Felix von Luckner
Felix Graf
Graf is a historical German noble title equal in rank to a count or a British earl...

 von Luckner (born Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, 9 June 1881, died Malmö
Malmö , in the southernmost province of Scania, is the third most populous city in Sweden, after Stockholm and Gothenburg.Malmö is the seat of Malmö Municipality and the capital of Skåne County...

, Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, 13 April 1966) was a German nobleman, navy officer, author and noted sailor who earned the epithet Der Seeteufel (the Sea-Devil) -- and his crew that of Die Piraten des Kaisers (the Emperor's Pirates) -- for his exploits in command of the sailing commerce raider
Commerce raiding
Commerce raiding or guerre de course is a form of naval warfare used to destroy or disrupt the logistics of an enemy on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping, rather than engaging the combatants themselves or enforcing a blockade against them.Commerce raiding was heavily criticised by...

 SMS Seeadler
SMS Seeadler (Windjammer)
SMS Seeadler was a three-master windjammer. She was one of the last fighting steam/sail ships to be used in war when she served as a merchant raider with Imperial Germany in World War I....

 (Sea Eagle) in 1916-1917.

It was his habit of successfully waging war without any casualties that made him a hero and a legend on both sides.

He was the great-grandson of Nicolas Luckner
Nicolas Luckner
Nikolaus, Count Luckner was a German in French service who rose to become a Marshal of France. ....

, Marshal of France
Marshal of France
The Marshal of France is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank. It is granted to generals for exceptional achievements...

 and commander-in-chief of the French Army of the Rhine, who had been elevated to count in the 18th century by the King of Denmark.

He was married twice, firstly to Petra (
-Places:England* NE postcode area, a postcode for the City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and WearItaly* Ne, Liguria, a comune in the Province of GenoaNiger* Niger, ISO 3166-1 country code** .ne, the country code top level domain for Niger...

e Schultz) from Hamburg with whom he had a daughter, Inge-Maria, born in 1913. In Malmö, Sweden on September 24, 1924 he married Ingeborg (née Engeström).

First journey

At the age of thirteen, Luckner ran away from home to see Buffalo Bill
Buffalo Bill
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was a United States soldier, bison hunter and showman. He was born in the Iowa Territory , in LeClaire but lived several years in Canada before his family moved to the Kansas Territory. Buffalo Bill received the Medal of Honor in 1872 for service to the US...

's Wild West Show. He signed up, under the assumed name of "Phylax Lüdecke", as an unpaid cabin boy on the Russian sailing ship Niobe travelling between Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 (Germany) and Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. His story might have ended there, because the Russian captain, fearing that the lives of other crew members would be endangered, refused to allow a lifeboat to be launched in order to pick up Luckner when he fell overboard in the middle of the ocean. The chief mate
Chief Mate
A Chief Mate or Chief Officer, usually also synonymous with the First Mate or First Officer , is a licensed member and head of the deck department of a merchant ship...

 defied the captain (who had threatened him with a harpoon), and launched a lifeboat with the help of volunteers. As a number of albatrosses circled over Luckner, one swooped down and seized his outstretched hand in its beak but Luckner grabbed the bird in desperation. Although pecked severely, he hung on for his life. The flapping of the bird's huge wings and the circling of the other albatrosses gave the crew of the lifeboat a point to aim at in his rescue.


Arriving at Fremantle, Western Australia
Fremantle, Western Australia
Fremantle is a city in Western Australia, located at the mouth of the Swan River. Fremantle Harbour serves as the port of Perth, the state capital. Fremantle was the first area settled by the Swan River colonists in 1829...

, he jumped ship and for seven years followed a bewildering array of occupations: seller of the Salvation Army
Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church known for its thrift stores and charity work. It is an international movement that currently works in over a hundred countries....

's War Cry, assistant lighthouse keeper at the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in Augusta W.A. (a job he abandoned when discovered with his hotel keeper's daughter by her father), kangaroo hunter, circus worker, professional boxer due to his exceptional strength, fisherman, seaman, a guard in the Mexican
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 army for President Díaz
Porfirio Díaz
José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was a Mexican-American War volunteer and French intervention hero, an accomplished general and the President of Mexico continuously from 1876 to 1911, with the exception of a brief term in 1876 when he left Juan N...

, railway construction worker, barman, and tavern keeper. He served a short time in a Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

an jail accused of stealing pigs, suffered broken legs twice, and was thrown out of hospital in Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

 for lack of money.

Luckner was also an accomplished magician – Kaiser Wilhelm was fascinated by his tricks and frequently invited Luckner aboard his yacht to entertain important dignitaries.

Back in Germany

At the age of twenty he entered a German navigation training school, where he passed the examinations for his mate's commission. By 1908 he had joined the Hamburg-Südamerikanisch Line steamer Petropolis, intending to serve for nine months before volunteering to serve in the Imperial Navy
Kaiserliche Marine
The Imperial German Navy was the German Navy created at the time of the formation of the German Empire. It existed between 1871 and 1919, growing out of the small Prussian Navy and Norddeutsche Bundesmarine, which primarily had the mission of coastal defense. Kaiser Wilhelm II greatly expanded...

 for a year, to obtain a naval commission. He had vowed not to return to his family except in uniform and was eventually welcomed back by his family, who had given him up for lost. He was finally called up by the Navy in February 1912 and served on the gunboat SMS Panther
SMS Panther
SMS Panther was one of six gunboats of the Iltis-class of the Kaiserliche Marine and, like her sister ships, served in Germany's overseas colonies. The ship was launched on 1 April 1901 in the Kaiserliche Werft, Danzig...


World War I

In the early part of the war, Felix von Luckner saw action at the Battle of Heligoland Bight, and during the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

 he commanded a gun turret aboard the battleship Kronprinz Wilhelm
SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm
SMS Kronprinz"SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" was the last battleship of the four-ship of the German Imperial Navy. The battleship was laid down in November 1911 and launched on 21 February 1914. She was formally commissioned into the Imperial Navy on 8 November 1914, just over 4...


At the beginning of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Germany converted a considerable number of merchant ships into merchant raider
Merchant raider
Merchant raiders are ships which disguise themselves as non-combatant merchant vessels, whilst actually being armed and intending to attack enemy commerce. Germany used several merchant raiders early in World War I, and again early in World War II...

s by equipping them with guns and sending them in search of Allied merchant shipping. Most of the armed raiders were not particularly successful, but they did tie up considerable Allied forces in hunting them. By early 1915, most of the armed raiders had either been hunted down and sunk or had run out of fuel and been interned in neutral ports.

Hoping to revive commerce raiding, the Imperial Navy equipped the impounded three-masted sailing ship Pass of Balmaha (1571 tons) with two 105 mm guns hidden behind hinged gunwales, several machine guns, and two carefully hidden 500 HP auxiliary engines. She was commissioned as the auxiliary cruiser Seeadler
SMS Seeadler (Windjammer)
SMS Seeadler was a three-master windjammer. She was one of the last fighting steam/sail ships to be used in war when she served as a merchant raider with Imperial Germany in World War I....

 (Sea Eagle). As virtually the only officer in the German Navy with extensive experience of large sailing ships, Luckner was appointed her commander.


Seeadler left port on 21 December 1916 and managed to slip through the British blockade disguised as a Norwegian ship. Many of the crew of 6 officers and 57 men were selected for the ability to speak Norwegian, including Luckner, in case they were intercepted by the British. By Christmas Day, she was southwest of Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, when she encountered the British armed merchant cruiser Avenger. Avenger put an inspection party aboard, but failed to detect the German deception.

On 9 January 1917, Seeadler came upon a single-funneled steamer. She raised a signal requesting a time signal (not an uncommon thing for a sailing ship long out of contact with land to do), and too late for evasive action, raised the German ensign. Three shots were needed to persuade the 3,268 ton Gladys Royle, carrying coal from Cardiff
Cardiff is the capital, largest city and most populous county of Wales and the 10th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is Wales' chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for...

 to Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

, to stop. Her crew was taken off unharmed, and she was scuttled.

On 10 January 1917, Seeadler encountered another steamship, which refused to identify itself. The German ensign was raised and a shot fired across the bow of the Lundy Island, carrying sugar from Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

. The steamer still refused to stop, and four shots were fired directly at her. The steamer hove to and lowered its boats, but its captain ignored an order to come to Seeadler. A German boarding party was sent over and discovered that the crew had abandoned ship when the first shots were fired, leaving the captain alone. Later, Captain Bannister told Luckner that he had previously been captured by a German raider, and had given his parole which he had broken; thus he was not anxious to be a prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 again. Luckner continued his voyage southwards, and by 21 January, he was in mid-Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 between Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 and West Africa when he found the 2,199 ton French three-masted barque Charles Gounod, loaded with corn. Charles Gounod was quickly dispatched, but her log book recorded information about other ships she had met and their intended route.

On 24 January, the small 364-ton Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 schooner Perce was met and sunk by machine gun fire, after taking off her crew (and her captain's new bride). The 3,071 ton French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 four-master Antonin, loaded with Chilean saltpetre
Sodium nitrate
Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound with the formula NaNO3. This salt, also known as Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter to distinguish it from ordinary saltpeter, potassium nitrate, is a white solid which is very soluble in water...

, was overhauled on 3 February and soon scuttled. On 9 February, the 1,811 ton Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 Buenos Ayres, also carrying saltpetre, was sunk. On 19 February, a four-masted barque was spotted, which immediately piled on sail in an effort to get away; however, Seeadlers engines allowed her to overhaul the 2,431 ton British Pinmore, carrying a cargo of grain. By coincidence, von Luckner had sailed in Pinmore in his civilian sailing days, back in 1902. Von Luckner took Pinmore into Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

 in order to get more supplies, before eventually scuttling
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...


The next ship to be stopped was the Danish
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

A barque, barc, or bark is a type of sailing vessel with three or more masts.- History of the term :The word barque appears to have come from the Greek word baris, a term for an Egyptian boat. This entered Latin as barca, which gave rise to the Italian barca, Spanish barco, and the French barge and...

 Viking, but as there was nothing unusual about its cargo the neutral ship was allowed to proceed unmolested.

On the morning of 26 February, the 1,953 ton British barque British Yeoman, carrying a welcome cargo including chickens and pigs, was stopped and sunk, and the same evening the French four-master Le Rochfoucauld fell victim to the Seeadler. The boarding party discovered Le Rochfoucauld had only recently been stopped by a British cruiser which was looking for Seeadler.

On the evening of 5 March, Seeadler discovered a four-masted barque in the moonlight and signalled "Stop immediately! German Cruiser". Bizarrely, the captain of the 2,206 ton French ship Dupleix rowed across to Seeadler, convinced another French captain was playing a practical joke on him. He was soon disabused of the idea when his ship was scuttled. Seeadlers next victim on 10 March was asked for the time, but ignored the signal. Von Luckner ordered a smoke generator to be lit, and the 3,609 ton Horngarth turned back to render assistance to the 'burning' sailing ship. A single shot put the British ship's radio out of commission, and this resulted in the only loss of life in the Seeadler 's voyage. A British sailor, Douglas Page, was killed by a steam pipe ruptured by the shot. Horngarth was soon scuttled by Seeadlers now experienced crew.

By this time, von Luckner had the problem of feeding and keeping safe nearly 300 prisoners, in addition to his own crew. Consequently, when on 20 March, the French four-masted barque Cambronne was captured, von Luckner arranged for the ship's topgallant
Topgallant sail
On a square rigged sailing vessel, a topgallant sail is the square-rigged sail or sails immediately above the topsail or topsails. It is also known as a gallant or garrant sail....

 mast and additional spars and sails to be removed, before putting his prisoners aboard Cambronne under the command of Captain Mullen of Pinmore. The much-reduced rigging on Cambronne ensured Seeadler would be able to escape before her location could be reported to the hunting ships.

The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 was well aware of Seeadlers general location and set a trap consisting of the armed merchant cruiser Otranto and the armored cruisers Lancaster and Orbita(?) at Cape Horn
Cape Horn
Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island...

. However, a severe storm blew Seeadler considerably further south, before she entered the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 on 18 April and sailed north along the Chilean coast. By early June, Seeadler was east of Christmas Island
Kiritimati or Christmas Island is a Pacific Ocean raised coral atoll in the northern Line Islands, and part of the Republic of Kiribati....

 and learned the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 had entered the war. Seeadler turned her attention to American shipping, sinking the 529 ton A B Johnson of San Francisco on 14 June, the 673 ton R C Slade the next day, and the schooner Manila on 8 July. By this time, Seeadler needed to be laid up so that her hull could be scraped clean. She put into the small island of Mopelia, also known as Maupihaa
Maupihaa, also known as Mopelia, is an atoll in the Leeward group of the Society Islands. This atoll is located 72 km southeast of Manuae, its nearest neighbor.-Geography:...

, a coral atoll some 10 km (6 mi) in diameter in the Society Islands
Society Islands
The Society Islands are a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. They are politically part of French Polynesia. The archipelago is generally believed to have been named by Captain James Cook in honor of the Royal Society, the sponsor of the first British scientific survey of the islands;...

, some 450 km (280 mi) from Tahiti.

The wreck of Seeadler

Seeadler was too large to enter the sheltered lagoon of Mopelia, and consequently had to anchor outside the reef. On 24 August, disaster struck. According to von Luckner, the ship was struck by a tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

 which wrecked Seeadler on the reef. However, some American prisoners alleged the ship drifted aground while the prisoners and most of the crew were having a picnic on the island.

The crew and their 46 prisoners were now stranded on Mopelia, but they managed to salvage provisions, firearms, and two of the ships' boats.

Hide and seek

Von Luckner decided to sail with five of his men in one of the 10 metre long open boats, rigged as a sloop and named Kronprinzessin Cecilie. Ever the optimist, he intended to sail to Fiji
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

 via the Cook Islands
Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand...

, capture a sailing ship, return to Mopelia for his crew and prisoners, and resume raiding.

Three days after leaving Mopelia, they reached Atiu
Atiu, also known as Enuamanu , is an island lying at 187 km to the northeast of Rarotonga, in the Southern Islands group of the Cook Islands Archipelago.-Geography:...

 Island in the Cook Islands group, where they pretended to be Dutch-American seamen crossing the Pacific for a bet. The New Zealand Resident, the administrator of the island, gave them enough supplies to reach another island in the group, Aitutaki
Aitutaki, also traditionally known as Araura, Ararau and Utataki, is one of the Cook Islands, north of Rarotonga. It has a population of approximately 2,000. Aitutaki is the second most visited island of the Cook Islands. The capital is Arutanga on the west side.-Geography:Aitutaki is an "almost...

, where they posed as Norwegians. The New Zealand Resident in Aitutaki was suspicious, but had no means of detaining the group, and von Luckner quickly took his party to the island of Rarotonga
Rarotonga is the most populous island of the Cook Islands, with a population of 14,153 , out of the country's total population of 19,569.The Cook Islands' Parliament buildings and international airport are on Rarotonga...

. Approaching Rarotonga in the dark, Luckner saw a dark ship which he thought was an auxiliary cruiser, but in fact was a beached ship, von Luckner pressed on to the Fijian Wakaya Island, arriving after a voyage of 3,700 km in an open boat. Most people on Wakaya accepted their story of being shipwrecked Norwegians, but one sceptic called a party of police from the old Fijian capital of Levuka
Levuka is a town on the eastern coast of the Fijian island of Ovalau, in Lomaiviti Province, in the Eastern Division of Fiji. It was formerly the Capital of Fiji. At the census in 2007, the last to date, Levuka town had a population of 1,131 , about half of Ovalau's 8,360 inhabitants...

. On 21 September, the police bluffed the non-existent gun on the inter-island ferry Amra would blow Luckner out of the water. Not wishing to cause bloodshed, and not realizing police were unarmed, von Luckner and his party surrendered and were confined in a prisoner-of-war camp on Motuihe Island
Motuihe Island
Motuihe Island lies between Motutapu and Waiheke islands in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand, near Auckland. The island measures about , of which around are remnants of coastal forest. The island is a recreation reserve controlled by the Department of Conservation and administered by the Motuihe...

, off Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...


Meanwhile, back on Mopelia, a small French trading ship Lutece anchored outside the reef. Leutnant Kling of Seeadler, having heard of his captain's capture on the radio, sailed out to Lutece and captured it at gunpoint. The French crew was put ashore with the other prisoners, and all the Germans embarked on the ship, now renamed Fortuna, and set course for South America. The master of A B Johnson, Captain Smith, then took the remaining open boat from Mopelia with three other American seamen, and sailed 1,600 km to Pago Pago, arriving on 4 October, where they were finally able to inform the authorities of the activities of Seeadler and arrange for the rescue of the other 44 sailors still stranded on Mopelia.

Fortuna, meanwhile, came to grief when she struck uncharted rocks off Easter Island
Easter Island
Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people...

. The crew scrambled ashore, where they were interned by the Chileans for the remainder of the war.


Von Luckner still refused to accept that the war was over for him. The commander of the POW camp at Motuihe had a fast motor boat, Pearl, at his disposal, and on 13 December 1917, von Luckner faked setting up a play for Christmas with his men and used his provisions for the play to plan his escape. Von Luckner and a number of other prisoners seized Pearl and made for the Coromandel Peninsula
Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula lies in the North Island of New Zealand. It is part of the Waikato Region and Thames-Coromandel District and extends 85 kilometres north from the western end of the Bay of Plenty, forming a natural barrier to protect the Hauraki Gulf and the Firth of Thames in the west...

. Using a machine gun, he then seized the 90 ton scow Moa and, with the help of a handmade sextant and a map copied from a school atlas, they sailed for the Kermadec Islands
Kermadec Islands
The Kermadec Islands are a subtropical island arc in the South Pacific Ocean northeast of New Zealand's North Island, and a similar distance southwest of Tonga...

, which was a New Zealand provision island, with larger ships anchored there. A pursuing auxiliary ship, Iris, had guessed his probable destination and caught up with him on 21 December. A year after his mission began, the war finally ended for Felix von Luckner. He spent the remainder of the war in various POW camps in New Zealand before being repatriated to Germany in 1919.

Postwar life

On 12 May 1921, Luckner became a Freemason of the Lodge Zur goldenen Kugel (Große Landesloge von Deutschland) in Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

. He wrote a book of his adventures which became a best-seller in Germany, and Lowell Thomas
Lowell Thomas
Lowell Jackson Thomas was an American writer, broadcaster, and traveler, best known as the man who made Lawrence of Arabia famous...

' book about him spread Luckner's fame widely.

In 1926 he raised funds to buy a sailing ship which he called Vaterland and set out on a goodwill mission around the world leaving Bremen on September 19 and arriving in New York on October 22, 1926. An entertaining speaker, he was widely admired for his seamanship and for having fought his war with minimal loss of life. This opened him many doors in the United States where he spoke on hundreds of occasions across the country, both in German and, later, increasingly English. He won the support of many notables, diplomats, politicians and even the American Legion. Henry Ford presented him with a motor car and the city of San Francisco made him an honorary citizen. President Coolidge wanted to meet him but Luckner declined at the request of his government. Feeling that his "goodwill mission", as he called it in his travelogue Seeteufel erobert Amerika ("Sea-devil conquers America"), could neither have greater success elsewhere nor could be financially sustained by the income as speaker however popular and successful he returned to Germany where he arrived on April 19, 1928.

He was a frequent visitor to the Heydrich home in Halle
Halle, Saxony-Anhalt
Halle is the largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish it from the town of Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia...

 where he inspired a young Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

, with stories of his adventures on Seeadler, to join the inter-war Reichsmarine
The Reichsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Weimar Republic and first two years of Nazi Germany. It was the naval branch of the Reichswehr, existing from 1918 to 1935...

. In 1937 and 1938, he and his wife undertook a round-the-world voyage in his yacht Seeteufel, being welcomed in New Zealand and Australia, though some viewed him as an apologist for the Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...


During the Second World War, Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 tried to use him for propaganda purposes, though, as a Mason, he was not in one of the Nazi's favoured groups of people. He was implicated in a scandal, and put on trial before a 'Sonderehrengericht' (Special Court of Honor), in 1939, for incest and having sexual congress with a minor, but he was never convicted. It is said that his retirement from public life was a condition for the discontinuation of the trial. Luckner refused to renounce his membership of the Masons or the various honorary citizenships granted in the US, and consequently he suffered by having his bank account frozen. In 1943, he saved the life of a Jewish woman, Rose Janson, whom he provided with a passport he found on a bombsite, and who subsequently managed to escape to the US via a neutral country. At the end of the war, the mayor of Halle
Halle, Saxony-Anhalt
Halle is the largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish it from the town of Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia...

, where he was living, asked him to negotiate the town's surrender to the approaching American forces, which he did, though he did not return to the town after hearing that the Nazis had condemned him to death.

Luckner was extremely strong and was noted for his ability to bend coins between his thumb, index and middle finger of his right hand and to tear up telephone directories (the thickest being that of New York) with his bare hands. On the occasion of his visit to Australia in 1938, the Sydney Labour Daily published a cartoon showing Kaiser Wilhelm tearing up the Belgian Neutrality Pact, Adolf Hitler tearing up another agreement, and Luckner tearing up a directory, with the caption "They All Have The Habit".

Luckner was a prolific autograph signer, and original Luckner autographs turn up frequently at auctions and estate sales.

After the Second World War, Luckner moved to Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, where he lived in Malmö with his Swedish second wife Ingeborg Engeström, until his death in Malmö at the age of 84 in 1966. He is buried in Main Cemetery Ohlsdorf, Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...



Count von Luckner wrote the introduction for Alfred von Niezychowski's book The Cruise of the Kronprinz Wilhelm, 1928, published by Doubleday & Company, about the auxiliary cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm (Note: though she had the same name, this was a different ship from the Kronprinz Wilhelm
SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm
SMS Kronprinz"SMS" stands for "Seiner Majestät Schiff" was the last battleship of the four-ship of the German Imperial Navy. The battleship was laid down in November 1911 and launched on 21 February 1914. She was formally commissioned into the Imperial Navy on 8 November 1914, just over 4...

 that Count von Luckner was on during the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...


TV series

Between 1973 and 1975 a French-German Co-Production company produced a 39-episode adventure series entitled "Graf Luckner" for the German ARD
ARD (broadcaster)
ARD is a joint organization of Germany's regional public-service broadcasters...

 television network, featuring Luckner as the hero. The French alternate title was "Les Aventures du Capitaine Luckner".

Episode 26 of the TV series Tales from Te Papa
Tales from Te Papa
Tales From Te Papa is a television series of mini-documentaries about objects from the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the activities of the Museum staff. The series is a partnership between Television New Zealand and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa...

 featured the sextant used by von Luckner in his escape attempt from New Zealand.

The Count Felix von Luckner Society

On 29 March 2004 the society "Felix Graf von Luckner Gesellschaft e. V." was founded in Halle, with the objective of commemorating Luckner's life and work, especially his role in safeguarding the city of Halle during April 1945. The Society also wishes to create a memorial and museum for Luckner in Halle, and to restore Luckners' yacht, Seeteufel, which is currently in a poor condition in Russia. Within a few months of its creation, the Society had over 100 members in 14 countries.

External links

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