Late in the month of July, 1914, as the curtain of the World War shuddered to its impending ascent, a little 3-masted gunboat flying the flag of imperial Germany was plodding on a voyage from the coast of East Africa to the waters of Eastern Asia. The ship was the Geier, one of a number of antiquated vessels the Kaiser's Navy used for routine police duty and "flag-showing" junkets in proximity to the German Far Eastern colonies.
Built on lines not unlike those of the old U.S.S. Yorktown, with a ram bow, the little ship had been commissioned in 1894, and consequently was far outclassed as a heyday craft. She was slow; even in her heyday her maximum designed speed was only, 16 knots. Yet, for a ship displacing only 1,590 tons, the Geier carried a business-like armament, with eight 4.1-inch guns as a main battery, and five 1-pounder, and two machine guns as a secondary.