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Remembered Today:

British steam-boat “VERA” 1914 on Lake Nyasa

Holger Kotthaus

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British steam-boat “VERA” 1914 on Lake Nyasa


A steam-ship model-builder and I are currently researching about a German-British steamboat

that was available at the beginning of the 1. WW in Karonga / British Nyasaland.


The career of this small steamer started 1893 at the `Robert Holz´ Shipbuilding yard in Hamburg,

with the name “Paulus”. The client was the Berlin Mission Society, which operated several stations

at the northern end of Lake Nyasa. Built in seven pieces for a better transportation, this vessel was

shipped from Hamburg to Chinde, the Settlement and gateway to Southeast Africa, at the Zambezi

River Estuary. From there, the British African Lakes Company transported the load across the Shire

River, and “Hermann von Wissmann” took over the last stage on Lake Nyasa. In the first German

Government Station to `Alt-Langenburg´, not far from the Mission station, Ikombe the “PAULUS”

was afterwards assembled.

Paulus for Lake Nyasa.png

Source: “Deutsche Arbeit am Njassa Deutsch-Ost-Afrika” Alexander Merensky, Berlin 1894


At first glance, neither of the images shows any similarity. But the `metamorphosis´ from the German Mission boat “PAULUS” to the British freighter “VERA” is proven by a copy of a sales contract



The small steamer “Vera” was brought out by a German missionary in about 1900. She measured

47 x 8, possessed a single screw and could male only four knots. She was fitted-out at Mwaya

(named, as has been seen, after the Moir brothers).


The German Moravian Mission may have been the society responsible for its introduction, for they

occupied a station at `Old-Langenburg´, at a point just east of the northern tip of Lake Nyasa. The

mission was left derelict on the expulsion of all Germans after the war, and was taken over by the

United Church of Scotland. Moir and his party received a most cordial reception when he visited the

area in 1921, reporting that the German houses, all very solidly built, had survived the hostilities



The `Vera” was bought by the `Karonga Trading Company´ in Nyasaland in 1913, but was captured

by the Germans in their attack on the town in September of the following year. She had apparently

been loading rice in Karonga when news of the outbreak of war reached the sleepy little town. She

immediately tried to leave port by being towed out by a motor-boat, but before she had reached

safety the Germans opened fire on her. The tug´s owner, A.J. Williams, cut the tow rope, and let the

vessel drift ashore with only the captain aboard. The boat was grounded and Captain Harvey taken

prisoner. The Germans, forced to retreat after defeat, abandoned the little craft.


When the war ended, the “Vera” became the property of its owner. On his death in 1930 the ship

was bought by Mr. F.J.T. Storrs, a former district officer, who installed a diesel engine in the vessel.

Later she was sold to an Indian byer and is thought to have been taken to the Zambezi River.”

Source: ”Steam and quinine on Africa´s Great Lakes” David Reynolds, 1997, Pretoria RSA.



Vera ex. Paulus on Lake Nyasa .png

(I saw this photo first time 1995 in the Bar of the `Sunbird Livingstonia Beach Hotel´

at Senga Bay, and a few years later also in the `Lake Malawi Museum´ in Mangochi.)


There are indications that the “VERA” was still in service up to 1971 on the southern end of Lake

Nyasa at the Anglican Church, UMCA mission station in Malindi.



This professional Model builder already build some other small steamers; - On Lake Victoria, the

“General Jungblut” ex. “Ukerewe” and on Lake Tanganyika, “Mimi” and “Hedwig von Wissmann”.

Here his model of the ”Bodelschwingh“ from Lake Kivu (later occupied by the `Schutztruppe´)



Can anybody help with further information or details on the “VERA” ex. “PAULUS”?

Maybe photos, text passages or links; also further hints about the `Karonga Trading

Company´ or Mr. F.J.T. Storrs, a former district officer, would be very welcome.


Cheers Holger

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