Daily Event for February 27, 2013

Ten days out of Valparaiso, Chile the barque Conway Castle was heading to Queenstown, Ireland carrying a cargo of barley. On February 27, 1915 a steamer was sighted in the distance. As the ship closed to three miles the stranger began to signal for the Conway Castle to stop. The approaching ship was the German cruiser SMS Dresden.

Dresden had been operating off South America since the war began, she was also the only German warship to survive the Battle of the Falkland Islands. Since the battle Dresden, under the command of Kapitän zur See Fritz Lüdecke, had been making every attempt to sink British shipping while avoiding the Royal Navy, who were actively hunting her.

Built in 1893 by William Pickersgill & Sons in Sunderland, the 1,694 ton ship was alone and 310 miles southwest of Más a Tierra Island (Robinson Crusoe Island), Chile and could do nothing but obey the orders being given by the Germans. Soon a boarding party was removing all useful stores and the ship was scuttled, the master and crew being taken aboard Dresden. She was the last ship sunk by the cruiser.

By early March SMS Dresden was almost out of coal and an attempt was made to replenish her bunkers. She was to rendezvous with the freighter Gotha on March 8, but this was interrupted by HMS Kent. Dresden was able to outrun the British cruiser, but it left her bunkers almost empty. With no hope of coaling and his ship, no ammunition for the main armament, engines that were in need of overhaul and a crew that was becoming demoralized, Lüdecke headed for Más a Tierra Island in an attempt to have his ship interned rather than loose her to the British. En route to the island they stopped the Peruvian barque Lorton on Mar. 7 and put the crew of Conway Castle on board, having been quite courteously to the British crew during the course of their imprisonment. Lorton landed the men at Valparaiso on Mar. 13.

Dresden having been cornered at Más a Tierra was fired on by HM cruisers Kent and Glasgow, but because of a delaying tactic by her captain and one of her officers, Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Canaris, Dresden was blown up by her own crew and sank.
© 2013 Michael W. Pocock

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