German Commerce Raiders 1914-18

Published on
December 27, 2015
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Ryan K. Noppen; Illustrated by Paul Wright
Other Publication Information
Soft cover, 48 pages
Product / Stock #
New Vanguard #228
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site

This is the story of Germany's commerce raiders of World War I which were the surface ships that were supposed to starve the British Isles of the vast cargoes of vital resources being shipped from the furthest reaches of the Empire. To that end pre-war German naval strategists allocated a number of cruisers and armed, fast ocean liners, as well as a complex and globe-spanning supply network to support them This was known as the Etappe network. This book, drawing on technical illustrations and the author's exhaustive research, explains the often overlooked role that the commerce raiders played in World War I. Whilst exploring the design and development of the ships, it also describes their operational history, how they tied up a disproportionate amount of the British fleet on lengthy pursuits, and how certain raiders such as the SMS Emden were able to wreak havoc across the oceans.

  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • German Naval Units Abroad in August 1914
  • The Cruisers
  • The Liners
  • The Freighters
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Bottom Line Up Front

This volume from the New Vanguard series, number 228, covers Imperial Germany's efforts to interdict British commerce on the high seas during World War One. It discusses every commerce raider deployed by Germany. The author, Ryan Noppen, is a military author and aviation analyst. This is his fourth book for Osprey on dreadnought-era warships. Paul Wright specializes in painting sail and steam was ships from the mid-19th century through the present. He has provided illustrations for leading authors including Patrick O’Brian, Dudley and C.C. Forester. He was also the illustrator for Osprey’s books, “US Standard-type Battleships, 1941-45 (1)" and" The Ottoman Navy 1914-18."

What’s in the Book

Mr. Noppen starts the book with a discussion of the deployed commerce raiders at the start of the war. These were primarily light cruisers on foreign stations, but also included cruise liners with seal wartime orders.

The British Empire Navies hunted down most of the cruisers and liners during the first two years of the war. In an effort to continue the war on commerce, the Germans converted selected freighters into raiders. Speed and range were the two key factors for freighter conversion, greatly limiting the candidates.

The author provides a synopsis of combat actions for all the elements of the German raider force during the war. I have read accounts of the most of the cruisers and liners. The addition of the freighters adds another element to the story. I found this a useful reference for my build of the Emden.


I highly recommend this book first for history buffs of naval warfare, but also secondarily for modelers. The ten color drawings by Paul Wright will be very useful for model painting. The photos are clear and the illustrations are the usual high Osprey standard.

I would like to thank Osprey Publishing LTD for this review copy of “German Commerce Raiders 1914-18.”


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