Hilfskreuzer

HK Hansa

Hilfskreuzer (Auxiliary Cruiser) Hansa
General Details
Nationality German
Type Auxiliary Cruiser (Raider)
Ship Number 5
HSK Number XI
British Admiralty Letter None
Builder Burmeister and Wain (B&W), Copenhagen, Denmark
Launched 1939
Previous Owner Alfred Holt and Company.
Previous Name Glengarry
Conversion Wilton-Fijenoord Werft, Schiedam and at Blohm & Voss Hamburg
General Cruise Details
Commander Kapitän sur See Horst Gerlach
Sail date Did not sail
End date Did not sail
Fate Broken up in 1971 under her original name Glengarry.
Performance
Ships Sunk / Captured None
Tonnage 0
Days at Sea Did not sail
Tons per Day 0
Displacement
Displacement 9,838 tons
Dimensions
Length 153 metres
Beam 20,1 metres
Weapons
Main Armament 8 x 150 mm
Secondary Armament 1 x 105 mm, 8 x 37 mm Flak (4 x 2) 36 x 20 mm Flak (18 x 2)
Torpedo Tubes 4 x 53,3 cm
Mines 0
Aircraft
Aircraft One catapult fitted – No aircraft put aboard.
Small boats
Light Speedboat None
Propulsion
Engine Type Two 6-cylinder two-stroke MAN diesels
Horsepower 9,000
Endurance 65.000 nautical miles at 15 knots
Speed 17 knots
Fuel Type Oil
Complement
Wartime Did not sail

Hilfskreuzer (Auxiliary Cruiser) Hansa
The History

Kapitän zur See Horst Gerlach, former commander of HK Stier, had been ordered by the SKL to form a pre-commissioning detail for captured merchant ships that they required to have in service within the year.

80% of his former crew volunteered for another cruise with Gerlach, joining the 9.838-ton Schiff 5, which was being converted Rotterdam's Wilton-Fijenoord yards.

His First Officer, the newly promoted Leutnant Ludolf Petersen, having seen enough action ‘behind enemy lines' on the heavy cruisers Lützow and Admiral Scheer as well as Pinguin’s captured whalers, the Stier and the Tannenfels did not, but having been deemed to possess all the necessary qualifications, was assigned to the ship that never sailed, remarking later, "And a good thing it was, because the operation would have been senseless anyway!".

Originally the Glen Line freighter Glengarry, Schiff 5 was still being built by Burmeister and Wain for the British Alfred Holt Company in Copenhagen, when the Germans seized her.

Re-named Meersburg for the Hamburg-Amerika line, she served first as a target ship for the 27th U-boat Flotilla in the Baltic, but was then ordered to Rotterdam, and later to Blohm & Voss Hamburg, to be converted into a raider.

As the work was repeatedly delayed by labour and material shortages, and by the air raids that had set the schedule back two years, particularly the raid of July 25 1943, the SKL finally gave up, and the ship served as a gunnery training and target ship again.

Gerlach relinquished his command to serve as naval commander at Leningrad, and Kapitän zur See Hans Henigst took over command of the ship from April to August 1943.

Schiff 5, the intended raider Hansa, was the last vessel to be converted into an auxiliary cruiser and was to be by far the most heavily armed, with eight 150mmm guns, eight 37mm anti-aircraft guns, thirty-six 20mm anti-aircraft guns, four 53.3cm torpedo tubes, an aircraft catapult and radar.

Under the command of Kapitän zur See Fritz Schwoerer, appointed in February 1944, she participated in the evacuation of refugees from Reval in August 1944, and from the Hela penninsula, continuing in this desperate service until the end of the war, sustaining damage when hitting a mine on May 4 1945.

Although raised later in May 1945 and returning to British ownership as the the prize ship Empire Humber, the Holt Company, which had lost fifty-two ships during the war, was able to reclaim the Glengarry in 1946.

This was achieved through the extraordinary guile, tenacity and sheer insubordination of their chosen representative Captain Frank C Brown, who thwarted the best efforts of the Royal Navy, which, considering her to be a legitimate prize, ‘arrested’ the vessel in the name of the Admiralty.

Instructed to take the ship to Buoy 10 at Gareloch in Scotland, Brown simply upped anchor and stood out to sea. "No shots came across as we passed the Needles. We had no pilot to dispose of - we did not stop. So we came to Buoy 10. From that day to this, I have heard no more of my infringement of maritime law. I assume that my juvenile delinquency was overlooked in the confusion of those days".

She remained the Glengarry until 1970, when she was re-named Dardanus, but reverted to Glengarry yet again in 1971 before being broken up later that same year.

Credits
Alfonso Arenas, Spain Got the idea and founded the Hilfskreuzer section.
Jonathan Ryan, Ireland Creator of the Hilfskreuzer section, as it is today, based on his knowledge and private archive.