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Pass of Balmaha

Pass of Balmaha, later/später SMS Seeadler

Pass of Balmaha, later/später SMS Seeadler

The background of the capture of the Pass of Balmaha by the Germans you will find here:

She was captured by a German submarine, U-36, in the North Sea en route to Kirkwall. The circumstances of her capture are somewhat peculiar.

She departed from New York harbor in June 1915. Originally bound for the Arctic port of Arkhangelsk to deliver a cargo of cotton for the Russian war effort, she was intercepted by the British auxiliary cruiser Victorian off the coast of Norway. A boarding party was sent aboard to inspect the cargo for contraband, headed by the captain of the cruiser.

The British captain found reason to find the ship suspect, and ordered the captain of the Pass, Captain Scott, to set sail for Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands for further inspection. A prize crew of one officer and six marines was left aboard to ensure that Scott did not alter his course.

The British officer ordered the neutral American colours struck and replaced with the British flag, against the will of Captain Scott, who realised that this would mark his ship as a belligerent. Soon after, the U-36 intercepted the Pass. Out of a desire to avoid being impounded, Scott ordered the British hidden in the hold and the Union Jack quickly replaced with the Stars and Stripes.

The commander of the U-36, Captain Ernst Gräff, was not entirely convinced by this ruse and ordered the Pass to sail for Cuxhaven for inspection. A German ensign was left aboard. The American crewmen, resentful of what they perceived as British meddling, locked the British marines in the hold to make sure that they did not attempt to retake the ship and cause unnecessary bloodshed.

The Pass of Balmaha reached Cuxhaven without major incident, and was boarded by a German inspection party. Captain Scott then revealed the seven British seamen to the Germans, who imprisoned them. For their cooperation, the Americans were allowed free passage to a neutral country, but the Pass became property of the German Navy.

by: Pardoe, Blaine. The Cruise of the Sea Eagle: The Amazing True Story of Germany’s Gentleman Pirate. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2005. Print.