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Battle of Trindade 1914 in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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Battle of Trindade 1914

14th September 1914 Battle of Trindade 1914  The Battle of Trindade was a single-ship action fought during the First World War on 14 September 1914 off the coast of the Brazilian island of Trindade.


The German auxiliary cruiser Cap Trafalgar was steaming in South American waters on her commerce raiding mission when she came across several German colliers, trapped in the region by the Allied navies in the Western approaches. Cap Trafalgar, in need of supplies, was led to the Trindade and Martim Vaz islands where the Germans had established a small, hidden supply base. Cap Trafalgar arrived at the base on September 14, giving away her position early that morning by smoke from her steam engines. The British auxiliary cruiser Carmania, a former ocean liner which was designed to fight merchant vessels and small enemy warships, noticed the smoke and moved to engage. Coincidentally, the Cap Trafalgar, also intended for use against enemy merchant fleets, had been altered to resemble the Carmania. Some accounts wrongly claimed that both ships were disguised as each other. Carmania moved into Trindade's only sheltered anchorage, surprising Cap Trafalgar and two enemy colliers. Both the British and German commanders believed that in order to obtain a decisive victory, they would need more space to manoeuver their ships. They steamed several miles into open sea before turning into each other and commencing hostilities. Carmania fired the first shots, which fell short, thus allowing Cap Trafalgar to give out the first hit. For some ninety minutes the two ships fought a gunnery duel. They also used machine guns to target each other's crew. At first the German fire was more effective. Eventually, as the two ships closed to within a few hundred yards of each other, British shots became more accurate and fires began to spread aboard the German raider. Carmania received most of the hits during the fight, 73 hits in total. Her bridge was completely destroyed and she had taken hits below the waterline. However, just when things began to look dire for the British, the Cap Trafalgar turned away and began lowering life rafts, having been holed below the waterline and taking on water. She soon sank. The German colliers were able to rescue 279 German sailors from the sea and rafts. Between 16 and 51 of the crew are cited by different sources as killed in action or drowned. Carmania's crew suffered 9 dead, several wounded and the ship was severely damaged.


After receiving Cap Trafalgar's distress call, the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm arrived near the battle scene. Fearing a British attack, assuming the Cap Trafalgar had already been sunk and not knowing the poor condition of Carmania, she turned around and steamed away. The day after the battle, Carmania was rescued and escorted to the port of Pernambuco. The surviving Germans were dropped off by the colliers in Montevideo

John Doran

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