Cecil Rhodes - a steamer for Lake Tanganyika

Built in Wivenhoe by Forrestt & Sons in 1898 completed in 1899

John Collins (Nottage)

The lake steamer Cecil Rhodes built by Forrestt & Sons in 1898 and launched November 1899
Nottage Maritime Institute 01064

The Cecil Rhodes was a steel twin screw steamer built for Tanganyika Concessions Ltd. She was started in 1898 and completed in 1899 by Forrestt & Son Ltd as yard number 355 to help build the Cape to Cairo Telegraph. She was launched on 8th November, 1899,

She was 78’3″ overall length, 14’0″ beam and 7’0″ deep, with 5’0″ draft. She was powered by two Mumford compound 2 cylinder engines and boiler with steam from a water tube boiler at 160 lb/sq.in, giving 97ihp, to drive her at 10 knots. All 84.3 tons of her was shipped out in small pieces of less than 70lbs, and then delivered 300 miles overland to the lakeside, all of this being man-packed for part of the way; except for three heavier pieces of machinery which went on bullock carts. The contract price was £4,540, plus £645/17/9 of extras.

On the 18/11/1914 she was captured (moored and partly cannibalised, with no engine) by auxiliary warships of the Imperial German Navy at Kasakalawe, Lake Tanganyika. On 19/11/1914 she was sunk. At that time, the Royal Navy had no presence at all on the Lake.

Note 1:   A full scale model (scale 1:32) hull model of the Cecil Rhodes was built and presented at the time of the launch of the vessel. This fine model had beautiful attention to detail with fittings all silver-plated whilst other fittings as the compass binnacle, propellers and shafts are gold-plated.  A brooch was presented to Miss Anne Williams, aged 12, who was the elder daughter of Sir Robert Williams and later wife of G. C. Hutchinson, when she launched the SS Cecil Rhodes at Wyvenhoe Essex, on the 18th November, 1899.  For a picture of the model and more details about it, see: http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/384776.html#KvlXIkegcAVfCoR8.99.

Note 2:  The wreck of the Cecil Rhodes was discovered in 1996. To read an account of that discovery and to see some pictures of the wreck taken in 2003 click here.

This page was added on 22/03/2015.

Comments about this page

  • HI,
    Was wondering if anyone knows if there are any plans for the Cecil Rhodes available? I would like to get a model made for my collection 🙂
    I am making up a bit of a page for my website about this boat also…

    By LEN PELTIER (07/08/2021)
  • The remains of the hull of the SS Cecil Rhodes have been found in Zambia at Mbete Bay at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. The hull is in three piece having been shelled by the German naval forces on the lake in 1914. Some boiler parts were still on shore as the engine had not been installed before she was sunk. Other parts have been recovered by Zambian Commando School divers from Mbala formally Abercorn. If we sent images of these parts, could someone familair with the Forrest works identify them? They appear to be part of a steam operated water pump and the anchor winch..

    By Colin Carlin (24/09/2019)
  • Hello Colin. I will forward this note to WHG member John Collins who is also the Curator of the Nottage Maritime Institute here in Wivenhoe. If anyone can help you, he can.

    By Peter Hill (24/09/2019)
  • The boat may have been laid down in 1898, but it was launched on November 18, 1899, and reported in the press at the time. Also see the Royal Museums Greenwich webpage http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/384776.html

    By Graham (05/12/2016)
  • Thank you Graham for this clarification and additional information.
    Peter Hill, Chairman, Wivenhoe History Group

    By Peter Hill (09/12/2016)

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