RFA Manica


 RFA Manica Gill

Subsequent name:                     Huntball,  Phorus

Class:                                        Kite Balloon ship

Official Number:                         112782

Pennant No:                               4.17

Laid down:                             
Builder:                                       Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd., Deptford Yard
Launched:                                   September 1900

Into Service:                                20 August 1917

Out of service:                             1920
Fate:                                          Sold commercially


Items of historic interest involving this ship: -


27 September 1900 berthed at Hartlepool from Sunderland

24 December 1900 sailed Middlesborough for Gravesend

4 January 1901 from London passed Beachy Head

5 January 1901 sailed Dartmouth to Maderia, St. Helena and Cape Town

10 January 1901 sailed Teneriffe

24 January 1901 sailed St Helena

31 January 1901 arrived Table Bay

17 June 1901 arrived Algoa Bay from Table Bay

7 September 1901 Captain Edward D Jenkins was the Master

26 November 1901 arrived at Colombo from Calcutta

1 July 1902 berthed on the River Tyne at Middle Dock Buoys

9 August 1902 sailed Millwall Docks, London to Maderia, St. Helena and Cape Town

21 September 1902 arrived at Simon's Town Bay

7 December 1902 sailed Algiers when on passage from Calcutta to New York

21 January 1903 sailed from New York

19 April 1903 arrived at Calcutta from Delagoa Bay

28 May 1903 when on passage to New York from Calcuta passed Malta

20 June 1903 arrived at New York

22 September 1903 sailed Delagoa Bay

5 December 1903 sailed Algiers while on passage from Boston to Calcutta

25 March 1904 arrived at Natal from New York

9 August 1904 passed the Lloyds Signal Station on Flamborough Head sailing north

13 August 1904 berthed at Brigham & Cowan's Quay on the River Tyne

29 September 1904 when on passage from London to Yokohama passed Cape Spartel

28 October 1904 berthed at Singapore from London

9 November 1904 arrived at Hong Kong

30 December 1904 berthed at Singapore from Hong Kong

8 May 1905 arrived at Colombo

16 May 1905 sailed Singapore for Hong Kong

12 July 1905 berthed at Singapore from Hong Kong

2 November 1905 sailed Singapore for Hong Kong and Japan

17 April 1906 arrived Singapore from London

25 April 1906 arrived at Hong Kong from Middlesborough sailing the same day for Yokohama

3 August 1906 passed Perim

30 August 1906 while on passage from Calcutta to Philadelphia suffered engine failure while off Nantucket. Signalled the Cunard Mail Steamer Carmania which reported the situation on the Liners arrived at Queenstown on 4 September 1906

31 December 1906 sailed South Africa (port not listed) to Port Pirie, Australia to load

22 February 1907 sailed Sydney, NSW, Australia for Dunkirk and London

17 April 1907 berthed at Dunkirk

19 April 1907 berthed at the Port of London to discharge

26 April 1907 before Grays Petty Sessions George Burgess, a Tilbury Docks winch driver was charged with stealing two ignots of copper from the ship and worth £2. He pleaded Not Guilty. The Magistrates' found him Guilty and sentenced him to one months imprisonment with hard labour. The defendant asked to pay a fine instead but this was refused

12 October 1907 passed Perim while on passage from Calcutta to Boston

19 October 1907 at a hospital at Suez Lascar Seaman Chance Golamp discharged dead from pneumonia

9 February 1908 sailed Singapore for Taku, Muroran and Otora

24 May 1908 at sea at 5.48N 36.33E Fireman Osmanelle, Coal Trimmer Mohd. Bessie and Fireman Mushrullee Camil all discharged dead from berri beri

26 May 1908 sailed Colombo for St Nazaire

30 May 1908 at sea Coal Trimmer Asmatallee Mahomed discharged dead - missing believed drowned

28 July 1908 four crew members removed from the ship at the River Tyne

Press Report Yorkshire Post 29 July 08

Press report of 29 July 1908 from Yorkshire Post


8 August 1909 sailed Gravesend for Beria

15 September 1909 sailed Beira for London

13 December 1909 arrived at Gibraltar from Saigon

29 January 1910 at South West India Dock, Port of London loading for Natal, Dalgoa Bay and Beira

27 April 1910 sailed Galle

25 July 1910 arrived at Natal from London

28 August 1910 berthed at Port Adelaide, Australia

3 September 1910 prior to sailing from Port Adelaide a crew muster revealed two of the crew were missing - one from Colombo, Ceylon and the other an African American who had jumped ship

13 September 1910 sailed Sydney, NSW, Australia for other Australian and South African ports

22 September 1910 the Master, Francis O Potts appeared before Port Adelaide Police Court charged with having allowed the two missing crew members - prohibited immigrants - to enter Australia. He was fined £100 in respect of each prohibited immigrant and 20/- costs

22, 23 and 24 September 1910 the details of the two crew members who had jumped ship were advertised with the offer of a reward of £10 each in both The Register and The Advertiser - two newspapers in circulation in Adelaide, South Australian over three days

24 September 1910 both former crew members and as such prohibited immigrants arrested some distance from Adelaide on a farm.  

26 September 1910 the two former crew members who had jumped ship - Frank Dean and Pitchary Kandiah appeared before Port Adelaide Police Court charged with desertion - they both pleaded guilty and were sent to prison for seven days

25 January 1911 passed Gibraltar while on passage from Calcutta for Dunkirk

15 June 1911 sailed Melbourne for Delagoa Bay

14 July 1911 sailed Delagoa Bay

11 August 1911 sailed East London, South Africa

18 September 1911 sailed Colombo, Ceylon

28 October 1911 arrived at Suez when on passage from Calcutta to Dunkirk

15 January 1912 arrived at Delagoa Bay from London

18 January 1912 arrived at Beira

20 January 1912 sailed Beira for Melbourne

13 February 1912 berthed at Melbourne

2 April 1912 at Durban, South Africa

7 July 1912 sailed from Gravesend to Cape Town passed Dover

3 September 1912 berthed at Albany from Natal

7 September 1912 sailed Melbourne for Sydney

9 September 1912 arrived at Sydney, NSW from Natal

11 October 1912 arrived at Surbaya from Newcastle, NSW

21 October 1912 sailed Surabaya for Tanjong Prick

15 November 1912 sailed Port Pirie, South Australia for Sydney, NSW to load cargo

11 December 1912 sailed Sydney for Melbourne

11 January 1913 arrived Colombo from Melbourne

24 January 1913 arrived at Suez

16 February 1913 arrived Antwerp

4 June 1913 sailed Melbourne

7 June 1913 arrived Wallaroo from Melbourne

17 June 1913 sailed Port Adelaide for South African ports

Manica peril cargo wheat


28 July 1913 arrived Durban from Australian ports

31 July 1913 sailed Durban for Cape ports

27 September 1913 arrived Bunbury from Cape Town

13 October 1913 sailed Bunbury

21 November 1913 arrived at Durban from Bunbury

22 November 1913 sailed Durban for Sydney, NSW

16 December 1913 berthed at Sydney, NSW

21 February 1914 arrived at Colombo from Melbourne

28 February 1914 Trimmer Ramazaalla Mozaffualla discharged dead - missing at sea

6 March 1914 arrived at Suez from Colombo

31 July 1914 arrived at Marseilles from Karachi

16 November 1914 arrived at Adelaide, Australia from Beira

25 January 1915 at Sea Donkeyman Eana Doolla discharged dead - missing believed drowned

11 February 1915 passed Beachy Head sailing east bound

12 February 1915 arrived at Port of London from Port Natal, South Africa

11 March 1915 hired as a Kite Balloon ship by the Admiralty - at a time she was unloading a cargo of copper bars, bales of sheepskins, bales of wool, drums of crude glycerine and manure from Sydney, NSW, Australia

22 March 1915 commissioned as HMS MANICA with RNR Officers and MMR crew. Engineer Lieutenant Robert A Mackenzie RNR appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

Manica cap tally

R A Mackenzie

Engineer Lieutenant Robert A Mackenzie RNR


25 March 1915 Chief Steward Joseph Clement Dent discharged dead - natural causes. He is buried in Birkenhead (Flaybrick Hill) Cemetery and remembered on a screen wall


Courtesy and © of The War Graves Photographic Project


28 March 1915 sailed the UK for the Eastern Mediterranean

13 April 1915 arrived off Lemnos

14 April 1915 balloon raised in a trial ascent to 2,000 feet



A 'Drachen' type balloon is held steady aboard while its observer waits to climb into the basket, off the Gallipoli coast, summer 1915.

 Manicas Baloon on deck

Image of Manica's balloon on deck from the Illustrated War News in 1915

19 April 1915 spotters from Manica's balloon directed shelling onto a Turkish encampment

24 April 1915 spotters directed fire onto Gaba Tepe, where the Turkish Barracks were destroyed

25 April 1915 the balloon, with its two observers, was in the air from 0521hrs to 1405hrs constantly reporting on the activities associated with Anzac Cove for almost nine hours, while the ANZAC troops were scrambling up the cliffs, one of the observers sighted the Turkish battleship TURGUT REIS (ex-German SMS WEISSENBURG) in the Narrows. HMS TRIUMPH was contacted by wireless, and it's balloon-directed fire forced the Turkish warship to withdraw


Turkish battleship TURGUT REIS

26 April 1915 the ships balloon made seven ascents in support of the ANZAC operations 

27 April 1915 the observers was also spotting for HMS TRIUMPH and HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH the Royal Navy's newest and most powerful battleship, and the first in the world to mount 381 millimetre (15 inch) guns - during the afternoon QUEEN ELIZABETH blew up an armament store at Kojadere.

HMS Queen Elizabeth 1915


The same day the balloon's crew sighted Turkish transport ships near Najara, apparently heading for Maidos or Kilia Liman. QUEEN ELIZABETH was put on to the largest ship, the SCUTARI which was hit and sunk after three shots, at a range of 11.3 kilometres (7 miles)

28 April 1915 while spotting for British battleships - two field batteries silenced and several guns destroyed 

30 April 1915 while spotting for British battleships - Chanak shelled which burnt for two hours. Subject to enemy fire - balloon recovered and steamed out of range

2 May 1915 while spotting for British battleships - battery of 8" guns shelled - three direct hits

3 May 1915 at Gaba Tepe attacked by enemy aircraft attacked and dropped three bombs all missed

8 May 1915 while spotting for British battleships - four batteries silenced

12 May 1915 while spotting for British battleships - a house reported to be the Turkish headquarters destroyed

25 June 1915 HMS LORD NELSON fired 55 shells at Chanak with Manica spotting for her

HMS Lord Nelson


10 July 1915 unable to spot for the British Battleships due to high winds

2 August 1915 sailed from Kephalo Bay arriving at Suvla Bay at 20:00hrs

11 August 1915 at Suvla a Taube fighter bomber dropped one bomb which fell between HMS CHATHAM and MANICA

balloon made seven ascents on 26 April in support 9
of the ANZAC operationsballoon made seven ascents on 26 April in support 9of the ANZAC operations

12 August 1915 while supporting the landings at Suvla was subject to a torpedo attack by the German submarine UB-8 which missed. The torpedo was fired from 500 yards and passed under the ship, two days later a similar attack with two torpedoes also failed

14 August 1915 arrived at Kephalo Bay

27 November 1915 with the ship in refit the First Sea Lord was planning for her deployment off German East Africa - this was at the request of General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien GCB etc who had been chosen to lead an expedition against German East Africa and did not have sufficient equipment 

25 December 1915 Commander Wallace E Whittingham RNR appointed in command


Commander Wallace E Whittingham RNR

18 February 1916 at Birkenhead in No 4 dry dock at Camell Lairds. Recommissioned

19 February 1916 floated out of dry dock and towed by tugs to a berth alongside HMS CAMPANIA

21 February 1916 commenced loading bunkers

22 February 1916 loaded 994 tons of bunker coal

23 February 1916 at Birkenhead under repair in shipyard basin

6 March 1916 moved by 3 tugs from the basin. Anchored mid stream

10 March 1916 sailed Birkenhead to Gibraltar carrying a small seaplane in addition to her kite balloon arriving 16 March 1916

19 March 1916 at Gibraltar, commenced loading bunkers - 169 tons of coal received. Sailed Gibraltar with MFA LADY CORY WRIGHT and RN escort to Port Said arriving 27 March 1916

28 March 1916 at Port Said commenced coaling - 411 tons received. At 14:00hrs commencing unmooring ship - port anchor fouled another ship's anchor - 17:20hrs cleared port anchor - starboard anchor weighed - entered Suez Canal - transitted the Canal

30 March 1916 at Suez

31 March 1916 sailed Suez for Mombasa arriving 11 April 1916 when she took on a local 'Native' crew. (To quote the wording of the ships Official Log for the period)

14 April 1916 sailed Mombasa to Zanzibar

15 April 1916 at Zanzibar - collier 'Anglier'  came alongside to commence bunkering

Anglier 01

Collier Anglier

21 April 1916 sailed Zanzabar on operation duties to deploy balloon off German East Africa

1 May 1916 anchored off Zanzibar

9 May 1916 sailed Zanzibar

12 May 1916 off German East Africa hoisted out her sea plane for a trial flight

15 May 1916 returned to Zanzibar and hoisted out her sea plane for a flight

16 May 1916 at Zanzibar hoisted out her sea plane for a flight

19 May 1916 off German East Africa her balloon ascended to observe the  town of Lindi 

20 May 1916 while on patrol off German East Africa ran aground. On being towed off by HMS HYACINTH and HMS CHALLENGER the towing cable fouled the propellor - cleared in 32 minutes

hms-hyacinthHMS Challenger

 HMS HYACINTH                          HMS CHALLENGER

22 May 1916 off Lindi, German East Africa hoisted out her sea plane for observation purposes

23 May 1916 HMS THISTLE alongside

27 May 1916 balloon ascended

29 May 1916 twice hoisted out her sea plane for observation purposes

22 June 1916 arrived at Zanzibar

23 June 1916 sailed Zanzibar

30 June 1916 arrived at Zanzibar and sailed the same day

3 July 1916 arrived at Zanzibar

7 July 1916 during air operations the ship's sea plane was hit by anti aircraft fire and one of it's floats was damaged

8 July 1916 at Tanga Bay received onboard a wounded officer from HMS SEVERN with that ships surgeon

9 July 1916 returned to Tanga Bay - balloon raised

10 July 1916 sailed Tanga Bay

11 July 1916 at Zanzibar moved alongside collier 'August Belmont'  to coal ship. Cast off to anchorage the next day

August Belmont 02

Collier August Belmont

13 July 1916 near Karange Island in company of HMS TALBOT

14 July 1916 at Karange Island - balloon raised

20 July 1916 at Tanga - sailed

1 August 1916 at Sadani

3 August 1916 at Sadani - balloon raised

6 August 1916 Fireman Hugh Patrick Foy. MMR discharged dead. On returning to the ship via the liberty boat he fell between the boat and the ship and was drowned.  He is buried in Dar es Salaam War Cemetery



Courtesy and © of The War Graves Photographic Project


14 August 1916 sailed Zanzibar in company of HMS VENGEANCE (Flag) and HMS CHALLENGER for Bagamoyo arriving the next day and anchored.

15 August 1916 at Bagamoyo raised her kite balloon for spotting. The ship's seaplane took off but through an engine defect landed at the mouth of the Kingangi River but returned to the ship undamaged 

22 August 1916 at Zanzibar sailed returning the same day

25 August 1916 under way from Zanzibar exercising raising balloon

26 August 1916 collier "Queen Alexandra" alongside at Zanzibar to re-coal ship all day

Queen Alexandra 05

Collier Queen Alexandra

27 August 1916 arrived Bagamoyo sailing the same day

29 August 1916 water boat alongside at Zanzibar received 40 tons of water

2 September 1916 anchored off Mbudya Island - balloon up

13 September 1916 together with boats from HMS's VENGENANCE, TALBOT, HIMALAYA and PRINCESS assisted by the Gunboats HMS's THISTLE and RINALDO and the transport BARJORA when 200 Marines, 700 Indian Troops, 200 Zanzibar and Mafia African Rifles 12 Naval Machine Guns, 2 Hotchkiss guns and 950 porters were landed at Mikindani (Reference a Supplement to the London Gazette of 15 June 1917 page 5960)

15 September 1916 anchored off Simba Uranga

16 September 1916 still anchored off Simba Uranga - sailed with balloon up

17 September 1916 anchored at Mohoro Bay

27 September 1916 while berthed at Zanzibar a court of enquiry held onboard into the death of Fireman Hugh Patrick Foy (see above)

10 October 1916 arrived at Kilwa Kivinje and anchored

17 October 1916 a member of the native crew died of typhoid malaria - buried at sea at 7° 50S. 39° 40E.

23 October 1916 a member of the native crew died of typhoid malaria - buried at sea off Mafia Island, German East Africa

4 November 1916 off Rufugi - diver from Flagship employed to clear obstructions to hull

13 Movember 1916 off Rufugi - seaplane propeller damaged through rough water - seaplane recovered and housed.

14 November 1916 off Rufugi - received stores and water from collier

20 November 1916 at Zanzibar - received 263 tons of water from a water boat

21 November and 22 November 1916 at Zanzibar - collier alongside re-coaled ship

30 November 1916 sailed from Tirene Bay

10 December 1916 HMS SEVERN secured alongside

12 December 1916 arrived at Niororo Island

17 December 1916 sailed from Tirene Bay

21 December 1916 arrived at Niororo Island and sailed the same day

December 1916 the ships company produced a sods opera -




29 December 1916 arrived at Tirene Bay

30 December 1916 arrived at Niororo Island with HMS TRENT

1 March 1917 at Kilwa Kisiwani the ships Sea Plane landed by HMS PRINCESS which was at anchor having just coaled

PO Mech Thomas Johnston DSM

Medals awarded to Petty Officer (Air Mechanic) Thomas R Johnston DSM who served on Manica from June 1916 to April 1917. The DSM was Gazetted on 22 February 1918

(image courtesy of Dix Noonan Web)

21 March 1917 Air Mechanic 1st Class John D Woolger RNAS discharged dead. He is buried in Dar es Salaam War Cemetery in grave 2 G 16

25 March 1917 weighed and sailed from Zanzibar

13 May 1917 General Servant Edward Hewitt Buckley MMR 489728 discharged dead - having died from heat stroke. General Servant James Barton MMR 384357 discharged dead - having died from typhoid fever. Both are remembered with pride on the Plymouth Naval Memorial

August 1917 converted into a tanker and renamed Huntball at Bombay

15 April 1918 purchased by the Admiralty and placed under commercial management

30 December 1918 arrived at Singapore from Colombo

2 February 1919 arrived at Singapore from Balik Papan

11 March 1919 sailed Singapore

24 March 1919 arrived at Adelaide from Newcastle, Australia when 2nd Engineer Officer Robert Earnshaw was found to be suffering from pneumonia. He was removed to the Isolation Hospital at Torrens Island and the ship was placed in 7 days quarantine

7 April 1919 at the Isolation Hospital, Torrens Island, Port Adelaide, South Australia 2nd Engineer Officer Robert Earnshaw discharged dead - natural causes - pneumonia. He had signed on the ship in December 1918


2nd Engineer Officer Robert Earnshaw


9 April 1919 berthed at Fremantle for bunkers while enroute to Durban 

27 June 1919 sailed Colombo for Singapore

1919 sold to Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co Ltd 

5 May 1920 in Kings Dock (Dry Dock) at Singapore

14 May 1920 alongside at Singapore

1920 renamed by Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Co Ltd as Phorus



ss Phorus


2 April 1921 berthed at Singapore from Bombay

27 November 1921 at Batavia

20 June 1922 at Singapore

24 August 1922 at Tarakan

7 September 1922 sailed Nagasaki for Saitozaki

28 September 1922 sailed Singapore for Bombay

16 November 1922 in dry dock at Singapore

29 December 1922 sailed Tarakan for Yokohama

11 January 1923 at Yokohama

15 February 1923 at Hong Kong

15 April 1923 arrived at San Francisco from Aamori

19 July 1923 sailed Yokohama for Hong Kong

13 January 1924 sailed Tarakan for Fremantle

4 February 1924 arrived at Balik Papan from Fremantle

29 February 1924 sailed Tarakan for Nagasaki

22 November 1924 sailed Fremantle for Tarakan

31 July 1925 in dry dock at Singapore

23 October 1925 sailed Fremantle for Tarakan

19 July 1927 berthed at Singapore with a cargo of 'liquid fuel' from Tarakan - information from the Singapore Free Press

21 September 1925 sailed Perim for Port Sudan

3 March 1927 sailed Fremantle, Western Australia for Balik Papan

22 September 1927 sailed Singapore for Balik Papan

5 October 1927 sailed Balik Papan for Mombasa

17 December 1927 sailed Manila for Tarakan

14 June 1928 arrived at Wellington, New Zealand to discharge a cargo of petrol - Captain Victor R Trigg in command


Captain Victor R Trigg

30 December 1928 sailed Melbourne for Tarakan to load

14 March 1929 sailed Port Freemantle to Tarakan to load

24 April 1929 sailed Singapore for Auckland New Zealand  - due 13 May 1929

14 May 1929 berthed Wellington from Auckland, New Zealand

16 May 1929 sailed Wellington, New Zealand for Borneo

27 May 1929 passed Thursday Island while on passage from New Zealand to Balik Papan

5 June 1929 berthed at Balik Papan

3 September 1929 berthed at Port Freemantle from Tarakan to discharge crude oil

5 September 1929 sailed Port Freemantle to Tarakan to load

8 January 1930 berthed at Port Adelaide from Tarakan and discharged 3,000 tons of crude oil

12 January 1930 berthed at Melbourne from Port Adelaide

5 May 1930 passed Thursday Island while on passage to Sydney, NSW

10 May 1930 berthed at Sydney, NSW from Tarakan

13 May 1930 sailed Sydney, NSW to Balik Papan

24 May 1930 while on passage from Sydney, NSW to Balik Papan stood by midway between Atamboea and Darwin on the route that Miss Amy Johnson's flight from the UK to Australia was taking - the aircraft passed the ship at 11am South Austrlian time.

3 July 1931 arrived Osaka to be broken up.


Additional information

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