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Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika
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Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  258 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
When the First World War breaks out, the British navy is committed to engaging the enemy wherever there is water to float a ship—even if the body of water in question is a remote African lake and the enemy an intimidating fleet of German steamers. The leader of this improbable mission is Geoffrey Spicer-Simson whose navy career thus far had been distinguished by two sinkin ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published March 10th 2010 by Vintage (first published September 30th 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Chris
Jun 27, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I have myself crossed Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika and am a huge fan of Huston's African Queen I read Foden's book with great interest. Mimi and Toutou were two armed motorboats transported by rail and on foot from Cape Town to near Kigoma to take on a formidable German naval presence. The Belgians, allies of the British also make an appearance.This very well-written, densely researched book is worth buying alone for the portrait of the vainglorious Geoffrey Spice-Simpson, inveterate liar, i ...more
Corto
Oct 07, 2015 Corto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once, after reading a complicated article on Marine Corps logistics, I asked an officer of said service and branch, "How the hell do guys ever actually get from point A to point B?"

With a weary shake of his head, he responded, "Most of the time, only by sheer force of will."

That sentiment covers a large portion of the action of this book- a very well written and intriguing history of one of the least known naval actions in WWI, in it's least known theater, East Africa.

What lies in these pages is
...more
Shannon
Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure was a book with potential. Set in Africa during World War I, I was intrigued, especially having read Running the Rift, Purple Hibiscus and The Thing Around Your Neck earlier this year. I had hoped Mimi and Toutou would help me understand how events in the early twentieth century shaped the experiences of the fictional late twentieth century/early twenty-first century characters in these books. Instead, it was the story of a specific battle between the British and ...more
Nocheevo
Jan 13, 2008 Nocheevo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war
The supposedly Great War, WWI, had numerous sideshows. Little forgotten battles. Often triggered by left field strategic thinking and carried out with lack lustre intent in some forgotten corner of the globe that generally slipped in to a diminutive satire of the larger European play.

Mimi and Toutou Go Forth covers one such campaign in East Africa. The British plan to engage German forces on Lake Tanganyika, which is the longest Lake in the world and was of great strategic advantage in Central A
...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You just can't make up stuff like this--during WWI, the British Navy sent the most incompetent pack of idiots ever assembled to defeat a German battleship on a lake in the heart of Africa. Sarong-wearing, ship-wrecking, pathologically-lying man saves the day and proves that it is far better to be lucky than smart.
Edward Sullivan
The little-known true story of the Battle of Lake Tanganyika during World War I that served as the inspiration for C. S. Forester's The African Queen and great film adaptation. An engrossing, entertaining tale of swashbuckling action and adventure, and comical ineptitude.
D.J. Cockburn
Apr 15, 2014 D.J. Cockburn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Foden is better known for novels like The Last King of Scotland and Zanzibar, but this book shows that he is equally adept at non-fiction. The Mimi and Toutou of the title were a pair of British motor launches sent to gain control of Lake Tanganyika during the First World War. The commanding officer's first choice of names, Dog and Cat, was rejected by the Admiralty as being too frivolous. He retaliated by naming them with the French equivalents of 'Miaow' and 'Woof-woof', adopting a hint of the ...more
Rob and Liz
Oct 31, 2011 Rob and Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rob and Liz by: a friend here in Mwanza
I really loved this book. It's my favorite sort of combination of history, personal interest, humor and a good story. It's also about Tanzania, at least partly, and there are very few decent books written about Tanzania.

"Mimi and Toutou Go Forth" is the story of a fascinating battle that took place in Lake Tanganyika, in western Tanzania, during World War I. Mimi and Toutou were 2 British warships that were carried all of the away across the inhospitable rain forests of the Democratic Republic o
...more
Stephanie Jane
Mar 14, 2015 Stephanie Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, travel
Reading this account of British First World War adventure and 'heroics', I am amazed that we ever won anything at all! Foden describes the mad expedition from inception to completion and introduces its leader, Spicer-Simson, an eccentric of the truly English variety. I would have liked to read more description of the land through which the expedition passed as I found it difficult to picture sometimes due to the lack of detail. Foden has obviously researched extensively although contradictions i ...more
Malcolm
Jul 23, 2011 Malcolm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-global
I'm not a reader of much military history, but this one had a lot going for it: the events themselves (two small motorboats shipped from England in 1915 then carried by train, traction engine and people to the shores of Lake Tangyanika to attack the German fleet on the lake), an absurdly pompous commanding officer (the oldest Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy), Giles Foden as the author, and a story the provided the basis and inspiration for The African Queen (the Bogart/Hepburn movie). All ...more
Kris McCracken
A really good example of an accessible history text by the author of The Last King of Scotland, Ladysmith, and Zanzibar. Foden has a good local knowledge of Africa, and has done a fair bit of research here. Supporting this, the author's personal accounts of his visits to the area nicely supplement the lesson, and put the events that transpired into proper historical context. Reconstructing a bright and colourful historical account of a forgotten episode in the East Africa theatre during World Wa ...more
Bruce
Apr 13, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting narrative of a little remembered theater during the "War to End All Wars". As luck would have it, the oldest lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy at that time was chosen (because he was the only on be available) to lead an expedition to the center of Africa. The expedition was transporting across land and then utilizing two boats in an effort to claim Lake Tanganyika as Allied territory. The bombastic martinet, Geoffrey Spicer-Simpson took credit for much of what those under him ...more
Rachel
Nov 09, 2007 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: military history fans, interest in africa
Shelves: history
This was a highly entertaining history of a relatively obscure battle in Africa during World War I. An unfortunate and eccentric British officer is given command of a small expedition whose purpose is to transport two small gunboats to an African lake on the Belgian side, and sink the German boats that defended German ownership of the lake. This would give the British access to the German side and potentially allow the retaking of a large swath of Africa. I enjoyed the meticulous detail, the abs ...more
Kay
Real-life WWI events that prompted C.S. Forrester to write The African Queen. The "Mimi and Toutou" in question were two small gunboats, commanded by a rather ludicrous figure, one Geoffrey Spicer-Samson of the Royal Navy. Spicer was a thorough eccentric -- and also laughably incompetent in many ways -- yet he managed to assemble an odd (and rather unwilling) crew and make it all the way up the Congo (some 2,800 miles) to Lake Tanganyika. (This journey, obviously, was the genesis of the Forster ...more
Denise
Mar 18, 2012 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book on an unexplored topic about World War I. The naval battle being fought in Africa, not the Atlantic. Well written and very interesting. This historical event needs to be taught in schools ~ so many lessons to learn. Loved the quote from the Belgian Vice Governor-General Freiesleben about the English "... You English have a genius for amateurism. That's what makes you so dangerous. It's always pretty obvious what professionals are going to do, but who but amateurs could have dreamed up ...more
Jesse Toldness
Aug 27, 2013 Jesse Toldness rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved pretty much everything about this book. The story was good, the characters were vivid and compelling, the history was solid. A tale of buffoonery and heroism, all mashed up together. Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, the oldest Lieutenant Commander in the British Navy, fights WWI in Africa with a pair of tiny wooden boats, a skirt, an extensive set of tattoos and the only kind of crew he could find. From the Crystal Palace to Lake Tanganiyka on a whirlwind journey where the characters are invariab ...more
Philipp
Aug 26, 2013 Philipp rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A mixed bag. It's definitely a great story, and the characters involved are certainly "originals" who warrant that this story be told - sometimes the narration jumps too much through time-points, sometimes it's just not that interesting, sometimes the craziness of the entire operation somehow becomes dull.

The best chapter is the last autobiographical chapter in which the author details his search for the leftovers of the involved warships; would've liked to see more of that.
Issy
Jul 15, 2009 Issy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like hisories
I've been meaning to read this one for a while because the premises is so interesting. Britain and Germany battle on a very remote lake in the middle of africa after dragging the boats OVERLAND! Crazy right?
Well, it was a bit disorganized, especially the beginning and at times I wish the writer just took all this extensive research and instead wrote some thrilling historical fiction. But that's probably just because I'm primarily a fiction reader. In the end I'm glad I read it.
Jacki Murphy
Feb 24, 2010 Jacki Murphy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is so bizarre it has to be non-fiction; no one could have come up with this. Watch a rag-tag team of British soldiers (all the competent ones are already off fighting somewhere else) on an insane expedition to sink a German warship. Includes monkeys, kilts, and mechanics who don't know how to fix engines.
AskHistorians
tells the absolutely insane story of the Battle of Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa, 1915. A gang of British eccentrics dragged two boats through the jungle to do battle with the German Graf von Gotzen, and a more motley band of people has seldom been assembled. Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, their commander, is the kind of man who makes one feel intensely inadequate.
Dergrossest
Fun little book about the sea battle, such as it was, which was kind of the subject of the movie classic, The African Queen. Unfortunately, even tough it's a short book, it's still a little too long for the story which it tells of the crazy Brits determined to go out into the midday sun. Still worth a read.
Rebecca
While I didn't like this book, I didn't actively dislike it either. I think it might be better suited for history buffs with an interest in little-known facts like my husband and our friend "Cpt" Jim . . .
Anne
Jul 13, 2016 Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good story telling but not quite historically accurate. For the factual account read "The Lake Tanganyika Expedition: A primary source chronology" - available from The National Archives, London, Bookshop.
Old-Barbarossa
Nov 26, 2008 Old-Barbarossa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A naval battle (of sorts) in a land locked lake where all the vessels had to be hand carried overland first.
One of the oddest war stories I've ever read with a cast of maniacs and obsessives.
Very enjoyable read.
Allison
Jul 12, 2008 Allison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a really interesting book about a battle fought during WWI in Africa on Lake Tanganiyaka. I found the style of writing at times to be a little dry or a little confusing, but some of that might have been due more to the subject than the fault of the author.
B.J.
Mar 18, 2012 B.J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the true story of a legitimately insane british commander geogffrey spicer-simson. he was a liar, a braggart, a lout and a madman. and he blew up a bunch of german ships in a lake in the middle of africa basically just for the hell of it. he also did it in a skirt.
Christopher
Sep 09, 2010 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really love this well-written bizarre history of a bizarre battle. I should note that the British edition of this appears under a different name: Mimi and Toutou Go Forth
Mathijs Beaujean
This book would have gotten a glowing 5 stars, were it not for the next-to-last chapter about movies about the region this story happens to unfold in. That was rubbish. The story itself is well told, interesting etc.
Kyle
Nov 30, 2014 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book, wonderfully-told story. A bit stretched at times, however. interesting bonus features in the final chapters about the author's own journey there and the making of The Africa Queen.
Jonno
Jan 22, 2017 Jonno rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, history
An interesting chapter of WWII that I had no idea took place. Funny at times and well worth the read.
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Giles Foden was born in Warwickshire in 1967. His family moved to Malawi in 1971 where he was brought up. He was educated at Yarlet Hall and Malvern College boarding schools, then at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where he read English. He worked as a journalist for Media Week magazine, then became an assistant editor on the Times Literary Supplement. He was deputy literary editor of The Guardian ...more
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