Kronprinzessin Cecilie badly Disguised as Olympic


Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
5,033
290
353
The funnels were in pairs to allow a big saloon to be placed between them. Other ships used very complicated furnace uptakes to lead the fumes around the accommodation.

Kronprinzessin Cecilie was at sea, heading for Europe when Britain declared war on Germany. The story goes that some rich Americans on board wanted to get to Europe so badly that they offered to buy the ship, hoist the US flag and sail on, safe from the Royal Navy.

The captain decided that instead he would crudely disguise the ship as Olympic and return to the USA, which he did, to the wonderment of the folk in the small port of Bar Harbor.

Somebody with a better memory can finish the yarn. I think the ship ended up in US hands.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,655
583
483
Easley South Carolina
>>What were they thinking? She looks NOTHING like Olympic!<<

True, she doesn't, but not everybody knew exactly what the Olympic looked like beyond her being a four funneled steamer. The ruse didn't have to be perfect. It just had to work long enough for the ship to reach a safe haven.

Apparently, it did.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
5,033
290
353
Another account is in pages 400-405 of The Sway of the Grand Saloon. The ship was moved to Boston and was interned until she was commandeered by the US in 1917. She became the troopship Mount Vernon.
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
14
223
A novel was also written on this topic called The Magic Ship, by Sandra Paretti. She is well-known in Germany where she is known as "the writing daughter of Alexandre Dumas". The Magic Ship was the #1 best fiction novel in 1977 in Germany. In the U.S. Paretti is best known for other historical novels such as the Rose and the Sword, and The Drums of Winter. Her characters are engaging, and she has done her homework on the amazing tale of how a German crew was adopted by a town during the war and quarantine of the ship. The book is usually easy to find through bookfinder services online- a seamless blend of fact and fiction-and a superb premise for a film- somebody call Cameron!
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
14
223
For a long time the Cecilie's bell and a large sepia portrait of her crew hung at the Fall River Maritime Museum at Battleship Cove, Massachusetts. Sadly, that is now gone, someone there said they thought it had gone to Kings Point, N.Y. She was scrapped in the back bay of my hometown, Baltimore-and I wonder if there is anything left of her lovely interior fittings, china and silver service, and the glorious oil portrait of the Kronprinzessin herself. I hope to be in Bar Harbor Tuesday, and plan to have a good look into this fascinating story which has captured my imagination for 30 years.
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
14
223
97828.jpg

The bio of the Crown Princess published in Berlin in 2001 now has an English edition, but so far Amazon can't get it. The ISBN is 3733803043 and the author is, I think, Erinnerungen. If any of our German ET folks are out there-maybe they can see if it is still available. Great dustcover- the postcard with her image and the ship is my favorite. So much nicer naming vessels after people! Beautiful ship- beautiful lady.
97829.jpg
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
14
223
Some good links about the ten million in gold in her hold, and an interesting, but not terribly well-translated bio of the Crown Princess, I can see the word insane seems to emerge as "nut" when passed through those online translators!

http://www.rms-republic.com/details_expnimp4.html

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.preussen.de/de/geschichte/kronprinz_wilhelm/kronprinzessin_cecilie.html&prev=/search%3F q%3Dkronprinzessin%2BCecilie%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26sa%3DG
 
Apr 11, 2001
4,565
14
223
Just back from Bar Harbor and a visit to the local historical society there. Among items from the ship on view including a section of railing when she was the Mount Vernon, a large photo display of the ship, and an inkwell, there was a magnificent oil portrait of the ship itself, from the ship. This can be easily missed as it is hung on the wall going up the staircase which is not used by the public. The granddaughter of Captain Pollack and a German cousin visited Bar Harbor just last week, for the first time, and came to the historical society to discover more about the amazing tale of the ship's quarantine and the town's adoption of the crew. This is still well-remembered in the town. The Magic Ship is also in a new paperback reissue and is on display in the local bookstore window. Beautiful place, Bar Harbor, no wonder so many of the Gilded Set flocked there.
 
Jul 11, 2001
547
3
171
Granted the funnels were not spaced out the same as on the Olympic, but the "description" would be the same. If locals called the authorities they would say a large liner with four stacks that were beige with black tops. Anyone who wasn't there to actually see the spacing of them would assume it was the Olympic as well. A good ploy until a real ship buff arrived on the scene.
 
May 9, 2006
53
1
86
It's now almost a year later, but anyway:

According to my quick look around the net, the book mentioned above seems to have been published or perhaps republished in 2004, but only in a small print run (if that is the right expression), when there was an exhibition about the Princess in Potsdam. I haven't found it second hand either in English or German.

The author is called Iselin Gundermann and seems to specialize in books about Prussian royalty. According to Amazon.de the ISBN of the English edition is: 3935231563.

I didn't know about the transformation of the Prinzessin Cecilie into the Mount Vernon before (not that this is surprising). I will probably check out the book by Paretti, sounds interesting.

Best wishes from Munich
Monika
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,114
25
298
Here is an "unpublished" of her disguised as the Olympic, that I found in a child's travel journal kept between 1914 and 1920.

cecile_bar_harbor.jpg
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,114
25
298
Here is a view of K.C. five minutes after she was torpedoed. She sustained massive damage, but unlike the Lusitania there was no mysterious secondary explosion, and she survived. 36 lives were lost. I have an article in the works detailing the event.

mount_vernon_1.jpg
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,114
25
298
and here is a portion of the article:

mt_vernon_3.jpg


Wednesday July 17. Got news of the torpedoing of Cunard S.S. Carpathia. Towards evening a depth charge was made by the Burrows on a supposed submarine. It was with great regret that we heard the end of the Carpathia which saved so many of the Titanic’s survivors.



Thursday, September 5. About 250 miles from the coat of France, on the morning of September 5, 1918, the Mount Vernon and Agamemnon in convoy, escorted by six destroyers, were proceeding homeward from Brest; speed 18 knots, 21 statute miles per hour. The weather was fine and the sea smooth, making it possible to see a periscope from a great distance. Everything was favorable and it looked as if we were about to add one more trip across the war zone to our credit. Suddenly a periscope popped up above the surface of the water about 500 yards distant. Our starboard bow gun opened fire at once, but the periscope remained on the surface of the water for only a few seconds. Just as it disappeared, the wake of a torpedo was seen coming straight for the ship and immediately after struck us, throwing up a huge column of water on our starboard side amidships.

The explosion was terrific and for an instant it seemed the ship was lifted clear out of the water and was smashed to pieces. Men at the after guns and depth charge stations were thrown to the deck, and one of the five inch guns thrown partly out of its mount. Men below in the vicinity of the explosion were stunned into temporary unconsciousness.


It was soon ascertained that the torpedo had struck the ship fairly amidships, destroying one of the eight fire rooms and flooding the middle portion of the ship from side to side for a distance of 150 feet. The ship instantly settled ten feet increase to draft, but stopped there. This indicated that the watertight bulkheads were holding, and we could still afford to go down two and one half feet more before she would lose her floating buoyancy.


The immediate problem was to avoid a second torpedo. To do this, two things were necessary. To attack the enemy and to make more speed than the submarine when submerged. The depth charge crews jumped to their feet and immediately started dropping depth bombs. A barrage of five depth charges were dropped, exploding at regular intervals of one hundred fifty feet apart, and one hundred fifty five feet below the surface of the water. This work was beautifully done. The explosions must have shaken the enemy up; at any rate he never came up to the surface again to get a loom at us. The other factor in the problem was to make as much speed as possible, not only in order to escape an immediate attack but also to prevent the submarine from tracking us and attacking after nightfall.


The men in the fire rooms knew that the safety of the ship depended on their bravery and steadfastness to duty. It is difficult to conceive of a more trying ordeal to one’s courage than was presented to every man in the fire rooms that escaped destruction. The profound shock of the explosion, followed by instant darkness, falling soot and particles, the certain knowledge that they were far below the water level enclosed practically in a trap, the imminent danger of the ship sinking, the added threat of exploding boilers- all these dangers and more must have been apparent to the men below, and yet no man wavered in standing by his post of duty. No better example can possibly be given of the wonderful fact that with a brave disciplined body of men all things are possible. However strong may be their momentary impulse for self-preservation, in extreme danger, their controlling impulses are to stand by their stations at all hazards.


In at least two instances in this crisis below, men who were actually in the face of death did really forget and ignore their impulse for self-preservation and endeavor to do what appeared to be their duty. C.L. O’Connor, watertender, was in one of the flooded fire rooms. He was thrown to the floor and instantly enveloped in flames from the burning gases from the furnaces, but instead of rushing to escape, he turned and endeavored to shut a watertight door leading into a large bunker abaft the fire room, but the hydraulic lever that operated the door had been injured by the shock and failed to function. Three men at work in this bunker were drowned. If O’Connor had succeeded in shutting the door the lives of those men would have been saved, as well as considerable buoyancy saved to the ship. The fact that he, though profoundly stunned by the shock and almost fatally burned by the furnace gases should have the presence of mind ands the courage to endeavor top shut the bunker door i8s as great an example of devotion to duty as is possible for one to imagine. Immediately after attempting to close the door, O’Connor was caught in a swirl of inrushing water and thrust up a ventilator leading to the upper deck. He was pulled up through the ventilator by a rope lowered to him from the upper deck.


The torpedo exploded on a bulkheads separating two fire rooms, the explosive effect being apparently equal in both rooms, yet in one fire room not a man was saved, while in the other fire room two men escaped. The explosion blasted through the outer and inner skin of the ship and through an intervening coal bunker and bulkhead, hurling overboard seven hundred and fifty tons of coal. The two men saved were working the fires within thirty feet of the explosion, and just below the level where the torpedo struck.


One of the men, P. Fitzgerald, after landing on the lower grating, and while groping his way through the darkness trying to find the ladder leading above, stumbled over the body of a man lying on the grating. He at first thought the man dead, but on second impulse he turned and aroused him and led him to safety. The man had been stunned into semi-consciousness and would undoubtedly have been lost if Fitzgerald had not aroused him. As a matter of fact, the water rose at once ten feet above this grating as the ship settled to the increased draft.


The men in the forward fire rooms remained at their stations, and the men off watch rushed below to help with the firing, according to the collision station bill. Within a half an hour the speed began to increase and within two hours fifteen knots was reached and maintained thereafter until arrival in port.


Decision was made to return to Brest as soon as it was considered that the submarine was safely out of sight the ship’s course was set for that port, and the Commander of the Naval Forces in France notified by radio. In the mean time, a thorough inspection of the ship was made and subsequent reports bore out the fact that had been immediately reported by the Senior Engineer officer that the damage was confined to the two after groups of boilers, The two limiting bulkheads forward and aft were found perfectly tight and without signs of weakness and the doors, always left shit at sea, perfectly watertight. The bulkheads on the deck above limiting the injured area were shored up, placing additional ones where considered necessary. Water had risen about two feet above the floor in the after troops’ mess room and the officers’ and troops’ galleys. The draft of the ship was ascertained to be 39 feet, 6 inches. The period of the ships roll was carefully observed and ascertained to be eight seconds, which showed ample stability. But gradually the ship took on a list to port, at first about three degrees which steadily increased to ten degrees at midnight, the hour we reached the approaches to Brest. The cause for this was not readily explainable except that the wind increased steadily on the starboard beam to about force five and that the sea gradually became rough and choppy. In light of after events this gradual increase in the list was due to the initial list from the wind, added to the gradual accumulation of water on the lee side, in bunkers, store rooms etc. This gradual increase in the list was really the only feature of the experience that caused alarm.

Thirty five men were killed in the explosion. Thirteen men were injured, two of them subsequently dying. All men killed or injured were members of the engineer’s force and were on duty at the time the fire rooms flooded. It is believed that all personal injuries were due to flames shooting from the boilers, as all men injured showed signs of dry burning. The large loss of life was due to the fact that the torpedo struck just at the time the watch was being relieved.
 
May 9, 2006
53
1
86
Ok, this took me a lot longer to realise than I thought possible. The main reason why I did not 'connect the dots' before is that somehow I thought the lady who lent her name to the ship Kronprinzessin Cecilie was a daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm, when in fact she was (and I should have known this) married to his eldest son. Now I realise that I actually own a book about her.

Princess Catherine Radziwill, The Disillusions of a Crown Princess (New York John Lane Company 1919).

It's not a very 'scientific' biography but interesting to read. To be honest, the princess doesn't come across as a particularly likable character even though (or perhaps also because) the author tries to present her in the best possible light. At the time when the book was written, Cecilie was about to divorce her husband, who was no longer Crown Prince.

The book can be found second hand, price range quite amazing between just under 30 and almost 400 Euro.

By the by, I read the Paretti novel and thought it was quite a nice read. Now I'd like to know what was really going on. I also like that Paretti states in the book that 'nothing in this book is completely invented.'
 

Similar threads

Similar threads