Wednesday 17th January
The True Story of "The African Queen"
Almost everyone has seen the film ‘The African Queen’ starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, based on the book by C.S. Forester and released in 1953. The story is set in German East Africa now Tanzania in the First World War, where a steam launch captain and a woman missionary make their hazardous way down a river to attack a German lake steamer. However, recent research by Kevin shows the original 1934 story to be based on the sinking of the German cruiser the Königsberg in a river in German East Africa in 1915, and then a later edition of the story on the Royal Navy's expedition in 1915/16 to break German supremacy on Lake Tanganyika in Central Africa using motor boats.
Kevin explains the background to the novel about two of the strangest naval true stories to come out of East Africa in the First World War. One concerns the Königsberg destroyed in a river delta and the other about two motor boats dragged through the bush to destroy three German gunboats on an African lake. Both sound more like tales from the ‘Boy's Own Adventure Stories’ than naval operations. But this is not quite the whole story. There is the American response to the publication of the original novel and its ending, the claim of a German shipbuilder, and the film’s apparent Dorset connection. For any one who has seen the film this is an interesting view of its origins.
Kevin grew up in East Africa. He has written books and articles on the military and transport history of the region and lectured widely on his specialist subjects.