Saturday, January 02, 2010


From Robert Massie's "Castles of Steel" (2003), a naval history of WWI, at 192 (describing events of September 1914):
Admiral von Spee's next stopping point was the isolated, British-owned Suvorov Island, 500 miles east of Samoa, but finding that a huge ocean swell prevented coaling, he continued another 700 miles to Bora-Bora, an Island of the Tahiti group in the lush French Society Islands. Bora-Bora, with its volcanic mountains, dense foliage, and settled population, was a welcome change from the flat, sun-baked, deserted coral atolls they had left behind. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau anchored off Bora-Bora, displaying no national flag. The French authorities, believing the visitors were English, sent out a police officer in a boat flying the tricolor and offered to help "the British Admiral." The policeman met only German officers who spoke English or French, and the subterfuge continued as other representatives of the local government came on board to present a huge bouquet of flowers, pass along war news, and, in response to gentle questioning, describe the defenses of Papeete [where von Spee went next]. The Germans paid with gold for coal, pigs, poultry, eggs, fruit, vegetables, and several oxen, slaughtered immediately. In the afternoon, as the cruisers weighed anchor, a large French flag was hoisted in a farewell salute from the shore. In response, the Germans politely raised the German naval ensign.

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