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Germany’s Greif (Griffon)




4,962 tons


July 1914

Overall Length

131.7 meters


January 1916


16.5 meters

Armor Max



One Three-Cylinder Triple Expansion


4-15cm SK L/40,
1-10.5cm SK L/40


13 knots

Torpedo Tubes






The Guben was built at the German AG Neptun shipyard and launched shortly before war was declared in 1914. She was taken over by the German navy for conversion to a commerce raider in 1916 and renamed the Greif. Her external appearance was altered by removing her distinctive second funnel. She was disguised as a Norwegian freighter with large Norwegian flags painted on her sides plus the name “NORGE” (Norway) like her future sister ship Leopard.

She steamed to the North Sea in February 1916. It is unclear how her departure was discovered by the British. Some say she was spotted by a British submarine while others theorize that a few indiscreet words were overheard and relayed back to British intelligence. In any event, three different British groups were dispatched to search for the elusive German ship.

The two armed merchant cruisers HMS Alcantara (included in the Action Card Deck) and HMS Andes were patrolling in the Norwegian Sea when the Andes first spotted the Greif on a northeasterly heading about 100nm off the coast of Norway. Since she was closer to the Greif the Andes signaled the Alcantara to investigate the suspicious ship. As she approached the Greif the Alcantara ordered her to immediately stop and standby for inspection.

Captain Tietze recognized that surprise was his only option as he could neither outrun nor outgun the larger, faster and more heavily armed British ship (8-6 inch and 2-6pdr guns). He continued to signal that they were a neutral Norwegian ship bound for their home port all the while preparing to quickly open fired on the Alcantara while she unsuspectingly cleared to board.

The Greif’s initial salvo caught the British ship completely by surprise and succeeded in disabling her communications equipment and steering gear. The German poured on the fire as the Alcantara struggled to regain control. The exchange of fire was observed by the Andes and she quickly turned to assist her beleaguered shipmate. The Greif was now being hammered by both the Andes and the Alcantara which had regained steering control.

The combined weight of the British fire reduced the Greif to a blazing wreck. However, the German’s pointblank gunnery and a torpedo hit also took a heavy toll on the Alcantara which rolled over and sank. The Greif was later sunk by the Andes after being abandoned by her crew.

Ships captured (c), sunk (s), or mined (m): 1 totaling 16,034 tons




HMS Alcantara (s)

16,034 tons