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Bryn_Hammond

British navy campaign on Lake Tanganyika in 1915

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Bryn_Hammond

I am unsurprised to learn that I appear to be the only reader of what I still fondly think of as 'The Manchester Guardian' (mainly for its pro-Manchester United bias these days).

Therefore an interesting article on Geoffrey Spicer-Simson and his 'warships' Mimi and Toutou against the German vessels Kingani and Hedwig may have passed you all by.

The link is below, but you may need to register to see it:-

http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1308934,00.html

I gather this is a taster for a new book that's about to be published.

Anyone care to comment on the accuracy of the account?

Bryn

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Robert Dunlop

I can't vouch for the flies - not something I have read in any accounts. But the whole escapade was one of the most extraordinary ventures of the war. It is a fascinating tale. This article adds a little more spice.

Robert

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michaeldr

Michael Young’s history of the ASC describes the boats ‘Mimi’ and ‘Toutou’ as two Thornycroft 40ft, 56 bhp motorboats. Each had a six pounder gun in the bow and a three pounder gun in the stern.

The road locomotives referred to in the Guardian article were two ASC Lion Class traction engines.

Col. Young concludes “This was the smallest expeditionary force which was sent against the enemy during the war; no previous expedition travelled so far and no expedition had taken its boats overland intact or used so many methods of transport on the approach march. It was a masterpiece of daring, initiative, perseverance and transport skills, and extraordinary success created out of chaos.”

The photo below[en route to Lake Tanganyika] is also from ‘Army Service Corps, 1902-1918’ by Michael Young

Published by Leo Cooper, 2000

Regards

Michael D.R.

post-5-1095879471.jpg

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Stuart Brown

The below paragraph refers to the flies.

Courtesy of The Phantom Flotilla by Peter Shankland.

Stuart

post-5-1095880067.jpg

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michaeldr
I gather this is a taster for a new book that's about to be published.

Anyone care to comment on the accuracy of the account?

Bryn,

Last weekend’s ‘Weekend FT’ carried a review by James Urquhart of the book

‘Mimi and TouTou Go Forth: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika’ by Giles Foden,

published by Michael Joseph, cost £16.99, number of pages – 320

The photograph below is credited to Fraser Barber

Do you know Mr Urquhart of the FT? He seems to have a slightly eccentric idea of how to write history – I quote:

“Foden is evidently attracted by the episode’s ‘Boy’s Own’ appeal, and his unfolding of Spicer-Simpson’s splendidly chaotic sortie in simple prose feels more as though it was written for boys than for adults. Undoubtedly both readerships could enjoy ‘Mimi and TouTou,’ but it is a shame the author chose not to fictionalise the absurd cut of Spicer-Simpson’s character and so flesh out his fascinating buffoonery.”

[my emphasis]

Regarding Spicer-Simpson’s earlier naval disasters

“During manoeuvres in the Channel, he had dragged a line between two destroyers that nearly sank a submarine. When testing Portsmouth Harbour’s defences he managed to drive his ship onto the beach – for which he was court-martialled. Another court-martial came from smashing his destroyer into a Liberty boat and sinking it. He commanded HMS Niger in 1914, which he could clearly see from the hotel where he was entertaining his wife – even as the Germans torpedoed it.”

Regards

Michael D.R.

post-5-1097059086.jpg

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seaJane

Also mentioned, if I recall correctly, in Edward Paice's excellent book "Tip and run: the untold tragedy of the Great War in East Africa".

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JSAfrika

The third ship was the SMS Götzen (the Graf von was dropped before it left Germany) and is a fascinating story in its own right. Built in Germany, it was disassembled and transported to German East Africa by sea, then by rail to Kigoma and re-assembled by three engineers and a bunch of local help. It was to serve the GEA Railway Corporation but was actually built for the Colonial service.

At one point, it was armed with a 10.5 cm gun and two rapid-fire 37mm canon that were taken off the SMS Königsberg, which had been trapped and sunk in the Rufiji River Delta on the coast.

It was probably the inspiration for C.S. Forester’s "The African Queen" and the subsequent movie with Bogie and Hepburn - it did not star in the movie as some have said. After the Kingani was captured and the Wissman sunk by Spicer-Simpson and crew, and with the Belgians threatening the German position in the west, the German commander ordered the guns removed and the Götzen was scuttled.

In the 1920s it was raised and still sail the waters of Lake Tanganyika today as the MV Liemba (which is the local name for the lake).

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