The Cruise of the Sea Eagle
'The amazing true story of Imperial Germany's Gentleman Pirate'.
In December 1916 a ship called Hero slipped out of the river Weser in northern Germany, ran the British Blockade round the top of the UK and headed south into the Atlantic.
The Hero was a commerce raider and over the next seven months captured 15 British or American ships, sinking all but one of them, before being accidentally wrecked on a coral reef on a remote Pacific island.
Standard stuff you might think, but two things make this story extraordinary- firstly the so-called Hero was a-three masted sailing ship and, secondly, the character of the ship’s Captain Felix von Luckner. When he took command von Luckner made it clear that he would do all he could to avoid killing anyone, and that his prisoners would be well treated.
In the end he failed on the first aim, when a young radio operator was killed on the one occasion he had to open fire at a ship, but many of his prisoners remained friends for life, and along with his crew, all returned home alive.
When he returned to Germany from PoW camp in New Zealand at the end of the war, von Luckner found he was a hero, as he represented the best of the Imperial Germany Navy, the Grand Fleet of which had spent most of the war after Jutland at anchorage.
The whole story reads like a tale from ‘The Boy’s Own Paper’, but it did happen, and makes for a very good read. 272 page fairly lightly illustrated paperback.