German auxiliary cruiser Stier

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Career (Germany) Merchant Navy Flag of Nazi Germany
Class and type: Merchant vessel
Owner: ALL (Atlas Levant Line)
Builder: Germaniawerft
Launched: 1936
Christened: Cairo
Fate: Requisitioned by Kriegsmarine, 1939
Career War Ensign of Germany (1938-1945)
Name: Stier
Namesake: Taurus[disambiguation needed]
Operator: Kriegsmarine
Yard number: 6
Recommissioned: 10 May 1942
Renamed: Stier, 1939
Reclassified: Auxiliary cruiser, 1939
Nickname: HSK-6
Schiff 23
Raider J
Fate: sunk South Atlantic, 27 September 1942
General characteristics
Displacement: 11,000 (4,778 GRT)
Length: 134 metres (440 ft)
Beam: 17.3 metres (57 ft)
Draught: 7.2 metres (24 ft)
Propulsion: 1 x 7 cyl Diesel; 3,750HP
Speed: 14 knots
Range: 50,000 nm @12k
Endurance: 173 days
Complement: 324
Armament: 6 x 150 mm,
1 x II 37 mm,
2 x II 20 mm,
2 x torpedo tubes
Aircraft carried: 2x Arado Ar 231

The German auxiliary cruiser Stier (HSK 6) was a German auxiliary cruiser during World War II. Also known to the Kriegsmarine as Schiff 23, to the Royal Navy she was Raider J.

The name Stier means "bull", and represents the Taurus constellation in German language. She was the last German raider to break out in the Atlantic in WWII.

Early history

Built by Germaniawerft in 1936 as the freighter Cairo, she was operated by the Atlas Levant Line (ALL) until being requisitioned for Kriegsmarine services in November 1939. After merchant warfare operations in the Baltic Sea, she was converted into a mine layer and was planned to be used during Operation Sealion. After this operation was canceled, the now renamed Stier was modified into an auxiliary cruiser in April 1941, first at the Wilton shipyard Rotterdam and later at Oderwerke, Stettin, and Kriegsmarinewerft, in Gotenhafen (Gdynia).

Raiding voyage

On 10 May 1942 she left Germany for operations in the Atlantic. Moving by stages down the English Channel, and after an engagement with British coastal forces on the 13th which saw the loss of 2 torpedo boats (German) and one MTB (British), Stier reached Royan in occupied France on the 19th. From there she departed under the command of FK (later KzS) Horst Gerlach for operations in the South Atlantic. However after a cruise of only 4 ½ months, in which she engaged and sank 3 ships, she had a fatal encounter on 27 September 1942; the ship was sunk during a battle with an American cargo ship the SS Stephen Hopkins, which was also lost.

During her operation, which lasted four and a half months, the Stier sank 4 ships with 29,409 tons (GRT).

Final engagement

On 27 September 1942 Stier encountered the Liberty ship SS Stephen Hopkins en route from Cape Town to Paramaribo.

Closing in foggy conditions the 2 ships sighted each other around 0852 at a distance of 4,000 yards. Gerlach sent his men to action stations; the master of the Stephen Hopkins was suspicious of the unidentified vessel and did the same. The Stephen Hopkins had a small defensive armament (1 × 4 inch gun astern, and several machine guns), but when firing commenced, around 0855, she put up a spirited defence. She scored several hits on Stier, damaging her engines and steering gear. However, overwhelmed by fire from Stier, the Hopkins drifted away; by 10 am she had sunk. Forty-two of her crew were killed in the action, and three more died later; the 16 survivors finally reached Brazil 31 days later. Stephen Hopkin's commander, Captain Paul Buck, was posthumously awarded the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for his actions. So was US Merchant Marine Academy cadet Edwin Joseph O'Hara, who single-handedly fired the last shots from the ship's 4-inch gun.

Meanwhile Stier had been fatally damaged; unable to make headway, and not responding to the helm, Gerlach made the decision to abandon ship and scuttle her. She sank at 11.40 am.

All but 2 of her crew survived; they were rescued by the supply ship Tannenfels, which was accompanying Stier at the time of the action.

Raiding career

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate
4 June 1942 SS Gemstone British 4,986 Sunk
6 June 1942 SS Stanvac Calcutta Panamanian 10,170 Sunk in combat
9 August 1942 SS Dalhousie British 7,250 Sunk
27 September 1942 SS Stephen Hopkins American 7,181 Sunk in combat


Coordinates: 28°8′0″S 11°59′0″W / 28.133333°S 11.983333°W / -28.133333; -11.983333

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