Great-Grandfather was an officer on 'Highland Brae' Sunk by Kronprinz Wilhelm


I just found your site.

My Great-Grandfather was an officer on 'Highland Brae' Sunk by Kronprinz Wilhelm in 1915.

He wrote a diary while he was a prisoner until he was released in South America somewhere..

Would a copy of this be something that interests you?


Thank you for your mesage and your offer, yes please I would be delighted to have a copy of your Great Grandfather's time as a POW as a result of being sunk by the German Armed Raider Kronprinz Wilhelm. I am sure we would like to use its content to add to our knowledge about these ships, and put it up on Ahoy, ie, subject to your approval.

Mac's Web Log, results from my writings, and my friend Terry Kearns who is my Web Master in Atlanta Georgia, translating it all to become the site that shows its face to the world and anyone who logs on to it. Both Terry and I are delighted when anyone takes the trouble to contact us after finding something which takes their eye.

Again, our thanks for your response and kind offer.

With best regards from both the US and Australia.

Mac. Gregory.


I mailed you some time ago with regard to my Grandfather's diary from his short period of captivity on the "Kronprinz Wilhelm" after his ship, the Highland Brae, was captured.
Well I've finally copied it up and it's attached. You are the first person outside of the family to see this. I've included some notes where I can't recognise a word and made minor Grammar changes where essential. Apart from that it is exactly as my great grandfather wrote it. The text in the cursive font is his own words. I've added some information at the beginning.

My Great Grandfather was born on 13th October 1859 and served on the 'Brae' as 1st mate. As far as anyone can remember he died before WW2, but seems to have been working as a seaman up to 1929, at least.
He seems to have been a little harsh on his men - if I was captured by the hun the first thing I'd do is get pissed on looted Cider and whip an accordian out!
Hope this is of interest and warrants some space on your site.

Thank you for all your work and kindness in sharing your Great Grandfather's Diary with AHOY. We will certainly add it to our site for the benefit of a wider audience at our URL:
It is a shame that similar material may be locked up somewhere and could be lost to posterity, but in your case you have ensured that your Great Grand Father's writings will be preserved. I am conscious that I am the first to read these notes outside your family and appreciate the privilige.

One of the necessities of life at sea, especially in times of war, is to maintain discipline, and I am sure that is why your Great Grand Father was upset with some crew members who got into the Cider and started to loot passengers' baggage.
Both Terry, my WebMaster, and myself, get immense pleasure from our work with AHOY, when out of the blue comes a message such as you sent when you made your initial contact with me. You then opened up a new window, adding colour and insight to something I have written about, and Terry has put up on our site. The bringing together of such material is a wonderful reward to us both, and sincere thanks to you Mark.
I wonder if a photograph of your Great Grand Father might be available please?
Best regards,
Mac. Gregory.

Diary of time spent as a POW on Kronprinz Wilhelm
14th Jan ’15 – 17th Feb ‘15

Samuel Robert Hitchin.
Born 13th October 1859.
1st Mate on “Highland Brae”

Thursday 14th Jany 1915

About 10 A.M. in lat 2o46'N Long 25o55' W.  Saw heavy smoke on the horizon to the S.E. which was found to be a cruiser approaching at high speed end on.  She was alongside about 10.30 and swung round on starboard helm showing himself to be a four funnel three masted auxilliary cruiser flying the German Naval Ensign, name now visible ‘Kronprinz Wilhelm’, he fired a gun across our bow, when we stopped our engines and he sent an armed boats crew on board with two officers who hauled down our Ensign and took charge and ordered us to steer East (true) cruiser following closely. Ordered us to swing out our boat ready for lowering which was commenced but the order was countermanded, the cruiser then left in chase of the 3 masted schooner Wilfred M. of Barbados. Took off her crew and destroyed her by ramming, by this time some of the crew had broken into the steward's store room and taken some cases of Champagne Cider, a number of them being under the influence of drink, the officer then placed a sentry at the store room door and several cases of cider were thrown overboard.  The Passenger’s and Emigrant’s baggage was now got on deck and on the Second Officer arriving at No 5 Shelter Deck he found that the Boatswain had just broken the lock, on baggage being finished the door was locked and the hatches battened down we were then informed that the cruiser would come alongside at 5 PM and take us off.  Xxxmen (MLH Note: Firemen?, Seamen?) were by this time more or less drunk and Engineers had difficulty in keeping the watch at their duties.  Quartermaster de Boer when ordered by the third officer to haul in the log refused saying he had finished.  All baggage was now ordered onto the starboard side of Prom Deck ready for transhipment and it was with difficulty that the seaman who now showed sign of drink could be got to take up the Passenger’s and Emigrant’s baggage.  Daley A.B was lying on bunker hatch utterly prostrated, crew were now playing Accordians and Mouth Organs and singing and boatswain collapsed Nielsen Quartermaster kept sobre and took the wheel when ordered, Carpenter Books and Stewards kept sobre and ameniable to discipline many of crew and passengers looting, at 5 PM cruiser came alongside and took off passenger’s, crew and baggage and we were all placed as prisoners aft in second class.  Allowed on deck in a screened off space by day and confined below at night with all ports closed and without lights together with crews of 'RMS Potaro' and schooner 'Wilfred M.'  Prize crew placed on board 'Brae' who followed.

Friday 15th Jany

A.M. Steering to the East 'Brae's' speed.  'Brae' following closely, crew painting mast and funnel grey. 11.0 A.M.  Assembled in dining room before Commander with crews of 'Potaro' and 'Wilfred M.' and signed parole. P.M. Steering South.

Saturday 16th Jany

Bugle 5 A.M. Stopped at day break.  Brae' still in company and a cargo steamer close on port side preparing No 3 and 4 hatches for discharging.  Names painted out. xxxmen (MLH: Note Seamen? Firemen? Bremen?) on stern found to be 'Holger' brought back crew of 'SS Hemisphere' which had been sunk after taking out her coal cargo.  Had been on a fortnights cruise, alongside about noon discharging stores into cruiser saw cases of milk marked Punta Arenas.  Left about 5 PM.  Cruising all night.  Once going at very high speed.


Sunday 17th Jany

Bugle early.  Stopped at day light. 'Brae' and 'Holger' alongside each other.  Putting some of 'Braes' lifeboats on board 'Holger'.  5 PM 'Brae' left for the night going slow and stopped.

Monday 18th Jany

'Brae' still in close company.  'Holger' alongside about 7 AM forward, bumping heavily at times could not see what doing, on request more deck chairs were sent from 'Brae'.  'Holger' left about 5 PM, going slow all night.

Tuesday 19th Jany

7 A.M 'Brae' alongside, transhiping cargo and stores 'Holger' out of sight, reappeared during afternoon.  'Brae' alongside all night, think working, cool below towards morning, received a pair of trousers which I had left in 'Brae' and had asked for. 

Wednesday 20th Jany

AM 'Brae' still alongside, discharging coals and stores all day.  Saw them disconnecting her wireless, on request received more deck chairs left at dusk.  Wine and water for supper.  Water being brackish.

Thursday 21st Jany

A.M.  Fine S.S.E breeze, cool, woke early and put on blanket, usual bugle calls, ‘Brae’ alongside early forward, discharging coal, sending down some of derrick spans and mast head blocks and transferring bedding.  Potatoes for dinner for the first time and apples.  Are always heading East so conclude we are in West setting current, ‘Brae’ left 5.30 PM. Engines just turning over all night.

Friday 22nd Jany

Fresh S.S.E breeze, cool in early morning ‘Brae’ alongside about 5-30.  Transhipping stores unxxxing (MLH Note unseering?) boats falls, lashing down boats and removing names, all side ports open, left 5 PM.  Cruiser washed decks in afternoon, going slow all night, very hot below.

Saturday 23rd Jany

AM. Moderate S.E. breeze, cloudy, warm, ‘Brae’ alongside about 5.30 a passenger threw an empty Emos bottle overboard which was observed and he was cautioned.  ‘Brae’ cast off about 10.30 AM. steaming in company about S.S.W. (true) by the sun, going about ‘Braes’ full speed, painting her outside work grey, learned from our 3rd Engineer that when Engine Room staff relieve him, they informed him that we were 48 hours late and had had bad weather in bay, omitting to call at Loruna (MLH: L might be B), proceeding in company with ‘Brae’ all night.

Sunday 24th Jany

Very fine this morning, no bugle, ‘Brae’ still in company on port quarter.  Kronprinz washed decks and usual duties, crew baling rain water out of boats for washing purposes, steaming at moderate speed all night.

Monday 25th Jany

AM. Moderate S.S.E wind and cloudy.  ‘Brae’ in company astern, at noon appeared to be a little North of the sun.

Tuesday 26th Jany

AM. Moderate S.S.E wind and cloudy, ‘Brae’ still in company on port quarter, very little North of sun at noon, day uneventful.

Wednesday 27th Jany

AM. Fresh  S.S.E. wind, ‘Brae’ still in company port quarter going about 10, Kaisers birthday muster of crew and address by commander, no sun at noon, light showers.

Thursday 28th Jany

AM. Cloudy and showery, ‘Brae’ and ‘Holger’ in company, stopped about 8 AM, dodging about all day.  PM. Lost ‘Holger’, steering well to N.W, sun set about 3 points on port bow.

Friday 29th Jany

AM. Very fine, sunrise about 5.20.  Bugle calls, turned to Nd and stopped.  Brae alongside and ‘Potaro’ in company all day, taking coal out of ‘Brae’ also hatches ale and wine cables (cargo) ‘Brae’ left 6 PM steering to the S.W. at moderate speed all night.

Saturday 30th Jany

‘Brae’ and ‘Potaro’ in close company at daylight, stopped  6 AM.  ‘Brae’ alongside, sent down ariel smashed all glass ports, knocked holes in boats buoyancy tanks, about 6 PM ‘Brae’ still alongside appeared to be sinking, taking heavy list to starboard.  Backed full astern clear, keeping them ahead.  Could see nothing, were sent below for the night, dodging about for some hours.  Afterwards proceeding, cigars appear plentiful.

Sunday 31st Jany

Up before sunrise, moon setting a point and a half on starboard bow, steering to westward at 9 or 10 knots, an uneventful day.

Monday 1st Feby

AM. Fresh Northerly wind and fine, steering about W.N.W. and PM North, uneventful.

Tuesday 2nd Feby

About 5 AM steered to Ed passed sailing ship breakfast time, during forenoon speed increased to about 16.  PM Steering S.S.E sent below while crew at fire drill, trouble with donkey man of ‘Hemisphere’ who is continually in conversation with sentries and was overheard by Miss Reid passenger to tell one of them in German that German women were being ill treated in England, was remonstrated with by his Capt.   Later by Commander’s address Capt mustered their respective crews and made them promise not to interfere with him.  Sunset still steering to the S.S.E.  Officers carrying revolvers for the first time on going rounds.

Wednesday 3rd Feby

AM.  Steering to the S.S.E., 8.0 and sighted ‘Potaro’ alongside at 10.  Had put up two additional ariel wires, taking coals and water from her. ‘Hoger’ also sighted.  ‘Potaro’ left 5.30 PM, steered to the Ed in chase of the Norwegian 4 masted barque ‘Samantha’ Portland Oregon to Falmouth for orders wheat laden.  Captured 8 PM.  Crew brought on board, fired 12 to 16 shots at her at about 150 yards, watching through my port which was stopped and 1 prisoner arrested for so doing, ship disappeared on other side later last sight of her, proceeded some time in early morning.  Barques Capt gives his noon Lat 26 ½ S Long 27 0 W

Thursday 4th Feby

AM. Steering S.S.W.  One German among Barques crew taken into service.  'Potaro' alongside at noon discharging coal and stores. Left 5.30 PM. Stopped all night.

Friday 5th Feby

AM. Light airs and fine, very warm below opened up early 6.15 AM.  ‘Potaro’ alongside discharging coal and stores, smashed all glass ports, took down ariel, working throughout the night, very close.

Saturday 6th Feby

‘Potaro’ left about 3.00 AM.  Proceeded west about 9 knots.

Sunday 7th Feby

Steering to westward. 5 PM (MLH Note could be 3,5 or 8)  Spoke an Italian Barque and exchanged signals.

Monday 8th Feby

Northerly wind very fine steering S.S.W 4 PM increased speed considerably, steering W.S.W 

Tuesday 9th Feby

4 AM Speed reduced to about 9 knots, steering South, muster of crew, signalling practice.

Wednesday 10th Feby

AM Westerly wind cool and fine, steering South about 9 knots, baggage searched, ‘souvenirs’ of ‘Brae’ taken away.   Holger alongside after supper.  Blowing from S.W. during the night.  ‘Holger’ had to cast off.

Thursday 11th Feby

AM.  Strong Southerly wind and rough sea, dodging slow to Ed ‘Holger’ in close company awaiting an opportunity to transfer prisoners.

Friday 12th Feby

AM. Wind and sea moderating, 9.30 A.M. ‘Holger’ alongside bumping heavily, transferring baggage stores X (MLH Note: till?) 3.30 PM.  Transferred to Holger, two dagos on bridge in private clothes wonder who they were, first gangway smashed as soon as put out, used ‘Holgers’ accommodation ladder turned upside down, Commander addressed Passengers apologising for inferior accommodation on ‘Holger’ but begged their pardon and hoped they would get safe on shore, found that much pains had been taken for our comfort, Poop fitted out one compartment for married people and ladys, one for Capts and another for Officers and Gentlemen Passengers.  Crew berthed in No 4 Tween Deck.  ‘ ‘Brae’s' fittings used, Capt introduced to Capt of ‘Holger’ who apologised for lack of accommodation, rather theatrical farewell to Cruiser flags hoisted and band played Der Wacht am Rheim and Deutshland Uber Alle, might have spared us that.  Speech by Commander through megaphone, some one called for three cheers for Kronprinz.  Commander and crew which might have been left out and was not universally responded to.  Proceeding to W.N.W Kronprinz following in distance, tea al fresco ascramble.
Saturday 13th Feby

AM.  fine, warm, steering to W.N.W spread awnings for us and partitioned off crew deck space.  Kronprinz out of sight before dark, should say we are not doing light knots.

Sunday 14th Feby

Northerly wind dull and cloudy, freshening towards noon and taking off towards sunset steering about W.N.W.  but hauling up for leeway.  PM. Swung for Azimuths.

Monday 15th Feby

Fresh Nd wind dull and cloudy, damp, sighted steamer in afternoon steering to N.E. foggy at times all hoping that we may be caught before reaching neutral waters, rumours of ship having turned round in a hurry during the night.

Tuesday 16th Feby

9.35 AM. Received pilot at Recalada, and arrived North Darsena 3.30 PM.  Some of Companys people down not allowed on board, moored for the night stern on, no landing tonight.

Wednesday 17th Feby

7 AM. Unmoored and proceeded to No 4 Dock moored stern on again. 8.00 PM. Landed no baggage and taken good care of by Companys people, instructed to land baggage at 8 AM. tomorrow, a nice meal and good bed.

Thanks for your interest!

My parents have a photo of my great Grandfather in his uniform. That's a little tricky to get hold of in the short term but when I'm next up with my parents I will scan it an send it to you.

I also have a newspaper article from the 'Daily Sketch' with some pics of unnamed crew and passengers on the Kronprinz and all the Ships involved which I will scan in and let you have when I get round to it.

I am very pleased his diary will be preserved. He took the trouble to note all this down at the time presumably both for his own memory and so future generations would benifit from the 'colour and insight' you describe. I guess he would have been pleased and suprised to know that the internet was to come into existance and allow anyone searching for information on the ships involved in this incident of 'Kronprinz Wilhelm' to see his account.

Thanks again for your interest.



That is great, we will be delighted to add a photo of your great Grandfather, and any other detrails you may care to share with Terry and myself.

Thanks again.


I've attached a picture of my Great Grandfather (Feel free to crop or leave un-cropped as you wish) and a page from the Daily Sketch from 22nd March '15 which features these events.
Some words in the article have been crossed through by my Great Grandfather. The words 'the last' have been crossed through in 'the last of the German raiders'; also under the picture of the Kronpriz he's crossed out the text that indicates one of the four funnels is a dummy.
Many thanks for your interest.
While we're on the subject My grandfather (Samual Robert's son) was sunk in the Med on a troop ship on the way to North Africa in late '42 / early '43.
He was picked up by HMS Verity.
Is there a way of tracing the ship from the shipping side or is the regimental diary the best starting point?
Thanks again,

Thank you, we will add the picture of your Great Grandfather, plus his cutting from the Daily Sketch.

He was obviously on the ball, knowing that the German ship that sank him was certainly not the last of the Raiders in WW1, and the fact that the illustration showed she carried a false fourth funnel. As a Merchant Navy Officer in time of war he no doubt developed a keen eye, which he was putting to good use in these cases.

We are delighted to have these extra details which so often are vital to personalise an otherwise quite sterile description of a specific action in which one more Allied Merchant ship is despatched by an Armed German Raider.
The personal accounts of WW2 are now becoming more rare, as the participants die off, so it is so much more important to document WW1 actions such as the one in which your Great Grandfather was so involved in back in 1915.
Terry and I, as well as our many visitors to AHOY, are beholden to you, thank you again Mark.
I have responded to you separately about the sinking of the troopship and the involvement of HMS Verity in the rescue of your Great Grandad's son.

The troopship that you refer to was Strathellan, and here is the story briefly, with HMS Verity rescuing some survivors.

Hope this helps you.
Best Regrads,

I don't have much doubt! I trust written record over human memory every time. How many times do we watch a film we think we know well and find we've mis remembered dialog? After 60 years I imagine my Grandfather's 'memories' will have been a combination of fact & things he's seen, heard at reunions or elaborated over 60 years. My memory of what he said, mostly from childhood, will be very dubious as well!
If Strathallan was the only troopship sunk in lateish 42 / earlyish 43 it must have been her.
I really appreciate the effort you've gone to here.


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