August 22, 1914: Endurance vs. Germany at Madeira, an early skirmish in the war

–from “Hold Fast: Tom Crean with Shackleton’s Endurance 1914-1916” by David Hirzel–

Madeira welcomed them with her old familiar sunbaked splendor, red tile roofs against the bright green verge of a tropical forest. There was coal to be taken aboard, sweet water, fresh oranges and pineapples, new Madeira wine, and trouble with the Germans.

Funchal was still a neutral port. The harbormaster directed Endurance to take her place alongside a German merchantman, SS Hochfeld. The German ship was poorly secured. She broke her moorings in the night and swung round against the barquentine’s bow, fouling the British jibboom. Captain Worsley called for volunteers and with four men boarded the German. They met no real resistance, and made “prisoners” of the engineers and the carpenter to come repair the damage or suffer the outrage of an international incident in time of war. In a neutral port, there was nothing the Germans could do but suffer these indignities red-faced and hope for victory in the field. With the damage made good, they were sent back to their own ship followed by a barrage of hoots and catcalls from the Endurance. It was perhaps England’s first triumph of the war. Less noteworthy was the night the crew spent the night in jail, for having wrecked a café in a drunken spree.


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