Theodor Detmers

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Theodor Detmers
Theodor Detmers.jpg
Born22 August 1902
Died4 November 1976(1976-11-04) (aged 74)
Rahlstedt, Hamburg
Allegiance Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Reichsmarine
Years of service1921–1945
RankKapitän zur See
Commands heldHermann Schoemann
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsKnight’s Cross of the Iron Cross
Iron Cross
Other workAuthor[1]

Theodor Detmers (22 August 1902 – 4 November 1976) was the commanding officer of the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran.[2] He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross of Nazi Germany.


Detmers joined the Reichsmarine in 1921 and served on the battleships Hannover and Elsass. He was educated on the sail training ship Niobe and also served on Berlin. Detmers became a sublieutenant on the cruiser Emden. From 1926–28, he served on the Albatross. In 1927, he was promoted to lieutenant. From 1930–32, he served as staff officer and was then stationed on the cruiser Köln, on which he visited Australia in 1933.[3]

In 1934, he served on torpedo boats and destroyers of the Reichsmarine. In October 1938, he was in command of the destroyer Hermann Schoemann and participated in Operation Weserübung in April to June 1940.

HSK Kormoran[edit]

In July 1940, Detmers became captain of the commerce raider Kormoran, and captured or destroyed 11 enemy merchant ships. On 19 November 1941 Kormoran was intercepted by HMAS Sydney. Detmers tried to pose as a Dutch merchant ship. He allegedly lacked the necessary naval codes, however, and was finally forced to engage Sydney.[4] He sank the Australian cruiser in battle off Western Australia. His own ship was severely damaged and had to be scuttled, after which Detmers was captured and became a prisoner of war (POW).[citation needed]

In December 1941, Detmers was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and in 1943, was promoted to the rank of Kapitän zur See. He had earlier received the first class Iron Cross.

Prisoner of war and later life[edit]

Detmers' Prisoner of War Service and Casualty Form

From 1941 to January 1947, Detmers was held as a POW at HM Prison Dhurringile. While a prisoner, he wrote a coded account of the battle between HMAS Sydney and German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran that survived the war.[5] Detmers tried to escape Australian captivity with other members of his crew, through a tunnel and then hoped to capture a sailboat to get to Indonesia; however, the attempt was unsuccessful. Later during his imprisonment, he suffered a stroke.[6]

Detmers returned to Germany in 1947 and was released from British captivity in Munster. Due to his stroke, he was incapacitated for service in the post-war German navy. In the early 1950s he married Ursula Reinhardt, daughter of a Protestant pastor. They had no children and he died in Rahlstedt, Hamburg in 1976. Detmers wrote a book about his Kormoran experiences,[1] which has been translated into English.[7]

Awards and decorations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Detmers T, Brennecke J. (1959). "Kormoran", der Hilfskreuzer, der die "Sydney" versenkte. ISBN 3-7822-0110-8.
  2. ^ "HMAS Sydney II and the Kormoran". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Hilfskreuzer Kormoran". Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  4. ^ Captain Detmers' book revisited Archived 29 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine (pdf) pp.7-8 The Australian Association of Maritime History.
    Admiral Karl Dönitz in 1959 confirmed that Allied codes had at that time been broken and that German raiders were in possession of the procedures for challenge and reply. It is possible that Detmers possessed the Straat Malakka's secret callsign, although he denied it. This might explain why Sydney was so close.
  5. ^ "HMAS SYDNEY and KORMORAN DOCUMENTS". Sea Power (Royal Australian Navy Archive). 1941. Retrieved 15 September 2008.
  6. ^ HMAS Sydney II - Captain Theodor Anton Detmers
  7. ^ Detmers Theodore (1959). The Raider Kormoran. London: William Kimber.
  8. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 135.


  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.

External links[edit]