14th January 1915 –
Highland Brae sunk

kpw-as cruiserOn 29th July 1914, Kronprinz Wilhelm arrived in New York and proceeded to refuel and reprovision as usual. Two days later NDL ordered her to load additional large amounts of coal and fresh water. Then on 1st August NDL cancelled Kronprinz Wilhelm’s next sailing scheduled for 4th August. In the meantime they continued to load fuel wherever they could. Portholes and windows were sealed and blacked out. She then sailed, to become one of Germany’s armed raiders, seizing a number of vessels.

highland brae capturedOn 14th January Captain Thierfelder seized the Nelson liner Highland Brae, on passage from England to Buenos Aires with two thousand tons of coal, five hundred tons of fresh water and additional provisions.  The passengers were transferred to Kronprinz Wilhelm. This meant that the raider now had some 219 prisoners on board that needed guarding and were consuming the limited supplies of food and water.

By 24th January Highland Brae was alongside, and the crew offloaded coal, provisions and fresh water as fast as possible, in spite of a deteriorating sea. After a break for bad weather the two ships came back alongside on the morning of 29th January, and the remaining coal and provisions were transferred. By late afternoon of Saturday, 30th January everything useful had been transferred, and soon after Highland Brae was scuttled by opening the seacocks.

After a successful time as a raider, time ran out for Kronprinz Wilhelm. Thierfelder timed his arrival off Chesapeake Bay for after dark on Saturday, 10th April. Once anchored, the ship and its crew were interned.

Extracted from “The German Greyhounds” – for more details see http://wp.me/P82xkB-40

14th January 1899 –
Oceanic launched

oceanic bows, 1899On 14th January 1899 Oceanic (yard number 317) was launched at Harland & Wolff,. She was designed as a twin-propeller, steel-hulled vessel, with two sets of triple-expansion engines producing 28,000hp. Accommodation was 300 First Class, 190 Second Class and 1,000 Third Class.

Oceanic at anchorOn 26th August she left Belfast for Liverpool. Oceanic sailed from Liverpool on her maiden voyage on 6th September, with 1,456 passengers. However, because many of the stokers were untrained, she made the crossing with the engines operating at 75% of their potential and arrived at Sandy Hook on 15th September, at an average 19.57 knots. Oceanic left New York on 20th September on the return leg.

Oceanic was involved in a number of incidents throughout her career. She went aground in fog off Three Castles Head, Ireland on 9th October 1900. Early on 8th August 1901, in thick fog off Tuskar Light, Oceanic collided with the cross-channel steamer Kincora, which quickly sank, taking seven of her crew. Oceanic made her first sailing from Southampton on 19th June 1907.

On 1st August 1914 Oceanic sailed from New York,, with 1,000 passengers, 6,000 sacks of mail and $6 million in gold, and arrived at Southampton, and on 8th August she was requisitioned as an Armed Merchant Cruiser. On 25th August HMS Oceanic sailed to join the 10th Cruiser Squad­ron at Orkney, to patrol the Western Approaches. However, there was some evidence of “ab­normal difference of deviation” on her com­passes when so far north. At this time the regular Merchant Navy captain was still aboard each cruiser, but under a Royal Navy captain, with inevitable clashes over matters of authority.

hms oceanic aground at ShaaldsOn 8th September Oceanic was on patrol. The naval captain, William Hayter, ordered a course to pass between the island of Foula and the Shaalds. The White Star captain, Henry Smith, strongly advised against going into such shallow water, but was over-ruled. Subsequently Oceanic ran aground: the crew were quickly transferred to Alsatian. It proved impossible to pull her off the rocks, and in the end it was accepted she was a total constructive loss. The guns and ammunition were removed and the instruments dismantled. Amaz­ingly, at the later enquiry both cap­tains were absolved of all blame!

On 25th August 1916 an auction was held at Southampton of fixtures and fittings that had been removed in late 1914. In early 1924 the wreck was sold to Scapa Flow Salvage and Shipbreaking Co. for just £200. However, after only one dive, it was clear the local currents made any salvage impossible.

Extracted from “White Star: the Company and the Ships”