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BuilderBlohm und Voss
Yard Number486
Slip/Drydock NumberVII
Launched27 Mar 1930
Commissioned9 Dec 1939
Displacement15,700 tons standard
Length486 feet
Beam61 feet
Draft27 feet
MachineryBlohm & Voss turbines, four boilers, one shaft
Power Output6,200 shaft horsepower
Speed14 knots
Armament6x15cm L/45 C13 guns, 1x7.5cm L/33 Schneider/Creuznot guns, 2x3.7cm guns, 4x2cm guns, 6x53.3cm torpedo tubes, 228 EMC mines
AircarftOne Ar 196 A-1 floatplane, One E8N floatplane


ww2dbaseMerchant freighter Kurmark was laid down in Hamburg, Germany in 1930. During the 1930s, she was operated by the Hamburg-Amerika-Linie.

ww2dbaseIn 1939, when the European War began, Kurmark was among the first to be acquired by the German Navy for military service. She was commissioned into service as the auxiliary cruiser Orion in Dec 1939. On 6 Apr 1940, she departed Germany under the guise of Dutch ship Beemsterdijk, under the command of Korvettenkapitän Kurt Weyher on her first raiding mission. Her guide became the Russian ship Soviet once she entered the Atlantic Ocean. In the Atlantic, she intercepted and sank British ship Haxby. In May 1940, now as Greek ship Rocos, she rounded Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, entering the Pacific Ocean. In Jun 1940, she entered into territorial waters of New Zealand and proceeded to lay mines off Auckland during the night of 13 to 14 Jun; these mines would later sink or damage four ships. Between Jun and Oct 1940, she captured one ship (Norwegian ship Tropic Sea carrying wheat; Tropic Sea would later be captured by British submarine Truant on her journey to Germany) and sank three other ships in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. On 20 Oct 1940, she made rendezvous with another raider, Komet, and was replenished by the supply ship Kulmerland. In late 1940, Komet and Orion together sank 7 ships. In early 1941, German naval attaché in Japan Vice Admiral Paul Wenneker purchased an E8N float plane from Japan; the aircraft was brought by German ship Munsterland to Orion at Maug Island in the Mariana Islands on 1 Feb 1941. Orion became the only German ship in WW2 to operate a Japanese-built float plane; the E8N joined the Ar 196 floatplane that was already used by Orion. Between Feb and Jun 1940, she operated in the Indian Ocean but failed to produce any sinkings. In Jul 1941, en route back to Germany, she captured the ship Chaucer in the South Atlantic. On 15 Aug, she entered Spanish territorial waters and disguised herself as the Spanish ship Contramestre Casado. She was soon escorted by German submarines and aircraft on the final leg of her trip home. She arrived in Gironde, Bordeaux, France on 23 Aug 1941. This 510-day 235,828-kilometer voyage would prove to be Orion's only war time mission. She sank 10 ships totaling 62,915 tons on her own, and claimed a further 2 sinkings totaling 21,125 tons together with Komet.

ww2dbaseIn 1944, Orion was renamed Hektor and served as an artillery training ship. In Jan 1945, she was renamed to Orion once again and was used to evacuate refugees from East Prussia to northern Germany and Denmark. On 4 May 1945, en route to Copenhagen, Denmark, she was hit by bombs off SwinemĂĽnde (now Swinoujscie, Poland) and sank, killing all but 150 of her over 4,000 passengers.

ww2dbaseOrion was scrapped in 1952.

Mackenzie Gregory, "Ahoy"

Last Major Revision: Oct 2010


Japanese E8N aircraft aboard German raider Orion, 1941; note Royal Navy roundel painted for deceit

Orion Operational Timeline

9 Dec 1939 German merchant freighter Kurmark, acquired by the German Navy in the fall of 1939, was commissioned into service as auxiliary cruiser Orion.
31 Mar 1940 German WWI-era battleship Hessen (serving as ice breaker) and armed merchant cruisers Atlantis, Orion, and Widder departed from Kiel, Germany for their various anti-Allied shipping missions.
6 Apr 1940 Orion departed Germany on her first raiding mission.
24 Apr 1940 Orion sank the ship Haxby in the Atlantic Ocean.
1 May 1940 Orion crossed the Equator.
21 May 1940 Orion rounded Cape Horn and entered the South Pacific.
13 Jun 1940 After sundown and through until the next morning, Orion laid mines off Auckland, New Zealand.
19 Jun 1940 Orion captured Norwegian ship Tropic Sea.
9 Aug 1940 Orion was ordered to make rendezvous with supply ship Regensburg in the Marshall Islands.
10 Aug 1940 Orion detected ship Triona off Brisbane, Australia but determined that she was not fast enough to attack this ship.
14 Aug 1940 Orion spent most of this day looking for her Ar 196 floatplane which had been forced to make a water landing due to mechanical issues while conducting reconnaissance on NoumĂ©a, New Caledonia. The aircraft was found and recovered.
16 Aug 1940 Orion attacked and sank French ship Notu which was en route to NoumĂ©a, New Caledonia.
20 Aug 1940 German armed merchant cruiser Orion spotted British ship Turakina 350 miles east of New Plymouth, New Zealand, finally sinking her with gunfire and one torpedo after a prolonged chase; 38 crew members were killed. Despite knowing the New Zealand Navy might already be on the way, Orion's commanding officer nevertheless decided to remain in the area for 5 hours to rescue 21 of Turakina's survivors.
8 Oct 1940 Orion made rendezvous with raider Komet and Komet's supply ship Kulmerland. Orion and Komet began operating together against Allied shipping.
14 Oct 1940 German armed merchant cruiser Orion stopped and scuttled Norwegian ship Ringwood in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles northwest of New Ireland, Bismarck Islands. The crew of 35 was taken prisoner.
20 Oct 1940 Orion and Komet were replenished by supply ship Kulmerland.
25 Nov 1940 German armed merchant cruisers Orion and Komet, supported by supply ship Kulmerland, caught up with 546-ton New Zealand Holm Line coaster Holmwood off of the Chatham Islands 500 miles east of New Zealand. Captain Robert Eyssen of Komet ordered Holmwood to stop and not to use her radio. Holmwood's captain complied to safeguard the lives of the 17 crew and 12 passengers (all from the Chatham Islands) on board, four of whom were women and five were children. The ship was also carrying 1,370 sheep, 1 horse, and a cargo of wool from the island of Lyttelton, New Zealand. Eyssen briefly considered capturing the ship for use as a minelayer, but after realizing the ship's maximum speed was only 9 knots, he decided to sink her. The horse was shot, and then the passenger, crew, and some of the sheep were moved to the three German ships; a number of sheep remained on Holmwood. Komet and Orion then proceeded to fire on Holmwood for 30 minutes until its sinking. While the crews of all three ships welcomed the fresh sheep meat, not surprisingly, in no time at all, they came to detest the taste of mutton.
27 Nov 1940 German armed merchant cruisers Orion and Komet stopped the 16,712-ton passenger ship Rangitane 400 miles east of New Zealand at 0300 hours. Of the 201 crew and 111 passengers, 16 were killed during the attack and the remainder were captured. Due to the distress signal sent out by Rangitane's crew, the Germans only had time to transfer the captives aboard but not the 14,000 tons of food and 45 bars of silver before Komet sank Rangitane with a torpedo. Rangitane was the largest passenger ship to be sunk by German merchant raiders during WW2.
6 Dec 1940 German armed merchant cruisers Komet and Orion stopped freighter Triona with gunfire 200 miles south of Nauru, killing 3 in the process. 54 crew and 7 passengers were taken off the ship before Orion sank Triona with a torpedo. German Navy admirals would later criticize this use of torpedo as a waste.
7 Dec 1940 Orion and Komet sank the ship Vinni off Nauru; shortly after, Komet sank the ship Komata.
8 Dec 1940 German armed merchant cruiser Orion sank the ships Triadic (1 killed, 11 captured) and Triaster (64 captured) off Nauru.
21 Dec 1940 German raiders Komet and Orion and support ship Kulmerland released 514 prisoners captured from various ships, mainly women, children and the injured, at Emirau Island, Bismarck Islands. They were given food before being turned over to two English families living on that island. British ship Nellore would arrive on 29 Dec to pick them up. 150 prisoners remained aboard Orion.
1 Feb 1941 At Maug Island in the Mariana Islands, Orion received one Japanese-built E8N float plane, purchased from Japan earlier that year, from German ship Munsterland.
21 Jul 1941 Orion rounded Cape Horn and entered the Atlantic Ocean.
29 Jul 1941 Orion sank the ship Chaucer by gunfire in the South Atlantic. The entire crew of 48 was rescued by Orion.
15 Aug 1941 Orion reached Spanish territorial waters and disguised herself as the Spanish ship Contramestre Casado.
23 Aug 1941 Orion arrived at Gironde, Bordeaux, France.
4 May 1945 Orion was sunk off SwinemĂĽnde, Germany (now Swinoujscie, Poland) by bombs. About 4,000 people, most of whom refugees, were killed.

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Japanese E8N aircraft aboard German raider Orion, 1941; note Royal Navy roundel painted for deceit

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