Bula Matari

Bula Matari is a true story. 

Africa.  1915.  German steamboats dominate Lake Tanganyika.  The Germans can strike where they want, when they want.  They have the respect of the natives.  They are the “Bula Matari”, the omnipotent force. 

It is the duty and tradition of the Royal Navy to engage the enemy wherever there is water to float a ship.  Admiralty orders Spicer-Simpson, an eccentric lieutenant commander, to destroy the German fleet. 

Spicer-Simpson takes twenty-eight men and two armed motor launches by sea to Cape Town, then across rough tracks, the 6,000 foot Mitumba Mountains and the near dry Lualaba River to Lake Tanganyika.  There he confronts and attacks two German steamers, both considerably larger than “Mimi” and “Toutou”, the Spicer-Simpson motor launches. 

But the venture is not without its problems.  Spicer-Simpson, with his abrasive manner, his proclivity for boasting and his refusal to acknowledge the achievements of others, alienates just about every officer and rating on the expedition.  His success on the lake seems to redeem him.  His past foibles are forgotten.  His officers shake his hand, his men give him three cheers, Belgian officers kiss him and the local natives throw dust at him – a sign of great respect. 

Spicer-Simpson appears to have achieved the status he always sought – that of an heroic British naval officer.  His past sins (which include having his command torpedoed by the Germans while he was entertaining ladies in a hotel) are forgiven. 

But he is then confronted by two additional challenges.  There is a third German steamer on the lake – much larger and much more formidable.  There are also the guns at Fort Bismarckburg – twelve inch guns that can blow “Mimi” and “Toutou” out of the water before they can close to attack. 

Will Spicer-Simpson rise to the challenge and, in the best traditions of the Royal Navy, engage the enemy wherever it is to be found.  Or will he protect his reputation and the lives of his men? 

Spicer-Simpson takes the latter course, a decision that at last gains the respect of his men, but ensures that he is never again given a command in the British Navy. 

Home page