Armed Merchant Raiders in Naval History

I’ve been doing some reading lately on the various armed merchant raiders and q-ships of naval history. Interesting stuff. Names like Alabama, Shenandoah, Moewe, Wolf, Seeadler, and Kormoran evoke stories of modern swashbucklers. Unfortunately though they always seem to be on the loosing side… The CSA and Germany were the two biggest proponents of converted surface raiders and we all know how that worked out… I don’t think this says as much about the quality of the work the raiders did as much as it does about the superiors calling the shots. There may be a correlation between the two, but not necessarily any causation. Why the more victorious powers (US and UK for example) didn’t make as much widespread use of merchant raiders I’m not sure, but it may be for the same reason they ended up winning: they had the resources to sustain large conventional fleets. That being said, I believe these raiders still have a place in naval combat and even post-war British historians have said that based on the success of what few raiders the Germans used, they couldn’t believe they didn’t use more of them.

Does any one know of any examples since the end of World War II of merchant ships being converted for use as auxiliary cruisers or commerce raiders? I can’t think of too many conflicts in the last 71 years that might warrant such a thing but you never know. Merchant ships have changed a great deal since 1945 and I wonder how the mechanics of using such a vessel for such a purpose would be affected today.

C.Captain was right, we need a maritime history section of the forum.

[QUOTE=PaddyWest2012;183891] I can’t think of too many conflicts in the last 71 years that might warrant such a thing but you never know.[/QUOTE]

I we define the regional pirate pits as “conflict” areas an armed merchant cruiser could probably end that business in very short order. When the only traces of pirates that ever return to shore are small bits of burned wreckage even them most ignorant of them will eventually figure out it’s not fun anymore.

[QUOTE=lm1883;183905]Kind of related

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/12094178/British-sailors-given-India-jail-time-for-weapons-charges-on-anti-piracy-mission.html[/QUOTE]

That’s not difficult to fix, ban Indian flag ships from UK ports until the men are back in the UK.

Putting armed security on merchant vessels in pirate waters is a good idea, but that doesn’t make them an armed merchant raider. A raider carries no cargo except for prisoners from captured ships and works for no company except a given nation’s navy. This concept would still work against pirates, I just wanted to distinguish between the two things because they’re two very different beasts.

[QUOTE=PaddyWest2012;183921]Putting armed security on merchant vessels in pirate waters is a good idea, but that doesn’t make them an armed merchant raider. A raider carries no cargo except for prisoners from captured ships and works for no company except a given nation’s navy. This concept would still work against pirates, I just wanted to distinguish between the two things because they’re two very different beasts.[/QUOTE]

Who said otherwise? I suggested arming a “non trading” merchant vessel and using it exactly the same way they were used during the wars. Let them sail around the nests and pick off pirates who attack it.

If someone is wondering why the U-boot war in the Atlantic got nasty you could always read this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baralong_incidents

This is a part of the problem with using converted merchant vessels as military, if you can’t trust the other ship as being civilian you will treat all vessels as a enemy combatant.

But this is not a problem anymore because it’s sure as shit that all civilian vessels will be sunk and not commandeered in a conflict today. The Nuremberg trials made unrestricted submarine warfare legal.

[QUOTE=Kraken;183930]This is a part of the problem with using converted merchant vessels as military, if you can’t trust the other ship as being civilian you will treat all vessels as a enemy combatant.[/QUOTE]

Until the pirates and Islamic whackjobs get submarines it is they who will get the well earned pointy end of the stick.

[QUOTE=Steamer;183931]Until the pirates and Islamic whackjobs get submarines it is they who will get the well earned pointy end of the stick.[/QUOTE]

I was thinking more in a traditional sense, as in a fight between conventional states, not failed states in Africa. If hijacking in the Gulf of Aden had been a real problem it would have been solved long ago, but who the fuck cares in the West? Most people don’t even care about the mariner’s on their own coast.

The British use some merchant ships in unconventional ways during the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict but I’d hardly consider them to be merchant raiders. Think Defense UK has a goodarticle about the Atlantic Conveyor.

Didn’t Doenitz get 20 years or something for giving the ok on unrestricted submarine warfare? Could you elaborate more on the implications of some of Nuremburg’s naval-related decisions?

[QUOTE=PaddyWest2012;183935]Didn’t Doenitz get 20 years or something for giving the ok on unrestricted submarine warfare? Could you elaborate more on the implications of some of Nuremburg’s naval-related decisions?[/QUOTE]

He was convicted of planning and waging a war of aggression, but not on the grounds of unrestricted submarine warfare.

Unrestricted submarine warfare was a breach of Article 22 of the Second London Naval Treaty but becuase both sides had issued orders of Unrestricted submarine warfare. The Germans with War Order No.154 the British with the Admiralty ordering all vessels in the Skagerrak sunk on sight on 8 May 1940 (Day before the invasion of Norway) and the Americans which was waging unrestricted submarine warfare from day one of the war in the pacific. In that effect the Second London Naval Treaty was null and void. And unrestricted submarine warfare was de facto legal.

But Im not a lawyer so all that is just hearsay :slight_smile:

And that’s the reason using converted merchant vessels as auxiliars is a bad idea, you are just making every civilian merchant vessel a valid target in a warzone.
That’s the reason the British was using Q-ships, they wanted America on the side of the Entente during WW1 and dead Americans is a easy way of pissing off US of A.

[QUOTE=Kraken;183932]I was thinking more in a traditional sense, as in a fight between conventional states, not failed states in Africa. [/QUOTE]

I’m not sure anyone will live long enough to even announce the start of a “traditional” war between “conventional states” much less use merchant shipping for anything.

We are going to be bled dry by surrogate state parasites until we reach the same level as Syria and the North African states. China will do well out of the cesspool and Russia will probably just keep stumbling along by calling bullshit to the politically correct moves that are sucking the life out of us and the EU. That and a Congress and court that are bringing corruption to new depths will ensure America is never going to be “great” (whatever that means) again.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that submarine warfare enters into it. Merchant shipping has always been a target of war, submarines or no submarines. Even neutral ships carrying cargo belonging to the enemy are fair game. If that’s the case then having a merchant ship on the prowl wouldn’t change much. Also, part of the M.O. of a merchant raider is to be a ghost. If the raider does its job well then it’s possible that no one would know it existed until after the fact. No one knew Felix von Luckner was prowling the Atlantic in Seeadler until he sent a neutral ship full of captured prisoners ashore in South America to lighten the burden on his accommodations and supplies. Had he had more space and more stores he could have kept on raiding all the way around the world and back to Germany, and as far as the allies might have known their ships were all swallowed by the kraken.

[QUOTE=PaddyWest2012;183946]Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that submarine warfare enters into it. Merchant shipping has always been a target of war, submarines or no submarines. Even neutral ships carrying cargo belonging to the enemy are fair game. If that’s the case then having a merchant ship on the prowl wouldn’t change much. Also, part of the M.O. of a merchant raider is to be a ghost. If the raider does its job well then it’s possible that no one would know it existed until after the fact. No one knew Felix von Luckner was prowling the Atlantic in Seeadler until he sent a neutral ship full of captured prisoners ashore in South America to lighten the burden on his accommodations and supplies. Had he had more space and more stores he could have kept on raiding all the way around the world and back to Germany, and as far as the allies might have known their ships were all swallowed by the kraken.[/QUOTE]

This has to do with Prize (law). My point is that your question

Does any one know of any examples since the end of World War II of merchant ships being converted for use as auxiliary cruisers or commerce raiders? I can’t think of too many conflicts in the last 71 years that might warrant such a thing but you never know. Merchant ships have changed a great deal since 1945 and I wonder how the mechanics of using such a vessel for such a purpose would be affected today.
is out of date, if someone was to get a letters of marque by the US Government and set up shop in the Gulf of Aden as a Privateer they would soon be joining the British in a hellhole in India. There is a reason we have a clear distinction between civilian and military vessels. One is fair game to sink on sight, the other is protected by international law.

Privateers under letter of marque haven’t been used in quite a long time. All the converted merchant raiders from the two world wars were civilian ships seized by the government, staffed with naval officers, and operated as regular naval ships under the guise of merchant ships. A privateer is a bird of an entirely different feather.

[QUOTE=PaddyWest2012;183949] All the converted merchant raiders from the two world wars were civilian ships seized by the government…[/QUOTE]

Don’t need to sieze them these days, the navy can buy them cheaply and troll them in pirate regions. It would not be long before that “fishery” stock collapsed.

It’s so simple, why haven’t they tried this before? It would be so much cheaper and more effective than that whole multi-national destroyer squadron they have sitting over there.

[QUOTE=PaddyWest2012;183962]It’s so simple, why haven’t they tried this before? It would be so much cheaper and more effective than that whole multi-national destroyer squadron they have sitting over there.[/QUOTE]

There’s not much glory riding an old stick ship or bulker around in circles in the heat off some shithole.

Admirals and wannabe admirals need press releases and photos of them looking heroic in order to secure retirement jobs with whoever built the latest weapon system they pose next to.

[QUOTE=lm1883;183982]http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-floating-armories-help-guard-cargo-ships-from-pirates-on-high-seas-1422934573[/QUOTE]

That’s not what was being discussed.