Marauders of the Sea, German Armed Merchant Ships During W.W. 2

Pinguin

Pinguin (Ship 33)
Formerly the 7,766 ton "Kandelfels," "Pinguin" was rated at a speed of 18 knots, and was fitted with the usual Raider armament.( it had been removed from the old battleship "Schiesien.) In summary, she was second only to "Atlantis" as the most successful, captured or sank more ships than any other Raider, her tally 28 ships, to total 136,551 tons, all achieved in less than a year, from the 22nd. of June, 1940 to the 8th. of May, 1941.

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"Atlantis" only beat her in the tonnage sunk stakes by a mere 5,000 tons. "Pinguin" became the first German Armed Merchant Raider to be sunk, but that is to pre empt her story.

The Captain, Felix Kruder, joined the Navy in 1915, unusually, having been promoted from the lower deck, he was 43. 300 mines were placed on board, to be laid on the West coast of India, and off Australia. By the 9th. of June, trials were complete, she was to operate off the Australian coast, and, from December to March 1941 to harry Allied Whaling fleets in Antarctica.

Life started as the Russian "Patschura," bad weather assisting her initial break Out attempt, although the high percentage of day light during mid summer was not helpful. By the 1st. of July, "Pinguin" was away, the French Armistice, and withdrawal of their Navy, placed an extra burden on the Royal Navy- its main efforts being given to the Battle of the Atlantic, and ensuring "safe and timely arrivals" of vital convoys.

Further distractions for the Royal Navy were coping with the French Navy at Oran and at Dakar, on the West coast of Muca. At that time I was serving as a Midshipman, in H.M.A.S."Australia" a County Class 8 inch Cruiser, we were in U.K. waters, and eventually were at Dakar, on two occasions.

 

H.M.A.S. Australia

H.M.A.S. Australia.

"Pinguin" was now the Greek ship "Kassos," and, on the 17th. of July, met the German Submarine UA, she had stores, fuel and torpedoes for this Submarine. Rough weather hindered this transfer, and to conserve fuel, UA, was towed Southward until level with Freetown.

The last day of July found "Pinguin" chasing her first victim, the British "Domingo de Larrinage" of 5,358 tons. The alarm had been given, but the Raider closed to 2.5 miles, and set her alight by accurate gunfire. The crew used 3 boats to evacuate their ship, she had been carrying 7,500 tons of grain, the boarding party uncovered 4 men, dead on deck.

The Cape was rounded, and on the 19th. of August, Kruder commented in his diary, on the British changing their Merchant Navy Code:

"Up to now we have had an almost complete picture of wireless traffic between ships, which was very helpful in judging the situation in the South Atlantic. But this state of affairs has now ended, a fact that is regrettable because such a picture would have been a great help when the ship entered the new operations area East of the Cape of Good Hope. It is hoped that the B-Service will soon succeed in breaking the new Code, and letting us know ~ " Kruder was worrying unnecessarily, his own Communications Officer, Lieutenant Brunke achieved this task for his Captain, and, no doubt gained his approbation.

This comment above from Kruder, highlights the importance of the radio, and of radio traffic to a Raider, all alone, ploughing a lonely path across the oceans. It was really the only link they had with SKL and home, it was the medium for good news, eg, awards of the Iron Cross to crew members, promotion for the Captain, orders to meet with a Tanker, a blockade runner, a fellow Raider, intelligence about enemy shipping, the whereabouts of enemy Warships, the best order of all, "COME HOME'."

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The radio could also administer an admonishment to a Raider's Captain for some action that was not approved of by Control. It was thus, both a powerful tool, but also a weapon in the hands of those back in Berlin, sometimes remaining silent just when the Raider felt it needed a response.

The ship steered towards Madagascar, sending up its seaplane on the 26th. of August, it was wearing British markings, and it found a Tanker, not carrying any visible nationality identity. A message was dropped telling the Tanker to "alter course," and not to use its radio, as a German Raider was close by, it obeyed. Of course this ruse was designed to bring the Tanker straight to "Pinguin." However, by 1700 ( 5PM) there was no sign of this mystery Tanker, and intercepted signals showed she did not follow these instructions, and was trying to make good her escape

The seaplane was again sent up to find her, and did so at 1748 ( 5:48PM) The ship's aerials were torn away, and "stop at once" sent in English, fire was opened using cannon and machine gun fire on the bridge and over her bows. The Tanker stopped - the seaplane now landed alongside, and taxied towards her, signalling "remain stopped here, Cruiser "Cumberland" will go with you" then followed up with "Show your lights."

At 1826 (6.26PM) guided by the ship's lights, "Pinguin" now came into view, and the aircraft now radioed" We are both stopped lying here. Hi Hi." A prize crew was soon aboard the Norwegian "Filejell"- 7,616 tons carrying 10,000 tons of petrol plus 500 tons of oil from the Persian Gulf to Capetown, and was under charter to the British Government, and, unarmed.

The next day, at 0300 ( 3AM ) whilst still close by the Norwegian vessel, a blacked out ship appeared, "Pinguin" raced off to intercept, and after half an hour found a second Tanker, at 0418 (4.18 AM) she was ordered to stop. This ship immediately radioed "QQQ and her position, stopped by unknown ship, "British Commander." "Pinguin" opened fire, and the Tanker responded on her radio "Now vessel shelling us." Walvis Bay, repeated the message and SKL also read it, and now knew that "Pinguin" was at work.

"British Commander" in ballast was finished off by gunfire and a torpedo, her crew abandoning her, but before she sank a third vessel came into sight, also in ballast. A warning shot stopped her, and she hoisted a Norwegian flag, her crew came aboard the Raider. This turned out to be "Morviken" of 5,008 tons, from Capetown to Calcutta.

Kruder had indeed been busy, a fourth ship was approaching, but given the alarm raised by "British Commander," this new customer was left to sail on "Fileijell," was stripped of all her fresh provisions, and then sunk.

The British set out to track down this new problem for them in the Western end of the Indian Ocean, searching aircraft came close to "Pinguin" who had now moved 200 miles away from her recent triumph, but she was not found.

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Discussions with the Captain of "Morviken" elicited the information that, at first, the Norwegian had taken him for a Wilhelmsen Line ship, but became suspicious when he observed a Greek flag they flew, he commented;- "The Greeks have few good ships, and those good ships are not here in the East."

Immediately "Pinguin" was changed to be "Trafalgar"- a Wilhelmsen Line ship, and then stayed in this area. Later SKL was critical of Kruder, indicating he should have left this area after sinking "British Commander," it was but his approach area, and, as "Atlantis' was only 100 miles away, his presence was an embarassment to her.

The seaplane became inoperational on the 5th. of September, a heavy swell causing a broken engine bed, putting to an end any flirther "Aerial snatching" for the moment. Kruder decided on one more foray close to Madagascar and on the 10th. of September, sighted smoke, he caught up, opened fire, ordering this ship to stop, it responded by using its stern gun hitting "Pinguin" but the shell did not explode.

"Benavon"- 5,872 tons, carrying hemp and rubber was shelled, and abandoned, her Captain and a number of Officers were killed in the action, from her crew of 49, her survivors only numbered 28. Kruder told SKL, he was, at last, on his way to Australia.

On the 16th. of September, he stopped, without the need to fire a single shot, the Norwegian, 4,111 ton, "Nordvard" carrying Australian wheat to Port Elizabeth, he decided to send this prize off to Germany, including the 300 prisoners he had onboard.

Kruder was contemplating how he might approach the use of mines carried, and how they might be laid around the Australian coast, he reasoned that after mines were laid at a specific port, and they were discovered, all ports along that coast would probably be swept for suspected mines. But, if he used mines that did not become active, for say, 48 hours, he would then have time to mine a port, quickly move on, and mine another before the first nest of mines were found.

If two ships could work in concert, laying mines, it would be even more efficient and potentially deadlier. The next captured ship, if suitable, would have a new role, that of an Auxiliary Minelayer. He wanted to start this venture off Newcastle, North of Sydney, on the Last coast of Australia- on the 27th. of September, it was calm enough to break out the spare aircraft from the lower hangar, and put it all together.

On the 7th. of October, whilst moving North East towards Java, a ship came in sight, obviously exiting from the Sunda Strait area, and making for Australia. A flag signal and warning shot soon stopped "Storstad" a Norwegian Tanker. "Pinguin" and her Captain seemed very partial to ships emanating from Norway, and came across them often.

She was just under 9,000 tons, and carried the wonderfiil cargo of 12,000 tons of diesel oil, and 500 tons of coal from North Borneo, bound for Adelaide and Melbourne. The Raider immediately topped up her own tanks with 1,200 tons from the Tanker, Kruder renamed this ship "Passat," which in German meant "Trade Wind," he had found his Auxiliary Minelayer.

In company, the ships moved Southwards of Australia, Kruder was to mine Newcastle and Hobart, and "Passat" sat her deadly load at both ends of Bass Strait, that stretch of water, dividing the Australian mainland from the Island of Tasmania.

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By the 28th. of October, "Pinguin" was ready to lay, and 40 mines were sown between Newcastle and Sydney, and then another 40 off Hobart. Kruder now went off to Spencer Gulf to lay mines in the approaches of the port serving Adelaide.

By the 8th. of November, "Passat's" work was crowned by success. Australian radio indicated that a British freighter had been struck by a mine at the Eastern end of Bass Strait, and the American "City of Rayville," suffered the same fate. She, in fact, became the first American ship to be lost in WW2.

After being 5 months at sea, work was needed on "Pinguin's" engines, she stopped, and, whilst undertaking repairs on the evening of the 17th. of November, smoke was sighted, one engine was restarted, then the second, as the ship was followed. She stopped under the glare of "Pinguin's" search light. It was the 7,290 ton, British "Nowshera" with 4,000 tons of zinc ore, 2,000 tons of wool, and 3,000 tons of wheat ex Adelaide, for Dublin and UK. She carried an enormous crew of 113, mostly Indians. They all had to be squeezed into the Raider's already crowded holds. 8 hours was spent, removing stores, mostly rice for the Indian prisoners- she was then scuttled.

More smoke on the 20th. the 'Maimoa" was followed and attacked by the seaplane, but the ship kept on steaming, the aircraft indicated that it had to land. Kruder did not want to interupt his pursuit, just to stop and recover his aircraft, so he lowered a cutter, leaving it behind to cope with the seaplane, in case it was some considerable before he could return.

Meanwhile "Storstad" who had now reverted to her original name after being Passat" for a time, indicated another ship was in sight about 9 miles distant. Kruder kept on after "Maimoa." he caught her, and the crew of 87 taken on board, and then she was scuttled.

She proved to be a refrigerator ship, 10, 123 tons, her cargo, 5000 tons of frozen meat, 1,500 tons of buffer and lard, 17,000 boxes of eggs, and 1,500 tons of grain- bound for Durban, ex Fremantle. The aircraft and cutter were recovered in the dark.

The vessel seen by" Storstad" was also heading for Africa, she was overtaken at night, stopped, set alight, abandoned, from a crew of 89, 60 men and 1 woman were rescued.

This ship, "Port of Brisbane" 8,739 tons, also had 5,000 tons of meat, butter, cheese, and 3,000 tons of wool bound for UK. She too, was scuttled, needing a torpedo to finish her off. Kruder was now told on the 24th. of November, to move his operations to the Antarctic. He was to search from East to West for the Whaling fleets, reporting again at the end of January, perhaps, then to move his operations to India's West coast, to harry commerce, and lay mines. "Pinguin" was now given an all over coat of black paint.

On the 3Oth. of November, after an alert from "Storstad," a ship was followed, and attacked at 2230 ( 10.3OPM) that night, hitting radio equipment, and her steering gear, with the first salvo. It was Port Wellington," a sister to "Port of Brisbane" 8,301 tonnage, stuffed flill of meat, cheese, eggs, butter, steel, wool, and wheat, all bound for UK.

82 men and 7 women were transferred, and the ship regretfully scuttled, some of the food cargo would have been most welcome aboard the Raider."Pinguin's" slate, now read :-" 11 ships sunk, onboard, 405 Prisoners."

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As the high level of prisoners on board gave him many headaches, Kruder, now decided to ship all prisoners back to Germany in "Storstad." She topped up "Atlantis" on her way, gave 6.500 tons of diesel oil to the Tanker 'Nordmark," and reached the safety of Gironde, on the 4th. of February. This ship had been a wonderful capture. She had proved a useftil auxiliary, as a minelayer, was a milch cow with her oil, a prison ship, and now wasback in Europe, ready to again be employed.

By the 17th. of December, "Pinguin" had entered the Antarctic. She had now sailed in both the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. Christmas eve, found the Raider reading traffic emanating from members of the Anglo-Norwegian Whaling fleet. Kruder also learned he had been awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Just after Christmas Day, the seaplane had to make a forced landing, a 3 hour, full speed, rescue dash had to be performed by "Pinguin" to recover it. By the New Year of 1944, "Pinguin' had placed herself in position North of the Whaling Ships between them and any escape route to the open sea. Two groups were operating, "Ole Wegger" with 6 catchers, under the lee of the ice, and "Pelagos" and 7 catchers exposed to bad weather. Radio/Telephone chatter between these two distinct Whaling groups. indicated they felt themselves to be far removed from any war and its attendant risks.

On the 3rd. of January, these two Mother ships discussed the fact that the Tanker was now 2 weeks overdue, and "Pelagos" was almost out of oil, but "Ole Wegger" still retained fuel oil, but her Whale oil tanks were practically full, and no further whales could be processed. It was decided to give oil to "Pelagos" and to fill her Whale oil tank ~ from "Ole Wegger," preparing her to be ready to go home. The Tanker's Company in New York was contacted by radio, to learn that their ship would still be delayed another 14 days.

On the 6th. of January, the Germans, reading all the local radio traffic, learned that "Thorshammer" (another Mother ship ) was 400 miles South West of the "Ole Wegger." One of her catchers wanted to send one last letter by "Solglint," from this traffic, it was deduced that "Solglint" was a Norwegian 12,000 ton, Whale oil transport, and she would visit "Thorshammer," "Ole Wegger," and finally "Pelagos."

"Pinguin' made tracks for "Ole Wegger" and bad weather intervened, whales previously captured and flagged, were reported lost, prior to being towed for processing. The weather improved, and Kruder waited patiently, he had decided to attack the two large ships as they were alongside one another. By the 13th. of January, "Solglint" and "Ole Wegger" were secured beside each other.

Slowly "Penguin" made her approach, out of the West late at night - a sudden snow squall shut out all visibility- when it cleared, Kruder found himself slap on top of his intended victims.

He now ordered both ships not to use radio, he kept his guns silent, so that the catchers were not alerted to the impending action. He wanted to sneak up, and grab the lot. Two boats with prize crews were sent on their way.

At a crucial time, the engineroom reported that a cylinder cover had cracked, putting one motor out of commission, frenzied repairs were put in train, the prize crews flashed the heartening news:

"Ships in our hands."

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"Ole Wegger" was 12,201 tons-on board, 5,500 tons of fliel, 7,000 tons of whale oil, her crew of 190 had stores to last another 10 weeks, "Solglint," almost the same size, still carried 4,000 tons of tuel, 4,000 tons of whale oil, a crew of 60, and accommodation for a further 300. Four whale catchers, each 300 tons, were captured close by- a quite magnificent haul.

Unfortunately, 3 catchers escaped, and Kruder hoped they could not alert "Thorshammer,"- he sent off a signal to them, to continue their whaling efforts, and said :

"The German Reich will pay for all your whales." But, then, who would believe him?

"Pelagos" had still to be caught, meantime, she could still be heard, in vain, trying to reach "Solglint" and "Ole Wegger" by radio. By dusk at 2209 (10.29PM) lights were sighted- an ice field was in the path of "Pinguin" and her prey. All remained quiet, white light illuminating a busy scene of a factory ship attending to the bounty from 5 catchers alongside her.

Right on midnight, "Pinguin" arrived, prize crews in boats were lowered, within minutes, all ships were under German control, this new capture, also a 12,000 ton vessel, 800 tons of luel still left, and her whaling oil tanks crammed full - 9,500 tons, a crew of 2lO, again, with sufficient provisions for 10 more weeks. In all, 7 catchers, each 250/300 tons had been acquired. Kruder thought what a valuable Anti-Submarine craft they would make, if only they could be sailed back to Europe.

In 2 days, "Pinguin" her Captain, her crew, had performed miracles, the most successful operation by any German Raider, throughout the war.

36,000 tons of ships, 20,000 tons of catchers, made up by 11 of them, 20,000 tons of whale oil, and 10,000 tons of fuel oil. Still not satisfied, Kruder still wanted "Thorshammer," but she never arrived, no doubt told to keep clear by the escaped catchers.

Now, the Captain of "Pinguin" was faced with the decision:- "What to do with all these prizes?" "Ole Wegger" was very obviously a factory ship, and would have little chance of running the blockade to reach a French held port. Her oil was transferred to "Solglint"- so that she might shepherd the catchers back home. The two larger ships had enough oil to take them from Antarctic waters to their Northern counterpart, and thence on to Europe.

SKL told Kruder to escort "Ole Wegger" and her catchers to meet "Nordmark," in the Andalusia area, this was West of the Cape in the South Atlantic, and then to return to the Indian Ocean, it was a long journey, but then, most of a Raider's life was spent covering long distances around the world's oceans "Nordmark," was met, still towing "Duquesa" who was consuming her own booms, and wooden decks in the furnace, to maintain the refrigeration plant in operation.

The prizes were all sent home, but one catcher, Poll X, was renamed "Adjutant," (we have seen her in operation earlier.) was converted into an Auxiliary Minelayer, and retained. "Pinguin," took on stores from "Duquesa," eggs, cows, 410 sheep, oxtails,( an unlikely item, one would think for a Raider, perhaps Kruder was partial to Ox tail soup.) They met "Alstertor,"on the 18th. of February, took on another aircraft, and sailed to Kerguelen Island, staying from the 12th. to the 25th. of March.

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Whilst there, the new aircraft was assembled from all the parts taken on board, and the ship's holds were in dire need of a good clean out, and this task was achieved. Kruder now sailed his ship off to area Siberia, deep in the middle and Southern segment of the Indian Ocean. It had been planned to meet "Ketty Broevig," but she had been scuttled to avoid capture.

 

German Supply ship "Coburg" set on fire by gunfire from H.M.A.S. "Canberra" and subsequently scuttled. 4th. of March , 1941

German Supply ship "Coburg" set on fire by gunfire from H.M.A.S. "Canberra" and subsequently scuttled. 4th. of March , 1941

On the 4th. of March, 1941, she had been alongside the German supply ship, "Coburg," receiving fresh water. They were in the North Western corner of the Indian Ocean, when discovered by the Walrus aircraft from H.M.A.S."Canberra." The ships had quickly separated, "Coburg," going North, and the Tanker South. "Canberra" went after "Coburg," and the Walrus, trying to slow down "Ketty Broevig," dropped 4 bombs, the last two falling close by, in the ship's wake. She stopped, and as indicated earlier, scuttled.

"Canberra," keeping her distance, at about 9.5 miles, set "Coburg" alight with her main armament gunfire, she, also set off scuttling charges, and subsequently sank. It was Capain Farncomb's belief, that "Coburg," was, in fact, a Raider, his Walrus had so described the ship on its first sighting from the air. He stayed well clear to avoid any possible use of torpedoes against his ship, a very prudent action, one would have thought.

Some 215, 8 inch shells had been used, this drew some comment after his report of proceeding arrived at Navy Office, and C in C East Indies, also put in "his two bob's worth." In general, it was thought that if Farncomb had gone closer, he would have identified "Coburg" much earlier, and saved a lot of expensive 8 inch shells.

At that time, Captain Burnett, was Deputy Chief of Staff; at Navy Office, he had seen, and appended his initials to the correspondence about "Canberra" and her Captain's actions, and knew what Board members had thought and said. He then went off to take command of H.M.A.S."Sydney," and was faced with the same sort of situation when meeting "Kormoran." "Did prior knowledge have any bearing on his actions, on that occasion? Of Course we will never know."

"Pinguin," now met "Ole Jacob," at the rendezvous.

It was becoming tougher for Raiders to operate, the loss of 'Ketty Broevig," plus other ships in the supply chain, was one factor- but, in the main, independent sailings close to British bases had been stopped. Targets were harder to locate, and the British had stepped up their search coverage using flying boats out of Mauritius, Seychelles, and Diego Garcia- radio directional finding equipment had been widely distributed, and fitted. More Royal Navy Cruisers had been given the Indian Ocean, as their beat.

 

Kitty Broevig" Norwegian Tanker, captured by "Atlantis." Found by Walrus aircraft from H.M.AQ.S. "Canberra." Bombed and scuttled, 4th. of March, 1941

"Kitty Broevig" Norwegian Tanker, captured by "Atlantis."
Found by Walrus aircraft from H.M.AQ.S. "Canberra." Bombed and scuttled, 4th. of March, 1941

Kruder thought he might need to swoop into an area, grab a few prizes, then, quickly vacate the scene, thus disrupting trade, and enticing enemy Cruisers, on a search mission into the arena just left. "Adjutant," (the former whale catcher) working North of "Pinguin," on the 24th. of April, reported a ship, about 6-8,000 tons, steaming at 11 knots but, 10 hours later the Raider had still not caught up, and, it was early the next day before she arrived- the enemy's radio aerials were soon shot away, and 3 salvoes were enough, the 70 crew members being taken on board. The 8,000 ton "Empire Light," proceeding from Madras to Durban, had ore and hides as her cargo. When shelled, her rudder was put out of action, and she quickly scuttled.

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"Pinguin," and her smaller auxiliary, continued to co operate- and four days later, as evening approached, the seaplane, found a ship, off raced the Raider, and after 5 hours another vessel came into sight, she needed to be chased all night, before Pinguin," could bring her under fire at first light, quickly destroying her radio, and steering gear, at a range of 5,000 yards.

The ship stopped, was abandoned, the 110 people aboard "Clan Buchanan," all saved, she had been carrying Army and Airforce equipment, from the US for Madras. Scuttling was carried out, and valuable intelligence gathered - floating in the water was a container which had failed to sink.It had cyphers, the war diary of H.M. S."Hawkins,"- plus details of ships lost to mines off Newcastle, from the field layed by Pinguin."

"Adjutant," was sent ahead to the rendezvous in area Siberia, as the Raider wanted to get hold of a Tanker to use for minelaying. She made for the Persian Gulf, and, on the 7th. of May, found the Tanker, "British Emperor." She was not able to be taken intact, and although enveloped with flames, continued to churn out distress signals until she finally sank. Roskill, in Volume 1 of his Official British History, "The War at Sea." made this comment:

"For the first time, one of the many Raider reports wirelessed by attacked Merchant vessels at imminent peril to themselves was to bring the retribution for which they called."

H.M.S. "Cornwall," the British County class 8 inch gun Cruiser, read "British Emperor's" distress signals- her Captain, quickly assessed the best place to look for this attacker, and her seaplane was soon catapulted to search the area. Before long it found "Pinguin." It was the 8th. of May, 1941, and "Pinguin" was trying to be mistaken for the Norwegian "Tamerlane," "Cornwall's" Captain Mainwaring, shared doubts, like his counterpart Captain Oliver in "Devonshire" did, on sighting "Atlantis'- both unsure that the ship in their gun sights was friendly, or an enemy Raider.

"Pinguin" kept up the charade, sending out her own Raider reports, claiming them to emanate from "Tamerlane." All day, "Cornwall" and her seaplane remained in touch, and, at 1715 ( 5.1 5PM ) the Cruiser ran in close to "Pinguin"- for Kruder, he knew:

"It was now time to fight."

Without delay, he opened fire with his 5.9 inch guns, one round hit the Cruiser, putting her steering gear temporarily out of action, but soon "Cornwall's" fire power fell on his target, and at 1726 ( 5.26PM) the Raider blew up, 22 British or Indian prisoners, and 60 Germans survived. The method used by "Cornwall" drew adverse comment from the British Admiralty. This time it was pertinent comment, as "Sydney" found to her detriment when engaging "Kormoran" later that same year.

Surely, Captain Farncomb's prudence was vindicated, but it seems a Cruiser Captain was damned if he closed a suspect ship to closely investigate its identity, and again damned if he stood off in safety,

"How very easy for any shore authority, to sit in judgement, from a great distance, and of course in complete safety."

Kruder had proved to be an efficient, most innovative Captain, but he went down with his ship, in company with most of his crew.


Update from
http://www.theage.com.au/ 1 April 2009 Wreck of City of Rayville found.

Sonar science uncovers grim wartime secret
Researchers have discovered the City of Rayville, a casualty of a German mine in 1940, writes Bridie Smith.


City of Rayville

RESEARCHERS have discovered the rusty wreck of the City of Rayvillethe first US vessel lost during World War II - almost 69 years after it sank off the coast of Cape Otway.

Destroyed by a German mine on November 8, 1940, the exact resting place of the ship - which was heading via Melbourne to New York with its cargo oflead, wool and copper had remained a mystery.

However, Deakin University researchers led by Daniel Ierodiaconou used multi-beam sonar imagery and remotely operated video equipment to locate . the Wreck about 14 kilometres south of Cape Otway Lighthouse and recorded the first detailed images of the ship in its watery grave, 70 metres below the surface.

Dr Ierodiaconou said that although two sets of approximate co-ordinates for the wreck were established in ZOOZ, sitting about 600 metres apart, the exact location had not been confirmed.

"We weren't sure at first if it was a reef structure or a wreck at first ... but when we towed a camera over it, it was clear," he said.

While the stars and stripes painted on both sides of its hull have long faded, the 6000- tonne vessel's outline is clear in the colour video footage.

Using information gathered by sonar equipment, scientists created a 3D profIle of the wreck and surrounding sea floor, which revealed' the City of Rayville was sitting upright on its keel, although listing slightly. Damage to the vessel from. the mine's explosion is evident by the missing hatch cover near the stern.

Heritage Victoria maritime archaeologist Cassandra Philippou said the wreck, which is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and the National Historic Shipwrecks Database, was historically important and confirming the wreck's location would allow authorities to monitor and manage the site.
 
She said ofthe 700-oddshipwrecks off Victoria's coast, only about a third had been located.

The Germans laid 100 mines in Bass Strait using the tanker Passat. The City of Rayville became the second ship destroyed in Z4 hours, after the British steamer SS Cambridge hit a mine off Wilsons Promontory.

"Most people now don't realise that we had mines off our coast, off Cape Otway near Lorne," Dr 1erodiaconou said.

But it was big news at the time. A story on the front page of The Age on November 11, 1940 - just below news of the death of former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain - reported that Bass Strait had been closed to shipping while the navy swept the "mine field in Bass Strait". Several mines were located as a result, the report said.

Of the Rayville's 38 crew, only one sailor died - the first death of la US merchant seaman in World War 11. The rest of the crew were rescued after the Cape Otway lightkeeper witnessed the night-time explosion and alerted the Apollo Bay rescue service, which dispatched three rescue boats. All 38 crew were found in lifeboats, out one man returned to the boat in search of personal items and drowned.

The wreck was located while' Dr Ierodiaconou and a team of 30 researchers were mapping Victoria's underwater landscape. Working up to three nautical miles from the coast, the researchers have so far mapped about 1Z per cent of the state's coastline.

"We have found the most incredible sponge gardens which rival the Great Barrier Reef in terms of colour and complexity," he said. "We've got these incredible habitats at our doorstep."

Also mapped are underwater features including volcanoes, river systems and laval flows that began near Mt Eccles in the state's west.

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