s only “act of aggression” took place shortly after it was taken into service at the beginning of July 1915, when it towed the British steamer Cecil Rhodes from its position in Kassakalave at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika and sunk it in deep water.


and note 56 relating to it says


Kurt Assmann: Der Krieg zur See 1914-1918, p. 189 and Sarah Paulus e-mail dated 30. 8. 2013 after appropriate evaluation of the inventory number RM/8, archive number 368 and inventory number N 103, archive number 84 in the Bundesmilitärarchiv (Federal Military Archive), Freiburg: The sinking of the British wreck by the Goetzen is apparently confirmed by document copies from the Bundesmilitärarchiv Freiburg. At the beginning of July 1915, Zimmer sailed to Bismarckburg on account of a discussion with Wahle. On 4 July he anchored with the Goetzen off Kasakalawe. On the same day, or shortly thereafter, the wreck of the Cecil Rhodes was pulled off the beach and towed into deep water, where it sank a short time later.


The twin-propeller steamer, which had been driven ashore by a storm, had a similar displacement to the Hedwig von Wissmann and had already been the target of an expedition under the leadership of Lieutenant Commander Kendrick on 19/20 November 1914. Whilst on that occasion a steamer, no longer serviceable and laid up nearby, and two steel boats were destroyed, consideration was being given to the idea of provisionally restoring the well-preserved Cecil Rhodes and towing it away after building a launchway. However, a surprise attack by the enemy on 20 November forced the expedition to blow up the steamer and retreat.

Edited by corisande
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Page 189 from Der Krieg zur See, Die Kämpfe in den Kolonien


Edited by charlie2
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Holger Kotthaus

Hello corisande and charlie2


Thank you for your answers, which confirm my assumption and view.


I am familiar with the mentioned source, “Der Krieg zur See, die Kämpfe in den Kolonien“.

As well the references by Sarah Paulus. I am now disregarding all other subsequent-sources,

because they are nothing other than 'copy-and-past' information.


What just amazes and makes me almost suspicious is the fact that this (alleged) action is not listed in

the other primary sources which are known to me.


Since the three warring nations, Belgium, United Kingdom and Germany were involved in the events

at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika in the summer of 1915, reliable primary sources from all three

nations are also available:


"Les campagnes Coloniales Belges 1914 - 1918", Ministere de la defense nationale,

Bruxelles 1927, Tome I, Les opérations belges en Rhodésie (1914-1915),

Chapitre III, Opérations du début de l´année 1915,

Chapitre V, Attaques allemandes sur Saisi,

Chapitre VI, Intervention du IIIe bataillon en Rhodésie,


"La Campagne du Tanganika", Chapitre I, La situation au Tanganika (Fin 1915)

Par le Colonel du Génie, Georg Moulaert, L’Edition universelle, Bruxelles 1934 


"Military operations East Africa", compiled by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Hordern, UK 1941

Chapter X, On the defensive (continued): The Southern area, August 1914 – May 1915

Chapter XI, On the defensive (concluded): The Southern area, June 1915 – April 1916


Die Opearationen in Ost-Afrika“, Weltkrieg 1914 – 1918, Ludwig Boell, Hamburg 1951

VI. Kapitel, Die Entwicklung an den Grenzen bis April 1915, Tanganjika-See

VII. Kapitel, Britisch-belgische Offensivpläne und Ihre Zerschlagung durch Kleinkrieg und Gegenstöße


Der Feldzug in Ostafrika 1914-1918“, Originalmanuskript, Ludwig Boell, Nachlassakte N14 / 4,

II. Band, 11. Kapitel, “Die Ereignisse an der Bismarckburg-Grenze von Kriegsausbruch bis Mai 1916“


Auf See unbesiegt“, Die Möwe Mannschaft auf dem Tanganjika-See. Kapitän zur See Gustav Zimmer,

im Kriege Militärbefehlshabe am Tanganjika See, Vizeadmiral a.D. Eberhard v. Mantey, München 1921


But also in other sources, I could not find any mention of this event.


Each of the sources mentioned above explicitly mentions the action on November 20, 1914 at Kasakalawe,

when the CECIL RHODES was blown up and thus destroyed; - in all details. Other, much less spectacular

processes are also listed consistently. But why not, that the GOETZEN (allegedly) sank the CECIL RHODES

again in the summer of 1915, or is said to have towed it from land?


Does anyone know other sources that describe this event?


Cheers Holger


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I suppose that irt really was not an "event".


The Cecil Rhodes was badly damaged and the Germans appear to have wanted to remove any chance of the British repairing it. So towed it out into deep water and scuttled it. I see that the wreck was found a number of years ago by recreational divers


The British were very bad at publicising their defeats.  British school books hardly mention the loss of the American Colonies, nor the half of France in the Middle Ages. I looked in the Times archives for any mention of this incident, and there was only one, non specific and fairly oblique


Clearly censorship came into play to a certain extent as well, as alluded to in the Times report. Apart from the Times report here I only found one other in the British press, and that is just a word for word copy of this



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Holger Kotthaus

“I suppose that irt really was not an "event".”

I also meant the title "event" more ironically.


“So towed it out into deep water and scuttled it.”

I doubt, for the reasons given above, that the GOETZEN towed the CECIL RHODES into deep water.


 “The British were very bad at publicising their defeats.”

No nation likes to have any defeats or lost battles portrayed as such. One, and the same

process was certainly presented differently; - “the water glass is half full - or half empty”.

But precisely because of this case, I miss such a 'success report' in other reputable German sources.


“I see that the wreck was found a number of years ago by recreational divers.”

Do you have further information about it? Years ago I found these pictures, but that's

no proof for me. (The second photo is definitely not a remnant from the CECIL RHODES.)



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25 minutes ago, Holger Kotthaus said:


“I see that the wreck was found a number of years ago by recreational divers.”


Do you have further information about it? Years ago I found these pictures, but that's


no proof for me. (The second photo is definitely not a remnant from the CECIL RHODES.)



The wreck of the Cecil Rhodes in Lake Tanganyika:




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Holger Kotthaus

Hallo helpjpg,


Excellent; - Thank you for very much for this very helpful information. That's the first time I hear

or read about it. So you never stop learning; - and that's just as well. Just because of the pictures,

I'm really convinced. Thank you again for your important additions!  :poppy:(- :) -)


I still allow myself to correct a few small things in the article:

“On the 18th November 1914 she was captured by auxiliary warships of the Imperial

German Navy at Kasakalawe, Lake Tanganyika, and on the following day was sunk

in the lake to prevent her conversion, repair and use as a warship.”


1. It was not November 18, but November 19, 1915 when CECIL RHODES was blown up

"Operations against Kasakalawe and Kituta"

At the beginning of November 1914, Lieutenant-Commander Zimmer received the message from the

Bismarckburg post that there were still two small steamers lying on English territory at the extreme

southern end of the lake, which had not been moved for a few years but could possibly be made ready

for use again. On the basis of this report, Lieutenant-Commander Zimmer announced in the middle of

November 1914 “Hedwig von Wissmann” and “Kingani” under the command of Captain-lieutenant a. D.

Oskar Kendrick sent south to investigate.

On November 18, 1914, a small steamer "Good News" was found by this expedition near Kituta. A

closer examination showed that the hull and especially the boiler were so rusted that a restoration was

hardly an option. Therefore it was blown up as well as two old steel boats lying near the steamer. There

was nothing to be seen of the enemy.

On November 19, 1914, the expedition arrived at Kasakalawe and found the well-preserved steamer

“Cecil Rhodes”, somewhat larger than “Hedwig von Wissmann”, which was also towed ashore.

Some of the base plates of the hull were dented, but the rest of the steamer was intact and could have

been towed without great effort after minor repairs and after creating a runway.

This place was also unoccupied, as the British had given up the Kasakalawe station because of the

contamination of the place with sleeping sickness before the war.

A great deal of telegraph material was found in the station buildings; - including about 230 km of copper

telegraph wire and hundreds of iron telegraph poles. That was of the greatest value for the German

colony, since up until then only one German telephone line from Kigoma to Bismarckburg had been laid

along Lake Tanganyika.

In response to his report of the findings in Kasakalawe, the leader of the expedition was ordered to tow

the steamer and retrieve the telegraph material.The Schutztruppe detachment stationed in Bismarckburg

was ordered to cover the operations ashore to Kasakalawe, Lieutenant z. S. Job Odebrecht with some

Askaris and repair and towing material for support. Work began on November 19, 1914 and the first

telegraph material had already been brought on board and then brought to Bismarckburg by the


On November 20, however, the enemy appeared unexpectedly in front of the workplace, as he had not

been noticed by our own posts.The situation was determined by the leader of the small Detachment from

Bismarckburg, Lieutenant d. R. Wilhelm Baum, saved by being able to repel the enemy attack with his

Askaris from his extended position close to the steamer. The enemy who attacked with two M.G. then

carried the firefight again up to 100 meters from the steamer.

Since "Hedwig von Wissmann" and "Kingani" were not present due to the removal of the captured

material and it was questionable that the small detachment that had gone ashore would be able to

withstand further attacks, Lieutenant Baum had the steamer blown up at places already prepared for


After another 2 ½ hours "Hedwig von Wissmann" appeared and decided the fight by using her two 3.7

cm revolver-guns. The enemy then withdrew towards Abercorn. Letters and radio messages intercepted

later showed that the attacking enemy unit was an English and an Belgian company. The steamer

“Cecil Rhodes” had been blown up so thoroughly by Lieutenant Baum that repairs or towing could no longer

be considered.”


2. It was not the Imperial German Navy, but the naval forces of the "Schutztruppe"

The GOETZEN and all other ships never officially received the status of H.M.S. / (S.M.S. = Seiner

Majestät Schiff) and was not referred to as such, but was always 'only' part of the land forces, i.e. the

`Schutztruppe´ in GEA. The members of the `Department Möwe´, which took over the GOETZEN and

other ships, belonged at the beginning of the war to the Imperial German Navy, also the survey ship

S.M.S. MÖVE, but the GOETZEN was not. All naval forces were under the command of the land forces

in DOA; - the "Schutztruppe".


3. The CECIL RHODES was not towed and sunk the next day, but 7 months later, in June 1915.

The steamer GOETZEN was only taken over by the Schutztruppe on June 9, 1915 and put into service the next day.


Unfortunately I cannot load any pictures at the moment. My computer has Covid 19 too ?!

(That's why I'm not going to keep a distance of 1.50 meters from my laptop or go into quarantine)


Cheers Holger

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here are some photos from further remains from the “Cecil Rhodes” which we found 2016.



The photos shows a steam-boiler of a typical marine steam engine at the end of the 19th century

which are used by the Royal Navy with vertical triple-expansion and direct-acting

engine and the feeding pipelines to the four cylinders.


Here is a size comparison between S.S. “Goetzen” and the S.S. “Cecil Rhodes”.

Goetzen + Cecil Rhodes.png

Model of the CECIL RHODES.png


Robert´s People, The Life of Sir Robert Williams, R. Hutchinson & G. Martelli, UK 1971, p.104 / 105

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