ARMED MERCHANT CRUISERS-A PHOTO ESSAY
By Paul Jacobs
Models of German armed merchant cruisers in 1250 scale have been quite plentiful, because German ships are the most popular subject in this scale. This article focuses on the models produced, rather than the history of the ships themselves, and incorporates photos of a number of those models.
Armed Merchant Cruisers (AMCs) are a unique class of warship, in that few, if any, exist outside of wartime. The reason is simple. They are really nothing but stopgaps; non-military ships, armed and used to fill in the gap created by the lack of adequate numbers of warships. In the Royal Navy, these ships were used primarily to act as blockaders, and convoy escorts to fill the gap left by inadequate numbers of light cruisers. In this capacity, liners served best, for they had the endurance to handle long periods in rough seas. The Germans, however, had need of cruisers for commerce raiding. And because they would operate in seas dominated by the enemy’s fleet and air force, their ships were made to appear as innocent merchantmen; to operate as stealth ships. Freighters served this purpose the best. In World War I the Germans did use several liners, but these were ships that were far from home when war broke out and had no hope of getting past the blockade and back to Germany. A few other navies operated such ships during wartime, but the primary users of these ships were the British and the Germans.
The range and coverage of the German ships is quite impressive. Starting with World War I ships, there are the following models:
BERLIN : by Albatros in three different guises, as a British (AL 84A),
Norwegian (AL84B) and American (AL84C) liner.
CORMORAN: Rainer Grouls 30
KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE : CM-P 28, Mercator 401a.
KRONPRINZ WILHELM: CM-P 27
PRINZ EITEL FREIDRICH: RH-LIZ 12a
MOWE: Navis 81
GRIEF: Rainer Grouls 17b
WOLF: Navis 88
SEEADLER: Mercator 188. This model was produced in several variations, including with and without sails.
SEEADLER was unique as she was a three-masted sailing ship. She, MOWE and WOLF had spectacular success as raiders. BERLIN is credited with laying the mines which sank HMS AUDACIOUS in 1914. CORMORAN was the former Russian RJASAN and was interned at Guam in 1914, where she was scuttled by her crew when the U.S. entered the war.
The World War II ships are:
HSK 1 ORION: Neptun 1020, Trident 1040
HSK 2 ATLANTIS: Hobby 59, Mercator 587 grey with 2 funnels, Neptun 1021, Sextant 5
HSK 3 WIDDER: Binkowski 36, and 36a, as Spanish EL NETTUNO, RS- KM 14, Trident 1043.
HSK 4 THOR: Delphin 33, Mercator 496, Neptun 1022.
HSK 5 PINGUIN: Binkowski 35, and 35a as Greek KASSOS, RS-KM 12, Sextant 6.
HSK 6 STIER: Mercator 565, Neptun 1023, Hansa 191.
HSK 7 KOMET: Albatros 16, Neptun 1024, Hansa 194.
HSK 8 KORMORAN: Delphin 70, Neptun 1025.
HSK 9 MICHEL: Neptun 1026.
HSK 10 CORONEL: KM 4, Star 83.
Many of the Neptun models have unique features. For example, some come with aircraft. KORMORAN has a small torpedo boat and an Arado 196 stowed in holds, along with hidden guns. MICHEL also has hidden guns and an Arado 196 with folded wings in holds. STIER has guns which can be removed and replaced with cargo crates. THOR has hatches which can be removed to reveal guns in holds, as well as removable guns. The RS-KM models also come with aircraft. At present, only the Neptun and Rhenania RS-KM models are currently in production.
ATLANTIS, THOR and PINGUIN were probably the most successful of these raiders, sinking or capturing 22, 22 and 28 ships respectively. KORMORAN is famous for sinking HMAS SYDNEY in her last duel, having previously sunk 11 ships. STIER had the ignominious fate of being sunk in a combat with the 4" gun armed Liberty Ship STEPHEN HOPKINS.
To learn more about the history of these ships the following books are suggested:
GERMAN RAIDERS, A history of auxiliary cruisers in the German Navy 1895-1945 by Paul Schmalenbach, various publishers, 1977, 1979.
THE KAISER’S PIRATE’S, German surface raiders in World War I, by John Walter, U.S.N.I.P., 1994.
THE SECRET RAIDERS, by D. Woodward, Wm. Kimber , 1955.
GERMAN RAIDERS OF WORLD WAR TWO, by A.K. Muggenthaler,, Robt. Hale, 1978.
THE CRUISE OF THE KRONPRINZ WILHELM, by Alfred von Niezychowski, Doubleday, 1929.
THE FRUSTRATED RAIDER, The story of the German cruiser CORMORAN in World War I by Chas. Burdick, So. Ill. Univ. Press, 1979
FLIGHT OF THE CORMORAN, by Herbert T. Ward, Vantage Press, 1970.
SHIP 16, The story of the secret German raider ATLANTIS, by Ulrich Mohr, John Day Co. 1956. GHOST CRUISER HK 33, by Jochen Brennecke, Wm. Kimber, 1954.
THE RAIDER KORMORAN, by Theodor Detmers, Wm. Kimber, 1959.
THE BLACK RAIDER, by K. Weyher and H. Erlich, Elek, 1955.
THE CRUISE OF THE RAIDER WOLF, by Roy Alexander, Yale Univ. Press., 1939. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________