Nearing the African west coast, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse stopped at Río de Oro, Spanish Sahara, to refill her nearly depleted coal bunkers. As the bunkering proceeded, HMS Highflyer suddenly appeared. A sea duel— the Battle of Río de Oro—ensued.
For over 35 minutes, the two ships bombarded each other. Yet Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was outgunned. Out of ammunition and his ship seriously damaged, Reymann faced the choice of turning his vessel over to the enemy captain or scuttling her with dynamite charges. He chose the latter (although the British later claimed that the German ship really sank from damage inflicted during the battle). In any event, the former Blue Riband holder and world’s first four-funnel ocean liner, soon capsized and sank.
Reymann managed to swim to shore. He eventually returned to Germany by working as a stoker on a neutral nation ship. Most of Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse’s crew were taken prisoner, confined to the Amherst Internment Camp in Nova Scotia for the war’s duration.
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