German auxiliary cruiser Michel

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Career (Nazi Germany)
Class and type: Auxiliary cruiser
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 the 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. In the summer of 1941, she was converted into the auxiliary cruiser Michel, and was commissioned on 7 September 1941. Known 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]

When the AMC Widder returned from her cruise to Germany, her engines were almost worn out. The hospital ship Bonn was converted into an AMC and mounted the weapons used by the Widder.

First raiding voyage[edit]

Although Michel was scheduled to leave at the end of November 1941, she was unable to sail until March 1942 because of reconstruction delays. She then moved under heavy escort through the English Channel to a port in occupied France. She set off on her cruise sailed on 20 March 1942,commanded by FK (later KzS) Helmuth von Ruckteschell, the former commander of HSK 3, the raider Widder).

Michel grounded on her first attempt to run through the Channel and had to return to port. She managed to reach the Atlantic on 20 March on her second try. On 14 and 15 March, British forces attacked the cruiser and her escorts, but without success. Michel began her operations in the South Atlantic and sank the British tanker Patelle (7,469 gross register tons (GRT)) on 19 April. On 22 April her small torpedo boat sank the American tanker Connecticut (8,684 GRT), but an attack on the faster British freighter Menelaus failed on 1 May. The Royal Navy now sent the cruiser HMS Shropshire and two AMCs to track her down. Nevertheless, 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, though the freighter did not sink. The nearby British AMC Alcantara rescued her crew, but the ship had to be abandoned. The German ship retreated when the British AMCs came in sight and escaped detection. The British mistakenly presumed the George Clymer had been torpedoed by a submarine.

Other successes followed as Michel crossed in the South Atlantic and entered the Indian Ocean. After a successful cruise of eleven and a half months, she arrived in Japan in March 1943, having off loaded the rescued allied sailors at Singapore.

During her 346 days at sea, Michel had encountered and sunk 15 allied merchant ships, for a total of 99,000 tons (GRT).

Second raiding voyage[edit]

After a refit, Michel sailed from Yokohama on her second cruise on 21 May 1943, now under the command of KzS Günther Gumprich, who had previously commanded the Thor.

She sailed along the west coast of Australia, and crossed the Pacific Ocean to the coast of South America. Michel encountered and sank three allied ships over a five-month period, for a total of 27,632 GRT, before making her return to Japan.

The fate of her last victim, the Norwegian tanker India, sunk in the southern Pacific on 11 September 1943 with a loss of all hands, would not be known until after the war's end.[1] On 29 August, Michel´s lookouts had sighted what they identified as a Pensacola-class cruiser. Gumprich ordered a northern course to avoid the powerful enemy ship .[2] The log of the American light cruiser USS Trenton shows that 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, the India might have been saved.[1]

Fate[edit]

Almost within sight of Japan and only 50 miles (80 km) out from port,[3] Michel was spotted by the US submarine Tarpon. In one of the times American submarines attacked a German ship during World War II, Tarpon fired three torpedoes, all of which struck her. Michel sank, taking down 290 of her crew, including the captain. The 116 survivors reached safety in Japan after a three-day journey in open boats. Scores of others had been left on rafts and floating wreckage, but the Japanese Navy search aircraft reported they had seen nothing. This caused some friction with the German Navy officers in Japan, who felt the Japanese seemed unconcerned about rescuing possible German survivors.[4] The loss of the Michel marked the end of the 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