The Phantom Flotilla: The most exciting true story from the Royal Navy’s history

Written by Peter Shankland
Category: · History

In 1915 Germany dominated Central Africa with its naval control of Lake Tanganyika.

The Lake formed the boundary between German East Africa (now Tanzania) and the Belgian Congo, and no Allied vessel could be brought against the gunboat because the only completed railway to the Lake was in German territory. No British or Belgian forces could advance into German territory because the Germans could always land troops behind them to cut their lines of communication.

Breaking that hold was a military necessity and an incredibly difficult and dangerous task. Not only did the crew have to outwit the Germans but also navigate 3,000 miles of the world’s most hazardous and disease-ridden country.

For Lieutenant-Commander Spicer-Simson the dilemma facing the Allied High Command was simply the chance for an incredible adventure. So the sailor turned explorer.

Thus began the most astounding voyage in naval history, as ‘Spicer’ led an expedition of two motor-boats through hundreds of miles of bush and mountains to reach the Lake, through a wilderness laid waste by sleeping-sickness and uncharted by roads or communications of any kind.

Here is one of the strangest, most exciting passages in the history of the Royal Navy – the true-life adventure which inspired C. S. Forester’s The African Queen.

Praise for Phantom Flotilla…

‘A wonderful adventure yarn made all the more absorbing because it really did happen’ – The Evening News

Peter Shankland was a military historian whose books include Byron of the Wager, The Phantom Flotilla and Dardanelles Patrol, a story of the submarine operation against Turkey in World War I.


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