german navy ship

Die Gorch Fock is a tall ship of the German Navy (Deutsche Marine). She is the second ship of that name as a sister ship of the Gorch Fock built in 1933. Both are named in honor of the German writer Johann Kinau who wrote under the pseudonym “Gorch Fock” and died in the battle of Jutland/Skagerrak in 1916. The modern-day Gorch Fock was built in 1958 and had undertaken 146 cruises by 2006, including a tour around the world in 1988. She is under the command of the Naval Academy in Flensburg-Mürwik.

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The Battle of the Doppelgangers,

When World War I broke out, it was not uncommon for navies on both sides to commission civilian ships for military use, either as transports or warships.  One sneaky move was to arm civilian ships, especially passenger liners, to trick the enemy.  Such ships could use the element of surprise to attack an enemy who believes the ship is nothing more than an unarmed civilian vessel. 

In 1914 the German Navy armed the passenger liner Cap Trafalgar with two four inch guns and six 37mm autocannon.  In addition the Cap Trafalgar was disguised to look like a similar British Cunard line passenger liner called the RMS Carmania.  The idea was that the Cap Trafalgar could approach British merchant and supply convoys with little suspicion of being a German warship.  When the convoy least expected it, the Cap Trafalgar would open fire and destroy the convoy.

On September 14th, 1914 the Cap Trafalgar was discovered off the coast of Brazil by the British passenger liner RMS Carmania.   The Carmania was likewise armed to raid German merchant convoys, and was disguised as the Cap Trafalgar just as the Cap Trafalgar had been disguised as the Carmania.  For 90 minutes the two doppelgangers battled each other in a gunnery duel, often at ranges no more than 200 yards.  During the battle the real Carmania took the most hits and suffered heavy damage.  After being struck with 72 shells her bridge was completely destroyed and she sustained hull ruptures under her waterline.  However the real Cap Trafalgar suffered mortal damage and sank into the ocean, taking 51 German sailors with her.  The rest of the German crew, 279 men altogether, were captured by the British.

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Some German WWI Ships.

(English Ships in next post, Then American ships if I can find any)

1. SMS Kaiser

2. SMS Deutschland 1912

3. SMS Pommern. Linieschiff

4. SMS Leipzig

5. SMS Kronprinz 1919 (just before being scrapped

6. SMS Schilesien

7. SMS Bayern on trials in 1915

8. SMS Wittlesbach

9. SMS Bayern

10. SMS Preussen

An aerial view of the SMS Nassau, the first of the dreadnought-style battleships lain down by Germany in response to the ‘all big-gun’ ship launched by the British. Sporting a dozen 11-inch guns, she was capable of just over a 3,000 kg broadside.

The SMS Thüringen during the June 1st night action on the tail end of Jutland. She engaged the HMS Black Prince, accompanied by the SMS Nassau, SMS Ostfriesland, and SMS Friedrich der Große. The British cruiser, under such grueling fire, stood little chance, engaged at only about 1,000 yards by  so many of the German battleships. She sunk with all hands.

(By Paul Wright)