The Battle of Lake Tanganyka

In earlier posts I described the Historic background of this odd story and showed some pictures of the vessels under construction.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to preview the game at one of our local conventions, Guns of August.

This game was intended as a preview, with the scenario being designed as part of the Williamsburg Legati’s series of Wargaming commemeration of the World War One Centennial.

Hedwig on Lake

Hedwig Von Wissman steaming toward the Lukugarations of World War One’s centannial

The boats, with the exception of the Mimi and the Toutou were scratch built by myself.  The two British vessels are resin castings presently offered by Old Glory shipyards.  the figures are a mixture of Houston, Reverisco, Copplestone and Brigade games.  Oh and one crocodile cast by Mega Minatures.

The rules used were “Boilers and Breechloaders” published by The Virtual Armchair General.  Although intended for colonial period war gaming, they were not to difficult to push a few years to allow for this early war scenario.

Three players joined the fray which allowed each to captain two ships, with each player representing one of the three sides.

The scenario was based upon the historic events of the Battle of Lake Tanganyka, with one serious alteration to provide for a more balanced encounter.  Historically, the presence of the two British vessels was unknown to the Germans.  Because of this, the Kingani and then the Hedwig, each approached Lukuga separately, on dates far removed from one another.  this allowed the Allied forces to easily defeat the Germans one at a time.

Circumstances could certainly have been different however.  Just before the first encounter, one of the German officers had been landed at Lukuga, seeking intelligence on the whereabouts of the Alexandre Commune, a steam ship being hidden on the river by the Belgians.  Having missed his rendezvous with the Kingani, the officer was captured by the Belgians.  As there prisoner he discovered the presence of the newly arrived Mimi and Toutou.  Recognizing the danger to German interests on the Lake represented by those two motorboats, he sent a letter to his commanders asking for personal items to be forwarded to him.  Hidden on this letter written in invisible ink made from his own urine, he tried to warn his compatriots.  Unfortunately for the hun, this letter historically arrived to late.


the business ends of the Hedwig and Kingani

For the purpose of the game, this battle was run as a “what if” scenario, assuming that the letter having arrived earlier might have allowed for combined efforts.  It certainly would have removed the element of surprise.

the game began with the Germans steaming towards the Lukuga river at half speed, the allied vessels moving far slower to represent the fact that they had just went under way from their little port.

     Taking advantage of their superior speed, Mimi and Toutou raced forward, leaving their slower Belgian friends behind.  Much as happened historically  when Spicer-Simpson really did take the Kingani.DSC_0002

The Belgian river barge Dix-tonne was temporarily slowed by a bar at the mouth of the Lukuga, but soon manage to free herself.


Miimi, Toutou, and Dix-Tonne

The German vessels kept close to each other as they brought their guns to bear taking advantage of the longer range of Kingani’s six pounder.  The British vessels on the other hand attempted to use a wooded island to disguise a pincer attack, with the Mimi heading straight for the germans as the Toutou slipped unseen around to their rear.

Mimi quickly found herself taking a beating as she occupied the Kaiser’s crews.  She was about to try to beach herself on the shore of one of the little islands when a shell from the Hedwig’s  37mm hit her hard.  Infuriated by the damage and perhaps inspired from having already lost two previous commands Spicer raced the little boat directly towards the Kingani for what looked like an attempt to ram.  if this was his intention however, the ersatz Vice-Admiral was to be sorely disappointed.  A direct hit at close range from the Kingani all but sank the poor Mimi.  As water filler her broken hull the petrol engine drowned and German vessel gracefully slipped away.


Toutou making her way through the islands

The Mimi had not been sacrificed in vain however.  Her direct attack had allowed Toutou to get behind Kingani and soon her maxim cleared the Kingani’s deck.  By know the Belgians were in range and began to fire upon the German ships causing some damage.  Soon however, the unforgiving fire of the machine gun left both German ships with their crews annhilated and the vessels were captured.


Little Gunboats

It had been my intention to document the Lake Tanganyika project through it’s many steps, but my eagerness seems to have got in the way!  Best laid plans of mice and men…    Instead here are some pics of the various boats at different stages of construction.  The Mimi and Toutou are not included because they will be commercially made casts from Old Glory.

DSC_0011All of these boats however have begun their lives as 1/2 Pink Foam insulation.  The KINGANI in the above picture is in the first stage of construction.  Just pink foam carved into the basic shape of the hull. Her design is the most complicated so I am waiting until I have some experience at building these things before I tackle her!   If I do these again I would probably do them in pine to make them a Little more durable and because this stuff sands away far to easy.  I lost a whole half inch of length to the Kingani in simply smoothing her contours.  Besides trying to keep these models in scale in the Boilers and Breech loaders rules, many of the statistics of the vessels are based upon the model’s actual dimensions.

DSC_0012 This is the Netta.  She is very close to being finished.   For her foredeck I glued on a second layer of the 1/2 pink foam after first carving a cockpit for the helm.  I used sheet styrene to build the combing around that cockpit and to build the gentle curves at the rear of the foredeck.  Her main deck is a sheet of scribed basswood cut to shape.  A few scraps of styrene were cut to make hatches on the fore deck and for the main cabin in that deck.  The flags were taken from Warflags ( ). I have found it challenging to determine under what flag the Belgian vessels operated and who crewed them.  At the time of the battle Belgium had no navy.  The forces in the Belgian Congo seem to be entirely made up of Force Publique.   On the Netta I decided to reach a compromise.  I have placed the Belgian National Flag at her stern with an miniature version of the Belgian Congo flag as her Jack.  The guns a 3 pdr and a 1pdr Pom Pom, are Houston Ship Fittings from The Virtual Armchair General ( .  The figures shown are a mixture of Houston’s and Reviresco. (

DSC_0014  Again mostly finished, this little guy is the Mossalbek or Dix-Tonne.  These first two models are the easiest to model based upon their lines but they have been a real challenge to document. There is a great discrepancy regarding their armament, and the available photos are typically lacking any detail.  I haven’t been able to find any drawings.  For armament I have decided to rely upon information from a Belgian Naval History webpage even though it disagrees with most of my British sources.  ( )  She will be armed with a 6 pdr and a 3 pdr from Houston.   Decided to use teh Belgian Congo flag do to some speculation regarding the only good pic of her I can find.

DSC_0013  The Hedwig Von Wissman has a good deal of work to go.  She has a raised area of foam on her bow where the 3 pdr is and a lower raised area over her rudder at the stern.  Her decking is all scribed bass wood as is her forward cabin.  The roof is foam core and the stack is PVC.  Eventually she will have her freeboard raised with mounting board and low walls added to make a bridge above the cabin.  There is also more cabin which will be under the stack.  Oh and doors and either windows or portlights added to the cabin.

Lots of little details for her on there way from TVAG and Reviersco.  Need some little bollards or at least cleats for all the vessels.

until next time…Cheers,