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German Commerce Raiders 1914–18

German Commerce Raiders 1914–18 Book Review

By Davd L. Veres

Date of Review December 2015 Title German Commerce Raiders 1914–18
Author Ryan K. Noppen Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2015 ISBN 9781472809506
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $17.95


Recognizing the Royal Navy’s superiority, Germany’s Kaiserliche Marine – the Imperial German Navy – devised plans to lure Royal Navy assets from projected main battle areas through commerce raiding and minelaying, thereby diluting enemy strength in future fleet avtions.

Now author Ryan K. Noppen recaps those efforts in his compact chronicle, German Commerce Raiders 1914-18 – number 228 in Osprey’s New Vanguard range.

Contents commence with historical notes, strategic background, operational considerations and “German naval units abroad in August 1914”.

The analysis then segues to summaries of individual warships themselves:

  • Cruisers
  • Converted Liners
  • Converted Freighters

– a force of light cruisers and auxiliary cruisers or Hilfskreuzer – all backed by supporting colliers, merchant vessels and wireless communications assets. Entries recap specifications – and include operational summaries.

SMS Emden, for instance, sunk nearly 79,000 tons of Allied shipping over 60 days – and “at one point had 16 warships hunting the solitary raider, thus achieving exactly the kind of objective the Admiralstab hoped for from commerce raiding”.

Photos, color plates and action paintings illustrate Osprey’s effort. Extended captions also augment the account. And a conclusion, selected bibliography and index conclude contents.

Historians still debate the effectiveness of Imperial Germany’s commerce raiders. They accounted, author Noppen notes, for only 5% of the Allied shipping losses inflicted by U-boats – leading some “to argue that the results of the surface campaign did not justify its expense”.

Still, Noppen observes, they tied down a disproportionate number of enemy warships and diverted resources “from other fronts”. Moreover, “their presence alone caused panic among British shipping lines, resulting in delays and shortages of goods at times as well as inflated maritime insurance rates”. And their “propaganda value” could not be measured in “terms of tonnage.”

Judge for yourself. Get this ripping little read.

Roundly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!