|Fregattenkapitan von Ludecke|
The only certainty was that come the morning the British would be looking for his vessel which meant having to make a very obvious decision and the only one open to him; head back around the horn but the straits of Magellan would be watched and the first place that Sturdee would send his vessels so von Lüdecke ordered Dresden further south and into Tierra del Fuega arriving at Scholl bay at the end of Cockburn channel on the 9th December weighing anchor at the base of Mount Lizzie. Kapitänleutnant Kurt Nieden reported that the ship had 150 tons of coal left and with the British They were alone with a terrifyingly low level of coal and the Royal Navy about to hunt him down like a Naval fox but on the plus side he still had a healthy amount of ammunition, they were hiding in a maze of poorly charted and almost unnavigable channels and if they could hold their nerve and organise supplies of food they could escape attention.
First job was to secure fuel. With Punta Arenas to the north it seemed an obvious port of call, almost too obvious but needs were pressing but first von Lüdecke ordered his men ashore to cut down trees and prepare the lumber to augment the negligible coal supplies. Their solitude did not last long and on the 11th the large Chilean destroyer Almirante Condell sailed past and signalled von Lüdecke to remind him that he had twenty four hours to finish in Chilean waters or face internment. Chile was exercising her rights of neutrality with military vigour and von Lüdecke had no room to argue. It was time for Dresden to head out of her hiding place and head for Punta Arenas and organise resupply. The German Consulate in the city tried in vain to convince von Lüdecke intern his vessel, there was no dishonour in admitting defeat and sparing his men the fate of the rest of the East Asiatic squadron. The plea fell on deaf ears though, von Lüdecke was of the old school and was not willing to surrender prematurely whilst their was a chance or without orders from the Admiralstab. The Ship’s adjutant Oberleutnant zur see Wilhelm Canaris negotiated with the local Chilean naval attaché, who failed to pass the message on to Santiago that the Dresden could wait for coal to arrive up to 51 hours. This astounding amount of time was in light that the Punta Arenas authorities had allowed HMS Otranto to lay in port for 51 hours. The Chilean government had however had given strict instructions that Dresden was not allowed to coal anywhere in Chilean territory or face immediate internment. After thirty hours in port and having taken on 800 tons of coal from the Roland line Turpin as well as organising with the German Consul to charter vessels to bring him coal in the secluded bays to the south.
Despite the resounding victory over von Spee, Vice Admiral Sturdee's fleet was in a very awkward position which ultimately facilitated von Lüdecke's escape. As the sun set on the 8th December HMS Kent was missing presumed sunk Nürnberg and Dresden were presumed escaped to areas unknown, there were wounded, around two hundred German prisoners mostly from Gneisnau and also Ammunition and coal was low. Vice Admiral Sturdee had to secure his supplies which were streaming south with only the auxiliary Oram as an escort, should the two German cruisers get amongst them he would be bereft of coal and stranded at the Falklands. Carnarvon, one of his two fully coaled vessels was dispatched immediately to meet them and guarantee their arrival. The only other fully coaled vessel was Glasgow which with Cornwall was due to be dispatched to the straits of Magellan or the port of Punta Arenas but it had no ammunition after the long battle with Leipzig and Cornwall had no coal. Further to that the third priority was to try and find the missing Kent or her remains so Sturdee took Inflexible, Invincible and Bristol swept from the Falklands without success until the afternoon of the 9th of December when Kent limped back with barely any coal and their W/T transmitter blasted away and news that the Nürnberg was sunk with the majority of her crew. Armed with this Sturdee took his two battle cruisers and Bristol and swung out to Tierra del fuego until his coal dwindled as well and he was forced to take his whole force back to Port Stanley to recoal and resupply before attempting anything further. In those two days following the battle there was no way to know where Dresden or Nürnberg had gone, there was a chance they had had disappeared into the blue, heading back around the Horn or heading to a pre-arranged rendezvous point. For all Sturdee knew they could be lurking around the western island or heading to South Georgia and he did all that he could with the vessels and resources available to him. He simply did not have enough vessels or supplies to find a solitary light cruiser that disappeared into the night.
Once his force was again centred in the Falklands Sturdee began the important job of resupply and recoaling his vessels as well as off loading the German prisonners and bury their dead in a service in the Cathedral attended by not only the Admiral but also the Island's Governor. The lull annoyed the First sea lord and Admiral Fisher, who focused on Sturdee's failure to capture Dresden and used it a stick to beat him with at every opportunity. Even on the triumphant Admiral’s return to London his brief interview with his Commander in Chief centred only upon Dresden and the amount of ammunition fired.
On the 13th December the British consul at Punta Arenas, Captain Charles Milward reported to London that the Dresden was in port coaling and had arrived on the 11th. The message from London to Sturdee ordered him to use his battle cruisers at his discretion but within four hours Milward's confirmation that the German ship was definitely Dresden upped the Admiralty's urgency and Sturdee was ordered to go to take his battle cruisers at once. However the only vessel able to leave quickly was Bristol which left with all due haste and arrived on the 14th August only to find that she had missed the German by 14 hours and without halting Bristol proceeded immediately to the western end of the Straits of Magellan hoping to catch von Lüdecke on the other side. Glasgow joined them on the following day and together they waited.
Dresden never sailed west instead turning south where a chance meeting was to change von Lüdecke’s vessel’s fate prolonging its life. One of the resident’s of Punta Arenas was Albert Pagels, a former Bosun’s mate in the Kaiserliche-marine who was living life as a hunter and seal trapper in the wilds. As a loyal German navy man he had sailed 30 miles on his fishing boat Elfreda in stormy weather to find the liner Amasis which was anchored in a bay so that he could send an urgent message to Admiral von Spee which could have changed history. Pagels had learnt that British Cruisers were in Montevideo and he was hoping that the W/T set on Amasis would be powerful enough to reach Scharnhorst. The storm slowed his journey and after passing a German light cruiser in the channels heading west he arrived on the 9th urgently sending the message but receiving no response. Fearing that he had been too late the trapper managed to convince the Captain of Amasis to head to Punta Arenas and low on coal he agreed so that they could intern themselves. On arrival Pagels learned of the fate of von Spee and that the cruiser that had passed him in the channels was Dresden. He quickly took Elfreda south and offered his services and local knowledge of the inlets and channels to the Prussian Commander. It was such a valuable resource that von Lüdecke quickly agreed and Pagels led the cruiser to an anchorage in a remote corner of Scholl bay that was, according to the charts, on dry land. There Pagels left them whilst he went back to Puntas Arenas to organise supplies and coal whilst von Lüdecke waited with only wood, coal dust and small pile of poor quality coal from Turpin in his bunkers unable to leave and relying on the promises of Pagels and the efforts of the German Consulate to sustain him and the remoteness of his anchorage to protect him from the British. Von Lüdecke took time to clean and maintain Dresden’s tired boilers and engines. It had been a year since Dresden had been able to refit in Germany and she had sailed almost 20,000 miles at varying speeds and now her boilers were tired and in need of serious overhaul, there was absolutely no way that the ship could reach and hold top speed again which ruled out any fights with the British
Things were not going well for the British either. With the destruction of the East Asiatic squadron the Admiralty suddenly found there was a raft of targets and duties that all required immediate attention. Firstly was Dresden followed by the Kronprinz Wilhelm and Karlsruhe on the Eastern seaboard and Prinz Eitel Friedrich to the west, Canopus had already been released and sent north to Abrolhos rocks. There were also campaigns in Africa requiring support and worse still the rumour that a rogue German battle group had escaped the confines of the North Sea and was on its way to meet von Spee. Sturdee prepared to divide his squadron into three with vessels bound for the east coast of Patagonia, others to Tierra del Feuga and another third to sweep the Brazilian coast for Karlsruhe and Kronprinz Wilhelm when news arrived from the British consulate in Punta Arenas, Millward, that their fox was in port. When Bristol reported that she had failed to catch Dresden they had to rely on Millward who knew the region exceptionally well and believed himself a bit of an expert in German mannerisms as he had worked with a German in business for many years, was keen to advise Sturdee that the German was probably heading towards Scholl bay and the inlets at the end of Cockburn channel, something that was confirmed by the crew of the Galileo. On the 17th December Captain Phillimore’s Inflexible came to lead the search and together with Bristol and Glasgow began scouring the San Fernandez Islands a known German rendezvous point whilst Kent and Orama went up the coast. The same day came an order from the Admiralty to bring the two battle cruisers back to the North sea, Sturdee had already left Stanley on the 16th and Inflexible was soon to follow. Admiral Stoddart who was searching the Patagonian coast was put in charge of the search and he quickly dispatched Cornwall from his side to check Staten islands.
After twelve days of hiding the small motor launch, Galileo which manned by a Russian and a
HMAS Australia had sailed through the straits of Magellan at the end of December to form up a squadron in the Caribbean with HMAS Sydney and Melbourne to search for Karlsruhe. The Japanese vessels that had been operating with her were directed to patrol from Valparaiso to the Panama Canal. After calling at the Falkland Islands to coal she intercepted, searched and sank the German transport Eleanore Woermann which had snuck out of Beunos Aires under the false name of Anna denying von Lüdecke another vital supply ship which was added to when de Robeck interned the Otavi The Admiralty also began to drain off Stoddart’s forces with Cornwall being sent to St Helena for deployment against Togoland and Glasgow was sent to Beunos Aires to search the coast down to the straits in case Dresden had doubled back and was about to begin a campaign in the Plate estuary. The British Admiralty was not the only one making unreasonable requests and the German Admiralstab ordered von Lüdecke to head via the sailing route back to Germany. This was impossible, Dresden did not have enough coal, her engines were wearing out and should the near impossible happen and they managed to gather coal on the way back she would not be able to fight the Royal Navy. It was for this reason that he refused the order and instead decided that he would attempt to break out to the Pacific and head up to Emden’s old hunting grounds.
There was also a growing frustration between Milward and Stoddart as they argued over where the Dresden was. After following one of Milward’s hunch and dispatching a tug and Bristol into Scholl bay on the 24th January and finding nothing the Admiral refused to take his fleet into the uncharted waters in Kempe bay and instead turned back when he was 12 miles away from his prey. They would also later pass a steamer that was supplying the Sierra Cordoba without stopping them. Stoddart began to believe that the local knowledge was tainted and useless, he believed Dresden was in the Atlantic and so sailed in early February on Carnarvon with Bristol to Montevideo before sailing on to Albrohos rocks to search for Karlsruhe and Kronprinz Wilhelm and where his ship is dashed upon rocks and severely damaged.
Rumour reached the admiralty that the Dresden was hiding in the aptly named Last Hope inlet on the 10th February. This was an almost inaccessible inlet north east of Smyth’s channel with only one way in or out but the Admiralty were certain that was where she was hiding. Two days later Dresden is sighted at Port Consuelo in the Last hope region and Bristol is immediately ordered to return and search the area again with Glasgow and Kent. Milward argues against this as folly and that the Germans were in the opposite direction but his protestations were swept aside by Whitehall. The Dresden had already put to sea on the 4th and the false information was being spread by Pagels and his associates and it was being taken for truth for a whole month with them still insisting to Luce that Dresden was in Last Hope up until the 4th March! The Bristol was damaged when she hit an unchartered rock that wrecked her rudder and left her only able to manoeuvre using her engines and useless in continuing the search in tight inlets.
Whilst the British were searching fruitlessly for Dresden in the remote crags of Tierra del feugo the
|SS Sierra Cordoba after her capture by the US|
HMS Kent hurried to the area that Dresden was supposedly waiting for Gotha hoping against hope that they had finally found their quarry and that the months of searching were finally over. You can imagine the disappointment that Captain Allen felt when they arrived and found it deserted. Not one to give up easily Allen ordered his engines to stand down and wait over night. The situation had not improved by the morning as thick fog enveloped the area obscuring the view in all directions but Allen held his ground, his patience was to be rewarded. As the fog cleared a vessel began to appear off to the west and it was not the Gotha but the Dresden. Von Lüdecke was awaiting his colliers and drifting to save the meagre amount of coal he had left, once recoaled he was fully intending on escape and this could be the last chance for the British to end the game once and for all. The decks were cleared for action and the engines powered up on both vessels and Dresden began to pull away to the north. Despite getting Kent up to 21 ½ knots by burning all his wood, removing canvas sheets from his guns to cut down air resistance and summoning any nonessential crew to stand on the quarter deck to force the bow up and the propellers deeper into the water to give them more bite and even though her funnels were belching sparks and engines shuddering under extreme pressure Captain Allen only got as close as 8 miles away from the German vessel. The Kent had to give up as night fell with only 300 tons of coal left in her bunkers unable to keep up with Dresden who, despite her dying boilers were able to take the strain in one last role of the dice. Captain Allen ordered his vessel to return to where the chase had began and signalled Glasgow of the position and what had happened before turning to Coronel to resupply. The fear that wracked Allen was that Dresden had yet again escaped and it would be another three months until she was sighted again or worse that she would begin a commerce raiding career that would eclipse her younger sister Emden. There were two silver linings, the first being that Dresden was clearly low on coal as she had been drifting without power when the fog lifted and she had been high in the water so it would be safe to assume her bunkers were empty, also as she fled von Lüdecke had sent a coded W/T message to Sierra Cordoba, Gotha or any other German collier within range to meet him at Cumberland bay at Más a Tierra as soon as they could with fresh supplies. Allen forwarded the coded messages to Luce in the hope that he could be of assistance hoping that if they moved quickly they could catch her in a port.
Captain Luce and Glasgow were deep in the labyrinth of bays and channels when he received the message and on the 9th March he broke out sending Orama to seek out their colliers in Possesion bay before proceeding to Vallenar and Lieutenant Stuart the Glasgow’s signal officer cracked the code and gave Luce his final destination on the 12th March whilst Orama and the supply ships caught up on the following day. The race was on, the British cruisers had to get to Dresden before her colliers did or face Fisher’s wrath and Luce was certain of where find their quarry but he wasn’t going to rush in either. Kent was instructed to meet them at Cumberland bay and approach on the 14th March from the east whilst Glasgow and Orama approached from the west so that there would be no escaping this time.
Luce and Allen need not have gone to so much trouble as von Lüdecke was going nowhere. On arrival five days previously the Dresden slowed to a stop, all but one of her boilers close to break down and her bunkers near empty. The senior Chilean Naval officer who was the lighthouse keeper and acting Naval Governor asserted his nation’s stance towards Dresden by demanding that the Germans had twenty four hours to leave or be interned but knowing that his entire force consisted of four police officers against three hundred sailors and under the watch of her ten 4.2” guns he new that he could do nothing other than summon up a Chilean warship from the mainland. For his part von Lüdecke argued that his engines were non-functional and according to the articles of neutrality the twenty four hour rule should be waived if a vessel was not seaworthy and that the departure date should be in eight days. The Chileans were handed a fait acompli and all they could do is wait for Dresden to leave. The only news that von Lüdecke received from Germany or her vessels was a message from the Admiralstab which gave the Kaiser’s permission to intern the vessel, this was still to be the Kapitän’s last resort and if possible he was going to escape as he had always had before. Yet early in the morning of the 14th the vessel’s pinnace which had been acting as sentry in the outer recesses of the bay came rushing back towards the Dresden signalling that the British were coming, behind her loomed the three British vessels.
The British were faced with a dilemma. Dresden, their long sought after prey was here resting at anchor and vulnerable to attack but in neutral waters. To attack now would be a massive violation of Chilean neutrality and could be a diplomatic incident. On the other hand Dresden had been violating Chilean neutrality for three months hiding in territorial waters and should she escape now would more than likely violate it again or be a danger to all shipping. Luce took the military option deciding to let the diplomats deal with the aftermath and after waiting to see if Dresden would strike her colours for twenty minutes closed to 8400 yards and opened fire whilst Kent began to rain 6” shells upon the German vessel and soon the lyddite shells had set fire to the aft magazine which the German crew hurried to extinguish and the starboard guns were knocked out one by one. Within five minutes the battle flag had been shot away and despite the few German rounds that were offered up as reply the situation was hopeless. Within moments Canaris came to Glasgow to protest that the British were in violation of Chilean neutrality which fell on deaf ears as Luce calmly told him he would accept nothing short of unconditional surrender, something Canaris took back to his Kapitän. In the meantime Glasgow’s surgeon went over to Dresden to treat the wounded and the Chilean Naval Governor came out to protest of the violation but admitted that Dresden had been there for five days and he was expecting relief that evening or the following morning from Valparaiso. Luce as senior officer on site apologised profusely and offered full compensation for all damage caused to Chilean property and what measures they could take to disable Dresden’s machinery when the forward magazine exploded.
Knowing the vessel was doomed and not prepared to see it fall into enemy hands von Lüdecke had ordered his demolition teams to place charges and open the seacocks whilst the rest of his men abandoned ship in boats or simply dived into the warm sea and headed for shore. Whilst the wounded were taken to a hurriedly requisitioned farmhouse the rest of the crew took to the high ground overlooking the sinking cruiser and following three cheers for the vessel they were led by von Lüdecke in the Deutschlandlied in a slow sombre dirge.
The Germans had lost one midshipman and eight sailors killed and twelve sailors and three officers wounded including the ship’s first lieutenant who had to have his leg removed mid thigh as his lower leg and knee was smashed to a pulp. Orama took aboard the most severely wounded to the hospitals in Valparaiso where sadly four more were to die of their injuries. Luce waited for a Chilean warship to arrive but when none appeared he settled accounts and took the flotilla away. The British government responded to Chilean protests and expressed their regret and that they had no other choice, the German government refused to apologise, an act that only moved Chile closer to the British cause.
A shattered von Lüdecke was overcome with shock and following the injury to Nieden, Canaris took
|Canaris as a Seekadet in 1905|
The most audacious escape took place in 1916 when the sailing barque Tinto disappeared with 27 German sailors aboard. The vessel built in Liverpool in 1852 was slowly rotting in port having made her last trip around the Horn in 1878 and used for coastal duties. When a man, clearly a German agent, offered to buy the vessel the owners didn’t question it and were glad to be rid of her. The ship was loaded with lumber in an attempt to give the rotting worm ridden hull some more buoyancy should it rupture. Supplies were loaded and the German crew which consisted of eight men from Dresden, four from Göttingen and sixteen cadets from the four masted barque Herzogin Cecilie which like Göttingen had been interned, snuck aboard and sailed for the Horn. Under pressure from Francis Stronge the serving British minister of Plenipotentiary to fulfil her duty of neutrality the Chilean navy sent the auxiliary cruiser Chamos on the 28th December to search the Evangelistas islands and the gulf of Penas. Tinto escaped around the Horn without any issues but the pursuing Chamas left the main navigation routes and searched the Nelson Straits, Cambridge island, Concepcion, Trinidad and Picton Channels before striking a rock on the 2nd January near Golfoladrillero causing Captain Julio Lagos de la Fuenta to ground the ship and seek rescue.
The Tinto sailed north away from the main sailing routes and for days on end saw nothing of the outside world though a storm did cause damage to the mizzen mast and the already worn sails were damaged even more. Days passed and faded into the into the next with nothing but the rolling Atlantic and blue skies above. Only on one the occaision did concern and tension rise as a British cruiser sailed within view but took no notice of the derelict sailing vessel completely unaware of her true purpose.
Opting to avoid the Channel Tinto took the long route around the British isles and stopped at Lerwick in the Shetland Isles. After inspecting the vessel it was decided that the Tinto after four months at sea, could no longer make it to Germany and the only option was to sail for Norway so they pressed on arriving on their 126th day at sea. The Noreigan port officials allowed them to use public transport to pass through to Germany as their vessel was no longer seaworthy. Although not as epic a journey as von Mücke’s it rivalled it in audacity. The rest of the Germans sat the war out in Chile with von Lüdecke being repatriated in 19119 and the rest of the crew in 1920.
Two years later another breakout of sailors escaped on a sailing vessel, Tinto, and made a four month journey back to Germany. For von Lüdecke and the rest of his men the war was over and having been at large for seven months and sailing 20,000 miles they had only managed to sink a handful of vessels which compared to her sister Emden and the Karlsruhe was hardly distinguishing but she had managed to tie down a whole fleet for three months and forcing them to expend a large amount coal and time in finding and had crippled Bristol without firing a shot. The career of the Dresden was not distinguishing but it doesn’t mean that von Lüdecke was a poor commander, after all he kept his crew alive and safe for the whole period and had followed his instructions to head to von Spee and again to flee the Falklands. Where as von Müller took to Cruiser warfare quickly and had an area of rich pickings with little British Naval interference and Kohler was able to form a drift net style of catching his foes