Timeline for the German Commerce Raider Schiff 16 - Michel  
   
   
   
  The German auxiliary cruiser Michel (HSK 2), known to the Kriegsmarine as Schiff 28 and to the Royal Navy as Raider-H, was a converted German auxiliary cruiser or commerce raider. During the war the Michel sank or captured 18 ships totaling 126,632 ton. The Michel was sunk on September 11, 1943 by the submarine USS Tarpon off Chichi Jima, Bonin Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. The Michel was the last of the German commerce raiders to operate. The Michel was commanded by Korvettenkapitän Helmuth von Ruckteschell. Ruckteschell was the subject of one of the first war crimes investigations undertaken by the British Admiralty. It was alleged that on several occasions warships commanded by Ruckteschell had continued firing on merchant vessels after they had surrendered. Ruckteschell was convicted of 3 of 5 charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He died in the Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel prison on June 24, 1948.  
  Sunday, September 7, 1941  
  The German commerce raider Schiff 28 was commissioned with Grand Admiral Erich Raeder. As it was the privilege of each raider captain to name his ship, Korvettenkapitän Helmuth von Ruckteschell the ship Michel conveying the symbol of the common man, oppressed by ‘the system’. The Michel was built as the Polish freighter Bielsko in 1938/39. She was requisitioned by the Kriegsmarine at the outbreak of the war and converted into the hospital ship Bonn and in the summer of 1941 into the Michel.  
   
  Thursday, March 12, 1942  
  In the night, in an attempt to slip unobserved through the Ärmelkanal, the Michel ran aground off Ostende. The ship was refloated on the high tide and had to return to Vlissingen, Netherlands.  
   
  Saturday, March 14, 1942  
  In the night of March 13, the Michel left Vlissingen, Netherlands, escorted by nine minesweepers and five torpedo boats of the Fifth Torpedo-Boat Flotilla. Shortly after 3:00 a.m. the German convoy was attacked off Dover by six British motor torpedo-boats and three motor-gunboats. This attack was easily fought off. At dawn the convoy was attacked by a group of torpedo boats and destroyers, and that von Ruckteschell was forced to employ his main armament, and thereby reveal the true nature of his ship, in order to repel them. Although sustaining slight damage, and with one officer killed, the Michel reached Le Havre later that day. The Michel reached St. Malo the following day, where she topped up her fuel tanks and took on fresh supplies of ammunition.  
   
  Friday, March 20, 1942  
  The Michel departed from La Pallice, France for the open waters of the Atlantic with instructions to operate just south of the Equator, but to the north of the zone covered by the German commerce raider Thor, and then to await further orders to follow her into the Indian Ocean.  
   
  Sunday, April 19, 1942  
  The Michel, disguised as a Norwegian freighter, fired upon, stopped and boarded the 7,469-ton British tanker Patella in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The Patella was en route from the Cape from Trinidad and was carrying almost 10,000 tons of British Admiralty oil. Of the Patella’s complement, 3 died and 60 were taken prisoner. The Patella was dispatched with demolition charges.  
   
  Thursday, April 23, 1942  
  The Michel, disguised as a Norwegian freighter, torpedoed and sank the American tanker Texas Company using its light speed boat in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The 8,684 ton Texas Company was en route for South Africa carrying a 100-octane gasoline. Of the Texas Company’s complement, only 12 survived to be taken prisoner.  
   
  Friday, May 1, 1942  
  The Michel, posing as a British naval patrol vessel, fired upon but failed to stop the British Blue Funnel ocean liner Menelaus in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The Menelaus was able to outrun the Michel. The Menelaus was en route to Norfolk, Virginia. The Menelaus was the only ship ever to escape from a German auxiliary cruiser once an attack had commenced.  
   
  Wednesday, May 20, 1942  
  The Michel fired upon, stopped and boarded the Norwegian freighter Kattegat in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The 4,245 ton Kattegat was en route for La Plata, Argentina carrying ballast. Of the Kattegat’s complement, all survived and were taken prisoner. The Kattegat ship was scuttled with demolition charges. This was the first time that von Ruckteschell used the strategy of positioning the light speed on the targets opposite side to make the merchant ship think that there were two raiders in the belief that they would then surrender more quickly.  
   
  Saturday, June 6, 1942  
  The Michel torpedoed and damaged the American freighter George Clymer using its light speed boat in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The 6,800 ton George Clymer was en route from Portland for South Africa carrying a mixed cargo and twenty-four aircraft on board. Upon hearing on the radio that a ‘a cruiser’ was coming to pick them up, von Ruckteschell decided to lay in wait and ambush what he believed would be either an obsolete ‘C’ class cruiser or an Armed Merchant Cruiser. The British Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Alcantara would rescue the crew of the George Clymer the next day, scuttle the ship, and manage to leave the scene before the Michel was able to carry out its ambush.  
   
  Thursday, June 11, 1942  
  The German commerce raider Michel fired upon, stopped and boarded the British freighter Lylepark in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The Lylepark was en route from New York to South Africa carrying a cargo of aircraft parts, gasoline, and military supplies. Of the Lylepark’s complement, 22 were taken prisoner and the other 25 escaped in lifeboats.  
   
  Monday, June 22, 1942  
  The Michel rendezvoused, the blockade-runner Doggerbank rendezvoused in the South Atlantic Ocean with the German tanker Charlotte to refuel. von Ruckteschell had the Michel’s one hundred and seventy-seven prisoners, transferred to the Doggerbank, after which the Michel headed for South-West Africa. The Michel would find nothing there and northeastward into the Gulf Of Guinea, onto a shipping route to which Allied merchant ships had been diverted to avoid U-Boats  
   
  Wednesday, July 15, 1942  
  The Michel fired upon and sank the British ocean liner Gloucester Castle off Portuguese Angola in the southeastern Atlantic Ocean. The Gloucester Castle was en route for Cape Town carrying a cargo of military equipment, aircraft, machinery and gasoline, twelve passengers, and a crew of 142. Only 57 crewmen and 4 passengers survived.  
   
  Thursday, July 16, 1942  
  The Michel fired upon, torpedoed and sank the American oil tanker William F. Humphrey approximately eight hundred miles off the west coast of Africa in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The 7,983 ton William F. Humphrey was en route from Durban to Liverpool via Freetown. Of the William F. Humphrey’s complement, 9 died and 29 were taken prisoner, and ten men, including the captain, who managed to avoid capture and decided to take their chances on the open sea.  
   
  Using its light speed boat, the Michel also torpedoed and damaged the Norwegian tanker Aramis, which proceeded to escape. The Michel would catch and sink the Aramis the next day.  
   
  Friday, July 17, 1942  
  The Michel located, torpedoed, and sank the 7,984 ton Norwegian tanker Aramis approximately eight hundred miles off the west coast of Africa in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Of the Aramis’s complement, 20 died and 23 were taken prisoner.  
   
  Friday, August 14, 1942  
  The German commerce raider Michel fired upon and sank the 5,874 ton British freighter Arabistan south of St Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Of the Arabistan’s complement, 59 died and 1 was taken prisoner.  
   
  Thursday, September 10, 1942  
  The German commerce raider Michel fired upon and sank the U.S. freighter American Leader in the South Atlantic approximately 800 miles west of the mouth of the Cape of Good Hope. The 6,778 ton American Leader was en route from the Cape to Punta Arenas, Chile carrying a rubber, coconut oil, copra, spices, grease, hides, and assorted goods plus 20 tons of opium. Of the American Leader’s complement, 11 died and 47 were taken prisoner. The survivors would ultimately be transported to Singapore where they were turned over to the Japanese. Of that group, 14 would perish as POWs.  
   
  Friday, September 11, 1942  
  The Michel fired upon and sank the U.S. freighter Empire Dawn in the southwestern Indian Ocean. The 7,241 ton Empire Dawn was en route from the bound from Durban to Trinidad carrying ballast. Despite the fact that the Empire Dawn signaled that she was stopped and that her crew was abandoning ship, von Ruckteschell kept up a non-stop barrage of fire raking the freighter’s bridge and killing half of her crew. The other 22 of the Empire Dawn’s complement were taken prisoner. This action was the subject of the third charge of which von Ruckteschell was found guilty on his appearance before a War Crimes Tribunal.  
   
  Sunday, November 29, 1942  
  The Michel fired upon, torpedoed, and sank the U.S. freighter Sawokla approximately 400 miles southeast of Madagascar in the eastern Indian Ocean. The 5,882 ton Sawokla was en route from the bound from Colombo, Ceylon to Cape Town, South Africa with a cargo of jute and rough linen. 16 of the 41-man crew were killed in the attack, as were four of the 13 Armed Guard sailors. The Michel rescued 25 crewmen, five Armed Guard sailors, and five passengers.  
   
  Tuesday, December 8, 1942  
  The Michel fired upon, torpedoed, and sank the 4,816 ton Greek freighter Eugenie Livanos in the southwestern Indian Ocean. Of the Eugenie Livanos’s complement, 6 died and 19 were taken prisoner.  
   
  Saturday, January 2, 1943  
  The Michel fired upon and sank the British freighter Empire March in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The 7,040 ton Empire March was en route from Trinidad from Durban, South Africa carrying a cargo of iron, tea, peanuts, and jute. Of the Empire March’s complement, 3 died and 26 were taken prisoner.  
   
  Sunday, January 3, 1943  
  The Michel, operating in the Indian Ocean, was ordered to return to Germany. von Ruckteschell ordered the Michel to head south of the Cape, and back towards the South Atlantic.  
   
  Friday, January 8, 1943  
  von Ruckteschell received instructions that he was not to attempt to break through the Allied blockade of Europe, but was to turn back into the Indian Ocean, and head for Japan. Following brief stops at Japanese-controlled Batavia (Jakarta) on February 10, and Singapore, from February 18 to 20, the Michel reached Kobe Harbor on March 2.  
   
  Thursday, February 18, 1943  
  The Michel made port in Singapore and transferred its prisoners to the Japanese Army.  
   
  Tuesday, March 2, 1943  
  The Michel made port in Kobe Harbor The Michel was officially welcomed by the German Naval Attaché, Admiral Paul Wenneker, and Kapitän zur See Günther Gumprich, the former commander of the raider Thor, which was now a burnt-out wreck in Yokohama. Gumprich informed von Ruckteschell that the Michel was now the only remaining operational raider. The Michel was taken by tugs to the Mitsubishi shipyard, which was contracted to carry out a much-needed refit, before she would be ready to put to sea again. The Michel had spent 358 days at sea, during which she sank fourteen ships, for a total of 99,386 tons.  
   
  Tuesday, March 23, 1943  
  von Ruckteschell requested and was granted relief of command of the German commerce raider Michel on medical grounds. von Ruckteschell had long suffered from migraines and stomach problems and was now suffering from a heart condition.  
   
  German Commerce Raiders  
   
     
   
 

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