The Great War, I was there - Part 25

*177 August 1915 —March 1916 I WENT on the ‘IMPOSSIBLE ADVENTURE’ We Dragged Two Boats Across Africa by Frank M agee T h lE author, who held the rank o f Sub-Lieutenant R.N .V .R.and later o f Flying Officer R.A .F .,took part as one o f twenty-eight white men in one o f the most remarkable “sideshows ”of the Great War. This involved the transport through difficult country half across Africa o f two armed motor-boats to Lake Tanganyika. They came as a complete surprise to the Germans, and quickly dispatched the small naval force operating on the Lake. Not till the end o f the war did the Germans discover how their ships were so miraculously destroyed M E AND M Y MASCOT Lieutenant Frank Magee is here seen when the “impossible adventure ”had been brought to a successful close. He has with him a small native boy whom he describes as his mascot. Outside the pages of Jules Verne there is surely no tale ot romantic adventure to compare with the extraordinary war episode of the Naval Africa Expedition to Lake Tanganyika. A tiny force of 28 men carried two armed motor-boats half across Africa, through jungle, swamp and forest. Arriving at Tanganyika’s inland sea, some 400 miles in length, then held by the German gunboats, they gave battle, and beat them, one by one. Their job then finished they returned home, having travelled, from the time they left Tilbury, some 20,000 miles. Between them, the two motor-boats, Mimi and Tou-Tou, gained the command of the Lake as completely as Trafalgar decided the command of the sea. The “Impossible Adventure’’ was another phrase used to describe this exploit, and it certainly was an amaz­ingly difficult undertaking, as I should know, being one of the twenty-eight men who took part. My association with the expedition came about in this way. Early in 1915, having just recovered from along illness, and thinking it was time I joined up to “do my bit,” I came into contact with a man named J.R. Lee. He had recently arrived from Africa, and had proposed a scheme to the Admiralty by which two motor-boats might betaken secretly to Tanganyika to surprise the Germans, who were then in control and harassing Belgian territory. The idea was to send a small Naval force with a couple of motor-boats from Tilbury to CapeTown, w Thence the men were to transport the boats over­land, some 5,000 miles, to Tanganyika. The whole thing sounded very fantastic, but he, learning that I knew Africa very well, invited tome join. I was accepted, and joined as an A.B., but was immediately promoted to the rank of Acting Warrant Officer, with instructions to embark at Tilbury the following day. Rather a hustle this, I thought, but it appeared that Lee, who had been made Lieut.-Com­ mander, had selected me,as having had African experience, to accompany him ahead of the expedition in order to map out a road through the Bush for the passage of the motor-boats. Very elated, and feeling that I might become an Admiral at any moment, I hurried off to prepare for the next, day’s departure. A T CapeTown the celebrations were brief, for two days later we entrained for Elizabethville, capital of the Congo. We, the advance guard, were off on the first real stage of the “Impossible Adventure.” The journey was a dull one. We passed Wynberg, whereon my way to England from the Boer War I had broken out of hospital to seethe sights of CapeTown Worcester, where I had stood sentry awhile train draped in crepe and bearing the coffin of Cecil Rhodes had slipped away into the night Kimberley, where I had swapped a set of false teeth I had found in a Boer farmhouse for a juicy steak. Then came Elizabethville, whereto our 979 astonishment we were met by the Military Governor, supported by his staff and a guard of honour. It was the first time the British Navy had visited the town and practically the whole population turned out to give us a welcome. A few days were spent herein recruiting native porters and getting a supply of provisions for our trek into the Bush to Sankisia, some 160 miles away, to map out a road for the transport of the motor-boats. Each boat, which ROUTE OF THE GREAT TREK This sketch map shows the last part of the route followed by the expedition on its way to Lake Tanganyika. The dotted line between Fungurume and Sankisia is that part of it which lay through the jungle, a distance of about 160 miles. I R1
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