The following is a sample of one of the many "Along the Boatdeck" short stories that members enjoy.
Written by noted author, ship historian and lecturer Bill Miller, these stories recount Bill's life and times and his love of ships. Our members section contains a wide and growing array of these stories. To read more, please consider joining.
by Bill Miller
Not long ago, I came across a photo in my collection showing the Brooklyn waterfront back in the late 1940s. With the great lower Manhattan skyline in the background, the photo centered on the Eire Basin/Red Hook district of the otherwise vast, 100-pier waterfront in Brooklyn. Ships, mostly freighters, crowded the docks. It was, after all, the post-war years and trade was booming, which included lots of outbound Yankee-made goods. The Red Hook terminal, now used by mammoth Cunard and Princess liners, was jammed seemingly with cargo ships. But one ship in the black & white photo stood out --- she was berthed at the far, western side of the then Todd Shipyards in the Eire Basin. She appeared to be a small passenger vessel, with large funnel and twin masts, and might just have been the classic Swedish cruise ship Stella Polaris. But no, that did not quite fit.
Later, in a shipping journal, the mystery was solved. The ship was in fact, in the 1949 view, the 3,800-ton mega-yacht Grille. She looked absolutely classical: a clipper bow, large 7 wide buff-colored funnel and grand, overhanging, counter stern. It seems she was built in 1935, at Hamburg, for the German Admiralty. Her name translated to Cricket, she had twin screws, could make an impressive 19 knots at top speed and was dubbed a "naval review ship". Obviously, in the late 1930s, she was in Nazi hands and used, during the height of the Second World War, for training and tender duties in the Baltic. But more importantly, she was also to be used as Adolf Hitler?s "victory yacht". It seems that Hitler and his top ministers planned to sail along the Thames River and into the heart of London after their intended invasion & capture of Britain in 1940. Afterward, Hitler planned to set-up his occupation headquarters at Windsor Castle. Dubbed Operation Sea Lion, even the big German liners Bremen & Europa were considered to become huge landing ships, carrying thousands of Nazi troops as well as landing tanks & other equipment. Fortunately, none of this came to pass, with the Third Reich turning its attentions (and ambitions) instead to the East, to Stalin's Soviet Union. Happily, Britain was saved.
The 400-ft long Grille was seized by the invading British forces in May 1945 after Nazi Germany collapsed. In the press, she was soon dubbed "Hitler's yacht". Britain's Royal Navy seems, however, to have had little use for the vessel and within a year, in 1946, she was sold off to Lebanese businessman George Arida. He had intentions of making her into a passenger ship, even a cruise liner, but that did not come to pass either. The ship, at first laid-up in England, was moved to Beirut and, then, in May 1949, crossed the Atlantic and had arrived at New York, quickly being laid-up in Brooklyn. She was for sale at $2 million. But opportunities and buyers were few, it appeared. In April 1951, the ship was sold, for a scant $100,000, to the American Smelting Co of Wilmington, Delaware, who in turn handed her over to a scrapyard at Bordentown, New Jersey for scrapping. Demolition started in August 1951 and was completed within four weeks.