Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (19 - 21 June 2013)

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Date of Auction: 19th - 21st June 2013

Sold for £10,000

Estimate: £12,000 - £15,000

‘It transpired that Dudley had begun his career as a cadet in the training ship “Worcester” and, like Hope, held a Second Mate’s ticket in the merchant service. As he appeared to have more understanding of discipline than the rest of his staff, Spicer made him his First Lieutenant and issued all his routine orders through him. Dudley, slight of form with fair delicate features, was a bundle of nervous energy, and he took this very seriously. As soon as both the boats were safely on their trailers he staged a special parade for Spicer to address the ship’s company. He had a Union Jack run up to the branch of a tree while the men presented arms and the officers saluted - even Dudley had a sword now as Spicer had brought an extra one from London.’

Peter Shankland’s The Phantom Flotilla refers.

An extremely rare Great War Lake Tanganyika Expedition D.S.C. group of four awarded to Lieutenant A. Dudley, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, the effective Second-in-Command of that remarkable team of “Jack Tars” who transported two gunboats through 100 miles of African jungle to successfully challenge German superiority on the Lake in 1915-16 - and inspire C. S. Forester’s “The African Queen”

Distinguished Service Cross, G.V.R., hallmarks for London 1917; 1914-15 Star (Lieut. A. Dudley, R.N.V.R.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (Lieut. A. Dudley, R.N.V.R.), good very fine or better (4) £12000-15000


One of just three D.S.Cs awarded for the expedition; Commander Geoffrey Spicer-Simpson, the C.O., was awarded the D.S.O., and his Petty Officers and ratings 12 D.S.Ms.

D.S.C. London Gazette 1 January 1917:

‘In recognition of his services with the Tanganyika Flotilla. He showed great coolness and skill in handling his ship in all circumstances.’

The Lake Tanganyika Expedition was one of the smallest and most successful operations of the Great War. In the Summer of 1915, the key to success in Central Africa lay in overwhelming German naval supremacy on Lake Tanganyika. How this was challenged by a small force of gunboats commanded by an eccentric naval officer with a talent for public relations is one of the most extraordinary stories to emerge from the conflict.

To cover the three thousand miles or so that lay between Cape Town and the lake, the boats had to be hauled by steam traction engines and ox trains over more than a hundred miles of extremely wild and difficult country, where there were no roads or communications of any kind. The whole journey, by barely navigable rivers and narrow gauge railways. through terrain where sleeping-sickness and other horrible diseases were rife, is one of the strangest passages in the history of the Royal Navy. The two boats, H.M.S. Mimi and H.M.S. Toutou, with a small expeditionary force under the joint command of Commander Spicer-Simson and the Rhodesian John Lee, who had been granted the temporary rank of Lieutenant-Commander, R.N.V.R., arrived at Cape Town towards the end of June: by the end of December, after an historic journey, they had been successfully launched and three days later were in action. In command of the Toutou was Lieutenant Arthur Darville Dudley, R.N.V.R.

Dudley was an Englishman who had settled in Rhodesia after serving in the Boer War (whereabouts of Q.S.A. not known). He started his career in the training ship Worcestershire and held a Second Mate's ticket in the merchant service. On the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, he joined the Rhodesian Rifles and saw action against von Lettow's Askaris.

However, at the request of John Lee, Dudley was released and commissioned into the R.N.V.R., effectively becoming Second-in-Command of the expedition - he joined his comrades at Cape Town after cycling over 200 miles of native paths! Described as young, slight of build and a bundle of nerves, Dudlev took his new duties seriously, and was mentioned in despatches for his services as Transport Officer during the epic journey to Lake Tanganyika.

On 26 December 1915, the Mimi and Toutou fought their first engagement capturing the 45 ton German vessel, Kingani. Dudley proved himself an able Captain in the Toutou and was again mentioned in despatches. On learning of the action King George V wired the victors: ‘His Majesty's congratulations to his remote Expedition’. Meanwhile, the captured German vessel was repaired and commissioned in to the Royal Navy as H.M.S. Fiji, this being the first occasion where a captured vessel had been so employed during the War. Thus equipped, Spicer-Simson chose Dudley as his No. 1 and set off in the Fifi to engage the Hedwig von Wissman. On 9 February 1916 the latter was brought to action, the British fighting a running battle lasting three hours before sinking her.

Together with the Belgian officer, Commandant Goor, Dudley had taken turns at holding the helm since the closely situated funnel became extremely hot at times of great speed. Spurred on by possession of the first German Ensign to fall into British hands, Dudley assumed joint command of the Fiji and Mimi, and departed in search of the Graf von Gotzen. The Germans. however, had experienced enough British ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’, and scuttled their one remaining vessel at the mouth of Kigoma harbour.

The success of the Tanganyika Expedition captured the imagination of millions at a time when Allied morale needed something to counter loss of prestige on the Western Front. Spicer-Simson returned home to a hero's s welcome, the industrious Dudley staying on to take command of the victorious “Tanganyika Flotilla” but hopefully he was able later to enjoy some of the headlines which his actions had prompted, among them “The Nelson Touch on an African Lake” - “The Strangest Story of the War” - and “The Naval Battle that Won a Continent”. C. S. Forester was no less impressed, and with the literary eye which made him such a successful writer, he set about producing his classic novel, The African Queen, and Hollywood, ably assisted by Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, did the rest.

Dudley returned to the U.K. in 1917, taking up an appointment in Wallington, the Immingham base, ‘for duty in fishing trawlers’, but from May 1918 he served as a C.O. in Motor Launches.

On being demobilised in April 1919, he settled back in Northern Rhodesia, where he died in Lusaka in 1942.

For further information, in addition to the more well known title Phantom Flotilla, there is a superbly illustrated article, “Transporting a Navy Through the Jungles of Africa in War Time”, which appeared in The National Geographic Magazine in October 1922, by Frank G. Magee, and two interesting features in the Illustrated London News of 20 May and 3 June 1916.