Simon’s Town During World War I

Captured German Barque, Simon’s Bay 1914 (Image ST Museum)

The part which Simon’s Town and the ships of the Africa Station played in this war differed in no respect from the part it had played in earlier wars. These tasks were to eliminate all enemy ships, especially commerce raiders, from the waters around the southern end of Africa and to eliminate all the enemy bases within its sphere.

At the outbreak of war, there were several German warships at large in all the oceans of the world. These included the Emden, the Konigsberg and Admiral von Spee’s powerful squadron believed to be in the South Pacific. Until these ships were accounted for, no protracted expedition by sea against the German colonies could be contemplated without a powerful escort of warships. The Emden was destroyed at Keeling Island, the Konigsberg in the Rufiji River, and von Spee’s squadron at the Falkland Islands. With all hostile warships satisfactorily disposed of, operations against the two German colonies of South West Africa and Tanganyika could now commence.

For the remainder of the war, Simon’s Town spent a humdrum but busy and essential existence as a refuelling and refitting base for the escorts of the numerous troop convoys passing between Europe and Australasia, India and the Far East. The most destruction in South African waters was done by the minefields laid by commerce raiders off Dassen Island and Cape Agulhas.

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