German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis

The German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis (HSK 2), known to the Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

as Schiff 16 and to the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 as Raider-C, was a converted German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 Hilfskreuzer (auxiliary cruiser, or merchant or commerce raider
Commerce raiding
Commerce raiding or guerre de course is a form of naval warfare used to destroy or disrupt the logistics of an enemy on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping, rather than engaging the combatants themselves or enforcing a blockade against them.Commerce raiding was heavily criticised by...

) of the Kriegsmarine, which, during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, travelled more than 161000 km (100,041 mi) in 602 days, and sank or captured 22 ships totaling 144384 t (142,103.2 LT). Atlantis was sunk on 21 November 1941.

She was commanded by Kapitän zur See Bernhard Rogge
Bernhard Rogge
Bernhard Rogge was a Captain of the German Navy who, during World War II, commanded a merchant raider....

, who received the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....


Commerce raiders do not seek to engage warships, but rather to attack enemy merchant shipping; the measures of success are tonnage destroyed (or captured), and time spent at large. Atlantis was second only to in tonnage destroyed, and had the longest raiding career of any German commerce raider in either world war.

She had a significant effect on the war in the Far East due to capture of highly significant secret documents from .

A version of the story of the Atlantis is told in the film, Under Ten Flags
Under Ten Flags
Under Ten Flags is a 1960 Italian-American war film directed by Duilio Coletti. It was entered into the 10th Berlin International Film Festival.-Plot:...

with Van Heflin
Van Heflin
Emmett Evan "Van" Heflin, Jr. was an American film and theatre actor. He played mostly character parts over the course of his film career, but during the 1940s had a string of roles as a leading man...

 appearing as Captain Rogge.

Early history

Formerly a freighter
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

 named Goldenfels, she was built by Bremer Vulkan
Bremer Vulkan
Bremer Vulkan AG was a great German shipbuilding company located at the Weser river in Bremen-Vegesack. It was founded in 1893 and closed in 1997 because of financial problems and mismanagement....

 in 1937, and was owned and operated by the Hansa Line, Bremen
The City Municipality of Bremen is a Hanseatic city in northwestern Germany. A commercial and industrial city with a major port on the river Weser, Bremen is part of the Bremen-Oldenburg metropolitan area . Bremen is the second most populous city in North Germany and tenth in Germany.Bremen is...

. In late 1939, she was requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine and converted to a warship by DeSchiMAG, Bremen, and was commissioned as the commerce raider Atlantis in November 1939.


Atlantis was 155 m (508.5 ft) long and displaced 17600 t (17,322 LT). She had a single funnel
Funnel (ship)
A funnel is the smokestack or chimney on a ship used to expel boiler steam and smoke or engine exhaust. They can also be known in as stacks.-Purpose:...

 amidships. She had a crew of 349 (21 officers and 328 enlisted sailors) and a Scottish terrier
Scottish Terrier
The Scottish Terrier , popularly called the Scottie, is a breed of dog. Initially one of the highland breeds of Terrier that were grouped under the name of Skye Terrier, it is one of five breeds of terrier that originated in Scotland, the other four being the modern Skye, Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, and...

, "Ferry", as a mascot. The cruiser carried a dummy funnel, variable-height masts, and was well supplied with paint, canvas, and materials for further altering her appearance, including costumes for the crew, and flags. Atlantis was capable of being modified to twenty-six different silhouettes.

Weapons and aircraft

The ship carried one or two Heinkel He-114C
Heinkel He 114
-See also:-Bibliography:* Donald, David, ed. Warplanes of the Luftwaffe. London: Aerospace, 1994. ISBN 1-874023-56-5.* Smith J. R. and Kay, Anthony. German Aircraft of the Second World War. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1972. ISBN 0-370-00024-2....

A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are a subclass called amphibian aircraft...

s, four waterline torpedo tube
Torpedo tube
A torpedo tube is a device for launching torpedoes. There are two main types of torpedo tube: underwater tubes fitted to submarines and some surface ships, and deck-mounted units installed aboard surface vessels...

s, and a 92-mine
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

 compartment. The ship was also equipped with six 150 mm (5.9 in) guns, one 75 mm (3 in) gun on the bow, two twin-37 mm anti-aircraft gun
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

s and four 20 mm automatic cannon
Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
The Oerlikon 20 mm cannon is a series of autocannons, based on an original design by Reinhold Becker of Germany, very early in World War I, and widely produced by Oerlikon Contraves and others...

s; all of these were hidden, mostly behind pivotable false deck or side structures. A phony crane and deckhouse on the aft section hid two of the 150 mm (5.9 in) guns; the other four guns were concealed via flaps in the side that were lowered when action was needed.


Atlantis had two 6-cylinder diesel engine
Diesel engine
A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

s, which powered a single propeller. Top speed was 17.5 kn (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph) and a range of 60000 miles (96,560.4 km) at 10 kn (19.6 km/h; 12.2 mph).

Atlantis, Krim and Kasii Maru

In 1939, she became the command of Kapitän Bernhard Rogge
Bernhard Rogge
Bernhard Rogge was a Captain of the German Navy who, during World War II, commanded a merchant raider....

. Commissioned in mid-December, she was the first of nine or ten merchant ships armed by the Third Reich for the purposes of seeking out and engaging enemy cargo vessels. Atlantis was delayed by ice until 31 March 1940, when the former battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

  was sent to act as an icebreaker
An icebreaker is a special-purpose ship or boat designed to move and navigate through ice-covered waters. Although the term usually refers to ice-breaking ships, it may also refer to smaller vessels .For a ship to be considered an icebreaker, it requires three traits most...

 clearing the way for Atlantis, Orion, and Widder.

Atlantis headed past the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 minefields, between Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, across the Arctic Circle
Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. For Epoch 2011, it is the parallel of latitude that runs north of the Equator....

, and after passing between Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 and Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, headed south. By this time, Atlantis was pretending to be a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 vessel named Krim by flying the Soviet naval ensign, displaying a hammer and sickle on the bridge, and having Russian and English warnings on the stern, "Keep clear of propellers". The Soviet Union was neutral at the time.

After crossing the equator, on 24–25 April, she "became" the Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese vessel Kasii Maru. The ship now displayed a large K upon a red-topped funnel, identification of the Kokusai Line. She also had rising sun symbols on the gun flaps and Japanese characters (copied from a magazine) on the aft hull.

City of Exeter

On 2 May, she met the British passenger liner . Rogge, unwilling to cause non-combatant casualties, declined to attack. Once the ships had parted, Exeters Master radioed his suspicions about the "Japanese" ship to the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...


The Scientist

On 3 May, Atlantis met a British freighter
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

, The Scientist, which was carrying ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

 and jute
Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fibre that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced from plants in the genus Corchorus, which has been classified in the family Tiliaceae, or more recently in Malvaceae....

. The Germans raised their battle ensign
Battle ensign
A battle ensign is the name given to a large war flag which is flown on a warship's mast just before going into battle.The flag identified the allegiance of the ship in what could be a very confusing situation, with thick clouds of gunsmoke obscuring the ships in action, hence the large size of...

 and displayed signal pennants stating, "Stop or I fire! Don't use your radio!" The 75 mm (3 in) gun fired a warning shot. The British immediately began transmitting their alarm signal, "QQQQ...QQQQ...Unidentified merchantman has ordered me to stop," and the Germans began transmitting so as to jam the signals.

The Scientist turned to flee, and on the second salvo from Atlantis, flames exploded from the ship, followed by a cloud of dust and then white steam from the boilers. A British sailor was killed and the remaining 77 were taken as prisoners of war. After failing to sink the ship with demolition charges, guns and a torpedo were used to finish off The Scientist.

Cape Agulhas

Continuing to sail south, Atlantis passed the Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

, reaching Cape Agulhas
Cape Agulhas
Cape Agulhas is a rocky headland in the Western Cape, South Africa. It is the geographic southern tip of Africa and the official dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 on 10 May. Here, she set up a minefield with 92 horned contact naval mine
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

s, in a way which suggested that a U-boat had laid them. The minefield was successful, but the deception was foiled and the ship's presence revealed by a German propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

Broadcast or Broadcasting may refer to:* Broadcasting, the transmission of audio and video signals* Broadcast, an individual television program or radio program* Broadcast , an English electronic music band...

 boasting that "a minefield, sown by a German raider" had sunk no fewer than eight merchant ships, three more were overdue, three minesweepers were involved, and the Royal Navy was not capable of finding "a solitary raider" operating in "its own back yard". Furthermore a British signal was sent from Ceylon on 20 May and intercepted by Germany, based on the report from City of Exeter, warning shipping of a German raider disguised as a Japanese ship.

Atlantis headed into the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

 disguised as Dutch
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 vessel MV Abbekerk. She received a broadcast—which happened to be incorrect—reporting that Abbekerk had been sunk, but retained that identity rather than repainting, as there were several similar Dutch vessels.

Tirranna, City of Baghdad, and the Kemmendine

On 10 June, Atlantis stopped the Norwegian
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 motor ship Tirranna with 30 salvos of fire after a three-hour chase. Five members of Tirrannas crew were killed and others wounded. Filled with supplies for Australian troops in the Middle East, Tirranna was captured and sent to France.

On 11 July, the liner
City of Baghdad was fired upon at a range of 1.2 km (0.745647283979768 mi). A boarding party discovered a copy of Broadcasting for Allied Merchant Ships, which contained communications codes. City of Baghdad, like Atlantis, was a former Hansa Liner, having been captured by the British during World War I. A copy of the report sent by City of Exeter was found, describing Atlantis in minute detail and including a photograph of the similar Freienfels, confirming that the "Japanese" identity had not been believed. Rogge had his ship’s profile altered, adding two new masts.

At 10:09 on 13 July,
Atlantis opened fire on a cargo ship, Kemmendine, which was heading for Burma. Filled with whisky, Kemmendine was quickly ablaze and a boarding crew returned with only two stuffed animals. Lifeboats were taken aboard which carried women and children.

Talleyrand and King City

In August, Atlantis sank Talleyrand, the sister ship of Tirranna. Then she encountered King City, carrying coal, which was mistaken for a British Q-Ship
Q-ships, also known as Q-boats, Decoy Vessels, Special Service Ships, or Mystery Ships, were heavily armed merchant ships with concealed weaponry, designed to lure submarines into making surface attacks. This gave Q-ships the chance to open fire and sink them...

 due to its erratic maneuvering, which was caused by mechanical difficulties. Three shells destroyed the bridge, killing four merchant cadets and a cabin boy. Another sailor died on the operating table aboard

Athelking, Benarty, Commissaire Ramel, Durmitor, Teddy, and Ole Jacob

In September Atlantis sank Athelking, Benarty, and . All of these were sunk only after supplies, documents, and POWs were taken. In October, the Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

n steamboat
Durmitor was taken and was loaded with documents and 260 POWs, and dispatched to Italian-controlled Mogadishu
Mogadishu , popularly known as Xamar, is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Benadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries....

. Lacking sufficient fuel, the steamer resorted to sails and, after a "hellish" voyage, made landfall in Somaliland on November 22, five weeks after departure. In the second week of November,
Teddy and Ole Jacob were seized.

Automedon and her secret cargo

At about 07:00 on 11 November, Atlantis encountered the Blue Funnel Line
Blue Funnel Line
Alfred Holt and Company, marketed as the Blue Funnel Line, was founded by Alfred Holt on 16 January 1866.The main operating subsidiary was the Ocean Steam Ship Company, which owned and operated the majority of the company's vessels....

 cargo ship
Automedon about 250 mi (402.3 km) northwest of Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

. At 08:20,
Atlantis fired a warning shot across Automedons bow, and her radio operator at once began transmitting a distress call of "RRRR – Automedon – 0416N" ("RRRR" meant "under attack by armed raider").

At a range of around 2000 yd (1,828.8 m)
Atlantis shelled Automedon, ceasing fire after three minutes during which she had destroyed her bridge, accommodation, and lifeboats. Six crew members were killed and twelve injured.

The Germans boarded the stricken ship and broke into the strong room, where they found fifteen bags of Top Secret
Top Secret
Top Secret generally refers to the highest acknowledged level of classified information.Top Secret may also refer to:- Film and television :* Top Secret , a British comedy directed by Mario Zampi...

 mail for the British Far East Command
British Far East Command
The Far East Command was a British military command which had 2 distinct periods. These were firstly, 18 November 1940 – 7 January 1942 succeeded by the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command , and secondly, 1963 – 1971 succeeded by Australia, New Zealand, and United Kingdom Force...

, including a large quantity of decoding tables, fleet orders, gunnery instructions, and naval intelligence reports. After wasting an hour breaking open the ship's safe, to discover only "a few shillings in cash", a search of the Automedons chart room found a small weighted green bag marked "Highly Confidential" containing the Chief of Staff's report to the Commander in Chief Far East, Robert Brooke Popham. The bag was supposed to be thrown overboard if there was risk of loss, but the personnel responsible for this had been killed or incapacitated. The report contained the latest assessment of the Japanese Empire's military strength in the Far East, along with details of Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 units, naval strength, and notes on Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

's defences. It painted a gloomy picture of British land and naval capabilities in the Far East, and declared that Britain was too weak to risk war with Japan.

Automedon was sunk at 15:07. Rogge soon realised the importance of the intelligence material he had captured and quickly transferred the documents to the recently acquired prize vessel Ole Jacob, ordering Lieutenant Commander Paul Kamenz and six of his crew to take charge of the vessel. After an uneventful voyage they arrived in Kobe
, pronounced , is the fifth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshū, approximately west of Osaka...

, Japan on 4 December 1940.

The mail reached the German Embassy in Tokyo on 5 December, and was then hand-carried to Berlin via the Trans-Siberian railway
Trans-Siberian Railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway is a network of railways connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East and the Sea of Japan. It is the longest railway in the world...

. A copy was given to the Japanese where it provided valuable intelligence prior to their commencing hostilities against the Western Powers. Rogge was rewarded for this with an ornate Samurai sword; the only other Germans so honoured were Hermann Goering and Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....


After reading the captured Chief of Staff's report, on 7 January 1941 Japanese Admiral Yamamoto wrote to the Naval Minister asking whether, if Japan knocked out America, the remaining British and Dutch forces would be suitably weakened for the Japanese to deliver a death-blow: the Automedon intelligence on the weakness of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 is credibly linked with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 and the attack leading to the fall of Singapore.

At Kerguelen and Africa

During the Christmas period, Atlantis was at Kerguelen Island, in the Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

. There they did maintenance and replenished their water supplies. The crew suffered its first fatality when a sailor fell while painting the funnel. He was buried in what is sometimes referred to as "the southernmost of all German war graves" .

In late January 1941, off the eastern coast of Africa, Atlantis sank the British ship Mandasor and captured Speybank. Then, on 2 February, the Norwegian tanker Ketty Brøvig was relieved of her fuel. The fuel was used not only for the German raider, but also to refuel the
and, on 29 March the Italian submarine Perla. Perla was making its way from the port of Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

 in Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa was an Italian colonial administrative subdivision established in 1936, resulting from the merger of the Ethiopian Empire with the old colonies of Italian Somaliland and Italian Eritrea. In August 1940, British Somaliland was conquered and annexed to Italian East Africa...

, around the Cape of Good Hope, to Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

 in France.


By April, Atlantis had returned to the Atlantic where, on April 17, Rogge, mistaking the Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian liner Zamzam for a British liner being used as a troop carrier or Q-ship, as she was in fact the former Bibby Line
Bibby Line
The Bibby Line is a British company concerned with shipping and marine operations.Its parent company, Bibby Line Group Limited, can be traced back to the shipbroking partnership of Bibby & Hall, which was founded in 1801. It is and always has been based in Liverpool...

r Leicestershire, opened fire at 8.4 km (5.2 mi). The second salvo hit and the wireless room was destroyed. 202 people were captured, including missionaries, ambulance drivers, Fortune
Fortune (magazine)
Fortune is a global business magazine published by Time Inc. Founded by Henry Luce in 1930, the publishing business, consisting of Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated, grew to become Time Warner. In turn, AOL grew as it acquired Time Warner in 2000 when Time Warner was the world's largest...

magazine editor Charles J.V. Murphy, and Life
Life (magazine)
Life generally refers to three American magazines:*A humor and general interest magazine published from 1883 to 1936. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936 solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name....

magazine photographer David E. Scherman. The Germans allowed Scherman to take photographs, and although his film was seized when they returned to Europe aboard a German blockade runner
Blockade runner
A blockade runner is usually a lighter weight ship used for evading a naval blockade of a port or strait, as opposed to confronting the blockaders to break the blockade. Very often blockade running is done in order to transport cargo, for example to bring food or arms to a blockaded city...

, he did manage to smuggle four rolls back to New York. It is generally believed that his photos later helped the British identify and destroy Atlantis. Murphy's account of the incident, as well as photos by Scherman, were in the June 23 issue of Life.


After the was sunk, the North Atlantic was swarming with British warships. As a result, Rogge decided to abandon the original plan to return to Germany, and instead returned to the Pacific. En route, Atlantis encountered and sank the British ships Rabaul, Trafalgar, Tottenham, and Balzac. On 10 September, east of New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, Atlantis captured the Norwegian motor vessel Silvaplana.

Atlantis then patrolled the South Pacific, initially in French Polynesia
French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

 between the Tubuai Islands and Tuamotu Archipelago. Without the knowledge of French authorities, the Germans landed on Vanavana
Vanavana, Kurataki, or Huataki is an atoll in the southeastern area of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia. Vanavana's nearest neighbor is Tureia, which is located 58 km to the east....

 Island and traded with the inhabitants. They then hunted Allied shipping in the area between Pitcairn and uninhabited Henderson
Henderson Island (Pitcairn Islands)
Henderson Island is an uninhabited raised coral atoll in the south Pacific Ocean, that in 1902 was annexed to the Pitcairn Islands colony, a South Pacific Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom. Measuring long and wide, it has an area of and is located northeast of Pitcairn Island at . The...

 islands, making a landing on Henderson Island. The seaplane from Atlantis made several fruitless reconnaissance flights. Atlantis headed back to the Atlantic on 19 October, and rounded Cape Horn ten days later.

U-68, U-126, and HMS Devonshire

On October 18, Rogge was ordered to rendezvous with the submarine
800 km (497.1 mi) south of St. Helena and refuel her, then he was to refuel at a location north of Ascension Island
Ascension Island
Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, around from the coast of Africa and from the coast of South America, which is roughly midway between the horn of South America and Africa...

. They met with U-68 on 13 November. On 21 or 22 November, Atlantis rendezvoused with U-126. The OKM
Oberkommando der Marine
The Oberkommando der Marine was Nazi Germany's Naval High Command and the highest administrative and command authority of the Kriegsmarine. It was officially formed from the Marineleitung of the Reichswehr on 11 January 1936. In 1937 it was combined with the newly formed Seekriegsleitung...

 signal instruction sent to U-126 commanding this rendezvous, was intercepted and deciphered by the Allied Enigma
Enigma machine
An Enigma machine is any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used for the encryption and decryption of secret messages. Enigma was invented by German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I...

 code breakers at Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park is an estate located in the town of Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire, England, which currently houses the National Museum of Computing...

 and was passed on to the Admiralty, who in turn despatched the heavy cruiser
Heavy cruiser
The heavy cruiser was a type of cruiser, a naval warship designed for long range, high speed and an armament of naval guns roughly 203mm calibre . The heavy cruiser can be seen as a lineage of ship design from 1915 until 1945, although the term 'heavy cruiser' only came into formal use in 1930...

  to the rendezvous area.


Early on the morning of 22 November Atlantis was intercepted by Devonshire. U-126 dived, leaving her captain behind (he had gone aboard the Atlantis). At 08:40, Atlantis transmitted a raider report posing as the Dutch ship Polyphemus, but by 09:34 Devonshire had received confirmation that this was false. From 14–15 km (8.7–9.3 mi) away, outside the range of Atlantiss 150 mm (5.9 in) guns, she opened fire.

After 20–30 seconds, salvos of 8 in (203 mm) shells began to reach Atlantis; the second and third salvos hit the ship. Seven sailors were killed as the crew abandoned ship; Rogge was the last off. Ammunition exploded and the bow rose, then the ship sank.

Devonshire left the area and the U-126 resurfaced and picked up 300 Germans and a wounded American prisoner, whom it began carrying or towing to Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 (1500 km (932.1 mi) west). Two days later the German refueling ship Python arrived and took on the sailors. On 1 December, while Python was refueling two submarines, the third of the British cruisers seeking the raiders, , appeared. The U-boats dived immediately, and Pythons crew scuttled her; Dorsetshire departed and it was left to the U-boats to recover the crew. Eventually various German and Italian submarines took Rogge's crew back to Germany.

Raiding career

Ships sunk or captured by Atlantis
Scientist Freighter  United Kingdom 3 May 1940 6,200 t Sunk
Tirrana Freighter  Norway 10 June 1940 7,230 t Captured
City of Baghdad Freighter  United Kingdom 11 July 1940 7,505 t Sunk
Kemmndine Passenger liner  United Kingdom 13 July 1940 7,770 t Sunk
Talleyrand Motor vessel  Norway 2 August 1940 6,730 t Sunk
King City Freighter  United Kingdom 24 August 1940 4,745 t Sunk
Athelking Tanker  United Kingdom 9 September 1940 9,550 t Sunk
Benarty Freighter  United Kingdom 10 September 1940 5,800 t Sunk
Commissaire Ramel
SS Commissaire Ramel
SS Commissaire Ramel was a French passenger ship sunk during the Second World War.She was built in 1921 at La Ciotat in France where the ship was used to transport goods to Australia...

Passenger liner  Early Modern France 20 September 1940 10,060 t Sunk
Durmitor Freighter  Kingdom of Yugoslavia 22 October 1940 5,620 t Captured
Teddy Tanker  Norway 9 November 1940 6,750 t Sunk
Ole Jacob Tanker  Norway 10 November 1940 8,305 t Captured
Automedon Freighter  United Kingdom 11 November 1940 7,530 t Sunk
Mandasor Freighter  United Kingdom 24 January 1941 5,145 t Sunk
Speybank Freighter  United Kingdom 31 January 1941 5,150 t Captured
Ketty Brøvig Freighter  Norway 2 February 1941 7,300 t Captured
Zamzam Passenger liner  Egypt 17 April 1941 8,300 t Sunk
Rabaul Freighter  United Kingdom 14 May 1941 6,810 t Sunk
Trafalgar Freighter  United Kingdom 24 May 1941 4,530 t Sunk
Tottenham Freighter  United Kingdom 17 June 1941 4,760 t Sunk
Balzac Freighter  United Kingdom 23 June 1941 5,375 t Sunk
Silvaplana Motor vessel  Norway 10 September 1941 4,790 t Captured
Total: 145,960 t

Further reading

  • Duffy, James P. Hitler's Secret Pirate Fleet: The Deadliest Ships of World War II Praeger Trade, 2001, ISBN 0275966852.
  • Hoyt, Edwin Palmer Raider 16 World Publishing, 1970.
  • Mohr, Ulrich And A. V. Sellwood Ship 16: The Story of the Secret German Raider Atlantis John Day, New York, 1956.
  • Muggenthaler, August Karl German Raiders of World War II Prentice-Hall, 1977, ISBN 0133540278.
  • Rogge, Bernhard The German Raider Atlantis Ballantine, 1956.
  • Schmalenbach, Paul German Raiders: A History of Auxiliary Cruisers of the German Navy, 1895-1945 Naval Institute Press, 1979, ISBN 0870218247.
  • Slavick, Joseph P. The Cruise of the German Raider Atlantis Naval Institute Press, 2003, ISBN 1557505373.
  • Swanson, S. Hjalmar (editor) Zamzam: The Story of a Strange Missionary Odyssey 1941.
  • Woodward, David The Secret Raiders;: The Story of the German Armed Merchant Raiders in the Second World War W.W. Norton, 1955.
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