German auxiliary cruiser Michel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Career (Nazi Germany)
Class and type: Merchant vessel
Name: Bielsko
Operator: Gdynia-America-Line
Builder: Danziger Werft, Danzig
Launched: April 1939
Fate: Requisitioned by Kriegsmarine, 1939
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: Michel
Operator: Kriegsmarine
Yard number: 9
Commissioned: 7 September 1941
Renamed: Bonn (1939)
Michel (1941)
Reclassified: Hospital Ship (1939)
Auxiliary cruiser (1941)
Nickname: HSK-9
Schiff-28
Raider H
Fate: Sunk on 17 October 1943 by U.S submarine USS Tarpon east of Yokohama
General characteristics
Displacement: 10,900 tons (4,740 GRT)
Length: 132 m (433 ft)
Beam: 16.8 m (55 ft)
Draught: 7.4 m (24 ft)
Propulsion: 2 MAN 8-cyl. Diesel, one shaft, 6,650 shp (4.889 MW)
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h)
Range: 34,000 nautical miles (63,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Complement: 395 (incl. 18 officers), 5 prize-officers
Armament: (1939) 6 × 15cm L/45 C13 (taken from AMC Widder), 1 × 10,5 cm L/45, 2 × 3.7 cm, 4 × 2 cm, 6 × 53.3 cm torpedo tubes (2 twins overwater, 2 mounted singles underwater) + the small Torpedo boat LS 4 Esau
Aircraft carried: 2 Arado Ar 196 A-2

Michel (HSK-9) was an auxiliary cruiser of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated as a merchant raider during World War II. Built by Danziger Werft in Danzig 1938/39 as the freighter Bielsko for Polish Gdynia-America-Line (GAL), she was requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine at the outbreak of World War II and converted into the hospital ship Bonn and in summer 1941 into auxiliary cruiser Michel, commissioned on 7 September 1941. Known to the KM as Schiff 28, her Royal Navy designation was Raider H. She was the last operative German raider of World War II.

Construction and conversion[edit]

After the AMC Widder returned to Germany, her engines were worn out. As replacement for her the hospital ship Bonn was converted as AMC and used the weapons of her predecessor.

First raiding voyage[edit]

Although Michel was scheduled to leave at the end of November 1941 she was unable to depart before March 1942 due to reconstruction delays. After moving under heavy escort through the English Channel to a port in occupied France, Michel sailed on 20 March 1942 under the command of FK (later KzS) Helmuth von Ruckteschell (who had previously commanded HSK 3, the raider Widder).

Michel grounded at on her first attempt to run through the Channel and had to return but managed to reach the Atlantic on 20 March after a second try. Thereby on 14/15 March the cruiser and the escorts were repeatedly attacked by British forces, without success. Michel was to operate in the South Atlantic and first sank the British tanker Patelle (7,469 gross register tons (GRT)) on 19 April. On 22 April her small torpedo boat sank the US tanker Connecticut (8,684 GRT) but on 1 May an attack on the faster British freighter Menelaus failed. After its warning the Royal Navy sent out the cruiser HMS Shropshire and two AMCs.

Michel sank the Norse freighter Kattegat (4,245 GRT) on 20 May.

LS 4 Esau discovered the struggling US Liberty ship SS George Clymer (6,800 GRT) and scored two torpedo hits but the freighter refused to go down. The nearby British AMC Alcantara dashed forward and rescued the crew but the ship had to be abandoned. The Germans retreated when the British ship came in sight but nevertheless both the British and US ships did not see the Michel and thought the George Clymer was attacked by a submarine.

Various other successes followed, as Michel operated in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. After a successful cruise of eleven and a half months, Michel arrived in Japan in March 1943, via Singapore where rescued sailors were off loaded.

In 346 days she encountered and sank 15 allied ships, totalling 99,000 tons (GRT).

Second raiding voyage[edit]

After a refit, Michel sailed from Yokohama on 21 May 1943, this time under the command of KzS Günther Gumprich, who had previously commanded the Thor on her second voyage. Cruising the west coast of Australia, and crossing the Pacific Ocean to the coast of South America, Michel encountered and sank three ships over a five-month period for a total of 27,632 GRT, before returning to Japan. The fate of the last victim of Michel, the Norwegian tanker India, sunk in the southern Pacific on 11 September 1943 with all hands, was not known until the end of the war.[1] On 29 August, Michel´s lookouts had sighted what they identified as a Pensacola-class cruiser. Gumprich ordered a northern course to avoid meeting the enemy unit.[2] According to the log of the American light cruiser USS Trenton, she had a radar contact which lasted for 15 minutes on the previous day. Trenton was patrolling between 22°05′S 172°46′W / 22.083°S 172.767°W / -22.083; -172.767 and 20°16′S 174°56′W / 20.267°S 174.933°W / -20.267; -174.933. Had the American cruiser investigated further, is quite possible that the India might have been saved.[1]

Fate[edit]

On her return to Japan, just 50 miles (80 km) out from port, and not zigzagging,[3] Michel was sighted by US submarine Tarpon, that attacked in one of the few instances of American submarines attacking a German vessel during World War II, hitting her with three torpedoes. Michel sank, with 290 of her crew, including her captain. The survivors, 116 in total, were able to reach Japan after a three-day journey in open boats. Scores of men had been left on rafts and floating wreckage, but the Japanese Navy reported that search aircraft had seen nothing. This caused some controversy amongst German Navy officers in Japan and at Naval Headquarters, with the Japanese seeming to have a blasé attitude towards possible German survivors.[4] This event ended the war cruises of German auxiliary commerce raiders.

Raiding career[edit]

First cruise:

Second cruise:

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Norwegian victims of Michel - MT India
  2. ^ Hilfskreuzer (Auxiliary Cruiser) Michel
  3. ^ Muggenthaler German Raiders of World War II London Pan 1980 p282 ISBN 0-330-26204-1
  4. ^ Muggenthaler p287
  5. ^ Other sources, such as Wrecksite credit U-504 with sinking Reynolds

Bibliography[edit]

  • Erich Gröner. Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815–1945 volume 3. Bonn: Bernard & Graefe Verlag. ISBN 3-7637-4802-4. 
  • Zvonimer Freivogel. Deutsche Hilfskreuzer des Zweiten Weltkriegs. Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 3-613-02288-5. 
  • Paul Schmalenbach (1977). German Raiders 1895–1945. ISBN 0 85059 351 4. 
  • August Karl Muggenthaler (1977). German Raiders of World War II. ISBN 0 7091 6683 4. 
  • Stephen Roskill (1954). The War at Sea 1939–1945 Volume I. 
  • Stephen Roskill (1956). The War at Sea 1939–1945 Volume II. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°42′0″N 140°08′0″E / 33.70000°N 140.13333°E / 33.70000; 140.13333