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Hello

 

Can anyone help with a little puzzle? I have found a German contemporary typewritten list of, supposedly, all German naval prisoners held in France at 31 March 1919 (BA-MA, Freiburg, RM 20/504). There are 471 captives named, officers and men, who are held in seventy-five named camps and in eight separate numbered PoW companies - Gefengenen-Kompagnie (G-K) - without locations - and a small number of men whose camp or company was not known. Each short entry gives name, rank (although this is often obscured), vessel or unit, master unit, and date of capture. There are a number of annotations in pencil and ink made as new details were known.

 

For general interest the list includes a number of air personnel, many infantry and artillery men principally from 1914, the crews of two Zeppelins (L 49/50), three U-boats (UB 26, UC 38, UC 61 - my particular interest), a torpedo boat A 19, and crew members from four larger ships. The four ships’ contingents were from two SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, both the armoured cruiser sunk in 1914 and the pre-dreadnought battleship, presumably loan personnel as the dates of capture were after the ageing battleship was relegated to a depot ship at Kiel through March and April 1915; the light cruiser SMS Königsberg, scuttled in East Africa in 1915; and SMS Möwe, the very successful commerce raider. This question is about the Möwe although I am happy to discuss the others.

 

The Möwe survived the war and yet sixteen men from her were captured on six different occasions and placed in six different camps (not aligned to dates of capture): -/2/1915 (1), 3/6/1916 (4), 19/9/1916 (6), 20/1/1917 (3), -/5/1917 (1) and 31/3/1917 (1). How come? Were these boarding parties left behind in a hurry? Or was there another SMS Möwe?

 

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Best wishes

Chris Heal

 

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3 hours ago, chrisheal said:

Or was there another SMS Möwe?


Possibly from the crew of the vessel Möwe which was sunk at Dar-Es-Salaam in the first days of the war – see The Naval Review Vol.X, No.4, page 650 here http://www.naval-review.com/issues/1920s/1922-4.pdf#Page%3D161&View%3DFit for an article titled THE CREW OF THE MOWE ON LAKE TANGANYIKA 

 

“ON the 30th July, 1914, S.M.S. Konigsberg left Dar-Es-Salaam in order to be outside the harbour at the outbreak of war, before the approaching British Cape Squadron could appear off the German coast. S.M.S. Möwe remained at Dar-Es-Salaam to organise the supply of coal and stores for the Konigsberg and, on the completion of this work, to fit out an auxiliary cruiser for raiding purposes. Three British cruisers appeared off Dar-Es-Salaam on the 5th August, 1914, assiduously patrolling the coast to the north and south and at the same time setting up a zealous and highly efficient system of espionage among the large Indian population of Dar-Es-Salaam and the whole coast, which gave them perfect intelligence and was directed from Zanzibar. On the 8th August, when the British seized the vessels in the harbour, we sank the Möwe. The ship's company had been landed on the 6th August.”

Edited by michaeldr
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Thank you for these responses, Michael - the detailed story was particularly interesting. I see that Möwe was supplying the Königsberg in East Africa. As I said in my first post, there were also prisoners from Königsberg in France in 1919. This does seem more than a coincidence. These Königsberg dates of capture were given as 3/6/1916 (4), 11/3/1916 (1), 19/9/1916 (2). Möwe was sunk on 8/8/1914, Königsberg on 11/7/1915.

 

This all begs a couple of questions. How did these crew members get from East Africa into the French metropolitan POW system? Why did the dates of these prisoner 'registrations' (perhaps not 'captures' as I first translated) continue for so long after their vessels were scuttled in East Africa?

 

The majority of the crews would possibly have gone quickly on British ships to the UK. The answer could be that some crew were sent back from East Africa in batches, delayed for some reason (illness, intelligence, in hiding) and at the time they were ready to go the most suitable vessel was French. It is particularly noticeable, also, that crew of both vessels were entered on, for instance, 19/6/1916, and, therefore, could have travelled back together. In the case of other prisoner listings involving u-boats, Zeppelins, torpedo boats, the dates of registration are exact to the actions when they were captured. This would follow as they were all captured in or just off mainland France - not in East Africa.

 

Best wishes

Chris

Edited by chrisheal
grammar
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You have in The Naval Review article, the name of at least one prisoner:

see page 657 where the capture by Belgian Askaris in December 1915 of Lieutenant Rosenthal is described.

Does the name Rosenthal appear on the list which you have?

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A hit, Sir! Walter Rosenthal of the Königsberg is listed for 11 March 1916 which fits well with a December 1915 capture by the Belgians (who used French POW camps for their German captives) and a sea voyage back to France. I cannot read the rank, but Rosenthal is in Cholet, an officers' camp on the River Moine, about fifty km from Nantes, and he is  'zur See'. For interest, alongside him are Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Smiths, commander of u-boat UB 26, and Kapitänleutnant Fritz Schreiber of the Möwe (31/3/1917), the latter perhaps more successful at evading capture that Rosenthal. There's a story here. Your trivia prize is that Cholet is the source for the name of Madame Cholet of the Wombles who as a cook affects a French accent, though she is actually no more French than any other Wimbledon womble. This could be the first time that the Wombles have appeared in this forum?

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For naval officers, the Ehrenrangliste der Kaiserlich Deutschen Marine 1914-1918 is your friend.

 

Oblt.z.S. Walter Rosenthal, born July 27, 1888, was near the bottom of Crew 1908. Oberleutnant zur See as of September 19, 1914. WO on SMS Planet then SMS Königsberg, before joining the Schutztruppe, with an end date of December 1915, then Belgian POW through March 1916 then French POW through the rest of the war. Kapitänleutnant as of January 30, 1920 with a retroactive seniority date of September 18, 1918 (date he would otherwise have been promoted to that rank if not a POW). Out of naval service March 9, 1920.

 

Kplt. Fritz Schreiber, born September 3, 1881, was a member of Crew 1900. Kapitänleutnant as of November 19, 1910, he was serving as Möwe's first officer when the war began. After that vessel was scuttled, he commanded a unit of the Schutztruppe comprised of ex-Möwe sailors. Captured September 1916, and a French POW for the rest of the war. Promoted to Korvettenkapitän on June 29, 1920 with seniority backdated to January 30, 1920. Out of naval service September 10, 1920.

 

So look to the history of the Schutztruppe in east Africa for more details with Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck and his troops, including naval personnel from Köningberg and Möwe, running around with lots of Allied troops in pursuit.

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42 minutes ago, Michael Lowrey said:

For naval officers, the Ehrenrangliste der Kaiserlich Deutschen Marine 1914-1918 is your friend.

 

Thanks Michael; a good tip!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for this information. For much more of the story of this German force, and on Lieutenant Walter Rosenthal, there is an exciting book, Edwin P Hoyt, The Germans Who Never Lost (Sphere, London 1969). Rosenthal daring escapades are on pp. 179-83. He was captured by Belgian native Askaris after repeatedly swimming into an armed camp on Lake Tanganyika to discover information about warship building which would be damaging to the Germans. Rosenthal and a fellow officer, Odebrecht, took the ‘most outrageous chances with their lives, disguising themselves with cork and blankets as natives and stealing ashore night after night’. Captain Zimmer, who wrote the Naval Review article of 1922, above, is mentioned throughout. On p. 239 there is a long list of other sources.

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