- HMS Essex during the Great War -
If you enjoy this site please consider making a donation.
Add Stories & Photos
Day by Day
War in the Air
Prisoners of War
The Royal Navy
Training for War
Those Who Served
Life on Home Front
Central Powers Army
Central Powers' Navy
World War Two
Add Stories & Photos
Help & FAQ's
Our Facebook Page
Great War Books
Research your Family History.
World War 1 One ww1 wwII greatwar great
16th January 1916 Naval Action - 16th January 1916 The Action of 16 January 1916 was a single ship action of World War I. It was fought between a German auxiliary cruiser and a British merchant ship off the Portuguese islands of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean.
The most successful of German commerce raiders during the war, SMS Möwe was commanded by Korventtenkapitän Nikolaus zu Dohna-Schlodien and was assigned to duty in the Atlantic. Möwe was originally a freighter launched in 1914 until converted in 1915. She displaced 9,800 tons and was armed with four 150-milimeter guns, one 105-millimeter gun and two torpedo tubes. Her opponent was the one gun merchant ship, SS Clan Mactavish of Great Britain laden with fur, meat and cotton.
Möwe was steaming approximately 120 miles south of Madeira on 16 January 1916, with the merchant steamer SS Appam, a vessel previously captured by the Germans. They had installed a prize crew and transferred several dozen prisoners of war. At sunset, lookouts aboard Möwe sighted smoke on the horizon, a sure indication of a ship. Immediately, Kapitän Dohna-Schlodien ordered Appam to remain behind while he went to investigate. Several minutes later, at about 2100, Möwe came within a distance to where her lookouts could make out that the smoke had originated from a large merchant ship, later identified as the 5,816 gross ton Clan Mactavish of the Clan Line company. By the time Möwe came within close range, it was dark, so the Germans approached cautiously. Using a signal lamp, Dohna-Schlodien requested the steamer's name but the British responded by asking that the Germans first identify themselves. Dohna-Schlodien signaled that his ship was the SS Author, sailing from Liverpool to Natal. Möwe reportedly looked very similar to Author, which was sunk by the Germans a few weeks earlier. Clan Mactavish then signaled her name and that they were returning to Britain from Australia. This was the end for the merchantman, now identified as enemy, Kapitän Dohna-Schlodien crossed the steamer's bow and ordered her to halt, a signal which certainly shocked the unsuspecting Britons. Instead of stopping, the British altered course and increased speed, hoping to outrun the raider. Warning shots were fired, but they were ignored so a chase began. The one gun of the British ship, mounted on her stern, was manned and opened fire on the chasing Germans, but the shots were not well directed. Some splashed into the water near the auxiliary cruiser, but ultimately none struck the German vessel and they therefore suffered no damage or casualties in the engagement. The German sailors responded to the British with counter battery fire from their 150-millimeter guns, and for several moments the two vessels fought. Clan Mactavish fired at the pursuing Mowe, and during this she sent distress calls out which were received by the armoured cruiser HMS Essex. However, the telegraphist aboard the cruiser failed to inform his superiors of the action so no help was sent. Eventually, after taking several hits topside, the one gun Clan Mactavish began to burn and her captain signaled Möwe that they were surrendering. Möwe then maneuvered in for boarding. All of the German rounds were hits with the exception of the warning shots. The steamer was quickly seized, prisoners removed and charges set for scuttling. Within moments of boarding, the explosives laid in Clan Mactavish were detonated and she sank to the bottom of the ocean. Eighteen British sailors were killed in battle or just after and five others were wounded. The commander of Clan Mactavish was a Royal Navy captain and her gun was manned by two navy sailors, all three were captured among dozens of civilians. At this point, the Germans now held a total of over 500 Allied prisoners of war on Möwe and SS Appam.
After destroying the steamer the Germans reunited with Appam and set a westward course, thus avoiding any possibility of encountering the British cruisers in the area. Two of the cruisers were just over 100 miles from the battle area that night and could have been moved to a position of intercepting the Germans had the telegraphist aboard Essex responded. Möwe went on to sink several more Allied ships before returning home. Upon arrival, Kapitän Dohna-Schlodien received an Iron Cross second class. During her second cruise, Möwe defeated another one gun steamer in an action in the mid-Atlantic in March 1917.John Doran
If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.
Want to know more about HMS Essex?There are:1 articles tagged HMS Essex available in our LibraryThese include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Great War.
Those known to have served in
during the Great War 1914-1918.
This page is new, as yet no names have been submitted.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
Looking for help with Family History Research?
Please see Family History FAQ's
We are unable to provide individual research free of charge, but do offer a paid service at competitive rates, the small profit from these services will be put towards the costs of keeping this website running. For more information please see our Research Services Leaflet
Can you help?The Wartime Memories Project is run by volunteers and this website is funded by donations from our visitors.
If the information here has been helpful or you have enjoyed reaching the stories please conside making a donation, no matter how small, would be much appreciated, annually we need to raise enough funds to pay for our web hosting or this site will vanish from the web. In these difficult times current donations are falling far short of this target.
If you enjoy this site please consider making a donation.
- The Wartime Memories Project is the original WW1 and WW2 commemoration website
This website has been running for 16 years and receives in excess of a million hits per month. The website and our group will continue long after the 2014-18 events are over. We hope that people will continue to support us by submitting material and stories in addition to submitting to the new websites set up for the anniversary.
- We are looking for volunteers to help with researching the activities of units of the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Territorial Force, Regular Army, Pals Battalions, Kitchener's New Armies, Voluntary Organisations and the Ships of the Royal Navy. We currently have a huge backlog of stories and historical documents which need to be edited or transcribed for display online, if you have a good standard of written English, an interest in the two World Wars and a little time to spare online we would appreciate your help. For more information please see our page on Volunteering.
Wanted: Digital copies of Group photographs, Scrapbooks, Autograph books, photo albums, newspaper clippings, letters, postcards and ephemera relating to the Great War. If you have any unwanted photographs, documents or items from the First or Second World War, please do not destroy them. The Wartime Memories Project will give them a good home and ensure that they are used for educational purposes. Please get in touch for the postal address, do not sent them to our PO Box as packages are not accepted.
We are now on Facebook. Like this page to receive our updates, add a comment or ask a question.
If you have a general question please post it on our Facebook page.
June 2017World War 1 One ww1 wwII greatwar great
Please note we currently have a backlog of submitted material, our volunteers are working through this as quickly as possible and all names, stories and photos will be added to the site. If you have already submitted a story to the site and your UID reference number is higher than 231812 your submission is still in the queue, please do not resubmit without contacting us first.
Did you know? We also have a section on World War Two. and a Timecapsule to preserve stories from other conflicts for future generations.
Want to know more about HMS Essex?There are:1 articles tagged HMS Essex available in our Library
Available at discounted prices.
Items from the Home Front Archive
Do you have any photos, postcards, documents or memorabilia relating to this unit? Please add to this archive.
Suggest a link
The Wartime Memories Project is a non profit organisation run by volunteers.
This website is paid for out of our own pockets, library subscriptions and from donations made by visitors. The popularity of the site means that it is far exceeding available resources.
If you are enjoying the site, please consider making a donation, however small to help with the costs of keeping the site running.
Website © Copyright MCMXCIX - MMXVII
- All Rights Reserved