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POW escape using the SS Prinses Juliana Question

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  #1  
Old 18th June 2022, 12:20
Johnclarkson United Kingdom Johnclarkson is offline
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POW escape using the SS Prinses Juliana Question

Hi
I am trying discover if a story I read is true. In the First World War, Gunther Pluschow, a prisoner of war, escaped from mainland Britain. His claim is that he climbed a cable from a buoy into the SS Prinses Juliana (I spell this in English as Princess). I want to know if this is actually possible? This means finding someone who knows about mooring buoys, cables, hawser design etc.

The ship I'm interested in is the SS Princess Juliana built 1909 on the Clyde. I believe it was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd for the M V Stoomvaart Mit, Zealand Vlissingen.

In July 1915, Pluschow wrote that he rowed out to this neutral Dutch mail ship, climbed the cable from the mooring buoy, and boarded the forecastle of this ship.

We have two accounts of it, one from his official report, the other from a subsequent, rather fanciful book. I start with the official version translated from German:-

"I scrambled cautiously to my mail steamer, Princess Juliana, climbed onto the buoy, gave the boat a kick, carefully boarded the steel line to the forecastle and happily got to the top undetected. Here I first stowed myself under the windlass, hiding my boots on the forecastle."

from the Official Report to the Imperial German Navy July 1915

"Then I climbed with iron composure—and this time like a cat—the mighty steel cable to the hawse. Cautiously I leaned my head over the rail and spied about. The forecastle was empty. I jerked myself upwards and stood on the deck."

from My Escape from Donington Hall, by Gunther Pluschow, published 1915-1916

My problem with this is the distances from the hawse to the top of the forecastle. Also, I'd assume the anchor is down, and thus the cable is merely attached to the anchor buoy. Ships hulls arc outwards, so looking at photos of this I conclude climbing aboard is quite difficult. He suggests he pulls himself onto the forecastle. That's 2.5 metres away from where his feet would be, at an angle, and he's leaning backwards. He's 5 ft 6, so he has to make one hell of a jump to get to the forecastle. Unless of course I'm misinterpreting or not understanding this properly?

If you search SS Prinses Juliana you'll see a preview in google of images of the ship in question. These are links to https://www.wrecksite.eu/imgBrowser.aspx?13857 but the images there you have to pay for. It's the 1909 built version that is relevant here. In the image on google preview it will say on the top: 'Dayboat of Zeeland Steamer'

I wonder if anyone can assist me please and discover how he could climb the steel cable from the buoy, then get aboard.

Perhaps obtaining plans of this ship might help, but I doubt they'd exist after all this time would they? Where would I go to find them. Is the wreck off Felixstowe still in existence, and if so would the forecastle and hawser still be intact and visible?

I hope someone can help.
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  #2  
Old 18th June 2022, 15:51
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R58484957 England R58484957 is offline
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Greetings John and welcome to SH. Bon voyage.
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  #3  
Old 18th June 2022, 18:00
Ozzie United Kingdom Ozzie is offline
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Interesting John and, seeing as how you ask, in my view perfectly possible in several scenarios. The ship would be clearly moored to a single buoy forward by her anchor cable and possibly has a steel wire, probably in a bight around the shackle of the buoy, to assist when mooring and releasing.

The relative tension in the anchor cable and the wire varies depending on the state of the tide or direction of the wind for instance. So in my mind if the cable is taut, then it is easy to climb up from the buoy and if the wire is also fairly taut nearby then it is relatively easy to transfer to the wire, which would be secured over the foc'sle fore-leads and onto the deck, hence onto the ship.

On the other hand, if the ship was just moored by the anchor cable alone which it may well have been then if the anchor cable is slack you can squeeze through the hawsepipe itself by climbing on the cable and hence up to the foc'sle which seems to be the way he is describing.

Either way it is quite easy for an agile, ingenious young man and in fact the technique has been used for years in several shady ports in certain parts of the world to gain access to the ship...and steal your mooring ropes ...which are then fed down to the waiting boat.!

Last edited by Ozzie; 18th June 2022 at 18:58.
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Old 18th June 2022, 21:42
Makko Mexico Makko is offline
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Not forthe faint hearted, but possible as Ozzie says! I seem to remember this story from my youth, I don't know where from though.
Rgds.
Dave
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Old 19th June 2022, 00:57
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Varley Isle of Man Varley is offline
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Possible? There is many a port of the 'third world' where any number of locals would shin up and over for a neglected packet of fags. Perhaps also sufficiently in need of sustenance to make Ozzie's contention of through rather than over more easy - I dare say POW's were not overly well fed either.
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Old 19th June 2022, 06:25
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Many pictures of the ship here..
http://ssmaritime.com/SS-Prinses-Juliana-1910.htm
The hawse pipe does not seem overly large.
If the mooring cable, rope or line came over the fairlead just above the anchor, which would seem more likely, then it would not be a problem for a young fit man to climb it.
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Old 19th June 2022, 15:27
Faxferryman United Kingdom Faxferryman is offline
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In the mid eighties, I worked for a lay up squad in Bruneii Bay, (not BP) we had 2 Esso tankers rafted together Esso Saba & Esso Geneva, Geneva was about 308,000dwt. Rafted bow to stern, with both anchors out each end. Occasionally I had to check the Soundings on 3 ships in a day, which meant I used a semi rigid inflateable with an 85hp outboard to get round the vessels, rather than going on the main launch with the rest of the teams. (Normally it was between 1-3 men (depending on the routine being performed) on a ship for a day,

On arriving at the vessel, the craft would be secured to the boat rope at the gangway/boarding ladder, a boatman would stop on the launch, I would go up, do my job, couple of hours, then onto next vessel.


On the Geneva I was on the maindeck, doing my soundings, when I saw the boatman, walking down the deck from forward.

He had tied the boat to the anchor cable, clambered up the anchor cable, through the hawse pipe and onto the foc'le. I reckon it was at least 65' from the sea to hawse pipe. When ready to go, he clambered back down. Mind you the hawse pipe was of considerable diameter.


Back to the theme, I see no reason why a fit (and desperate)serviceman would have a problem going up a wire from the bouy to the F'cle. Through the hawse pipe may have been tight. As others have mentioned, it happens regularly in many parts of the world.
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Old 19th June 2022, 16:12
Johnclarkson United Kingdom Johnclarkson is offline
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Wow! Great answers. Thank you so much guys. Just what I wanted to know. Thanks to Faxferryman, Malcolm G, Varley, Makko, and Ozzie. Brilliant work. Cheers guys. If we ever meet the beers on me!
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  #9  
Old 19th June 2022, 16:28
Johnclarkson United Kingdom Johnclarkson is offline
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to Malcolm G: That's the 1910 ship of the same name. The one I'm talking about is the 1909 postal steamer ship. The link is here, but the pictures are small. I just found a better view of it: http://www.clydeships.co.uk/view.php?ref=6433#v
It got wrecked in 1916 and sank off Felixstowe.
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Old 19th June 2022, 16:56
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Yes, gottit - smaller vessel, less distance to climb, even easier.
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Old 19th June 2022, 20:12
Makko Mexico Makko is offline
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Thank you, John, for the acknowledgement! Appreciated......!
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Old 19th June 2022, 22:00
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Hugh Scotland Hugh is offline
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Those interested in the story of Gunther Pluschow can read it below.
Source: The Great War I was There!

Regards
Hugh
Attached Images
File Type: jpg PLUSCHOW.jpg (1.07 MB, 19 views)
File Type: jpg PLUSCHOW1.jpg (1.09 MB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg PLUSCHOW2.jpg (965.6 KB, 14 views)
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Old 20th June 2022, 17:29
Johnclarkson United Kingdom Johnclarkson is offline
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Hi Hugh
That's very similar to his books account. Scotland Yard have a far more interesting version! Haha!
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Old 28th July 2022, 10:42
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Gijsha Netherlands Gijsha is offline
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Hi John, here another image of the vessel:
https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/media...uliana.466811/
Cheers
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