Although the British would eventually manage to bottle up the majority of the German navy, the early months of the war saw a number of German warships scattered across the oceans. Among these, the German light cruiser SMS Königsberg found herself on the east coast of Africa.
Before long, the British navy had dispatched a number of units to the area in order to hunt down German warships, including the Königsberg. On September 19, Commander Max Looff, commander of the Königsberg, learned from coast watchers that one of these British ships, the cruiser Pegasus, was alone and taking on coal in the nearby harbor of Zanzibar.
Looff made the decision to attack the Pegasus, hoping to catch her by surprise, in harbor. The Königsberg appeared outside of the harbor early on September 20, and the surprise was total. Pegasus took heavy damage before she was even ready to fight back. Worse, Looff held the Königsberg out of the range of Pegasus’ guns, enabling him to batter the British without risking any damage to his own ship. The British lost 38 crewmen dead, and the Pegasus sank later that day.