German auxiliary cruiser Widder

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Career (Nazi Germany)
Owner: HAPAG
Builder: Howaldtswerke, Kiel
Launched: 1930
Christened: Neumark
Homeport: Kiel
Fate: 1939 requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine
Career (Nazi Germany)
Namesake: Aries
Operator: Kriegsmarine
Builder: Blohm & Voss
Yard number: 3
Acquired: 1939
Recommissioned: 9 December 1939
Renamed: Widder, 1939
Neumark, 1940
Reclassified: Auxiliary cruiser, 1939
Homeport: Kiel
Nickname: HSK-3
Schiff-21
Raider D
Fate: 1941 decommissioned
Career (Great Britain) Royal Navy Ensign
Namesake: Ulysses
Acquired: circa 1945
Renamed: Ulysses
Fate: Sold, 1950
Career (Germany)
Acquired: 1950
Renamed: Fechenheim
Fate: Wrecked near Bergen, 1955
General characteristics
Class & type: Merchant vessel
Tonnage: 7,851 GRT
Displacement: 16,800 tons
Length: 152 m (499 ft)
Beam: 18.2 m (60 ft)
Draught: 8.3 m (27 ft)
Propulsion: Geared turbine
four boilers
6,200 hp (4,600 kW)
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph)
Range: 34,000 nmi (63,000 km; 39,000 mi) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Endurance: 141 days
Complement: 364
Armament:
  • 6 × 150 mm (5.9 in) guns
  • 1 × 75 mm (3.0 in) gun
  • 1 × twin 37 mm (1.5 in) gun
  • 2 × twin 20 mm (0.79 in) guns
  • 4 × torpedo tubes
  • 92 mines
Aircraft carried: 2 × Heinkel He 114B

Widder (HSK 3) was an auxiliary cruiser (Hilfskreuzer) of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that was used as a merchant raider in the Second World War. Her Kriegsmarine designation was Schiff 21, to the Royal Navy she was Raider D. The name Widder (Ram) represents the constellation Aries in the German language. The name was given after the horoscope sign of the ship's master, Kapitän zur See Helmuth von Ruckteschell.

Early history[edit]

Built for HAPAG, the Hamburg America Line, at Howaldtswerke, Kiel, she was launched in 1930 as the freighter Neumark. After an uneventful career she was requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine for use as a commerce raider. She was converted for this purpose by Blohm & Voss in the winter of 1939, and commissioned as the raider Widder on 9 December of that year. She sailed on her first and only raiding voyage in May 1940.

Raider voyage[edit]

Widder sailed as part of the Kriegsmarine's first wave of commerce raiders, sailing on 6 May 1940 under the command of Korvettenkapitän (later Fregattenkapitän) Helmuth von Ruckteschell.

Leaving Germany on 6 May 1940, she made for Bergen, in Norway. On 13 May the Widder confronted the British submarine HMS Clyde on surface, enjoining an exchange of gunfire which lasted for over an hour, with no hits for either side. After the engagement, the cruiser sought shelter in Sandsfjord. On 14 May she sailed to open sea, crossing the Arctic Circle the next day. On 21 August 1940, 800 miles west of the Canary Islands, she sank the SS Anglo Saxon, which had been carrying a cargo of coal from Newport, Wales, to Bahía Blanca, Argentina. After refuelling from the auxiliary ship Nordmark, she slipped through the Denmark Strait. Over a 5½ month period she captured and sank ten ships, totalling 58,644 GRT.

The Widder was reported to have machine-gunned the crew of the SS Anglo Saxon in their life-boats; one jolly boat with seven crewmen got away. Over two months later, on October 27th, the last two survivors in the boat landed in the Bahamas after a 2,275 mile voyage. One of the two died when his new ship was torpedoed in 1941, the other survived the war and testified against von Ruckteschell, who was sentenced to seven years for his war crime.

Having completed her mission, she returned to occupied France on 31 October 1940.

Later history[edit]

Deemed unsuitable as a merchant raider, Widder was re-christened Neumark, and used as a repair ship in Norway. After the war she was taken into British service as Ulysses, then sold back to Germany as Fechenheim in 1950 before being wrecked off Bergen in 1955. Her hull was scrapped shortly after.

She was one of only two German auxiliary cruisers to survive the war, after one 1940 cruise. Her captain, Helmuth von Ruckteschell, was one of only two German naval commanders convicted of war crimes at the end of the war.

Raiding career[edit]

Date Ship name Country Tonnage Fate
13 June 1940 British Petrol  United Kingdom 6,891 GRT Sunk
26 June 1940 Krossfonn  Norway 9,323 GRT Captured
10 July 1940 Davisian  United Kingdom 6,433 GRT Sunk
13 July 1940 King John  United Kingdom 5,228 GRT Sunk
4 August 1940 Beaulieu  Norway 6,114 GRT Sunk
8 August 1940 Oostplein  Netherlands 5,059 GRT Sunk
10 August 1940 Killoran  Finland 1,817 GRT Sunk
21 August 1940 Anglo-Saxon  United Kingdom 5,596 GRT Sunk
1 September 1940 Cymbeline  United Kingdom 6,317 GRT Sunk
8 September 1940 Antonios Chandros  Greece 5,866 GRT Sunk

References[edit]

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