SMS Möwe

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Career Kaiserliche Marine Ensign
Ordered: Laeisz
Builder: Tecklenburg
Launched: 1914
Christened: Pungo
In service: 1st Nov 1915
Fate: de-commissioned 1918
General characteristics
Displacement: 9,800 tons (4,788 gross register tons (GRT))
Length: 123.7 m
Beam: 14.4 m
Draught: 7.2 m
Propulsion: 1x3cyl Triple Expansion; 5x Boiler ; 3,200HP
Speed: 13 knots
Range: 8,700 nm @ 12 kn
Complement: 235
Armament: 4x150 mm
1x 105 mm

SMS Möwe (Seagull) was an auxiliary cruiser of the Imperial German Navy which operated as a commerce raider during World War I.

Early history

Built by the Tecklenborg yard at Geestemünde, she was launched as the freighter Pungo in 1914 and operated by the Afrikanische Fruchtkompanie for F. Laeisz of Hamburg. After an uneventful career carrying cargoes of bananas from the German colony of Kamerun to Germany she was requisitioned by Kaiserliche Marine for use as a minelayer. Her conversion took place at Kaiserliche Werft in Wilhelmshaven in the autumn of 1915,and under the command of Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien, she entered service on 1 November that year.

1st Raiding voyage

Möwe slipped out of Wilhelmshaven on 29 December 1915 for her first task, to set a minefield in the Pentland Firth, near the main base of the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. This was completed in severe weather conditions and bore fruit … days later when the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS King Edward VII struck a mine and sank. Möwe then moved down the west coast of Ireland to France. There she laid another mine field off the Gironde estuary, which sank a further two ships.

This part of her mission complete, Möwe then moved into the Atlantic, operating first between Spain and the Canary islands, and later off the coast of Brazil. In 3 months she caught 15 ships, 2 of which were sent, with cargo and prisoners, to port as prizes; the rest were sunk. She returned to Germany, and a heroes welcome, on 4 April 1916. Felix von Luckner served aboard "Seagull" before his journey with SMS Seeadler in late 1916 to late 1917.

Interlude as Vineta

In an effort to maintain security, Möwe was re-named Vineta, after another auxiliary cruiser which had been withdrawn from service. In this guise she set out on a series of short cruises during the summer of 1916 to attack allied shipping off the coast of Norway. This only brought one success, however, before she was ordered in for a re-fit prior to another sortie into the Atlantic.

2nd raiding voyage

Departing on 23 November 1916, Möwe had even more success on her second cruise into the Atlantic. In 4 months she accounted for another 25 ships totalling 123,265 GRT. One off these, SS Yarrowdale was sent as prize to Germany; which as Dohna Schlodien hoped, was outfitted as a commerce raider herself. Möwe also retained SS Saint Theodore as a collier, before arming and commissioning her as the auxiliary Geier. Geier operated in this role for 6 weeks, accounting for two ships sunk, before being disarmed and scuttled by Möwe prior to returning home. In March 1917 Möwe again successfully ran the British blockade, ironically at the same time as her prize, now the auxiliary cruiser Leopard, was cornered and sunk by the same blockading force. Möwe arrived home safely on 22 March 1917.

Later history

On her return Möwe was de-commissioned as a raider, being counted to valuable as a propaganda tool to be risked again. She served in the Baltic as a submarine tender, before becoming the auxiliary minelayer Ostsee in 1918. After the Treaty of Versailles, she went to Britain, to be operated by Elder Fyffes as the freighter Greenbrier. In 1933 she returned to Germany, as the freighter Oldenburg, and served as such in World War II. On 7 April 1945 she was torpedoed off the coast of Norway - near the village of Vadheim in Sogn og Fjordane county - and sunk.

Further reading

  • Hoyt, Edwin P Elusive Seagull (Frewin 1970) ISBN 0091015707.
  • Hoyt, Edwin P The Phantom Raider (Ty Crowell Co 1969) ISBN 0690617321.
  • Schmalenbach, Paul German raiders: A history of auxiliary cruisers of the German Navy, 1895-1945 (Naval Institute Press 1979) ISBN 0870218247.
  • Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien: S.M.S. "Möwe", Gotha 1916.
  • Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien: Der "Möwe" zweite Fahrt, Gotha 1917.
  • Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien: El Moewe. Relato de la prim. campaña de este crucero alem. en el Atlantico, por su comand., el Cap. de corbeta Conde de Dohna-Schlodien, Ciudad Mexico c. 1917.
  • Conde de Dohna-Schlodien: El Moewe, Buenos Aires 1917.
  • Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien: A "Möwe" kalandjai, Budapest 1917.
  • Reinhard Roehle (ed.): Graf Dohnas Heldenfahrt auf S.M.S. "Möwe". Nach Berichten von Teilnehmern dargestellt. Mit 4 Einschaltbildern, 4 Textabbildungen und 1 Kartenskizze, Stuttgart/Berlin/Leipzig 1916.
  • Hans E. Schlüter: S.M.S. "Möwe": ihre Heldenfahrt und glückliche Heimkehr. Nach Berichten von Augenzeugen und anderen Meldungen, Leipzig 1916.
  • Graf Dohna: Der „Möwe“ Fahrten und Abenteuer, Stuttgart/Gotha 1927.
  • Kapitän zur See a. D. Hugo von Waldeyer-Hartz: Der Kreuzerkrieg 1914–1918. Das Kreuzergeschwader. Emden, Königsberg, Karlsruhe. Die Hilfskreuzer, Oldenburg i. O. 1931.
  • Eberhard von Mantey: Die deutschen Hilfskreuzer, Berlin 1937.
  • John Walter: Die Piraten des Kaisers. Deutsche Handelszerstörer 1914-1918, Stuttgart 1994.
  • Albert Semsrott: Der Durchbruch der "Möwe". Selbsterlebte Taten und Fahrten von Kapitän Albert Semsrott, Stuttgart 1928.
  • Otto Mielke: S M Hilfskreuzer "Möwe". Der erste Blockade-Durchbruch. SOS Schicksale deutscher Schiffe, Vol. 125, München 1957.
  • Otto Mielke: Hilfskreuzer "Möwe" (2. Teil). SOS Schicksale deutscher Schiffe, Vol. 130, München 1957.

External links

de:SMS Möwe (1914) fr:SMS Möwe it:SMS Möwe ja:メーヴェ (仮装巡洋艦)