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This is a fictionalized account of the encounter between the German Raider Möwe and the British Merchant Ship Clan Mactavish on 16 January 1916, and reasonably depicts the actions you will experience while playing The Kaiser’s Pirates.
It is a game of strategy and chance for 1 to 4 players based on World War I (1914-1918) naval commerce raiders — where Imperial German warships and disguised raiders plied the sea-lanes in search of merchant ships. In multi-player games 2 to 4 players command a force of warships and raiders as they try to captured and sink the greatest number of merchant ships while simultaneously attempting to eliminate their opponents’ raiding forces. With 4 players, they may play as individuals or as two teams.
In the unique solitaire game, a single player battles a “phantom” player for control of the sea-lanes.
Saga of the Clan Mactavish
Captain William Oliver often stood the evening watch, much preferring its dark solitude to the hustle and bustle demanded by the daylight hours. The Clan Mactavish was bound for London out of Wellington, New Zealand with cargo of leather and wool. With a calm sea and the steady rumble of its steam engine, he was satisfied the ship was making good progress having just past southwest of Maderia.
After offloading nearly 200 prisoners and a prize crew to the captured Appam just the day before, on 16 January 1916, Captain Nikolaus Graf zu Dohna-Schlodien ordered the German Raider Möwe to take up a south-westward heading in search of her next prey. After sailing the better part of the day, a large merchantman loomed out of the dark and was hailed by signal lamp, “Who are you?”
Oliver cautiously answered, “Tell us your name first.”
Dohna-Schlodien immediately signaled, “This is Author bound for Durban.” The German felt secure in using this ruse having sunk Author only a few days earlier on the 13th, thereby feeling relatively safe that word of her demise could not yet be known. In addition, Möwe bore a striking resemblance to the Author, at least one that would certainly pass muster in the limited evening light.
Comfortable with the response received, Captain Oliver identified his ship as the Clan Mactavish. Seeking confirmation of her identity from the Lloyd’s Register, the Germans determined that the ship matched the posted description of the Clan Mactavish — a ship of about 6,000grt, a black hull and a black funnel with two red bands. After confirming her identity, the Möwe wasted no time in closing the range and bringing her 15cm guns to bear. With the range down to 300 yards, Dohna-Schlodien hoisted the GermanImperial Ensign and ordered Clan Mactavish to stop.
Suddenly realizing that Clan Mactavish was in the grasp of a German raider, Oliver ordered his wireless operator to immediately transmit "QQQ... QQQ... unidentified ship has ordered me to stop." He also ordered the ship’s single 6-pdr stern gun cleared for action and to open fire.
With shell splashes close aboard, Dohna-Schlodien recognized that Clan Mactavish was not going to surrender without a fight. To silence any distress signals, he ordered the German gunners to quickly fire on her bridge. In less than an hour, relentless fire from Möwe badly damaged the British ship’s navigation bridge and superstructure. Her hull was holed multiple times and her engine destroyed by the German shelling. Oliver had no option but to surrender given that his crew had already suffered 23 casualties. To fight on would be futile.
Not wishing to press his luck by lingering in the area, Dohna-Schlodien had no option but to sink Clan Mactavish, despite its valuable cargo, before any British warships could respond to her distress calls. And lucky he was; a partial distress signal had been received by the British Cruiser HMS Essex, but her wireless operator failed to pass it along.