Battle of Trindade

Battle of Trindade

The Cap Trafalgar was a brand new liner built for the Hamburg South America Line. When the war began the German Navy requisitioned her, armed her with 4.7 inch guns and pom-poms, and added naval personnel. She was to be a commerce raider in the South Atlantic.

She failed to encounter any British shipping in her first weeks on active service. On 14 September 1914 she was refuelling from colliers at Trindade Island, about 740 miles off Brazil. When a British armed merchant cruiser, the Cunarder Carmania, appeared, and battle ensued. A. Robertson, a Yell man from Ulsta was on board the Carmania, and wrote up his experience for the Shetland Times of 16 January 1915.

There is a tradition that the Cap Trafalgar had been altered to look like the Carmania. A. Robertson simply said that "The large liner was apparently about our own size, with two funnels painted to represent a Castle Iiner".

The battle sometimes resembled something from another age. It began at 8,500 yards and closed dramatically. "Owing to decreasing range, her machine guns were becoming dangerous, so our ship was turned away from her…" Much of the Cap’s fire went into the Carmania’s superstructure, and the bridge and chartroom took fire. It was difficult to extinguish. "No water was available, owing to the fact that our main was shot away."

The vessels pounded each other for nearly two hours. The Carmania successfully holed the Cap Trafalgar on the waterline – "she capsized and went down, bows first, with her colours flying". Another German commerce raider, the Kronprinz Wilhelm, had received the Cap Trafalgar’s signal and had moved to assist. "Our signalman observed some smoke on the northern horizon."

The Carmania sailed south. In the meantime, the Kronprinz captain had come to believe he was sailing into a trap, and moved away. The Carmania, owing to battle damage was difficult to navigate. On the 15th "the cruiser Bristol picked us up and escorted us to Abrolhos Island". This was a group of reefs off Brazil.

Much needed repairs were made there as "Seventy-nine projectiles and innumerable smaller shells had hit our ship, making in all 304 holes".

The armed liner Cap Trafalgar. Wikipedia.
Carmania sinking Cap Trafalgar. Wikipedia.
Kronprinz Wilhelm. Wikipedia.
HMS Bristol. Wikipedia.