German auxiliary cruiser Komet
|Builder:||Deschimag A.G. Weser|
|Launched:||16 January 1937|
|Fate:||Requisitioned by Kriegsmarine, 1939|
|Builder:||Howaldtswerke, Hamburg (conversion)|
|Commissioned:||2 June 1940|
|Reclassified:||Auxiliary cruiser (1940)|
|Fate:||Sunk on 14 October 1942 after hit by a torpedo near Cap de la Hague.|
|Displacement:||7,500 tons (3,287 GRT)|
|Length:||115.5 m (379 ft)|
|Beam:||15.3 m (50 ft)|
|Draught:||6.5 m (21 ft)|
|Propulsion:||2 Diesel engines|
|Speed:||16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)|
|Range:||35,100 nautical miles (65,000 km)|
|Armament:||(1940) 6 × 15 cm, 1 × 7.5 cm, 1 × 3.7 cm, 4 × 2 cm, 6 × 53.3 cm torpedo tubes, 30 × EMC mines|
|Aircraft carried:||2 Arado Ar 196 A-1|
Komet (German for comet) (HSK-7) was an auxiliary cruiser of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine in the Second World War, intended for service as a commerce raider. Known to the Kriegsmarine as Schiff 45, to the Royal Navy she was Raider B.
After completing one successful raid in the South Pacific, she was sunk by British motor torpedo boats in October 1942 whilst attempting to break out into the Atlantic on another.
Construction and conversion
Launched on 16 January 1937 as the merchant ship Ems at Deschimag A.G. Weser shipyard in Bremen for Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL), she was requisitioned at the start of the Second World War in 1939, converted into an auxiliary cruiser at Howaldtswerke in Hamburg, and commissioned into the Kriegsmarine on 2 June 1940. The ship was 115.5 m long and 15.3 m wide, had a draught of 6.5 m, and registered 3,287 gross register tons (GRT). She was powered by two diesel engines that gave her a speed of up to 16 knots (30 km/h).
As a commerce raider, Komet was armed with six 15 cm guns, one 7.5 cm gun, one 3.7 cm and four 2 cm AA guns, as well as six torpedo tubes. She also carried a small 15-ton fast boat ("Meteorit", of the "LS2" class) intended to lay mines and an Arado 196 A1 seaplane. Her crew numbered 274.
Initial raiding voyage
Breakout into the Pacific
After a long period of negotiations between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the Soviets agreed to provide Germany with access to the Northern Sea Route through which Germany could access both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Although the two countries had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (with secret protocols dividing eastern Europe) and an undisclosed German–Soviet Commercial Agreement (1940) (extensive military and civilian aid pact), the Soviet Union still wished to maintain the veneer of being neutral, and secrecy thus was required. Initially, the two countries had agreed to send 26 ships, including four armed merchant cruisers, but because of a variety of difficulties, this was soon reduced to just one vessel, the Komet.
Prior to being sent on the Northern Sea Route, the Komet was equipped with a specially strengthened bow and a propeller suitable for navigating through ice. Under the command of Kapitän zur See (later Konteradmiral) Robert Eyssen, HSK7 departed for her first raiding voyage from Gotenhafen (now Gdynia in Poland), on 3 July 1940 with a crew of 270.
With the consent of the then supposedly neutral Soviet Union, Komet initially made her way along the Norwegian coast disguised as the Soviet icebreaker Semyon Dezhnev. While waiting in Teriberka Bay in July and August because of Soviet security concerns, she took the fake name the Donau. With assistance from the Soviet icebreaker Lenin, she passed through the several Arctic Ocean passages in August. She also later received help from the Joseph Stalin. In early September, the Komet crossed the Bering Strait into the Pacific Ocean.
The passage navigation was an amazing achievement in itself but would have ended in disaster had it not been for the Soviet assistance, whose help had been at a price – 950,000 Reichsmarks was the reported payment.
Once in the Pacific, Eyssen sailed down to the Japanese island of Lamutrik and met the Orion and Kulmerland in mid-October. After a conference on strategy, the three captains decided to work together, concentrating on the New Zealand to Panama passage taken by most of the Allied merchant ships. They decided on Japanese disguises – Komet and Kulmerland had the names Manyo Maru and Tokio Maru painted on their hulls. By the time they sank the Holmwood and Rangitane, Komet had already been at sea for 140 days and Eyssen admitted in his war diary that he had become depressed and frustrated at not having encountered the enemy.
Raiding in South Pacific waters
In early November, Komet resupplied and refueled in Japan, was disguised as the Japanese merchantman Manio Maru. She operated with the Orion, disguised as Mayebashi Maru and the supply ship Kulmerland, posing as the Tokio Maru. During December, Komet and Orion sank five Allied merchant ships, with a combined tonnage of about 41,000 tons, that had been waiting off the island of Nauru to load phosphate (of which Komet sank three). On 27 December 1940 she shelled the phosphate processing and loading facilities on Nauru. Cooperating with the Orion, she sank two more British ships in August 1941 and captured the Dutch 7,300 ton freighter Kota Nopan, which was sent as a prize to Bordeaux.
From 14 July 1941 until 25 July, the Komet was resupplied by the German freighter Anneliese Essberger near the Tuamotu Archipelago. The Anneliese Essberger was operating from Japan, disguised as the Terutoyo Maru, with a Japanese flag painted on each side of the hull and a large "K", for Kishen, on the smokestack. At this time, the Komet was disguised as the Osaka Shosen Kaisha line Ryoku Maru. Vice Admiral Robert Eyssen commanded 270 men. Her Arado reconnaissance plane was inoperable due to a hard landing but she did have an armored speedboat for laying mines.:71-85
Komet then sailed through the West and East Pacific, around Cape Horn and north through the Atlantic, returning to Cherbourg (France), thus circumnavigating the globe. She reached Hamburg on 30 November 1941 after a voyage of 516 days and about 100,000 nautical miles (190,000 km).
Her second raid, under the command of Kapitän zur See Ulrich Brocksien, began in early October 1942. However, only a week out of Hamburg, on 14 October, she was attacked by British motor torpedo boats near the Cap de la Hague. Sub-Lieutenant Robert Drayson, commanding MTB 236, fired two torpedoes at Komet at close range, setting her alight. After a tremendous explosion, she sank, with no survivors from a crew of 251.
The wreck of HK Komet was discovered by nautical archaeologist Innes McCartney off Cap de la Hague in July 2006 and was surveyed by a team led by him in 2007. She is in two halves and upside down, with a large part of the center section blown away by the explosion that sank her. She lies in 55.0 metres (180.4 ft) of water.
- 1940-11-25 Holmwood 546 GRT
- 1940-12-06 Triona 4,413 GRT
- 1940-12-07 Vinni 5,181 GRT
- 1940-12-07 Komata 3,900 GRT
- 1941-08-14 Australind 5,020 GRT
- 1941-08-17 Kota Nopan 7,322 GRT (captured)
- 1941-08-19 Devon 9,036 GRT
Sunk together with Orion
- 1940-11-27 RMS Rangitane 16,712 GRT
- 1940-12-08 Triadic 6,378 GRT
- 1940-12-08 Triaster 6,032 GRT
- "Hilfskreuzer (Auxiliary Cruiser) Komet". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- "Hilfskreuzer Komet". www.scharnhorst-class.dk. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
- Philbin III, Tobias R., The Lure of Neptune: German-Soviet Naval Collaboration and Ambitions, 1919–1941, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87249-992-8, page 131-7
- Philbin III, Tobias R., The Lure of Neptune: German-Soviet Naval Collaboration and Ambitions, 1919–1941, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87249-992-8, page 138-9
- Philbin III, Tobias R., The Lure of Neptune: German-Soviet Naval Collaboration and Ambitions, 1919–1941, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87249-992-8, page 140-1
- Rangitane story[dead link]
- "The Komet raider". http://argo.net.au/. Retrieved 24 February 2007.[dead link]
- John Asmussen, Hilfskreuzer (Auxiliary Cruiser) Komet Retrieved 16 October 2010
- Rafał Kaczmarek (in Polish): Korsarski rejs wśród lodów obu biegunów [Corsair raid through ice of both poles] in: Okręty Wojenne Nr. 11 (1994 r.), p.32-39
- Giese, O., 1994, Shooting the War, Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, ISBN 1557503079
- Bob Drayson (Obituary) dated 26 Oct 2008 at telegraph.co.uk/news, accessed 13 December 2013
- Innes McCartney. "Komet that turned fireball". Divernet – Diver Magazine Online. Retrieved 6 December 2009.
- "HSK Komet Discovery and Investigation".
- "MV Vinni (+1940)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- "SS Komata (+1940)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- "MV Rangitane (+1940)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- "MV Triadic (+1940)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- "MV Triaster (+1940)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- 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 (1954). The War at Sea 1939–1945 Volume 2.
- New Zealand Official War History:The German raider Komet