Reinhart von Rabenau

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Reinhart von Rabenau
Paul Reinhart von Rabenau, Rangliste 1918.png
Birth name Paul Reinhart von Rabenau
Birth date 6 November 1888 (1888-11-06)
Place of birth Oppeln, Province of Silesia, Prussia, German Empire
Death date 19 October 1937 (1937-10-20) (aged 48)
Place of death Hamburg, German Reich
Allegiance  German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 National Socialist Germany<
Service/branch  Kaiserliche Marine
Freikorps Flag.jpg Freikorps
War Ensign of Germany (1919–1921).png Preliminary Reichsmarine
Rank Fregattenkapitän (E)
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Iron Cross
House Order of Hohenzollern
Relations ∞ 1915 Christine Gante

Paul Reinhart von Rabenau (6 November 1888 – 19 October 1937) was a German officer of the Kaiserliche Marine and U-boat commandant (U-Boot-Kommandant), finally Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant Captain) in World War I. He also served as a supplementary officer of the Kriegsmarine.


After school education and Abitur, Reinhart von Rabenau joined the Imperial German Navy on 1 April 1906 (Crew 1906). He received the typical training for a naval officer candidate on land and at sea on bord different ships, first on board the training ship SMS "Stein". He was then commanded to the naval school (Marineschule) and to various special courses. In 1908, he was transferred on board the pre-dreadnought battleship SMS "Wittelsbach". In 1909, he was commissioned and served on the new dreadnought SMS Nassau during the first test drives.

He was transferred to the light cruiser SMS "Emden", which had been reactivated on 1 April 1910 and assigned to the Ostasiengeschwader (East Asia Squadron), based at Qingdao in Germany's Jiaozhou Bay Leased Territory in China. Emden left Kiel on 12 April 1910, bound for Asia by way of a goodwill tour of South America. A month later, on 12 May, she stopped in Montevideo and met with the cruiser SMS "Bremen", which was assigned to the Ostamerikanischen (East American) Station. "Emden" and "Bremen" stayed in Buenos Aires from 17 to 30 May to represent the German Empire at the celebrations of the hundredth anniversary of Argentinian independence. The two ships then rounded Cape Horn; "Emden" stopped in Valparaíso, Chile, while Bremen continued on to Peru.

The cruise across the Pacific was delayed because of a lack of good quality coal. "Emden" eventually took on around 1,400 t (1,400 long tons; 1,500 short tons) of coal at the Chilean naval base at Talcahuano and departed on 24 June. The cruise was used to evaluate the ship on long-distance voyages for use in future light cruiser designs. "Emden" encountered unusually severe weather on the trip, which included a stop at Easter Island. She anchored at Papeete, Tahiti to coal on 12 July, as the bunkers were nearly empty after crossing 4,200 nautical miles (7,800 km; 4,800 mi). The ship then proceeded to Apia in German Samoa, arriving on 22 July. There, she met the rest of the East Asia Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Erich Gühler. The squadron remained in Samoa until October 1910, when the ships returned to their base at Qingdao. "Emden" was sent to the Yangtze River from 27 October to 19 November, which included a visit to Hankou. The ship visited Nagasaki, Japan, before returning to Qingdao on 22 December 1910 for an annual refit. The repair work was not carried out; the Sokehs insurrection erupted on Ponape in the Carolines, which required "Emden's" presence; she departed Qingdao on 28 December 1910, and SMS "Nürnberg" left Hong Kong to join her.

Natives from the Sokehs tribe had murdered four German officials (district commissioner Gustav Boeder, his assistant Rudolf Brauckmann, Otto Hollborn and Johann Häfner) and five island boatmen in October 1910, only the two translators and one oarsman escaped. The remaining Germans on Pohnpei then fled to Kolonia and barricaded themselves there together with the police soldiers from the German New Guinea police force. After the news of the violent revolt had reached the main settlement Kolonia on Pohnpei, Max Girschner, the colony's medical doctor and now senior official, requested the chiefs of the other four tribes on Pohnpei to provide men for defending Kolonia. The chiefs offered 400 to 600 warriors of whom several were then armed with rifles and bayonets in addition to their own weapons – but no attack on Kolonia occurred. Instead the rebelling Sokehs barricaded themselves at a defensive mountain hideout. The remaining German officials had no access to cable or radio to request assistance. It was not until 26 November 1910 when the mail steamer "Germania" arrived, that a report could be made to the colony's headquarters at Rabaul. The Colonial Office in Berlin received the message on 26 December 1910.

Both ships arrived at Pohnpei on 10 January 1911. As the senior naval officer at the scene, "Emden's" captain, Lieutenant Commander Waldemar Vollerthun on 13 January 1911 ordered the main batteries of the cruisers to fire on the rebel fortification. Under the ad hoc command of territorial commissioner Hermann Kersting, an assault formation of sailors armed with rifles and 30 Melanesian police, led by naval Lieutenant Edgar von Spiegel from SMS "Cormoran" and junior officers from SMS "Emden", including von Rabenau, captured the hideout and forced the Sokehs to flee. Many escaped to mainland Pohnpei. The rebels fought using guerrilla tactics, but were not supported by the other Pohnpei chiefs and tribes, who were happy with german administration. On 13 February 1911, section chief Samuel and five insurgents gave up. The remaining rebels surrendered on 22 February 1911.

During the mountain assault and island campaign the German side suffered one junior officer, two ratings and two Melanesian policemen killed and one officer, five sailors and nine Melanesian policemen wounded. Sokehs losses are given at 12 killed and 16 wounded.[1] Immediately after cessation of fighting, a summary trial was convened for 36 terrorists. The court convicted 17 for two main offenses: (a) the murder of four German officials and five island boatmen, and (b) for insurrection, and condemned them to death; 12 received multi-year sentences at hard labor, seven were acquitted and set free. On 24 February 1911, 15 terrorists, including Samuel, were executed by a Melanesian police firing squad. Two of the condemned men ultimately did not receive the death penalty. The colonial government banished the tribe of 426 Sokehs to Babelthuap in the German Palau Islands. The land reforms started by the German colonial officials were completed during the remaining years of German colonial rule, with compensation and continued superior status for the chiefs. Property borders were set by local tribal leaders and the scheme was accepted by the population.

After his return to Germany, Reinhart von Rabenau was transferred to the light cruiser SMS "Leipzig" and was then placed to disposal of the II. Naval Inspection. In 1913, he was serving on the SMS "Friedrich der Große", flagship of the high seas fleet (Hochseeflotte). During WWI, von Rabenau volunteered for the U-Boot force and was transferred there. In 1916, he was appointed commandant of the submarine SM UC 77 and in 1918 commandant of SM UB 88.

U-boat Commands

  • SM UC 77: 29 December 1916 to 29 January 1918
  • SM UB 88: 16 February 1918 to 11 November 1918

Ace of the seas

Von Rabenau sank 42 ships with a total of 68,610 GRT and damaged another 6 ships with a total of 19,443 GRT during his war patrols (Feindfahrten).[2]


Von Rabenau served with the Freikorps, was released from the Preliminary Reichsmarine on 24 November 1919 and became a merchant at the Kali und Salz company. The family moved to Kiel and then to Hamburg in the early 1920s. In 1935 maybe 1934), he rejoined the German Navy as a supplemental officer (Ergänzungsoffizier). As such, he served with the Military Replacement Inspection (Wehrersatzinspektion) in Hamburg under Captain at Sea (E) Raimund Weisbach (1886–1970), also a U-boat commandant in World War Two.


Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch, 1942

Reinhart was the son of lawyers and Royal Prussian public prosecutor (Staatsanwalt) Paul Friedrich von Rabenau (1853–1890) and his wife Clara Louise, née Heinemann (1858–1937). He had five siblings, among them Protestant theologian Dr. phil. Eitel-Friedrich Karl Balthasar (1884–1959), father of naval aviator Hellmut Siegfried Eitel-Friedrich von Rabenau, and naval officer Otto Karl Hellmuth (1885–1970). His oldest sibling, sister Margarethe Karoline Anna (1882–1971), was the wife of Kurt Friedrich Oskar von Wodtke and sister-in-law of Georg Eduard Johann von Wodtke.


On 29 May 1915 in (Staßfurt-)Leopoldshall, 1st Lieutenant at Sea von Rabenau married his fiancée Christine Gante (b. 5 December 1893 in Herne). They had three children:[3]


  • 1 April 1906 Seekadett (Officer Candidate)
  • 6 April 1907 Fähnrich zur See (Officer Cadet)
  • 30 September 1909 Leutnant zur See (2nd Lieutenant)
  • 19 September 1912 Oberleutnant zur See (1st Lieutenant)
  • 26 April 1917 Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant Captain)
  • 24 November 1919 Charakter als Korvettenkapitän (honorary Corvette Captain – Lieutenant Commander)
  • 16 September 1935 Fregattenkapitän (E; supplementary Frigate Captain – Commander)[4]

Awards and decorations


  1. Joachim Schultz-Naumann: Unter Kaisers Flagge. Deutschlands Schutzgebiete im Pazifik und in China einst und heute, Universitas, München 1985, pp. 139 f.
  2. Reinhart von Rabenau,
  3. Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch der Adeligen Häuser. Teil A Uradel, Justus Perthes, Gotha 1942, p. 436
  4. Rangliste der Deutschen Kriegsmarine, 1936, p. 156
  5. Rangliste der Kaiserlich Deutschen Marine, 1918, p. 45