German night fighter direction vessel Togo

German night fighter direction vessel Togo

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Launched in 1938, the MS Togo was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 merchant ship. At the outbreak of 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...

 in early September 1939, she was in the French port of Douala in Africa, but avoiding internment
Internment is the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning as: "The action of 'interning'; confinement within the limits of a country or place." Most modern usage is about individuals, and there is a distinction...

 and running the Allied blockade, she successfully returned to Hamburg. Requisitioned by the
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 It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine.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...

Schiff 14, in April 1940 she participated in the invasion of Norway; in August 1940 was converted to a minelayer as part of the German plan to invade England; then from June 1941 began undergoing conversion to become the armed auxiliary cruiser (Hilfskreuzer), HSK Coronel.

Following Coronels unsuccessful attempt in February 1943 to become the last German 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 World War II, she was then used as a minesweeper (Sperrbrecher) before being recommissioned in late 1943 as the NJL Togo, a night fighter
Night fighter
A night fighter is a fighter aircraft adapted for use at night or in other times of bad visibility...

 direction vessel (
Nachtjagdleitschiff), operating in the Baltic Sea.

Togo, she was the second of the Kriegsmarines World War II radar ships, and the only one to survive the war.

Togo was equipped with a FuMG A1 Freya radar
Freya radar
Freya was an early warning radar deployed by Germany during World War II, named after the Norse Goddess Freyja. During the war over a thousand stations were built. A naval version operating on a slightly different wavelength was also developed as Seetakt...

 for early warning, which had a range of around 40 km (21.6 nmi; 24.9 mi). She also had a Würzburg-Riese gun laying radar
Würzburg radar
The Würzburg radar was the primary ground-based gun laying radar for both the Luftwaffe and the German Army during World War II. Initial development took place before the war, entering service in 1940. Eventually over 4,000 Würzburgs of various models were produced...

 with a similar range plus night fighter communications equipment.

She was heavily armed with three 10.5 cm FlaK 38
10.5 cm FlaK 38
The 10.5 cm SK C/33 was a German anti-aircraft gun used during World War II by the Kriegsmarine on a number of their larger capital ships. It was later adapted for Luftwaffe as a competitor to the famed 8.8 cm FlaK 18 as the 10.5 cm FlaK 38...

 anti-aircraft guns, four twin 3,7 cm FlaK 43 guns
3.7 cm FlaK 43
The 3.7 cm Flak 18/36/37/43 were series of anti-aircraft cannon produced by Nazi Germany, which saw widespread service in the Second World War. The cannon was fully automatic and effective against aircraft flying at altitudes up to 4200 meters. The cannon was produced in both towed and...

, four (later five) quadruple and three (later two) single 2 cm FlaK 30 guns
2 cm FlaK 30
The Flak 30 and improved Flak 38 were 20 mm anti-aircraft guns used by various German forces throughout the Second World War. It was not only the primary German light anti-aircraft gun, but by far the most numerously produced German artillery piece throughout the war...


In early 1945, Togo took part in the evacuation of German troops and refugees from the eastern shores of the Baltic. She survived the war's end and, as a war prize
Prize (law)
Prize is a term used in admiralty law to refer to equipment, vehicles, vessels, and cargo captured during armed conflict. The most common use of prize in this sense is the capture of an enemy ship and its cargo as a prize of war. In the past, it was common that the capturing force would be allotted...

, was eventually allocated to Norwegian control, serving as a troop transport, and later as a refugee transport. From 1956-1968, she returned to German ownership and her original role in trading with Africa.

Passing through various changes of ownership, name and function, Togo was finally wrecked off the Mexican coast in 1984.

History during World War II

The M/S
Togo was launched in August 1938 for the Woermann Line. for trade with African countries as a freighter with cabins for 12 passengers.. At the outbreak of World War II, when German ships in Allied ports were interned, Togo was at Douala, French Cameroon
Cameroun was a French and British mandate territory in central Africa, now constituting the majority of the territory of the Republic of Cameroon....

. To avoid
Togo being interned, her Belgian-born captain, Eugene Rousselet, slipped her out under cover of darkness to the Belgian Congo
Belgian Congo
The Belgian Congo was the formal title of present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo between King Leopold II's formal relinquishment of his personal control over the state to Belgium on 15 November 1908, and Congolese independence on 30 June 1960.-Congo Free State, 1884–1908:Until the latter...

 port of Boma. On 25 October, she sailed from Boma and, breaking through the Allied blockade, returned to Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 on 23 November 1939, where she was requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine.

As minelayer

In April 1940,
Togo was a support ship (Werkstattschiff) for the German invasion of Norway
Operation Weserübung
Operation Weserübung was the code name for Germany's assault on Denmark and Norway during the Second World War and the opening operation of the Norwegian Campaign...

 and on 21 April 1940 sustained damage in a British minefield in the Kattegat
The Kattegat , or Kattegatt is a sea area bounded by the Jutland peninsula and the Straits islands of Denmark on the west and south, and the provinces of Västergötland, Scania, Halland and Bohuslän in Sweden on the east. The Baltic Sea drains into the Kattegat through the Øresund and the Danish...

 east of Cape Skagen
Skagen is a projection of land and a town, with a population of 8,515 , in Region Nordjylland on the northernmost tip of Vendsyssel-Thy, a part of the Jutland peninsula in northern Denmark...

 laid by the submarine .

She was rebuilt as a minelayer
Minelaying is the act of deploying explosive mines. Historically this has been carried out by ships, submarines and aircraft. Additionally, since World War I the term minelayer refers specifically to a naval ship used for deploying naval mines...

Minenleger) and based in Cherbourg
-Main sights:* La Glacerie has a race track.* The Cité de la Mer is a large museum devoted to scientific and historical aspects of maritime subjects.* Cherbourg Basilica* Jardin botanique de la Roche Fauconnière, a private botanical garden.* Le Trident theatre...

 from August to November 1940 as part of Operation Sea Lion, the planned German invasion of England.

As commerce raider Coronel

In late 1942,
Togo was converted into an auxiliary cruiser (Hilfskreuzer). As intended 'merchant harassment cruiser' (Handels-Stör-Kreuzer, HSK) Coronel, she was known to the Kriegsmarine as HSK 10, and designated Schiff 14. 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...

, she was Raider K. She was to be named after the Battle of Coronel
Battle of Coronel
The First World War naval Battle of Coronel took place on 1 November 1914 off the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel. German Kaiserliche Marine forces led by Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee met and defeated a Royal Navy squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher...

, Admiral Maximilian von Spee
Maximilian von Spee
Vice Admiral Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee was a German admiral. Although he was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, the counts von Spee belonged to the prominent families of the Rhenish nobility. He joined the Kaiserliche Marine in 1878. In 1887–88 he commanded the Kamerun ports, in German West...

's victory over a British cruiser flotilla off the coast of Chile in November 1914.

Converted at the
Wilton-Fijenoord was a shipbuilding and repair company in Schiedam in the Netherlands from 1929 to 1999.The company has since been fully absorbed into Damen Shiprepair.-Ships built:* De Zeven Provinciën class cruiser:** HNLMS De Ruyter,...

shipyards in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Starting as a dam on the Rotte river, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre...

 and the
Stettiner Oderwerke
Oderwerke or Stettiner Oderwerke was a German shipbuilding company, located in Stettin.-History:Oderwerke was founded on January 28, 1903 and built 154 ships prior to World War I....

yard at Stettin
Szczecin , is the capital city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. It is the country's seventh-largest city and the largest seaport in Poland on the Baltic Sea. As of June 2009 the population was 406,427....

, she was recommissioned in December 1942. Her armament consisted of six TK15 15 cm guns, six 4 cm AA-guns, four 2 cm machine guns in twin mounts, and a few 2 cm guns in single mounts.

She was also designed to carry three aircraft, but these were never installed.

She was commanded by
Kapitän zur See Ernst-Ludwig Thienemann, and carried a crew of 16 officers and 331 men.

Relying on the element of surprise,
Schiff 14 Coronel departed from Norway on 31 January 1943 and attempted to break out into the Atlantic through the English Channel. However, her presence was already known to the British through ULTRA
Ultra was the designation adopted by British military intelligence in June 1941 for wartime signals intelligence obtained by "breaking" high-level encrypted enemy radio and teleprinter communications at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. "Ultra" eventually became the standard...

 decrypts. With a large escort of minelayers and patrol boats, but hampered by storms and minefields, and by twice running aground on sandbanks, she moved on by stages to Sylt
Sylt is an island in northern Germany, part of Nordfriesland district, Schleswig-Holstein, and well known for the distinctive shape of its shoreline. It belongs to the North Frisian Islands and is the largest island in North Frisia...

, Dunkirk and Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

 and on 10 February successfully ran the gauntlet of the coastal artillery at Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

. She then came under repeated air attack, and having suffered bomb damage, was forced to put in to Boulogne
-Road:* Metropolitan bus services are operated by the TCRB* Coach services to Calais and Dunkerque* A16 motorway-Rail:* The main railway station is Gare de Boulogne-Ville and located in the south of the city....

. As the damage was too severe to be repaired in an occupied French port, she was forced to return to Kiel
Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

, arriving there on 2 March 1943.

As it was the custom for German commerce raiders to be named by their captains after reaching the open sea, her failure to clear the Channel meant that she was not formally designated as the Hilfskreuzer Coronel but instead remained as Togo for the remainder of the war.

As night fighter direction vessel

Later the same year,
Togo was employed in a minesweeping role as a Sperrbrecher ('Pathmaker', to clear a safe lane through a minefield), before being converted into a night fighter guide ship, under the command of Korvettenkapitän Rudolf Lück.

From October 1943,
Togo cruised the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 under the operational control of the
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

s 22/Luftnachrichten Regiment 222. In March 1944, after the three great Soviet bombing raids on Helsinki, she arrived in the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

 to provide night fighter cover for Tallinn
Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

 and Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is , making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is...


Near the end of the war, Togo took part in the evacuation of German troops and refugees
Flight and evacuation of German civilians during the end of World War II
Plans to evacuate German population from the occupied territories in Central and Eastern Europe and from Eastern Germany were prepared by German authorities at the end of World War II. However, the evacuation in most of the areas was delayed until the last moment, when it was too late to conduct it...

 from Poland
Flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland during and after World War II
The flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland was the largest of a series of flights and expulsions of Germans in Europe during and after World War II...

, East Prussia
Evacuation of East Prussia
The evacuation of East Prussia refers to the evacuation of the German civilian population and military personnel in East Prussia and the Klaipėda region between 20 January, and March 1945, as part of the evacuation of German civilians towards the end of World War II...

 and Latvia
Courland Pocket
The Courland Pocket referred to the Red Army's blockade or encirclement of Axis forces on the Courland peninsula during the closing months of World War II...


Postwar history

In Kiel at the end of the war, Togo was seized as war booty and transferred first to 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...

 on 13 August 1945, then to the US Navy on 15 January 1946, and used to repatriate Polish ex-prisoners of war. Handed over to the Royal Norwegian Navy
Royal Norwegian Navy
The Royal Norwegian Navy is the branch of the Norwegian Defence Force responsible for naval operations. , the RNoN consists of approximately 3,700 personnel and 70 vessels, including 5 heavy frigates, 6 submarines, 14 patrol boats, 4 minesweepers, 4 minehunters, 1 mine detection vessel, 4 support...

 on 14 March (and renamed KNM Svalbard in December 1946), she was then used as a fleet auxiliary to transport occupation troops to Germany.
By this time her passenger capacity had been increased to 900, and between December 1947 and December 1949 she was chartered by the International Refugee Organisation for transport of Displaced Person
Displaced person
A displaced person is a person who has been forced to leave his or her native place, a phenomenon known as forced migration.- Origin of term :...

s from Europe to North America and Australia. As part of the "Fifth Fleet", Svalbard undertook six voyages between June 1948 and October 1949, carrying a total of 5242 DPs for resettlement in Australia.

There were several further changes of ownership in 1954-56 which saw her briefly renamed as MS Tilthorn (April 1954) and later MS Stella Marina (July 1954), she was then re-purchased by her original owners, the Woermann-Deutsche Afrika line in November 1956. Refurbished and with her original name Togo restored, she sailed the Africa run for another twelve years.

In March 1968, she was sold again, to Taboga Enterprises Inc. of Panama, and renamed Lacasielle. She was later sold again to Caribbean Real Estate SA, Panama, on 8 April 1976, becoming Topeka. It was under that name that she was last sold in 1984 to Lineas Agromar Ltda.

It was as the tramp steamer, MS Topeka that she finally ended her days, by running aground after being blown from her anchorage by strong winds 8 mi (7 nmi; 12.9 km) off Coatzacoalcos
Coatzacoalcos is a major port city in the southern part of the Mexican state of Veracruz, on the Coatzacoalcos River. Coatzacoalcos comes from an indigenous word meaning "Site of the Snake" or "Where the snake hides"...

, Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 (18°10′12"N 94°18′36"W) on 21 November 1984, with the death of two men out of her crew of 27.


  • Paul Schmalenbach (1977): German Raiders 1895-1945 ISBN 0 85059 351 4
  • August Karl Muggenthaler (1977): German Raiders of World War II ISBN 0 7091 6683 4
  • Stephen Roskill
    Stephen Roskill
    Captain Stephen Wentworth Roskill, CBE, DSC, FBA, DLitt was a career officer in the Royal Navy, serving during the Second World War and, after his enforced medical retirement, served as the official historian of the Royal Navy from 1949 to 1960...

     (1956): The War at Sea 1939-1945 Vol II ISBN (none)
  • Kurt Petsch (1988): Nachtjagdleitschiff TOGO, Preuss. Militär-Verlag, Reutlingen. (In German, typeset in Fraktur
    Fraktur is a calligraphic hand and any of several blackletter typefaces derived from this hand. The word derives from the past participle fractus of Latin frangere...

    .) Petsch was Togo's first officer during her career as a night fighter direction vessel.

External links