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L 19 And The King Stephen

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  • L 19 And The King Stephen

    This is a little bit late as I intended to post something around the 100th aniversary of the event, but I still feel it is something worth putting up for discussion. As a brief summary, the trawler King Stephen came across the floating wreck of L 19 off the Dutch coast after steaming for some time towards distress signals it had seen, where the survivors were clinging to the wreck. To quote wikipedia;

    The fishing vessel approached and Kapitšnleutnant Loewe, who spoke English well, asked for rescue. Martin refused. In a later newspaper interview, he stated that the nine crew of King Stephen were unarmed and badly outnumbered and would have had little chance of resisting the German airmen if, after being rescued, they had hijacked his vessel to sail it to Germany An alternative explanation for his action, suggested by a 2005 BBC documentary on the incident, is that King Stephen was in a zone in which fishing was prohibited by the British authorities and that Martin feared that if he returned to a British port with a large number of German prisoners, attention might have been drawn to this and he would have been banned from fishing. Ignoring the Germans' pleas for help, promises of good conduct and even offers of money, Martin sailed away. He later said he intended to search for a Royal Navy ship to report his discovery to. However, he met none and the encounter with the L 19 was only reported to the British authorities on his return to King Stephen's home port of Grimsby.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LZ_54_...ephen_Incident

    Would people here describe the actions of Martin as a war crime (or crime against humanity) or regard them as a reasonable course of action?

  • #2
    Something reasonable as the crew of a fishing boat (= civilians) hd no obligations to rescue enemy soldiers.

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    • #3
      Since Zeppelins were equipped with machine guns etc the captain of the King Stephen made the correct decision considering the circumstances.

      Would he (or owner?) have been compensated when his vessel was later requisitioned by the RN?

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      • #4
        In fact, the captain was wrong, and in violation of the law of the seas at that time - no captain could refuse a rescue request from a crew in distress.

        This is still part of maritime law.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
          In fact, the captain was wrong, and in violation of the law of the seas at that time - no captain could refuse a rescue request from a crew in distress.

          This is still part of maritime law.
          Only applied to requests from civilian vessels. One of my Gt Gt Gt Grandfathers John Kirby was responsible for the legal case that established this. He was captain and part owner of the three masted vessel Albion which in 1810 was holed during a storm in mid Atlantic (she may have hit a small berg or large floe) The ship went onto her beam and the crew were swept off the deck into the rigging. Fortunately John Kirby and the rest of the crew were able to get back to the ship and cut two of the masts away so that she righted her self (CS Forester later nicked his journal account of this and transferred it to a hurricane in the Caribbean for Hornblower in the West Indies ). Unlike a rather larger ship in much the same location in 1912 the Albion was carrying a cargo of Canadian timber and did not sink but was waterlogged to deck level. After many days of great privation another ship came into view and hailed them and they made request to be taken off. It sheered off and abandoned them, they were eventually rescued a fortnight later but only after a number had died of thirst, hunger and exposure. John Kirby published an account of the ordeal (I have a copy) and went looking for the captain who had abandoned him. The subsequent proceedings established the duty of rescue but a subsequent case in WW1 established that it only applied to civilian vessels.
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ljadw View Post
            Something reasonable as the crew of a fishing boat (= civilians) hd no obligations to rescue enemy soldiers.
            There was no obligation to do anything, though it would have been possible to adopt an humanitarian approach and rescue the crew, securing prisoners on a fishing boat wouldnt be too much of a problem as they could have picked up one at a time and secured them with ropes, something fishing boats are almost never short of. My uncle picked up several allied and German pilots in WWII on a fishing boat with a crew of four or five, including the crew of an He-111.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Terry Duncan View Post
              There was no obligation to do anything, though it would have been possible to adopt an humanitarian approach and rescue the crew, securing prisoners on a fishing boat wouldnt be too much of a problem as they could have picked up one at a time
              And just how would they have done that?
              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                In fact, the captain was wrong, and in violation of the law of the seas at that time - no captain could refuse a rescue request from a crew in distress.

                This is still part of maritime law.
                I would say the captain was wrong morally, though of course there was a potential risk to his own crew if he did act to rescue the crew of L 19, though the captains feelings about the Germans having been bombing civilians in Britain also seems to have been a factor.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                  And just how would they have done that?
                  Its fairly simple really, you get one man at a time to swim to the boat, secure them, then repeat the process. If it worked in WWII I am sure it would have also worked in WWI.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Terry Duncan View Post
                    Its fairly simple really, you get one man at a time to swim to the boat, secure them, then repeat the process. If it worked in WWII I am sure it would have also worked in WWI.
                    given the numbers doesn't sound feasible
                    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                      given the numbers doesn't sound feasible
                      The trawler can steam away from the wreck if more than one of its crew tries to swim towards the trawler until the previous man is secured. As long as it keeps its distance and only takes on one man at a time, there is minimal risk as tied up men usually find it hard to overpower free men. Even that is of course if we presume the zepellin crew would not have kept their word and simply surrendered. Hartenstein of U-156 rescued almost 200 people onboard his small submarine, and another 200 in tow in lifeboats, so such rescues are possible if the will to try it exists.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Terry Duncan View Post
                        The trawler can steam away from the wreck if more than one of its crew tries to swim towards the trawler until the previous man is secured. As long as it keeps its distance and only takes on one man at a time, there is minimal risk as tied up men usually find it hard to overpower free men. Even that is of course if we presume the zepellin crew would not have kept their word and simply surrendered. Hartenstein of U-156 rescued almost 200 people onboard his small submarine, and another 200 in tow in lifeboats, so such rescues are possible if the will to try it exists.
                        Sorry but it still doesn't seem practical
                        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                        Comment

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