Sunday, 26 October 2014

Kindermord at Langmarck

Through the morning fog the distant sound of singing caught the British sentry's ear. Faintly at first but gaining in strength as it grew nearer and with it the clomping of boots. The order to stand to and ready for action were given and the regular British troops formed lines in their trenches and fire pits aiming their Lee Enfield rifles out into the fog cautiously.

... uber alles in der welt...
The singing grew nearer and the Tommies began to feel the adrenaline and apprehension of action kick in as they tried in vain to spot the unseen enemy.
"Steady boys" an officer urged them, there was no point in wasting ammunition shooting at phantoms.
Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles.... Uber alles in der welt...
They appeared, first as dark shadows then as men, boys aged between 16 and 21 who had rushed to volunteer of war. The flower of German youth and patriotism, virgin to the horrors of war was advancing with their arms linked with their comrades to stop themselves getting lost, rifles and packs on their backs, boots and buttons shining.
"Fire!!!" Sergeants and officers shouted the order and with the steady rifle drill the British soldiers discharged their rifles with precision and rapidity. The first line fell, so did the second. The third broke rank and fumble with their rifles but fell, the fourth fixed bayonets and tried to step over their fallen comrades only to fall as well. Line after line charged out of the fog only to be caught in the withering fire, the pile of feldgrau coated bodies grew into a barricade of wounded, dead and dying, officers and men.
The losses grew and the German line faltered and fled still under fire. The British line held against the Bavarian Reserve regiments who lost 1500 men that day and a further 600 captured.

Germany reeled from the loss.

The First World War was not going well or to time-table and by the time von Kluck's army were trying to force their way around the Allied lines in the so called "race for the sea" in the Autumn of 1914 there was growing unease. The Army had already been held by the Belgian army and had to await siege artillery at Liege for forts who which should have surrendered or allowed them to pass. They had been stopped on the Marne and failed to take Paris. Ypres was the last roll of the dice for an early end to the war in the west and von Kluck was forced to throw everything at the British lines.

In the aftermath of the slaughter the German press and government had to try and turn it to positive spin like Britain had done after the battle of Isandlwana the deficiencies were overlooked and the individual heroism and sacrifice for the Vaterland was perpetuated as the Kindermord or the Slaughter of the Holy innocents.
Although the slaughter was undeniable the legend of Langmarck overtook the truth. Despite the official German Oberste Heersleitung (high command) report stating that the troops sang Deutschland Uber alles the regimental histories state that the usual recognition song used was Am wacht am Rhein. The advancing troops sang in the fog so as not to be confused and becoming casualties of friendly fire and linked arms so that the line would not go adrift and that they would still be in formation. Indeed this song was sung by elements of the 213th Reserve regiment as it attacked the French line at Bixschoote on the night of the 22/3rd October as they returned towards their own line so as not to be attract friendly fire. On the day of the day of the Kindermord the force marched silence and in poor order.

The other myth was that the casualties were all young boys massacred by crack British troops each armed with machine guns. Although they were regular troops the British lines were stretched thin and had suffered heavy casualties, so heavy that command had blocked the gaps with anyone who could wield a rifle including Engineers and Service corps including farriers, grooms, electricians and tradesmen. This was the last line. The German reserves were also not a collection young boys but men in their late 20s and early 30s married with children. Germany maintained mandatory military service for young single men but after their mandatory service they were released to civilian life but held in reserve for a period of time during which they went back to their trades, married and had children their military skills were dulled with lack of practice. German planners believed these troops would not fight as hard as they would think of family before fatherland and that if they did they would not fight as well through a lack of practical drill. Their primary purpose was to be garrison troops, protect transport links, back up major advances, hold the flanks and free up the fighting troops. The casualties at Marne, Belgium, the Frontiers, Ypres and even the Eastern front had robbed Germany of her elite and regular soldiers calling for command to commit the Reserve regiments.

What I saw and experienced... was amongst the sort of images that the wildest imagination can dream up. What was left of our division? ...

The myth of the Kindermod von Ypren or Langmarck (as the German press preferred to use as it sounded more Germanic) grew and grew with the German people and historians post war. It romanticised the death and sacrifice, to rationalise it to the civilians. To tell them that German soldiers bravely marched to their end against barbarous British soldiers armed with machine guns and rapidly slain where they stood, was preferable to their needless slaughter on a muddy field far from home for nothing.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Reise, Reise, Seaman Reise! - Admiral Spee's journey across the Pacific

Admiral von Spee's flagship Scharnhorst
On the outbreak of the First World War Admiral Maximilian von Spee was faced with a dilemma.
The cream of the Kaiserliche marine was in Germany preparing to fight the Royal Navy for supremacy of the North Sea. His flagship Scharnhorst and her sister Gniesnau (with the supply ship Titania )were based in the Pacific tasked with protecting Germany's colonies and were at the island of Ponape, in the Caroline islands the day war began.

The other vessels in his squadron were scattered around the Pacific on patrol. The Konigsberg class cruiser Nürnberg arrived in Ponape the next day having been relieved on the Mexican coast by the Leipzig (Bremen class) some time before. The Dresden class cruiser Emden was in Tsingtao, China with the Bussard class (unprotected cruiser) Cormoran (which was under repairs) and the gun boats Tiger, Luchs, Iltis and Vaterland. Another Bussard class cruiser Geier was in British Singapore and quickly fled to try and find the German fleet. The Gunboat Jaguar quickly evacuated Shanghai and fled for Tsingtao.

Admiral Graf von Spee realised quickly that the Allies would want to quickly remove his fleet and had the power to do so. The Australian flag ship HMAS Australia had enough fire power to destroy most of his fleet on its' own, there was also the Triumph, a pre-dreadnaught battleship in Hong Kong that lay in reserve. He knew that his fleet in its current state would be hunted down and quickly destroyed, there would be safety in numbers but he was also concerned that his ships would be caught in port as the Russian fleet had at Port Arthur in 1905. He moved to the uninhabited Pagan Island to avoid detection and on 5th August he ordered his light cruisers, liners and merchant vessels to return to him as quickly as they were able. He also received a message from the German Admiralty on the 5th which followed on from an earlier warning of "imminent danger of war" he had received on the 1st. This advice would ultimately inform his decision later.

Chile is friendly neutral. Japan will remain neutral.

Emden had already set out to commence commerce raiding as well as hoping to catch the Russian cruiser Ryzan and quickly overcame the Russian vessel Ryzan which Kapitän von Müller brought back to Tsingtao. Von Müller took it upon himself as the senior Naval officer to begin organising the defence of the German colony by taking the guns from Cormoran and putting them on shore emplacements and the Ryzan with the crews from the near useless gunships and defunct Cormoran (which was scuttled to stop it's capture) and the Russian vessel was rechristened Cormoran II Steps had been taken to activate the auxiliary cruiser Prinz Eital Friedrich by taking arms from two of the aging gunboats; Luchs and Tiger. She was activated on the 5th August. When von Müller received von Spee's order Emden led Prinz Eital Friedrich and collier Markomannia to meet him arriving on the 12th August. 

At Pagan Island von Spee considered the situation. He knew that the Allies would start looking for him and would easily sweep away the defenceless colonies and he had already lost communication with the radio station at Yap. Should his fleet make a stand against an Allied invasion fleet it would be wiped out. He had limited supplies of coal and ammunition and his bases would soon dry up. The options open to him were a glorious last stand against the Allies, nuisance raids against the Allied shipping until coal and ammunition dried up and intern his vessels in a neutral port or try and make a break for Germany picking up coal on the way by raiding and trading. With enough notice German agents could secure a large stockpile of coal for his vessel's arrival and colliers to support his journey around the cape.
Von Spee decided that the first two options were off the table. Cut off from reinforcements and soon to lose his supplies meant that any superiority he gained would be only temporary. Gambling that Germany would win the war and get any of its lost territories  returned in the peace treaty, and knowing that he also had a duty to Germany to return his vessels and his crews to the fleet he decided that the only real option was to try and break out around the Cape Horn causing as much chaos as possible. There was also a rich traffic of merchant vessels moving up the South American carrying coal, meat and resources, even the rumour of his vessels in the vicinity would cause massive disruption. He also knew that the Royal Navy was not concentrated in that area.

 Kapitän von Müller argued that the fleet should head East and instead of picking up Leipzig link up with Konigsberg and raid the Indian Ocean which had much more trade than America. Such a force would cause the Royal Navy to react in sending vessels from the home fleet to aid in the search which could tip the balance of the North Sea standoff in Germany's favour. There was also the chance that if Germany could cause enough havoc it could destabilise the region and cause a revolt in India and tie up troop transports. Spee disagreed, he was not a prepared to take his forces into an area crawling with British warships on the off chance. He also believed that raiding commerce would not yield a suitable amount of coal to support the whole fleet indefinitely. Müller argued that if the whole fleet would not head east then a solitary vessel should remain in the Pacific to actively commerce raid and tie down the Allied fleet's resources by looking for that rather than Spee's ships. He volunteered Emden for the job which Spee agreed too. It was also decided that the Auxiliary cruiser Cormoran II would be released for commerce raiding as well.

On the 14th August Emden left the two armoured cruisers, one light cruiser, one auxiliary and seven colliers steaming East South East towards the Eniwetok lagoon where they would recoal and steam at a slow but steady pace of the Colliers, some 14 knots, whilst the Allies rushed around looking for them. Commander Pochammer, the first officer of Gneisnau later described the;

"apprehension that gripped all the officers and men. With thoughts of home tugging at our hearts, it was almost impossible to do our duty."

Lieutenant Commander Lietzmann, also of Gneisnau said; "No one believes we'll see home again."
Another German sailor, writing to his family described the high morale and "The feeling aboard was excellent."
One letter from a seaman home also described the tension and nerves that the crew were feeling;
Owing to being at war, we ceased coaling at dark and are continuously under steam ready to proceed. Our repairs have to be carried out during watch keeping. We have many clear ship for action exercises. You may believe this tires us. But one gets used to anything. The main point is that we win the war and return home safe and sound.

The Commander-in-Chief wrote to his wife on the 18th August with his feelings on the matter of the Allies hunting his forces.
The East Asiatic inferior in strength, can do noting against them. The English have an Australian squadron lurking with battle cruiser Australia as flagship. This ship alone is so superior to my entire squadron that I have no choice but to flee her. Given this unfavourable balance of power do not expect us to perform great deeds.
The 15th brought a gale struck the squadron tossing them and blowing them off course, half the colliers temporally lost sight of the flagship causing much concern and it was with a great degree of luck that the rough swells did not capsize them and the Nurnberg as they rolled up to forty degrees! However the extra coal supplies that were stored in great piles on the decks of the cruisers and the reserve food supply in the form of cows and pigs penned up were washed away in the three day storm. The weather finally cleared to scorching hot sunshine and on the 19th Eniwetok, a paradise of white sands and palm trees surrounding the blue lagoon. Von Spee gave the order to halt and take stock.
Spee briefed his commanders on the Prinz Eital Friedrich of his intentions and aims. They would be heading to Easter Island and then on to Chile where hopefully they would meet Leupzig and any other detached cruisers that could reach him but also the English.
The crew of SMS Nurnberg
 It was also important to gain intelligence of what was actually going on so von Spee released Nurnberg on the 22nd to the neutral US ports in Hawaii. The Allied intelligence of Spee's movements and vessels was very confused. They had reports that Scharnhorst was alone or in Tsingtao with Gneisnau (who was also spotted leaving Nagasaki and Singapore.) There were other rumours that had last seen Nurnberg off the coast of Mexico or working in concert with Leipzig of San Francisco, despite her calling into Honolulu to refuel whilst on her way to meet von Spee in July. The Admiral knew that if a lone cruiser arrived at Honolulu the Allies wouldn't assume that it had anything to do with Spee's movements. On arrival the Nurnberg gathered newspapers, wired the German admiralty of Spee's intent and contacted German agents in South America to ready coal supplies so that he could refuel on their way. When she returned on the 6th September she brought news of the fall of Samoa to the Allies. There was also a report from the Admiralstab in Berlin which told Spee that they would not interfere with his decisions as he was best place to decide his squadron's actions and a message from the Kaiser wishing them God's protection.

 Nurnberg was quickly detached again under the French ensign with Titania and sent to disrupt the British Radio station at Fanning Island to buy them more time which she succeeded in doing on the 7th September. After a preliminary bombardment a landing party went ashore to blow up the All Red line cable station that provided communications between Australia and Canada. The German landing party raided the staff payroll safe and took 3000 gold sovereign as well as the post office stamps and money totalling £71s which could be used to pay for coal and supplies from neutral ports.(*)  

 Spee had taken Gniesnau and Scharnhorst to an island near Christmas Island and after Nurnberg returned they cruised to the island itself so von Schonberg could make a full report to the Admiral. The Nurnberg's captain's report of the loss of Samoa caught his Admiral's attention only a week beforehand. The idea of catching the Australia at anchor protecting the Australian landing forces. Scharnhorst and Gneisnau were detached for a five day cruise of 1500 miles in the opposite direction whilst Nurnberg escorted the colliers proceeded towards Marquesas islands.

On the 14th September the two armoured cruisers approached the colony in the early hours. The crews were primed and practiced. Adrenaline was high and expectation of fighting their first engagement and winning the first naval victory for Germany was foremost in their minds and hopes. They approached the Apia but as the first light of dawn broke they saw that there were no Allied warships laying vulnerable in harbour. Spee had been unlucky and only missed the Allied invasion force by three days. He'd been even more unlucky as a month before hand his fleet had passed the New Zealand invasion force, which was only escorted by old P-class destroyers, by fifteen miles!

On the bridge of the Scharnhorst the Admiral made the decision that his forces were of no match for the 1600 troops that had taken the colony. Although they were tired, miserable, wearing winter weight uniforms and poorly trained volunteers he still lacked the numbers should they decide to fight and in a battle of attrition he would lose. Further to that, even if they were victorious what then? The Allies would simply send another force and his cruisers would not be able to protect them. He put the colony to his rudder and took a North Westerly course to throw off any observers before heading towards Nurnberg. The ruse worked and the Scharnhorst radio room picked up an Allied message to the fleet that the Germans were heading back to Eniwetok picking up the collier Ahlers, which had been dispatched to top up their fuel, on the way. However Spee would not go quietly and steered his vessels south east towards Tahiti in the hope of filling his bunkers with coal and to sew the seeds of confusion.

On the 21st he ordered a stop at Bora-Bora to resupply before proceeding onto Papeete the next day at first light. The two German cruisers got to 9000 yards before the shore batteries opened fire at them. Quickly turning his vessels to present a smaller target and then ordering the best gunners in the German fleet to open fire. By the third salvo the shore batteries were no more and the Cruisers turned back towards the harbour where the gunboat Zelee was sailing at pace firing her only 4" gun at the German vessels. A flash of fire from the Germans and the ship disintegrated.

What Impudence to open fire on us with a couple of pea shooters. Pochammer wrote.
Walkure after von Spee's bombardment.

It was all for nought though. The French Commander, who had heard the Allied warning from Samoa and taken no chances that the Germans were heading west, had prepared. Armoured cars had been crudely constructed, marines had drilled and were helping to reinforce the local police and native conscripts. As commander of the Zelee and the ranking officer Lieutenant Destremau had also stripped his vessel of all but one of her guns and put them on land to assist the shore batteries. More importantly he had ordered the coal supplies burnt at first sight of the enemy. It was seeing the black smoke rising above the town that forced Spee, with heavy heart, to turn his force around. There was nothing for him here now.

Scharnhorst and Gneisnau turned away and left the harbour ablaze. Though von Spee had not gained the prized coal supply it did however cost two million Francs of damage, sank the wooden gunship and the interned German merchant vessel (captured by Zelee) Walkure but miraculously only killed two civilians.

After reaching Nurnberg the whole fleet resupplied for a week before finally leaving on another 2500 mile long trek to Easter Island, leaving some of Gneisnau's crew upon Prinz Eital Friedrich which was released to raid commerce. The loss of the coal supplies at Papeete was telling as two empty colliers were also released to Honolulu in an attempt to resupply. Then came news from an unlikely source.

SMS Dresden had made it around the Cape Horn having escaped the Caribbean and was searching for Leipzig with orders from Berlin to work together raiding the west coast of South America. On the night of the 4-5th Dresden again reported to von Spee.

My position 31.25 south, 89.58 west, near Mas Afuera, 500 miles west Valparaiso. have contacted Leipzig with admiralty orders to reinforce cruiser squadron at Easter Island.

The Admiral ordered Dresden to coordinate with Leipzig which was beyond his range at the time, and get them to meet him at Easter Island. Dresden was to meet him at the island with her tender when the East Asiatic squadron arrived on the 13th and Leipzig and her flotilla of colliers arrived on the 14th with news of the measures that had been taken to establish coal resupply in Chile. With five warships and a large fleet of colliers von Spee's escape attempt looked more than possible now.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

SMS Leipzig - the Terror of the West Coast of America

SMS Leipzig

Early morning on 1st September 1914 the sentries at Esquimalt Naval base spotted smoke plumes on the horizon. At last HMCS Rainbow was returning from her mission to locate the two missing sloops Shearwater and Algerine and was shepherding them home.

The vessel grew larger on the horizon. Something was not right about it and as it grew closer it became obvious that this wasn’t Rainbow. Neither was the second cruiser which was in line astern behind the first.

Binoculars were reached for and the vessels scanned. They were an unfamiliar design but flew Russian flags as they sailed confidently towards them. The duty commander was called but he wasn’t expecting any Russian vessels.

Then the shooting started. The two cruisers turned and delivered full broadsides, their ammunition falling with deadly accuracy. Within twenty minutes of firing the oil tanks were ablaze, vessels in the harbour were sunk, sailors and civilian workers fled in terror or cowered in whatever shelter they could. SMS Leipzig and Nürnberg turned seaward and set course for Vancouver.

This attack never actually occurred but the Canadian Admiralty and Government were acutely worried that it could and there would be nothing that they could do to stop it.

At the outbreak of the First World War SMS Leipzig was on patrol off the Mexican coast “flying the flag” for Germany and protecting German nationals who were getting caught up in the Mexican civil war, she had relieved SMS Nürnberg so it could return to Tsingtao for refit and some R&R. The reports that the Second Reich was now at war with the British Empire opened up a new problem for the German vessel.

SMS Leipzig, the sixth of the Bremen class light cruisers, had been commissioned on 20th April 1906 from the AG Wesser shipyards in Bremen. At three hundred and sixty-five feet long and displacing 3816 metric tonnes she was by no means a mighty warship but her ten 10.5cm guns and two torpedo tubes made her more than a match for any merchant vessel or liner that should come into contact and indeed more than a match for the two Royal Navy vessels on the same station. HMS Shearwater and Algerine were two sloops with no more than only 1”- 1.5” thick armour over the boilers and machinery and only 25 pounder guns, 3 pounder guns and three maxims machineguns. On the outbreak of war these two vessels were told to leave as quickly as they could before they could be found by Leipzig. Frigattenkapitän Haun’s vessel was of better use as a multi mission cruiser which supported larger battleships in fleet engagements and his crew were long term enlistments trained in gunnery skills like the rest of von Spee’s squadron but they were in need of shore leave and rest.

The response by the Canadian admiralty was a little panicked. The only vessel available to them was the aging HMCS Rainbow which was the only surface unit on the west coast and half the Canadian’s entire fleet. Rainbow had been practically decommissioned and was really only a training vessel put was pressed into service with only two thirds of her complement aboard and armed with training shells filled with black powder which were the only available shells in the Naval store at Esquimalt. The promised train of ammunition had not arrived from the East coast by the time Rainbow was ordered to sea on the night of 3rd August. Commander Walter Hose’s orders were to;

 “Proceed to sea forthwith to guard trade routes north of the Equator, keeping in touch with Pachena, until war has been declared.”

Hose did not rate his vessels chances against the modern German cruiser with her high velocity shells and superior guns. Indeed afterwards he stated that;

“To know where he [Leipzig] was exactly at that time would have been Rainbow’s main contribution… My main armament was my wireless, and that only had a range of two hundred miles.”

Neither did the dock workers who watched Rainbow leave and one stated;

“Few of those who saw her departure on that eventful occasion expect to see her return.”

HMCS Rainbow
With the dispatch of Rainbow the Naval strategists realised that the city of Vancouver, Prince Rupert Island, the Naval base as Esquimalt and other possible targets were now defenceless from the German vessels and could come under attack at anytime. Worse, should Rainbow fall to the German’s guns then it could be sometime before the Royal Navy’s China station could dispatch more ships to defend the Canadian shore. Two submarines which were being built for Chile in Seattle were hurriedly bought by the Canadian government and commissioned to form a basic defence force. Now all they had to do was wait and hope that the German vessels stayed away.

Commander Hose used the first two days at sea holding near Cape Flattery and Destruction strait practicing drill and calibrating the guns. If he was going to go into action he was going to be as ready as he could be. On 4th August at 20:07 he received word that war had been declared and he made course for the South but by 21:00 he was ordered to return to Vancouver to resupply with modern ammunition. Hose proceeded at increased speed with the intention to arrive the following day but by 18:00 on the 5th he was ordered to immediately change course and head south to escort Algerine and Shearwater who had left San Diego the day before with Leipzig in pursuit (last sighted at Magdalena bay). Rainbow proceeded at 3/5ths power and arrived at San Francisco on 7th August at 6.00. Hose could not see the two sloops and presumed them to be either in port or seaward. Through want of information he decided the best course of action was to enter San Francisco to recoal and speak to the consulate.

Rainbow had been exceptionally lucky during this time. Although due to orders from the President and despite there being 500 tonnes of coal bought expressly for the use of Rainbow by the British Consul, the American authorities only allowed 50 tonnes of coal to be put aboard as she had enough coal to get her to the nearest British port. Hose could also get no concrete information on the location of the Leipzig or Nürnberg and after the Hamburg line freighter Alexandria (who was reportedly working as an auxiliary for Leipzig) passed the Golden gate bridge Hose decided it was best to head out to sea and head north. An hour before he was due to depart though Hose received confirmation that Leipzig was heading to San Francisco and would be there in the following days. A German vessel in port had loaded up with supplies and lubricating oil and was due to leave on the 8th to meet the German warship(s) and transfer the cargo at sea. This made Hose’s mind up and Rainbow left quickly and headed south to meet Leipzig or the supply schooner. In foggy weather he held his position for two days waiting but to no avail. The only vessel they saw was a small Mail steamer from a German owned company in San Francisco which buzzed around them under the American flag reporting Rainbow’s position to the German cruiser. With his coal levels now reaching their safety margin Hose decided he had to return to Canadian waters to resupply and hopefully meet up with the two sloops or the Canadian supply ship that had put to sea. Before doing so the crew tossed over all the flammable woodwork which, when it washed up on the American shores, gave the impression that Leipzig had sunk her.

On 12th August however the Rainbow saw a three funnelled cruiser hulled vessel steaming towards them at full speed. Fearing it was the Nürnberg or Leipzig Hose ordered his vessel to turn 14 points away at full speed and ordered battle stations. His plan was to pull away and ready his stern guns before turning and attacking. Thankfully it was the liner SS Prince George which had been fitted up as a hospital ship and sent to escort Rainbow on her mission and to pick up survivors from her inevitable sinking. She also carried orders for the ship to return to base with her.

On the 2nd August Leipzig was anchored at Mazatan, Mexico but soon left for a sweep up the coast towards San Francisco in the hope of catching British flagged merchant vessels coming out of port. It was a good plan as San Francisco was a good stopping point for trade and more importantly coal up for the final push to Canada. The only drawback was that all precautions had be taken not to pull over a neutral American vessel. His orders only covered attacking mercantile shipping and any small enemy vessels that he came across, any larger vessels or fleets were to be avoided at all costs. The Nürnberg had left the region on the 21st July heading from San Francisco to Honolulu to rendezvous with von Spee and the Kreuzerwaffe. Haun was alone but the Allies did not know that and mercantile shipping began to seize up. Insurance companies were very tetchy about insuaring vessels when an enemy cruiser was in the sea-lanes, it is very bad for business. Captains were also wary about putting to sea in their livelihoods and risking their crews lives.

As the intrepid Rainbow put to sea from Esquimalt, the Leipzig was cruising up the west coast searching for any shipping but she found nothing. Either ships were scattering as she approached or were refusing to put to sea. Haun received transmissions that the Royal Navy were waiting for him with a cruiser out by the Golden gate bridge, although he was informed of its obsolete nature he was painfully aware that he was many miles from a German port for repair and proceeded cautiously through the fog. On reaching San Francisco on the 10th August Haun put in to coal up his vessel and get an idea of what British flagged vessels were about. International law stated that he could only take on coal and conduct minor repairs for twenty four hours in a neutral port and the US authorities in San Francisco were very strict at this time and Leipzig had to leave before she had been coaled properly. After consulting the German consulate Haun had decided to keep his vessel seaward of the Golden gate bridge as he believed that he would catch something either going in or out, especially colliers with which to stock his much depleted bunkers. He was in no rush to attack Rainbow or look for the sloops as if he were to sustain any damage his anti commerce campaign would come to an end very quickly, he also feared that if coaled insufficiently he would be forced to make the ignominious decision to intern one of the Kaiser’s warships with out any victory to show for it. It was resolved that if he could find no coal that he would steam after Rainbow and fight before interning his damaged and low on coal vessel.  There is a local rumour that a German battleship sheltered at Conception bay during the period and this very well could have been Leipzig awaiting shipping.

In San Francisco 25 steamers carrying in excess of 60,000 tonnes of Barley and large amounts of other trade were waiting for Leipzig to leave. In Seattle grain, salmon, flour and lumber were building up awaiting shipping to collect it. Businesses were frozen awaiting deliveries and removal of exports but whilst the German cruiser remained nothing moved.

Leipzig was forced to leave the area of San Francisco on the 18th August as after a week of inactivity caused by the British Admiralty’s order to all Merchant shipping to “stay in port”. News came that HMS Newcastle from Admiral Jerram’s China station was on its way across the Pacific to assist the Canadian fleet and that as relations with Japan looked to be deteriorating the armoured cruiser Idzumo, which had been off the coast of Mexico as well, would also come looking for Haun’s vessel. Before leaving though Haun invited journalists aboard Leipzig, personally met the mayor of San Francisco and donated two Japanese bear cubs to the zoo. He also proclaimed that the Leipzig would seek out enemy shipping and fight;

 “the number and size of our antagonists makes no difference to us.”

The decision was made to head south and Leipzig got underway and she proceeded to the Gulf of California where she laid low for a week and on the 8th September she coaled from the German Freighter Marie and railway trucks from the Sonara railway company that were assembled on the shore for Haun’s use. The very next day, along with Marie he left his sanctuary and cruised up the gulf where at 2.30 am they scored their first victory. The tank steamer Elsinore which failed to see the cruiser in the sporadic rain squalls and despite her turned down running lights was picked up by Leipzig’s searchlights. After the crew was taken aboard the Leipzig the Elsinore was consigned to the depths.

HMS Shearwater
Haun promised the Captain of the Elsinore that he would put them ashore on the Marie at Calao but changed his plans and headed out towards the Galapagos Islands, arriving on the 17th September and left the prisoners under the watch of one German officer before coaling and leaving on the 21st. As the Leipzig had sailed south all the shipping had been held in port so Captain Haun was hoping that by heading out to the remote Galapagos it would be assumed he had left the theatre heading out towards the Pacific. He planned a surprise attack on the trade routes along Ecuadorian and Peruvian coast.  The first casualty was handed to him on a plate.

The after shocks of Leipzig’s patrol up to San Francisco were still being felt by the Canadian and British shipping though. HMCS Rainbow overtook Shearwater on 13th August near the Straits of Juan de Fuca and escorted to Esquimalt where in a very quick turn around of re-coaling and taking on High explosive ammunition (which lacked the correct fuses and were thus fairly useless) and headed out the same day to find Algerine. The last sloop was found in the early hours the next day by the Prince George. She had run out of coal and had unfurled her sails but meeting strong headwinds her journey north had been slowed. Following the arrival of the fuses on the 15th of August Commander Hose requested permission to go and seek out Leipzig. Permission was duly granted and on the 18th Rainbow set sail for San Francisco once again. However later that day the order was quickly countermanded and Hose returned to base having been ordered to await reinforcements from Admiral Jerram’s China station; HMS Newcastle was due soon and they could proceed together. Before Newcastle could arrive an urgent summons was received from Prince Rupert Island where the locals were certain they had seen Leipzig and Nürnberg. Rainbow set off immediately searching for the Germans bolstered with crewmen from the RCNVR and the two sloops as well as her new ammunition but found nothing not even the US steamship Delhi which had supposedly resupplied the two German cruisers on the night of 19th-20th August. Little did they know that Haun and Leipzig were actually in the Gulf of California some 1998 miles away and Nürnberg was even further and was coaling at the Enewetak atoll with von Spee’s armoured cruisers. Commander Hose decided to take Rainbow on an extended patrol of the north British Columbia coast returning to Esquimalt on the 2nd September.

The reinforcements had arrived in Rainbow’s absence. On 25th August the IJN Idzumo arrived at Esquimalt and on 30th so did the Newcastle under Captain Powlett who took immediate command of the whole of the Naval operation as the senior Naval officer and began organise shore defence guns and mine laying to protect the coast. Rear Admiral Story arrived in mid September to take command of the situation after the Canadian Naval department became concerned about the methods Powlett was using as they considered all of these defences unnecessary and more importantly expensive! They wanted to also reassert Canadian authority over the Canadian Navy. Story quickly took charge as the senior officer and put things in order.

Newcastle and Idzumo began their sweep south on the 3rd September leaving Rainbow to guard the northern approaches in case Admiral von Spee’s squadron arrived to the north. They found nothing. Idzumo was left to guard the entrance to San Francisco in case Leipzig were to double back and Newcastle carried on alone, safe in the news that Nürnberg had been sighted in Honolulu on the 1st-2nd September. There was evidence that Leipzig had been through the waters leading to Panama, only rumours, sightings and old information greeted the British rather than the elusive prey. Powlett made a thorough search of the area and arrived  at Santa Rosalia at the Gulf of California’s mouth on 17th September. He theorised correctly that Haun would head for the Galapagos islands and may join up with Nürnberg again, if she had turned east to the South American coast rather than west to von Spee’s fleet. Having set up lookouts and an intelligence network on the coast and believing Leipzig had too much of a head start and may have Nürnberg with her he decided to return back to his station on the Canadian coast.

The SS Bankfields was carrying 9 tonnes of Copper ore and 5950 tonnes of sugar when she began her journey at 4am on the 24th September unaware that the British consulate’s order to hold all shipping until Leipzig could be located had been delayed by her company’s German owner who may or may not have also been in contact with the German warship. Blissfully unaware of the threat the freighter continued in a straight line across the gulf of Guayaquil on the Panama track until 8am on the following day when she was pulled over by the German cruiser and ordered to follow her after a brief boarding action at 8.55. Six and a half hours later the unmanned prize was sunk by gunfire and Leipzig again began to crawl down the coast looking for prey. Haun found the seas devoid of British shipping, word of his existence had paralysed the sea lanes here and his search was fruitless.  He decided to head for the Lobos de Afuera Islands where on the 28th he was met by a Kosmos liner Amasts which brought fresh coal.

After failing to catch the Tamar, a British freighter which stuck close to neutral territorial waters,
SMS Dresden
Leipzig planned to turn west again but was signalled that fresh vessels were coming to assist. There was also contact from the Admiralstab in Berlin. Another German cruiser, SMS Dresden was running from the Royal Navy on the east coast of South America and had rounded Cape Horn, he was ordered to meet Dresden so that they could work together in commerce raiding and for mutual defence. On the 2nd October a radio message from the Dresden, the first German warship they’d seen in three months, came through;

My position is Mas a Fuera Island. Intend to proceed to Easter Island to make contact with Cruiser Squadron.

The news that Admiral von Spee had brought the squadron across the ocean must have been greeted with much elation aboard the German cruiser, she was no longer alone in unfriendly waters and the Admiral was sure to have a plan of action. On the 3rd October three more Kosmos liners arrived fully laden with coal for him. They were the Anubis, Karnak and Abessinia.  Leipzig planned to move forward with purpose and Haun decided to make for Easter Island as a rendezvous point where Dresden and Leipzig could meet and plan their next moves but first he ordered Abessinia to fully coal up his cruiser on the 3rd October until the 4th.

Further communications with Dresden on the 5th carried orders from von Spee coordinating their arrival and on the 12th October the squadron reformed off the neutral port at Easter Island. Admiral von Spee’s fleet of two armoured cruisers (Scharnhorst and Gneisnau) and three light cruisers (Nürnberg, Dresden and Leipzig) was now fully attended by colliers and supply ships . The Admiral now had a fleet that could reckon with an English patrol. He could make his way to Germany with these ships.

On the 1st October the SS Marie put in at Callao and released the Bankfields’ crew. Coincidentally a small sailing boat from the Galapagos islands also put in to the mainland carrying half of the Elsinore crew. They had escaped from their solitary German captor on 24th September and spent a week at sea trying to get back to report Leipzig’s position and activities, all to late now. This information was relayed however to the Royal Navy commander who was rounding Cape Horn, Rear Admiral Craddock who had come to find von Spee and his ships.