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ALTROCK, Paul von.

Tagebuch - a middy's journal book of cruises in the SMSs Charlotte, 1897-8 and Moltke 1898-9 - Baltic, Russia, Atlantic, Caribbean.

Kiel and at Sea: 1897-9 Stock Code: 133188
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A well-illustrated log of cruises from northern waters to the Caribbean.

A meticulously maintained and well preserved journal of cruises on two German naval training ships in appealing locations and at interesting times, with numerous excellent illustrations: a splendid exemplar.

In June 1897 Paul von Altrock joined the Charlotte, the last sailing warship built for Germany, when she was overhauled and recommissioned after almost a decade in reserve. The ship, which had always served as a training ship, took part in training exercises in the Baltic Sea - Kiel, Karlskrona, Libau, Dünamünde (now Daugavgriva, Latvia) Baltischport (Paldiski, Estonia), Petersburg - before joining the main fleet to accompany the Kaiser's yacht, Hohenzollern on a state visit to Kronstadt, Russia, where he met Czar Nicholas II in early August. Later that month, Charlotte took part in the annual fleet training exercises, the account here accompanied by a page of diagrams. On 16 September she embarked on a cruise to Central America, rendezvousing with the corvette Stein in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas on the 29th. Both ships were immediately ordered to Port-au-Prince, Haiti - "Martial Action against Haiti", Altrock - where a Haitian-born German national, Emile Lüders, had been arrested and imprisoned following a scuffle with Haitian police some four years earlier. Unhappy with the terms of Lüders' release negotiated by the American representative to the island, the Germans resorted to gunboat diplomacy having Charlotte's commander, August Carl von Thiele, present an utterly humiliating ultimatum to the Haitians, stipulating a four-hour deadline. The Haitians capitulated to the profound distress of the populace, who had stood ready to defend their national integrity. Solon Ménos, foreign minister of Haiti at the time and later Haitian ambassador to Washington, subsequently fought a duel with a member of Lüders's family, and the reputation of the president Tiresias Simon Sam was permanently undermined. The United States hastened to inform the German government that it would open action against the German corvettes if they made further demands on Haiti or threatened annexation, but in the event nothing came of this and thus ended the Lüders Affair. Charlotte left the West Indies on 10 January 1898, having been replaced by the Bussard-class unprotected cruiser Geier. She arrived back in Kiel in later March 1898.

In April Altrock joined the Moltke, a Bismarck-class corvette first commissioned in 1878, and a training ship since 1885, when she was recommisioned following repairs at Kiel. An outbreak of measles among the crew led to the ship's withdrawal from the Baltic Manoeuvres in June, but in July she began a tour of Norwegian ports, including stops in Larvik, Bergen, and Odde, where on 7 July she joined the Hohenzollern and the aviso, or proto-light cruiser, Hela. Moltke and Hohenzollern then went to Drontheim in company, before Moltke proceeded alone to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands arriving back in Kiel in late July. In the later part of August, she briefly joined V Division for the fleet manoeuvres, before leaving on 3 September for a cruise to the West Indies. While she was operating in the area, America defeated Spain in the SpanishAmerican War, and there were fears that unrest in Cuba could threaten German residents and commercial interests, so Moltke was despatched to Havana. Her presence proved to be unnecessary, and early in January she set out on her return to Kiel, arriving there on 23 March, concluding a relatively uneventful, but picturesque period of service.

Purpose-printed, the volume opens with a tabulated section, pages with printed columns providing for a condensed technical record of general location, heading, progress, climatic conditions, barometric and thermometer readings, and brief remarks. 48 pages have been fully completed for the duration of both of Altrock's cruises over the period. Here, as throughout, there are periodic check marks and initials of examining officers, in many cases on Charlotte, the "Th." of the commander Thiele himself. This is followed by the "diary" portion, each of the two cruises prefaced with a carefully drafted crew list, the open lined pages, allowing for a fuller, detailed record; the vessel, location, month and year entered in manuscript in the head margin, dates added in a column at the inner margin, allowing freedom to extend entries as required, A facility that the compiler has taken full advantage of, some daily records extending to well over a page with diagrams and sketches, others tersely occupying just a line or so. The entries are largely "professional-observational", but nonetheless offer an interesting mixture of detailed technical, military and nautical information - examining the equipment of the ship, notes on the form of gunnery exercises or the complications of manoeuvring at sea, and the mundane tasks of the crew - together with personal experience and observation - "When we awoke the next morning, the sun was shining brightly through our hatches", "Today a ship's boy crashed out of the rigging into the water without serious injury", "The commander gave a lecture on the West Indies, which I followed with great interest", "The commander had a few words about Neumann, the sailor who deserted" and attempts to catch a shark "the meat is only eaten by Negroes", brief mention of the visit of the emperor on board.

The journal is well provided with illustrations throughout, these include finished sketches of types of local vessel encountered, together with specific ship portraits, among these the Spanish cruiser Alonso XII, and USS Maine at Havana. The Maine was to explode and sink just a week or so after Moltke left port, raising the tensions that led to the Spanish-American War. There are also charts showing the roads and entries to various ports, some including soundings, track-charts, and coastal profiles; a number of specific manoeuvres are set out diagrammatically; technical drawings and diagrams encompass ordnance, anchors, rigging and a telegraphic semaphore alphabet; Altrock also intersperses the text with national flags and pennants observed including the Norwegian, Spanish, American, Dutch, Cuban and "San Domingan".

Overall a very thorough, thoughtfully- and neatly-produced record, an unusual, attractive and informative piece.

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Quarto burgundy skiver-backed black sand grain cloth purchase logbook from Paul Toeche, Kiel - "Hofbuchhändler Seiner Königlichen Hoheit Prinzen Heinrich von Preussen" - pages printed with tabulation for log-keeping. Housed in a black flat-back cloth box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Around 300 pages of manuscript, the log painstakingly maintained in a fairly even and moderately legible Kurrent; numerous pen and pencil illustrations to the text, maps, ship portraits, diagrams, many carefully coloured with pencil crayons, together with


A little rubbed, spine mildly scuffed, splash mark to rear board, faint toning to the text-block, but overall very good indeed.


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