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.

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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.

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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.

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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.