Marauders of the Sea, German Armed Merchant Ships During W.W. 2
Togo (Ship 14)
In January of 1943, he was finally given a sea command, Captain of this last Raider. "Togo," or Ship 14, of 5,600 tons, a former Deutche Africa Line ship, capable of 17 knots, Donitz was about to take over command of the Navy from Raeder, who threw this last die, but was none too confident of its success.
"Togo," set out from the Baltic to Christiansand Norway, to complete her working up programme, to clear the shallow swept channel through the coastal minefields, a high tide was necessary. She set a Northerly course, to make it look as if she was taking a conventional route via the Denmark Strait into the Atlantic.
With the onset of nightfall, she turned 180 degrees to head South, but quickly ran into a strong Storm in Heligoland Bight, and shelter was sought at Sylt, then, on the 7th of February, with a Minesweeping escort, they tried once more. One sweeper struck a mine, and, with difficulty made it back to port, "Togo" battled on, her Captain worried by the very shallow water under her keel, twice they grounded before Dunkirk could be reached.
The Raider had been stuck on a sandbank for most of the daylight hours, only 300 yards away from her, whilst she lay stranded, four heavy "Flak Batteries," were brought into position to protect "Togo," but no enemy attack was mounted.
All this agony for the new Raider Captain, and still he was not free, and through the Straits of Dover. On the 10th. of February, he left Dunkirk, and with 12 Minesweepers as escort, they managed to reach Gravelines en route to Calais. The guns of Dover brought "Togo" under fire for 40 minutes, in all, 33 salvoes, close fall of shells, but no actual hits.
An attack by the Royal Airforce followed, a lot of damage was caused by one hit, with speed now reduced to only 6 knots, the Raider turned back to Boulogne to land wounded, thus fortunately missing the search mounted by the Royal Navy with 5 of their Hunt Class Destroyers, and 6 M.T.B's.
At Boulogne5 RAF attacks were fairly constant, 76 aircraft were reported to be attacking this city, to escape, ~'Togo" left for Dunkirk at 0330 ( 3.30AM) On the 14th. of February, once more she had to pass through the Dover barrage, this time 23 salvoes were negotiated) all missing their target. Thienemann, must have wished he had retained his old shore job- at 0823, ( 8.23AM ) that day, the ship reached Dunkirk, and, within 24 hours was ordered to return to the Baltic.
Donitz had at last realised this ship had no chance of making the channel passage to safety, only 4 hours after being told to take "Togo" home, 18 bombers suddenly appeared and attacked. Missing the Raider, they damaged the lock gates of the port, trapping the Raider for the next 12 days, until repairs were made.
Fog now kept them confined, but not the RAF, they attacked, this time a bomb crashed into the after part of the ship- it penetrdted right through, without exploding, but then burst in the water below "Togo." Flooding took place in the aft part of the ship,but by some quirk of fate, the propellor and steering gear still functioned.
On the 27th. of February, she sailed to twice go aground on sandbanks outside the port, both times her own power freed her, on heading for home, 8 British MTB's, and Motor Gun Boats attacked, but were repulsed by the escort. "Togo" just survived to get back to Germany, although at this time 'Michel" was still out in the Far East, the rule of the Raiders was finished.
"Togo" became a Fighter Direction ship, and post surrender of Germany, she became the fleet auxiliary "Svalbard" in the Norwegian Navy. Raider Captains named their own ships once they were clear and at sea. "Togo" would have become 'Koronel," named after Spee's 1914 victory, but, she never did.