Thursday, July 19, 2012


The History of the World War offers so little of romance and adventure that it is always refreshing to turn again to that gallant little band of German surface commerce raiders who took to the sea to pit themselves against the might of the British Fleet. Their cruises were replete with action and unmarred by any acts of cruelty. Their series of brilliant achievements and enterprising successes compose one of the most thrilling sections of naval warfare.
The Kronprinz Wilhelm [picture above] was one of the most successful of these cruisers, standing third in the amount of shipping destroyed and being the last of the original lot to be finally hunted down. Unlike her two more successful rivals, the Emden and Karlsruhe, she was not a man-of-war and weakened the main German Fleet little. Built in 1901, she was comparatively old in 1914. Her tonnage was 15,000 and her quadruple expansion engines of 3,500 horsepower gave her the rather surprising speed of 23 knots. She burned an excessive amount of coal which was to be her eventual undoing. Her evaporators had been designed to supply a certain amount of make-up feed during transatlantic runs but were in no way adequate for prolonged cruising. And yet she kept to the sea for 251 consecutive days and cruised for nearly 40,000 miles without once disabling her engines. It was a grand game of hide and seek. Battle cruisers, cruisers, and armed merchant cruisers were seeking her; charts were being constantly studied and the most careful plans were being laid for her capture; but all to no purpose. Her hunting ground was the South Atlantic where her uncanny success in evading searching forces soon caused the exasperated English to dub
her the “Mystery Cruiser.”

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