SMS Karlsruhe

World War 1 Naval Combat

World War 1 Naval Combat

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Berwick HMS Berwick was part of Cradock's squadron hunting the Karlsruhe.  They had a huge area to cover in the days before radar and air patrols and with many merchant ships not having radios. They still managed to engage the German cruiser and nearly bumped into her on other occasions.  Unfortunately Karlsruhe was too fast for the British ships and managed to escape.  This led Cradock to transfer his flag to Good Hope when she arrived, although her crew was green she was faster then his previous ship.

At the outbreak of war Karlsruhe (Captain Kohler) was based in the Caribbean.  Against her was Rear Admiral Cradock's squadron with four cruisers, each more powerful than Karlsruhe but covering an area from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Pernambuco, Brazil.

On August 6 Karlsruhe rendezvoused with the German liner Kronprinz Wilhelm to convert her to an Armed Merchant Cruiser and receive coal from her.  As this was happening Suffolk (Cradock's flag) arrived forcing the German ships to flee, Karlsruhe heading north with Suffolk in pursuit.  Suffolk signalled Bristol and Berwick for assistance, Bristol being directly in the path of  the Karlsruhe.  After dark Bristol sighted Karlsruhe without being sighted herself and at 2015 at 7000 yards she opened fire.  In the dark the range was too great and neither side scored any hits before Karlsruhe used her superior speed to escape, losing Bristol by 2230.  Karlsruhe slowed and headed for Puerto Rico for coal, just missing Berwick that morning.

She arrived at Puerto Rico on August 9 with only twelve tons of coal left!  She coaled and left for Willemstad, coaling again before heading for the Brazilian coast.  On August 16 she sighted a merchant ship which escaped.  The following day coaled form the supply ship Patagonia.  August 18 she sank the Freighter Bowes Castle.  She sent the crew to port on board the supply ship Stadt Schleswig a few days later.

She arrived at Fernando de Noronha on August 28 where she was met by three supply ships.  Over the next six days she captured the collier Strathoy and sank the Maple Bridge.

From September 10 she started operating with a supply ship stationed twenty miles on either beam to increase her search radius, the only German cruiser to use this tactic.

On September 14 she sank Highland Hope but as she was doing so she was sighted by a Spanish steamer who asked who they were via wireless.  Karlsruhe replied that they were a British convoy, this signal being intercepted by HMS Canopus.  Canopus was suspicious and asked the Spanish ship for her position, causing Karlsruhe to flee.

On September 17 she captured the collier Indrani only to discover that she had been chartered by the German consul to supply raiders.  On September 21/22 she sank Maria, Cornish City and Rio Iguassa but had to release an Italian ship which reported Karlsruhe as soon as reached port.  She spent most of the last week of September coaling and overhauling her boilers.

In early October she captured and sank Farn, Niceto di Larrinagu, Lynrowam, Crevantes and Pruth and her colliers captured the Farn which was sunk later.  On October 13 the captured crews were sent to the Canary Islands on board Crefield.  During the rest of October she sank Glanton, Hurstdale and the new liner Van Dyck and released several neutral ships.

Karlsruhe now headed for Barbados to raid the island but on November 4 at 1830 there was a major explosion which blew the bow off the ship.  Within half an hour the ship had sank, 129 survivors being picked up by the supply ships Rio Negro and Indrani-Hoffnung.  The cause of the explosion remains unknown but is thought to be an ammunition accident.
Indrani-Hoffnung was scuttled and Rio Negro made it back to Germany in December, this being the first the German authorities knew of the loss.  The Allies did not find out until March 1915 when wreckage was found.

Karlsruhe was a fast modern light cruiser.  Although outgunned by the collection of outdated armoured cruisers the British used for trade protection she could and did easily out run them.  Like the other German cruisers acting as raiders a bigger problem was coal supplies, often relying on capturing enemy ships for supplies. Karlsruhe

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