Crecy Publishing Limited
"Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews" PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard
Crecy Publishing Limited 2009
The Cruise of the Sea Eagle
The Amazing true story of Imperial Germany's Gentlemen Pirate
Author: Blaine Pardoe
ISBN: 987 0859791205
Approx 30 photographs
Publishers: Crecy Maritime
Publication Date: September 2009
Publisher's Title Information
On December 21, 1916, a three-masted sailing ship slipped out of the river Weser in Northern Germany. Her captain had false papers, a deliberately damaged logbook, and a young sailor with a blonde wig to pose as his wife. The ship sailed under a false flag and even her name - the Hero - was a ruse. So begins the amazing true story of The Cruise of the Sea Eagle, the account of Felix von Luckner, the Imperial German Navy raider set upon the high seas of WWI to sink Britain's vital wartime supply ships.
Using sheer determination, pluck and quick wits, von Luckner steered clear of the British Navy to board and sink as many merchant ships as possible. Within a month, he had already claimed three vessels. But unlike Germany's vaunted submarine fleet, the gentleman pirate made room on his ship for all prisoners and never fired a shot unless it was unavoidable.
Stealth, trickery and bravado together with the collaboration of captured prisoners all helped von Luckner's wind powered ship overcome his more powerful enemies providing us with a thrilling adventure story of bluff, piracy and above all gentlemanly conduct on the high seas.
In writing this book, I tried to find at least some semblance of the truth. The Lowell Thomas book, Count Luckner, The Sea Devil, is considered by some the best English-language version of the story. Numerous mistakes crept into the Lowell Thomas work, most being unintentional, and it can really only be relied on as a source for conversations and some of von Luckner's early years. Other books were written over the years, but these were simply retellings of the same misinformation. Others yet were just fanciful stories that von Luckner added for colour.
Other sources of dialogue in this book came from the numerous prisoner transcripts from the Seeadler's cruise and articles in magazines that granted the former prisoners interviews. The words you read are from actual accounts; they are their words, not mine.
The myth of von Luckner has been fed by books such as Seeteute/, von Luckner's own published account, and The Sea Devil. The myth was part of the struggle of this book. It was my intent to write a truthful account of Count von Luckner and the events that led to his fame. I only leveraged his accounts for such things as dialogue and for those elements where no other sources were necessary. In writing this book, I found myself dissecting the story I had grown up with - the Lowell Thomas account of the cruise.
What I found instead is that von Luckner had short-changed himself. The reality, the true story, was just as gripping - if not more so than his own version of events. I'm not an historian, though I wish I was. This book turned me into a detective of sorts. I discovered possible villains that I never knew existed in the count's own crew. I found heroes aboard the Seeadler that none of us ever got a chance to know until now. There is tragedy, daring and honour to be found in this story.
If you think you know the story of Count von Luckner, you will find new details and new stories here that may change your perspective as well. I don't want you to forget what you may have read before. I want you to look at it in a new light.
A number of legitimate sources, archival and otherwise, were brought to bear against the myth. Interviews with prisoners and crewmen, the war diary of the Seeadler, and the intelligence reports of various governments these provide the best glimpse into the reality of what occurred during the cruise of the Seeadler and in the years that followed.
I also discovered that the story of the Seeadler didn't end when the war was over. The legend that is Felix von Luckner reaches much further than I ever expected. His struggle against the Nazis, his saving of a Jewish woman's life, and his role in the preservation of his home town from destruction at the hands of the American Army in the Second World War are simple glances into the man that I came to know during the writing of this book.
Why write this book now? First, access to archival evidence has never been better on von Luckner or the raid of the Seeadler and this account will hopefully correct some of the previous errors that have been printed. Second, there are at least two generations of people who have been denied this story in all of its laughs, its excitement, its adventure, its grandeur, and its chivalry. Who am Ito deny people a chance to thrill to such an adventure?
Amissville, Virginia November 2004