National Geographic : 1922 Oct
VOL. XLII, No. 4 WASHINGTON OCTOBER, 1922 THE TRANSPORTING A NAVY THROUGH THE JUNGLES OF AFRICA IN WAR TIME BY FRANK J. MAGEE, R. N. V. R. With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author No single achievement during the World War was distinguished by more bizarre features than the successfully executed undertaking of 28 daring men who transported a "ready-made" navy overland through the wilds of Africa to destroy an enemy flotilla in control of Lake Tanganyika. With the conflict in Europe as the motive background, one of the participants and directors in this amazing adventure recites in his own way here the incidents of a jungle journey which has no counterpart in the history of African exploration.-THE EDITOR. E ARLY in the summer of 1915 J. R. Lee arrived in England from Africa and laid a plan before the authorities that were in session at the British Admiralty. He proposed that the government send, by an overland route across Africa, two small boats to the assistance of the Bel gian forces on Lake Tanganyika. Lee, having lived in Africa for some years and possessing an intimate knowledge of its geography, offered to act as guide. At first the authorities were inclined to pass over the proposal, so highly impos sible did it appear; but a special confer ence was called at the Admiralty, and after the project had been weighed it was decided that a small expedition should be sent. A forlorn hope, surely. But what were the lives of a handful of men thrown in the balance against what might be achieved ? The task of organizing the Naval Africa Expedition, as it was called, was en trusted to Commander Spicer Simson, R. N., who was given a free hand in the selection of officers and men, 28 all told. He was allowed to choose his crew from any branch of the service. J. R. Lee was given the rank of lieutenant, and other officers with a knowledge of bush life and transport were chosen. A doctor specially skilled in the treatment of trop ical diseases, and navy gunners with ex ceptional gunnery records, were also selected. THE SMALLEST EXPEDITION AGAINST TIlE ENEMY DURING THE WAR This expedition was the smallest sent against the enemy during the war, and, with the exception of the commander, all its members were volunteers. We car ried no passengers, all officers and men being specialists in their particular lines. It was important that no news of the departure or object of the expedition should leak out and get to the enemy. Consequently, officers and men were put on their honor not to divulge, even to their nearest and dearest, where they were bound nor what was their mission. Two boats were selected, tried, and found suitable. They were 40-foot mo tor-boats, with 8-foot beams, capable of doing 18 knots.