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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read about fascinating subterfuge & improvisations by both sides in WW1, 2 July 2013
David Lloyd (Perth, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sea Killers in Disguise: Q Ships and Decoy Raiders of WW1 (Hardcover)
Highly recommended. The book covers British anti-submarine decoy or Q ships, and German disguised raiders preying on merchant ships in WW1. Both types were merchant ships manned by navy crews with hidden weapons which lured enemy vessels to their destruction. These true events are more interesting and unlikely than fiction.

The first half of the book covers British Q ships. They were an improvisation to counter the dire threat posed by U-Boats to merchant shipping. These were times when merchant ships sailed independently and U-Boats often surfaced to sink them by gunfire. The Q ship used an elaborate ruse to lure the U-Boat in close before opening fire from its hidden guns. Q ships crews often showed suicidal bravery, waiting in hiding in sinking ships or under shellfire. The Q ships were commonly small tramp steamers but surprisingly many were small sailing ships. Ultimately U-Boats were bested by convoying merchant shipping but the Q-ships had played a part. A chapter deals with the Barralong incident of August 1915 when, in the aftermath of the torpedoing of the Lusitania, a Q ship crew seems to have executed survivors from a U-Boat. There is a brief reference to the campaign by Q ships operating off, or in, neutral Norwegian waters against ships taking iron ore to Germany (which deserves a book in its own right).

The second half of the book deals principally with 3 remarkable German raiders. The raiders were generally fast nondescript freighters. They would get as close to their prey as possible before dropping their disguise and firing warning shots. The Mowe (Seagull) had two successful cruises to the mid and South Atlantic. The Wolf had a marathon 15 month cruise to Australia, New Zealand and the Dutch East Indies. The Seeadler (Sea Eagle) was a sailing ship which voyaged as far the South Pacific. The captains displayed great ingenuity and initiative alone on enemy seas far from home.

The book is a great read. Its virtue is in the writing rather than the research. It presents the most interesting events and does not seek to provide a comprehensive history. In each area it draws principally on a small number of published sources, collating and re-telling their versions of events. The section on Q-ships is more analytical with some comparison of sources and a brief overview. This is not attempted for the German raiders. The value of the book is in making this material accessible, particularly for the lesser known story of the Q-ships.

See also My Mystery Ships, a memoir by the leading Q-ship captain; The Wolf: How One German Raider Terrorized The Southern Seas During The First World War, an excellent history of the greatest raiding voyage of WW1; Elusive Seagull, a history of the Mowe; The Cruise of the Sea Eagle: The Story of Imperial Germany's Gentleman Pirate, and Secret Raiders, for an excellent comprehensive history of German raiders in WW2.
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Sea Killers in Disguise: Q Ships and Decoy Raiders of WW1
Sea Killers in Disguise: Q Ships and Decoy Raiders of WW1 by Tony Bridgland (Hardcover - 16 Mar 1999)
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