Researching "Marauders of the Sea" and the tanker Weser

I've just come across your great web site, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll get back to you shortly with some information requests, such as do you have a publisher for your book on Marauders of the Sea? I'd like to quote from it, if you'll give me the proper citation. Also, I was interested in your reference on p. 31 to the relationship of the Orion and the Weser. The Weser has a lot of questionable information floating around her, but your material helps. There's a reference in an authoritative Canadian book to a U-boat rendezvousing with the Weser at Vigo, Spain. Something in the book Das Boot says the same thing. That book is fiction, isn't it? Apparently, some things are getting mixed up, and I'd like your help in sorting them out. Thanks.

Dave Grover,
ex-chief mate, merchant marine, and ex-commander, naval reserve, author of five books of naval/maritime history


Thank you for your message and kind words about AHOY. It is a joint effort with Terry Kearns, my web master in Atlanta, Georgia, He takes all my scribblings and turns them into what is up there for anyone who happens to log on to it.

No, my Marauders of the Sea did not find a publisher, and is part of my trilogy on Armed Raiders, only found at ahoy.tk-jk.net and made up of:

1. Marauders of the Sea. German Armed Merchant Raiders of World War 1.

2. Marauders of the Sea. German Armed Merchant Raiders of World War 2.

3. Confederate Merchant Raiders of the American Civil War.

A citation with the title and By Mackenzie J. Gregory. would suffice.

You may well know the reference to the capture of the tanker Weser, by the Canadian AMC Prince Robert, which I will send you.

The book Das Boot is certainly a novel, I guess based on some facts from U-Boat operations in WW2, such as reprovisioning at Vigo from Weser.

Please Dave ask if you think I may be able to assist you.

I would be interested in the titles of your five books and their availability.

Best wishes from Australia. 
Mackenzie Gregory.


The detail about HMCS Prince Robert, and the capture of the German Tanker Weser.

Thanks, Mac,

for your prompt and helpful reply re the Weser/Vancouver Island. Thanks, too, for the Hillman material; I've made use of it for several years, but if often doesn't seem to have the definitive word on what went on.  I'll try to spell out more in this follow-up e-mail about where I am in my research.

Fraser McKee, a well-regarded Canadian historian, talks about the fate of the ship not being as universally accepted as it might be. He says, p. 248 with respect to the sinking of the Vancouver Island, that "Those querying this official record claim that it is possible the ship was captured by prior arrangement by the 'attacking'  U-boat or another one, and taken into Vigo Spain as a supply depot for U-boats." I haven't seen a copy of Das Boot for many years, but apparently either or both the original biographical book or the novel have the U-96 going into Vigo, and meeting a support ship there. Someone even called that ship the tanker Weser. So, someone along the way must have jumped the gap between what is possible and what actually happened. The U-boat websites all have the U-558 sinking the Weser/Vancouver Island, but the internet version of the interrogation of the U-boat's captain has him saying that they sank nothing prior to Christmas of 1941. The accounts of the sinking of the various ships of convoy SC-48 which was close by make clear that with so many U-boats present it was hard to assign which boat was responsible for which kill, and this event was only two days after the supposed sinking of the Vancouver Island - so the captain's denial of any kills would apply here, too.

The other loose end I'm trying to tie up is the Weser's departure from Manzanillo. Do we really know that she was trying to fuel the Orion in the Marshall Islands, or was she simply trying to go home? She had more than enough diesel fuel aboard for her own needs, but little else that would be useful to the raider. I've seen nothing in the Hillman material that suggests that she was going off to rendezvous with the raider, but the submarine websites all insist that she was. Were her intentions ever spelled out in an authoritative source?

You asked about my writing. My first book was U. S. Army Ships and Watercraft of World War II, published by the Naval Institute Press, followed by Captives of Shanghai: The Story of the President Harrison, which I wrote with my daughter who's a retired captain in the Naval Reserve, published by Western Maritime Press. Then came, American Merchant Ships on the Yangtze River, published by Praeger Publishers, and The San Francisco Shipping Conspiracies of World War One, from Western Maritime Press and full of German intrigue from that era. The most recent one was The Unforgiving Coast: Maritime Disasters of the Pacific Northwest, published by the Oregon State University Press.

I'm working on an article now on the Prince Robert and the Weser, and I've gotten to the point where loose attributions in various accounts need to be explored. Thanks again for the help you've provided thus far; let's stay in touch for mutual benefit.
Dave Grover

Here are some bits and pieces that may or may not be helpful.

Best regards. 

At page 401 of Das Boot, is this quote when the U-Boat is about to enter the harbour at Vigo Spain.
" I've no notion how he ( The Captain of the U-Boat, my note ) expects to find the right steamer, the one who is to provision us- the German ship Weser.
At Page 403. The U-Boat having found her amongst all the ships at anchor goes alongside and secures to Weser.


U-558 fom uboat.net


By: W. C. Stump - 2002


Last year, I acquired a most unusual hand painted commemorative porcelain plate that came from the Auxiliary Cruiser Orion. I asked for assistance in finding any information about this sea raider. A reader in Australia came to my assistance and he sent me a copy of a book entitled, The Black Raider, printed in England and simultaneously in Canada in 1955. The book was so intriguing that I couldn’t stop reading until I finished the book. I planned to write an article about this famous ship and its Captain, Kurt Weyher, but as in many cases, other interests took command of my time and the book was "lost" in the depths of the clutter of my office and I only found it months later. In the interim, the commemorative plate was hung back on my office wall. The book review project was never completed and wile talking with my friend David Tiffin, we wondered if our readers would enjoy hearing the story of the Orion. I don't know how many of our readers remember the days at the movies when each week a "serial" was started and it ran weekly until the entire story had been presented. The only "serials" we see anymore are on T. V. with the daily soap operas. If our readers on the forum would like to hear the story of the Orion, I will present daily chapters and we will have a 21st century serial about a time long ago where men were men and the days of the commerce raiders were of grave importance to both the Allies and the Axis Powers. Therefore, if you would like to read the story of the voyage and adventures of The Black Raider, I will dedicate the article as my humble salute to the memory of this gallant ship. Also, I wish to equally salute the men who sailed her, the prisoners captured by the Orion, and of those equally gallant Allied seamen and ships who chased her more than five times around the earth’s circumference for an astonishing 127,337 sea miles.

Sailing out of the storm, the Orion sailed a southwest course to stay far out of reach of the enemy aircraft of which a new flight had been sent from Perth and Busselton. However, from around noon the ship ran into heavy seas of 25-foot high waves. The crew had to haul in the lifeboats that had been left hanging from the derricks since they met the Turakina. The Commander of the cruiser decided to harry the shipping lanes from Fremantle via Cape Leeuwin into the Indian Ocean. Not wanting to miss out on possible prey and to reach the supply ship Norddeutscher Lloyd M. V. Weser, due out of the Mexican port of Manzanilla with a load of fuel and provisions. This ship was supposed to reach Ailinglapalap Atoll in the Marshall Island at the beginning of October. The Orion’s fuel stocks were running low and had to make contact in order to re-supply before proceeding with the mission assigned in the Pacific.
VANCOUVER ISLAND (October 15, 1941)

The 9,472 ton Canadian freighter was sunk in the north Atlantic by the U-558 (Oblt. Günther Krech) This was her first voyage laden with war goods for Britain. There were twenty one survivors. One hundred and four lives were lost including thirty three of her sixty four crewmembers, eight Armed Guard Gunners and thirty-two passengers. The Vancouver Island was the ex-German merchant ship Weser captured on September 25, 1940, by  HMCS Prince Robert (Captain Ooshakoff RCN) off Manzanillo, Mexico. The Weser was taken to Esquimalt, British Columbia, refitted for service in the Canadian Merchant Service and renamed Vancouver Island.  (The U-558 was sunk on July 20, 1943, in the Bay of Biscay by depth charges from a British Halifax and an American Liberator. There were only 5 survivors from her crew of 50)


The "Vancouver Island" was a 7,000 gross ton twin screw motorship built by the Deutsche Werke, Kiel in 1928 as the "Sud Americano" for the Norwegian A/S Linea Sud Americano (Ivar Christensen). Due to her not reaching her contracted speed, she (together with her sister ship "Sud Expreso") was returned to her builders, renamed "Schleswig" and laid up. For a time she was under charter to the Blue Star Line of London and was renamed "Yakima Star". About 1933 she was purchased by an intermediary concern, re-engined, and had her hull lengthened, bringing her gross tonnage up to 9,200. Her two funnels were replaced by a single one, and she entered the service of Norddeutscher Lloyd [North German Lloyd] of Bremen. She was then renamed "Weser". In October 1940 she was captured while attempting to run the British blockade by HMCS Prince Robert, which was formerly the Canadian National Steamship coastal liner of the same name. The "Weser" was renamed "Vancouver Island" and as such, was torpedoed by a German submarine in the North Atlantic on October 15th 1941. [Keith B.Lewis, Sea Breezes magazine, Dec.1950]

        For Sea Breezes Magazine see

P.O. Box 125, Picton, Ontario, K0K 2T0, Canada
Phone 1 613 476 1177 —  Fax 1 613 476 7598
Visitors —  2, Gladstone Avenue, Picton, Ontario

at URL: http://www.aandc.org/collections/sea_breezes_detail.html

Thanks, Mac, for the latest information.The quoted material from Das Boot is just what I've been looking for. I spent a couple of hours last night on the internet, trying to find out which library or bookseller close by had a copy of the book. Everybody seems to have several of the film versions of the story, but no one seems to have the book.Your digging out that quotation helped enormously; now I can go ahead at my leisure and find the book, knowing what's in it.

The material on the Orion was very helpful, too, and it took me back to the research I did on my book on the shipping conspiracies in World War I. The Germans through their ettapen were incredibly good at stashing colliers all over the world, and in using Pacific Islands for coaling their cruisers from the colliers. I suspect the early days of WWII were a lot like WWI, except that oil, rather than coal, became the lifeblood of ships.

I can't begin to thank you enough for the help you've provided during the past couple of days.You've gotten me off a swampy spot in the road, and back on track.  I'm very grateful to you. If I can reciprocate in helping to run down anything you need over here, please let me know.

Best wishes.
Dave Grover

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