German auxiliary cruiser Orion

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Career (Germany) Germant Merchant Navy Ensign
Class and type: Merchant vessel
Name: Kurmark
Namesake: Kurmark
Laid down: 1930 by Blohm + Voss, Hamburg
Launched: 1930
Christened: Kurmark
Commissioned: 1930
Fate: Requisitioned by Kriegsmarine, 1939
Career (Germany) Kriegsmarine Jack
Class and type: Auxiliary cruiser
Name: Orion
Operator: Kriegsmarine
Yard number: 1
Acquired: Requisitioned, 1939
Commissioned: 9 December 1939
Renamed: Orion (1939)
Hektor (1944)
Orion (1945)
Reclassified: Auxiliary cruiser Orion, 9 December 1939
Nickname: HSK-1
Raider A
Fate: Sunk on 4 May 1945 after hit by several bombs on her way to Copenhagen
General characteristics
Displacement: 15,700 tons (7,021 GRT)
Length: 148 metres (486 ft)
Beam: 18.6 metres (61 ft)
Draught: 8.2 metres (27 ft)
Propulsion: team turbines (Blohm + Voss) (engines earlier used on liner New York), one shaft, 4 boilers, 6,200 shaft horsepower (4.6 MW)
Speed: 14.8 knots (27.4 km/h)
Range: 18,000 nautical miles (33,000 km)
Complement: 356 (varying)
Armament: (1939) 6 × 15cm L/45 C13 (taken from battleship Schleswig-Holstein), 1 x 7,5 cm L/33 Schneider/Creuznot, 2 x 3.7 cm, 4 x 2 cm, 6 x 53.3 cm torpedo tubes, 228 EMC mines
Aircraft carried: 1 Arado Ar 196 A-1

Orion (HSK-1) was an auxiliary cruiser of the German navy 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 Kriegsmarine at the outbreak of World War II and converted into the auxiliary cruiser Orion, commissioned on 9 December 1939. Known to the KM as Schiff 36, her Royal Navy designation was Raider A. She was named after the constellation Orion.

Construction and conversion

The Orion was built in 1930 by Blohm & Voss in Hamburg as a freighter for HAPAG,the Hamburg-America Line. To save money, the engines of the liner New York were reused. That proved a poor decision, since the Orion was plagued for her entire life by engine problems.

After the war broke out the German Seekriegsleitung (Naval Operations Command) was ill prepared for raider warfare. The operations of the German auxiliary cruisers of World War I were evaluated and considered a great success, having disrupted British merchant shipping around the world. However, the overall effect in the actual war was evaluated as having been rather minor, and so only a small program of converting merchant vessels into auxiliary cruisers was initiated on 5 September 1939.

The first two ships being requisitioned were the Kurmark(Orion) and the Neumark (Widder), and conversion started immediately.

Raider voyage

One of the first auxiliary cruisers operated by Germany in WWII, Orion left Germany on 6 April 1940, under the command of Korvettenkapitän (KK) (later Fregattenkapitän (FK)) Kurt Weyher. She passed south through the Atlantic disguised as a neutral vessel, where she attacked and sank SS Haxby.

In May 1940 Orion rounded Cape Horn and entered the Pacific. She entered New Zealand waters in June 1940 and laid mines off Auckland during the night of 13/14 June 1940, one of which sank the liner Niagara five days later. Two other ships were caught by mines from Orion, plus two trawlers and an auxiliary minesweeper.

This done, Orion raided across the Indian and Pacific Oceans attacking another 4 ships. One she sent to occupied France as a prize, the others were sunk.

On 20 October 1940 she made rendezvous with the raider Komet, and the supply ship Kulmerland; operating together they accounted for a further 7 ships, including the liner Rangitane and five ships off Nauru, before going their separate ways in the new year.

One Nakajima E8N float plane was purchased in early 1941 by the German Naval Attache to Japan, Vice-Admiral Wenneker, and dispatched on board KM MUNSTERLAND to rendevous with the German auxiliary cruiser ORION at Maug Island in the Marianas. The meeting occurred on 1 FEB 1941, and ORION thus became the only German naval vessel of the Second World War to employ a Japanese float plane.

A further 6 months passed cruising in the Indian Ocean yielded nothing, though she did encounter and capture her final victim, the SS Chaucer, in July 1941, in the South Atlantic when ORION was on her way home.

Orion returned to Bordeaux in occupied France on 23 August 1941.

After 510 days and 127,337 nautical miles (235,828 km) at sea she had sunk 10 ships with a combined tonnage of 62,915 t, plus two more (totalling 21,125 t) in cooperation with Komet.

Later history

De-commissioned as a commerce raider, the ship was renamed Hektor in 1944 and used as artillery training ship. In January 1945 it was again renamed Orion and used to transport refugees from Germany's eastern provinces across the Baltic Sea to ports in northern Germany and occupied Denmark. On her way to Copenhagen on 4 May 1945 the ship was hit by bombs off Swinemünde and sank. Of the more than 4,000 people on board all but 150 perished. The hulk was scrapped in 1952.

Raiding career

Sunk by Orion:

  • 1940-04-24 Haxby 5,207 gross register tons (GRT)
  • 1940-06-19 Tropic Sea 8,750 GRT
  • 1940-08-16 Notou 2,489 GRT
  • 1940-08-20 Turakina 9,691 GRT
  • 1940-10-14 Ringwood 7,203 GRT
  • 1941-07-29 Chaucer

Sunk by mines laid by Orion:

  • 1940-06-19 Niagara 13,415 GRT
  • June 1940 Puriri 927 GRT
  • June 1940 Port Bowen 8,276 GRT
  • June 1940 Britannic 1,500 GRT

In concert with Komet:

  • 1940-11-25 Holmwood 546 GRT
  • 1940-11-27 Rangitane 16,712 GRT
  • 1940-12-06 Triona 4,413 GRT
  • 1940-12-07 Vinni 5,181 GRT
  • 1940-12-07 Komata 3,900 GRT
  • 1940-12-08 Triadic 6,378 GRT
  • 1940-12-08 Triaster 6,032 GRT


  • August K. Muggenthaler. Das waren die deutschen Hilfskreuzer 1939–1945. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-87943-261-9. 
  • August Karl Muggenthaler (1977). German Raiders of World War II. ISBN 0 7091 6683 4. 
  • Paul Schmalenbach (1977). German Raiders 1895–1945. ISBN 0 85059 351 4. 
  • Stephen Roskill (1954). The War at Sea 1939–1945 Volume I. 
  • New Zealand Official War History: The German raider Orion

External links

de:Orion (Hilfskreuzer) fr:Orion (croiseur auxiliaire) it:Orion (HSK 1) hu:Orion (segédcirkáló) ja:オリオン (仮装巡洋艦) no:«Orion» (1939) pl:HSK Orion ru:Орион (вспомогательный крейсер)