The Remarkable Adventures of Julius Lauterbach

Tercios Espanoles

Ad Honorem
Mar 2014
6,708
Beneath a cold sun, a grey sun, a Heretic sun...
In June of 1914, as war clouds began to gather in Europe, in the far-away German colony of Tsingtao a reserve officer joined the light cruiser SMS Emden, and began a year-long adventure wilder than the most lurid pulp fiction. He was the Captain of the HAPAG Liner Staatssekretär Krätke and he was a boisterous, affable, beer-swilling giant with twenty years experience in the China seas. His name was Julius Lauterbach.

The epic cruise of the Emden, the "Swan of the East", need not be recounted here in detail, but during her 30,000 mile cruise from August to November she sank a Russian cruiser, a French destroyer and 16 merchantmen, shelled British oil facilities in India, tied up over 70 Entente warships, disrupted merchant sailings and drove up insurance and the price of rice in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Lauterbach served as prize officer during this time, taking command of captured ships. He proved an excellent officer for boarding and taking prizes. His knowledge of ships and captains plying far east waters proved invaluable on many occasions and his affable nature calmed many a captured captain. On one occasion an attractive woman on one of the prizes smiled at him and said, "Captain Lauterbach, how lovely to see you again." She had been one of his peacetime passengers - and he had a way with the ladies. The Emden was finally run to ground on November 9, 1914, pounded to pieces by the heavier guns of HMAS Sydney, and forced at last to strike her colours.

At the time of Emden's destruction, Lauterbach was in command of the collier Exford. The ship was recaptured off the coast of Sumatra, but just before her capture Lauterbach altered the ship's compass so it would give a false reading. Sure enough, the ship ran aground en route to Singapore and was wrecked.

Imprisoned in Singapore, he was visited by a half-French, half-Chinese paramour who brought him maps and arranged a boat for him should he escape. This he quickly accomplished by inciting a mutiny among the discontented Indian guards. The British put a £1,000 price on his head.

Arming himself with Swedish, Dutch and Belgian passports and a host of disguises (including an Arab merchant) he journeyed from Singapore to Cebu to Padang to Manilla in six weeks. He stayed in Manilla for eight more weeks, taking the time to send postcards to his British friends - and one to the commander of Tanglin barracks in Singapore from whence he had just escaped. Aboard a Japanese collier he made his way to Tientsin and Shanghai. A friend there owed him $500. In Shanghai he was warned by another of his lady friends of a plot to kidnap him. That very night four men tried to seize him as he left the German Club. He broke free and escaped by jumping into the river as shots rang out after him.

Stealing the passport of US Navy Petty Officer W. Johnson, he travelled to Nagasaki. However, his enemies had been tipped off. Upon arriving there, Japanese agents were waiting and asking for "Mr. Johnson." As luck would have it, a Colonel Johnson of the US Army stepped forward and asked what the fuss was about. A few days later in Yokohama he caught a private investigator searching his cabin looking for a German officer, but Lauterbach succesfully passed himself off as American. There was a 250,000 yen reward for him and the PI wanted it. Lauterbach later sent him a postcard as well.

From Yokohama he travelled to San Francisco via Honolulu, and found he had become a celebrity in the newspapers. Disguised as a Dane he boarded a train for New York where he took a job as a stoker on a Danish steamer bound for Oslo. Off the Orkney's the ship was stopped by an RN patrol which spent five days going over the ship's crew and cargo. From Oslo he made his way to Copenhagen and then, at last, on October 10, 1915, eleven months after his capture, he arrived home in Warnemunde.

Here's to you, Capt. Lauterbach! They just don't make 'em like you any more. Prosit! :cool:
 

Lawnmowerman

Ad Honorem
Mar 2010
9,842
The story of the Emden and her crew is truly one of the most exciting and unbelievable escapades of the entire first world war.
 

funakison

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,381
Between a rock and a hard place
What on earth were they feeding the crew of the Emden, every one of them seems to have been a larger than life figure. Fortune really does favour the bold.

Thanks for this story, having read up on the Emden and the Ayesha i was delighted to learn of the exploits of Julius Lauterbach .
 
  • Like
Reactions: Tercios Espanoles
Dec 2019
1
Omaha,NE
In June of 1914, as war clouds began to gather in Europe, in the far-away German colony of Tsingtao a reserve officer joined the light cruiser SMS Emden, and began a year-long adventure wilder than the most lurid pulp fiction. He was the Captain of the HAPAG Liner Staatssekretär Krätke and he was a boisterous, affable, beer-swilling giant with twenty years experience in the China seas. His name was Julius Lauterbach.

The epic cruise of the Emden, the "Swan of the East", need not be recounted here in detail, but during her 30,000 mile cruise from August to November she sank a Russian cruiser, a French destroyer and 16 merchantmen, shelled British oil facilities in India, tied up over 70 Entente warships, disrupted merchant sailings and drove up insurance and the price of rice in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Lauterbach served as prize officer during this time, taking command of captured ships. He proved an excellent officer for boarding and taking prizes. His knowledge of ships and captains plying far east waters proved invaluable on many occasions and his affable nature calmed many a captured captain. On one occasion an attractive woman on one of the prizes smiled at him and said, "Captain Lauterbach, how lovely to see you again." She had been one of his peacetime passengers - and he had a way with the ladies. The Emden was finally run to ground on November 9, 1914, pounded to pieces by the heavier guns of HMAS Sydney, and forced at last to strike her colours.

At the time of Emden's destruction, Lauterbach was in command of the collier Exford. The ship was recaptured off the coast of Sumatra, but just before her capture Lauterbach altered the ship's compass so it would give a false reading. Sure enough, the ship ran aground en route to Singapore and was wrecked.

Imprisoned in Singapore, he was visited by a half-French, half-Chinese paramour who brought him maps and arranged a boat for him should he escape. This he quickly accomplished by inciting a mutiny among the discontented Indian guards. The British put a £1,000 price on his head.

Arming himself with Swedish, Dutch and Belgian passports and a host of disguises (including an Arab merchant) he journeyed from Singapore to Cebu to Padang to Manilla in six weeks. He stayed in Manilla for eight more weeks, taking the time to send postcards to his British friends - and one to the commander of Tanglin barracks in Singapore from whence he had just escaped. Aboard a Japanese collier he made his way to Tientsin and Shanghai. A friend there owed him $500. In Shanghai he was warned by another of his lady friends of a plot to kidnap him. That very night four men tried to seize him as he left the German Club. He broke free and escaped by jumping into the river as shots rang out after him.

Stealing the passport of US Navy Petty Officer W. Johnson, he travelled to Nagasaki. However, his enemies had been tipped off. Upon arriving there, Japanese agents were waiting and asking for "Mr. Johnson." As luck would have it, a Colonel Johnson of the US Army stepped forward and asked what the fuss was about. A few days later in Yokohama he caught a private investigator searching his cabin looking for a German officer, but Lauterbach succesfully passed himself off as American. There was a 250,000 yen reward for him and the PI wanted it. Lauterbach later sent him a postcard as well.

From Yokohama he travelled to San Francisco via Honolulu, and found he had become a celebrity in the newspapers. Disguised as a Dane he boarded a train for New York where he took a job as a stoker on a Danish steamer bound for Oslo. Off the Orkney's the ship was stopped by an RN patrol which spent five days going over the ship's crew and cargo. From Oslo he made his way to Copenhagen and then, at last, on October 10, 1915, eleven months after his capture, he arrived home in Warnemunde.

Here's to you, Capt. Lauterbach! They just don't make 'em like you any more. Prosit! :cool:
I have been reading the book about his life "Lauterbach Of The China Sea"(author:Lowell Thomas).Although,the book is in Captain Lauterbach's own words.More like an autobiography.It is probably one of thee best true adventure stories ever written.At least in my humble opinion.I highly recommend reading it.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Tercios Espanoles
Dec 2017
320
Regnum Teutonicum
Thank you, even though I knew about the voyage of the Emden/Ayesha and the caravan of sailors, I did not know about him. I think he fits very well into the story, when one thinks of comparable people like Hellmuth von Mücke, Gunther Plüschow, Karl August Nerger or Felix von Luckner and others (though the last one didn't make it home).
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jeff Edward