At 03:45 on 17th January 1943 Ultra decodes were received which gave a strong indication of the location of the German surface raider Kondor III. At this time there were no US or British units within range and the poor weather situation precluded the use of aircraft. As the Malacian Battleship Panther was patrolling in the vicinity the Malacian Liaison Officer was brought into the picture and a carefully worded signal was sent asking Panther to search a specific area with her Walrus aircraft to try and intercept the raider.
Panther launched both her Walrus aircraft about an hour after dawn, and shortly after 12:00 local time one of them spotted a single merchant ship heading NNE. The pilot continued his search pattern in an attempt to make it look as if he was on an anti-submarine patrol and at 15:08 Panther made visual contact and continued to close with the suspected raider. When she closed to about 12,000 yards Panther asked the merchantman to identify itself. The merchant vessel replied that it was the SS Corona returning to Sweden with a cargo of coffee and other foodstuffs. Panther made the standard signal to the British Admiralty requesting the last known location of the Corona, and soon received the reply 'left Ecuador bound Santiago' within 10 minutes. Panther then trained her main armament on the suspect ship and hoisted ther first and last letters of Corona's ship code. After a few tense seconds Kondor revealed her true colours and dropped the covers from its guns but Panther was ready for this and opened fire with its main armament. Althouth the first salvo fell short, several shells fell close enough to badly shake the raider. Kondor's gunners had also under-estimated the range and only two 5.9" shells struck Panther and broke up harmlessly against the armour belt. Panther's second salvo struck home with a few shells hitting the ship; Kondor's engine room was wrecked and fires were started below decks. With a failing power supply, fuel and ammunition burning and a list rapidly developing, Kondor's aft guns were only able to fire a few wild shots before her crew abandoned ship. Panther ceased fire, and despite the rough seas put down boats to rescue the sinking ship's crew and then successfully recovered both her Walrus flying boats.
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Last updated: 10th December 2012.
Copyright SR Jenkins, December 2012.