The Ship that hunted Itself

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alf
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The Ship that hunted Itself

Post by alf » 02 Jan 2004 11:46

Seeing Robert Hursts WW1 pictures of Alled Naval ships, one there is of the Armed Merchant Crusier (AMC) Carmania. I went and dug out my old copy of The Ship that Hunted Itself by Colin Simpson.

At the outbreak of WW1, she was an 18000 ton British ocean liner of the Cunard Line, pressed into service as an AMC, at the same time the German liner Cap Trafalger (also 18000 tons) was in South America on her maiden voyage and being pressed into service as a makeship AMC.

The Cap Trafaglar disguised herself as the Carmania by removing her third funnel, The Carmania in searching for German supply depots on small islands in the South Altantic decided to pose as the Cap Trafaglar.

When approaching the Trinadad Islands n Septemeber 14, 1914 in the far South Atlantic (there are two Trinadads :D ), both approached each other, both signalled who they were, surprisingly their ruses failed.

So, they meet in battle, the Cape Trafaglar using her rolled up carpets as armour plate, the Carmania, had some armour plate over her engines but used sand bags and coiled rope as armour plating for the deck.

The Carmania was the more heavily armed ship with 8* 4.7 inch guns, against the Cap Trafaglers , 2 * 3inch guns and 10* 3.7cm guns, eventually sinking the Cap Trafagler in the only recorded sea battle between ocean liners.

Fortunately the loss of life was small on both sides, the crews of both liners were largely the orginal crews, signed on as reservists.

I dont think Hollywood would be so brazen to try and invent such a script :P
Last edited by alf on 05 Jan 2004 10:04, edited 2 times in total.

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Balrog
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Post by Balrog » 03 Jan 2004 17:41

did the victorious ocean liner pick up the defeated crew? where did the german crew spend the war? in a british camp in the caribbean?

alf
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Post by alf » 03 Jan 2004 22:22

The Carmania was badly damaged in the fight, Ocean Liners are not built like warships. One of the German colliers, the Eleonore Wouvermans, used as a depot ship, gallantly sailed out during the fight to assist the Cap Trafaglar. She had armed her self with an ancient siege mortar (18th century) found on the island.

The Captain of the depot ship was in fact the orginal civilian Captain of the Cap Trafalgar, when he realised the Cap Trafaglar was sinking, he began to rescue survivors, the crew of the Caramania ceased firing to allow him.

The Caramania had both a Royal Captain and its original Cunard captian on board, the Cap Trafaglar had a German Navy Captain on board.

Causlaties were relatively light , the Cap Trafagalr lost 14 men killed or missing and 61 wounded (5 seriously), the Carmania lost 9 killed and 26 wounded. She had been hit by 79 shells.

286 survivors of the Cap Trafaglar were landed safely in Buenos Aries by the Eleonore Wouvermans, they were interned for the duration of the war on the island of Martin Barcia in the Plata Estuary.

The gallant little collier Eleonore Wouvermans was captured on the 6 January 1915 by HMS Australia and the crew taken off and the ship destroyed.

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Balrog
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Post by Balrog » 04 Jan 2004 22:09

what did the german crew use for mortar ammo?(for the 18th century mortar) do you have anymore information on the mortar? was it accurate in naval warfare?

why was the crew imprisoned by the argentines? was that standard practice for neutral ports in ww1?

alf
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Post by alf » 04 Jan 2004 23:25

Hi Joel,

the mortar was found on the island by Captian Langerhannz - Cap Trafaglars orginial Captain) He described it as being made of bronze, the diameter of the bell shaped muzzles was approximately 50 centimetres. The length of the barrel was approximately a metre. At the inside of the base of the barrel was a small powder chamber, with a touch hole . Its carriage was rotted mainly and its pile of solid iron shot rusted, he estimated the weight to be about 20kgs for each ball.

It was fired once during the engagement, it appears to have only made a huge smoke screen. Langerhannz had loaded it with a mixture of anthracite (a form of coal I think) and oil. His intent was to shower the opponent's deck with hot coals and hopefully cause fires. It didnt have an effect but for sheer ingenuity and courage, Langerhannz must be acknowledged.

The crew were interned as they were serving military members of a warring Nation. By seeking sanctuary of a Neutral Country, they had to be interned.

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