Exploits of one of the most successful German surface raiders in the Great War
The Amazing Cruise of the German Raider “Wolf” by A. Donaldson, A Captive on a German Raider by F. G. Trayes & Ten Months in a German Raider by John Stanley Cameron
The SMS Wolf was a particularly successful surface commerce raider—or auxiliary cruiser—of the Imperial German Navy during the First World War. Originally the freighter Wachtfels, the Wolf’s role was to harass the sea lanes primarily sinking merchant ships carrying materiel for the Allied powers. She was armed with guns, torpedoes and mines and supported by her own spotter aircraft. The concept of the surface raider squadron was an innovative one because these ships appeared to be innocent merchant vessels until they came in close contact with their targets. Some of the ships in the squadron, being sunk or interned, had comparatively short careers, but the SMS Wolf under her charismatic commander, Nerger, was responsible for sinking 35 merchant vessels and two warships amounting to a total of 110,000 tons, which made the crew celebrities to the German public. This unique Leonaur edition brings together three contrasting accounts of the remarkable war time voyages and adventures of the Wolf, including perspectives from the crews of her victims who spent time aboard her as prisoners of war, and includes many pictures, including several not present in the original edition.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket; our hardbacks are cloth bound and feature gold foil lettering on their spines and fabric head and tail bands.
Next morning the Wairuna was brought alongside the Wolf, and work commenced taking over coal and cargo. The Wolf scored 1100 tons of coal from the Wairuna, besides 350 tons of fresh water, milk, meat, cheese, and other provisions, also 40 sheep, which were very welcome. On the evening of the 6th June two of the prisoners decided to make an attempt to escape. They reckoned that if they could swim ashore they were alright, as the Germans would have a hard job to find them in the thick bush with which the island was covered. Just before sundown they managed to slip unobserved over the stern. They intended to hang on to the propeller until dark, and then swim for the beach. The nearest point of land was at least a mile away, and rather a nasty surf on the beach.
What happened to them no one knows, but the general opinion is that the poor fellows perished in their attempt to swim for liberty. They were a couple of fine young men; Mr. Clelland was chief officer and Mr. Steers was second engineer, both of the s.s. Turritella. The curious part was that they were not missed by the Germans until three weeks later, as they neglected to have a roll-call of prisoners during that time.
When, on having a roll-call of the prisoners, it was discovered that two were missing, the prison officer Lieutenant Von Oswald (better known to the prisoners as “Little Willie,” on account of his typical Prussian arrogance, and likeness to the German crown prince), fairly excelled himself. He told the prisoners that it was not a gentlemanly action to escape, and that up till then they had been treated as guests of the Kaiser, but in future they would be treated as prisoners of war. This was received with the greatest amusement by the prisoners, and “Little Willie,” being a German, could not see the funny side of it.
When Commander Nerger heard that two prisoners were gone, he immediately ordered all prisoners to be kept below for 21 days, only to be allowed on deck for one hour per day for exercise. “Little Willie” was confined to his room for seven days for neglect of duty in not having a daily roll-call of the prisoners.
After taking over all the coal and filling up all available space with cargo, Nerger decided to sink the Wairuna. Accordingly, one morning both ships proceeded to sea for this purpose, but a sail was sighted to the eastward, so the Wairuna was sent back to the anchorage, and the Wolf gave chase. The vessel was quickly overtaken, and a prize crew put on board. She proved to be the American four-masted schooner Winslow, from Newcastle, N.S.W., to Apia in Samoa, of which we had already been advised by wireless. Her cargo consisted of benzine, fire-bricks and 300 tons of coal, the two latter items being very acceptable to the Wolf. Fire-bricks were badly wanted for her furnaces. The Winslow was therefore taken into the anchorage.
The following day the Wairuna was taken out to meet her fate. Two bombs were exploded under her bottom, but she refused to sink, so the Wolf opened fire on her with her 5.9-inch guns. The shooting was very poor, and it took 36 shots before the Wairuna took her final plunge, and Davy Jones cut another notch on his stick.
Now came the Winslow’s turn. She was brought alongside, and all the coal and a quantity of fire-bricks were taken aboard the Wolf. She was then taken to sea to share the same fate as was meted out to her British sisters. First two bombs were tried, but the Winslow only smiled at them. Being a wooden ship, she was a tough problem to sink. Two more bombs were fixed, one aft and one forward. These almost blew the entire ends of the ship out, but still she floated serenely. The guns were now brought to play on her, in order to shoot away her masts. Thirty-eight shots were fired without a single hit, but the thirty-ninth shot hit the bowsprit and brought down all four masts, but the hull still floated complacently on the surface. The Wolf gave her best, and steamed off in disgust.
Captain Trudgett, of the schooner Winslow, which, by the way, was the first American vessel captured by the Wolf, was born and bred in London, having in early manhood gone to the States. The ill-fated voyage on the Winslow was intended to be his last before settling on shore to that occupation beloved by sailors until they try it—chicken farming.
The Wolf was now ready to go on with her visiting list, and leave her cards on Newealand and Australia. Of course, she would make sure that no one was at home before doing so. From Sunday Island she steamed straight to the north end of New Zealand, and laid her “hell machines” somewhere between the Three Kings and the North Cape.
From there she dodged down the west coast and into Cook Straits. Here she laid two fields, about 25 mines in each field, and then set her course for the Australian coast. Somewhere in the vicinity of Gabo Island she laid a field of 19 mines, and commenced to lay a second field, when something gave her a holy fright, for she suddenly went off at full speed to the east-south-east, and never again approached the Australian Coast. On the following day she hauled up to the northward, and continued going north midway between Australia and New Zealand, then north-eastward towards Norfolk Island.