German raider SMS Wolf

SMS Wolf with Wolfchen assembled on deck


After patrolling the east coast of New Zealand looking for allied shipping, Nerger decided to take the Wolf to Raoul Island for much needed maintenance of the main engine, filling of ballast tanks and general cleaning of ship that was not able to be carried out while at sea. Nerger knew the Bell family had left and the island was deserted.

The Wolf arrived at Raoul on the 27th May 1917 and anchored in the East Anchorage where preparation for the engine overhaul began straight away. However a fire flared up again in one of the holds carrying coal and flooding the hold with water was required to put it out. Weather was good and a lot of work was accomplished and the Wolf remained anchored in the East Anchorage.

On the 2nd June the Wairuna was sighted passing the northern side of the island but because one of the boilers were down and couldn’t chase after her, the Wolfchen went airborne and dropped a weighted bag on the deck with a note saying “ Order ! Steer south to german cruiser. Do not use the wireless. If not obeying orders you will be shelled by bombs.” The Wolfchen dropped a bomb in front of the Wairuna to stress the point. By 1700hrs the Wolf had raised enough steam and escorted the surrendered Wairuna back to the anchorage.

Next day the weather had deteriorated and both ships moved to the North Anchorage where unloading provisions from Wairuna to Wolf began. Stores included coal, fresh water, live sheep, pelts and kauri gum.

The ships again moved anchor on 7th June to Denham Bay. Up until some of the cargo transfer was being done by POW volunteers but on the 8th June they refused to do any more work, so all work was then done by german crew.

Weather conditions became so bad by 12th June that both ships went stood off at sea as no safe anchorage could be found. Next day the ships anchored in East Anchorage. While anchored they felt a earthquake that lasted for about 20 seconds. Anchorage was moved again on the 14th to the North Anchorage in front of what was left of the Bell settlement. It was now that the lookouts noted the orange trees at the settlement and boats were sent ashore and came back full with fruit. During times of settled weather boat loads of german crew and prisoners were out fishing to supplement the diet with fresh fish.

On the 16th June all transfer of coal and cargo was complete and preparations to sink the Wairuna started. However at 1515hr a sail was sighted and Wolfchen took off again and dropped a small bomb in front of the sailing ship Winslow. As the order to heave to and stop wasn’t followed quickly enough a shot was fired across her bow, then she stopped and a prize crew was put aboard.

On the 17th June the Wairuna was once again taken out to sea and sunk with explosive charges and then 15 rounds from the 6” guns. During the sinking the weather deteriorated again and Wolf and Winslow stayed at sea.

On the 20th June the ships anchored again front of the Bell settlement and anything of use, coal, boiler bricks and some of the benzine was transferred to the Wolf.

On the 21st June german crew went ashore one last time to get large amounts of bananas and oranges from the Bell settlement. In the Wolf’s war diary it even says they were going to take some beehives, but ran out of time.

The transfer of the last of the Winslow’s cargo was finished on the 22nd June and she was taken out to sea and destroyed by explosives. However being a wooden ship large pieces still burning washed ashore on the north coast.

Due to the bad weather and unexpected arrival of the Wairuna and Winslow which took longer than expected to unload, Nerger would not be able to get to the east coast of Australia in time for the new moon to lay mines. So a quick change of plan and it was decided to head for New Zealand where a minefields off Cape Reinga and Cape Farewell were laid which were to claim the Port Kembla and Wimmera.

It was after the Wolf had left Raoul it was discovered two of the prisoners had escaped. Steers and Clelland from the captured ship Turritella had jumped overboard one night while the Wolf was anchored in front of Bell’s settlement. Although there were rumors that at least one of them had made it ashore, neither were seen again. Just after the war the Amokura went to Raoul to see if they could find anyone but nothing was seen.

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