Merchant raider

Merchant raiders are armed commerce raiding ships that disguise themselves as non-combatant merchant vessels.

Sinking Cap Trafalgar
RMS Carmania sinking SMS Cap Trafalgar near the Brazilian islands of Trindade, 14 September 1914.


Germany used several merchant raiders early in World War I (1914–1918), and again early in World War II (1939–1945). The most famous captain of a German merchant raider, Felix von Luckner, used the sailing ship SMS Seeadler for his voyage (1916–1917). The Germans used a sailing ship at this stage of the war because coal-fired ships had limited access to fuel outside of territories held by the Central Powers due to international regulations concerning refueling of combat ships in neutral countries.

Germany sent out two waves of six surface raiders each during World War II. Most of these vessels were in the 8,000–10,000 long tons (8,100–10,200 t) range. Many of these vessels had originally been refrigerator ships, used to transport fresh food from the tropics. These vessels were faster than regular merchant vessels, which was important for a warship. They were armed with six 15cm (5.9 inch) naval guns, some smaller guns, torpedoes, reconnaissance seaplanes and some were equipped for minelaying. Several captains demonstrated great creativity in disguising their vessels to masquerade as allied or as neutral merchants. Kormoran sank the Australian cruiser Sydney in one of the most well-known episodes involving merchant raiders during World War II.

Italy intended to outfit four refrigerated banana boats as merchant raiders during World War II (Ramb I, Ramb II, Ramb III and Ramb IV). Only Ramb I and Ramb II served as merchant raiders and neither ship sank enemy vessels. The New Zealand cruiser Leander sank Ramb I off the Maldives (February 1941); Ramb II sailed to the Far East, where the Japanese prevented her from raiding, ultimately took her over and converted her to an auxiliary transport ship. (Ramb III served as a convoy escort and Ramb IV was converted for the Italian Royal Navy to a hospital ship.)

These commerce raiders carried no armour because their purpose was to attack merchantmen, not to engage warships. Also it would be difficult to fit armour to a civilian vessel. Eventually most were sunk or transferred to other duties.

The British deployed Armed Merchant Cruisers in World War I and in World War II. Generally adapted from passenger liners, they were larger than the German merchant raiders.

During World War I, the British Royal Navy deployed Q-ships to combat German U-boats. Q-ships were warships posing as merchant ships so as to lure U-boats to attack them; their mission of destroying enemy warships differed significantly from the raider objective of disrupting enemy trade.

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Action of 10 March 1917

The Action of 10 March 1917 was a single-ship action during the First World War fought between the Imperial German Navy merchant raider SMS Möwe, and the armed New Zealand Shipping Company cargo ship SS Otaki. Although Otaki was sunk, Möwe was badly damaged.

Bernhard Rogge

Bernhard Rogge (4 November 1899 – 29 June 1982) was a German naval officer of Jewish descent who, during World War II, commanded a merchant raider. Later, he became a Konteradmiral in West Germany's navy.

Rogge became a Vizeadmiral (vice-admiral) by the end of World War II, and, when the West German navy was established after the war, returned to service as a Konteradmiral (rear-admiral). He also was one of the few German officers of flag rank who was not arrested by the Allies after the war. This was due to the way he had exercised his command of Atlantis.

German auxiliary cruiser Michel

Michel (HSK-9) was an auxiliary cruiser of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated as a merchant raider during World War II. Built by Danziger Werft in Danzig 1938/39 as the freighter Bielsko for the Polish Gdynia-America-Line (GAL), she was requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine at the outbreak of World War II and converted into the hospital ship Bonn. In the summer of 1941, she was converted into the auxiliary cruiser Michel, and was commissioned on 7 September 1941. Known as Schiff 28, her Royal Navy designation was Raider H. She was the last operative German raider of World War II.

German auxiliary cruiser Orion

Orion (HSK-1) was an auxiliary cruiser of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine which operated as a merchant raider during World War II. Built by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg in 1930/31 as the freighter Kurmark, she was requisitioned by the navy at the outbreak of World War II and converted into the auxiliary cruiser Orion, commissioned on 9 December 1939. Known to the Kriegsmarine as Schiff 36, her Royal Navy designation was Raider A. She was named after the constellation Orion.

German auxiliary cruiser Widder

Widder (HSK 3) was an auxiliary cruiser (Hilfskreuzer) of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that was used as a merchant raider in the Second World War. Her Kriegsmarine designation was Schiff 21, to the Royal Navy she was Raider D. The name Widder (Ram) represents the constellation Aries in German.

Kurt Weyher

Kurt August Viktor Weyher (30 August 1901 – 17 December 1991) was a German rear admiral of the navy (Kriegsmarine) of Nazi Germany. During World War II, he commanded a merchant raider.

Although it was not mentioned in his book "The Black Raider", it seems that Weyher was a non-trivial painter; in a feature article author Keith Gordon tells that on the voyage of the Orion Weyher did about 30 paintings on subjects connected with the ship's activities. The one painting illustrated seems to have had narrative merit and to have represented the topographic background recognisably.

List of shipwrecks in August 1864

The list of shipwrecks in August 1864 includes ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during August 1864.

List of shipwrecks in June 1863

The list of shipwrecks in June 1863 includes ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during June 1863.

List of shipwrecks in June 1865

The list of shipwrecks in June 1865 includes ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during June 1865.

List of shipwrecks in November 1864

The list of shipwrecks in November 1864 includes ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during November 1864.

Nicolas Luckner

Nicolas, Count Luckner (German: Johann Nikolaus, Graf Luckner; 12 January 1722, Cham in der Oberpfalz – 4 January 1794, Paris) was a German officer in French service who rose to become a Marshal of France.

Luckner grew up in Cham, in eastern Bavaria and received his early education from the Jesuits in Passau. Before entering the French service, Luckner spent time in the Bavarian, Dutch and Hanoverian armies. He fought as a commander of hussars during the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) in the Hanoverian army against the French. Luckner joined the French army in 1763 with the rank of lieutenant general. In 1784 he became a Danish count.

He supported the French Revolution, and the year 1791 saw Luckner become a Marshal of France. In 1791-92 Luckner served as the first commander of the Army of the Rhine. In April 1792, Rouget de Lisle dedicated to him the Chant de Guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin (War Song of the Army of the Rhine), which was to become better known as the Marseillaise.

As commander of the Army of the North in 1792 he captured the Flemish cities of Menen and Kortrijk, but then had to retreat towards Lille. After the flight of Lafayette (August 1792) he was made generalissimo with orders to build a Reserve Army near Châlons-sur-Marne. However, the National Convention was not satisfied with his progress and Choderlos de Laclos was ordered to support or replace him. Luckner, now over 70 years of age, then asked for dismissal (granted in January 1793) and went to Paris.

He was arrested by the Revolutionary Tribunal and sentenced to death. He died by the guillotine in Paris in 1794.

The carillon of the town hall in the Bavarian town of Cham rings the Marseillaise every day at 12.05 p.m. to commemorate the city's most famous son, Nikolaus Graf von Luckner.

He was the great-grandfather of Count Felix von Luckner (1881-1966), a German naval officer who commanded the famed merchant raider SMS Seeadler (1916-1917) during World War I .

Luckner owned Krummbek Manor in Holstein.

Otto Kähler

Otto Kähler (3 March 1894 – 2 November 1967) was a German admiral during World War II. He commanded the German auxiliary cruiser Thor, a merchant raider, on two combat patrols and sank or captured 12 ships, for a combined tonnage of 96,547 gross register tons (GRT) of Allied shipping. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. Kähler relinquished command of Thor on 20 July 1941 to Günther Gumprich.

He was appointed the commander of the naval forces in Brittany in September 1944. He was captured by US forces soon thereafter. Repatriated February 1947, he died in Kiel on 2 November 1967.

SMS Greif (1914)

SMS Greif was a German cargo steamship that was converted into a merchant raider for the Imperial German Navy.Built as Guben, she was a 4,962 GRT steel-hulled ship owned by the German-Australian Line (DADG), Hamburg. She was converted for naval service at Kaiserliche Werft Kiel in 1915 and commissioned as Greif on 23 January 1916. She sailed from the Elbe port of Cuxhaven on 27 February 1916 under the command of Fregattenkapitän Rudolf Tietze (born 13 September 1874). The Royal Navy had learned of Greif's sailing and was waiting in the North Sea.Greif was disguised as the Norwegian Rena bound for Tønsberg, Norway when intercepted by the 15,620 GRT armed merchant cruiser Alcantara on the morning of 29 February 1916. Alcantara closed to 2000 yards and slowed to lower a boarding cutter when Greif hoisted the German battle ensign, increased speed, and opened fire. Alcantara returned fire with her six 6-inch (150 mm) guns and two 3-pounders. Range was never more than 3000 yards.Alcantara was hit by a torpedo amidships on her port side, and one of Alcantaras shells exploded the ready ammunition for Greifs after gun. Both ships lost speed. Greifs crew abandoned ship 40 minutes after opening fire. Alcantara sank first. The C-class light cruiser Comus and M-class destroyer Munster then arrived to sink the stationary Greif and rescue 120 German survivors. An estimated 187 Germans perished along with 72 Britons.

SMS Möwe (1914)

SMS Möwe (German: Seagull) was a merchant raider of the Imperial German Navy which operated against Allied shipping during World War I.

Disguised as a neutral cargo ship to enable it to get close to targets, the Möwe was effective at commerce raiding, sinking 40 ships in the course of the war.

SMS Wolf (1913)

SMS Wolf (formerly the Hansa freighter Wachtfels) was an armed merchant raider or auxiliary cruiser of the Imperial German Navy in World War I. She was the fourth ship of the Imperial Navy bearing this name (and is therefore often referred to in Germany as Wolf IV), following two gunboats and another auxiliary cruiser that was decommissioned without seeing action.

SS Britannia (1925)

SS Britannia was a British steam passenger ship which was sunk by a German merchant raider during the Second World War.

SS Georgic (1895)

The SS Georgic was a steam ship built by Harland and Wolff for the White Star Line to replace the SS Naronic which was lost at sea. Georgic was a cargo ship designed principally to carry livestock, at the time of entering service in 1895 she was the largest cargo ship in the world with a deadweight tonnage of 12,000 tons.

SS Wimmera

SS Wimmera was a passenger steamship that was built in 1904 by Caird & Company in Greenock, Scotland, for Huddart Parker & Co of Melbourne, Australia. She was sunk on 26 June 1918 following contact with a German mine north of Cape Maria van Diemen, New Zealand, killing 26 passengers and crew.

At 10:00 am on 25 June 1918 the ship left Auckland, New Zealand, bound for Sydney, Australia, via Three Kings Islands. There were 76 passengers and 75 crew aboard. Her route was to take her north towards the Three Kings Islands where she would turn west and south toward Sydney. However, at 5:15 a.m. on 26 June 1918 she struck a mine laid by the German merchant raider SMS Wolf and sank.

The 16 Australian merchant seamen who were killed are commemorated by the Australian Merchant Seamen's Memorial at the Australian War Memorial.

Scuttling of SMS Cormoran

The Scuttling of SMS Cormoran off Guam on April 7, 1917 was the result of the United States entry into World War I and the internment of the German

merchant raider SMS Cormoran. The incident was the only hostile encounter between United States and German military forces during the Pacific Ocean campaign of the war.

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