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Gorch Fock crew drank heavily, report says

The Local · 25 Jan 2011, 08:34

Published: 25 Jan 2011 08:34 GMT+01:00

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Cadets who trained on the ship detailed incidents for a team of investigators under Hellmut Königshaus, the German parliamentary liaison to the military, news magazine Der Spiegel reported.

The nine-page document includes descriptions of officers drinking "without restraint," then forcing cadets to scrub their vomit from the ship’s deck.

On the evening of November 5, 2010 the crew reportedly celebrated raucously after arriving in the Brazilian port of Salvador de Bahia. During the night one of the instructors stumbled into a bedroom and shouted that “he hated cadets and would kill them,” according to the report cited by the magazine.

That incident occurred the night before 25-year-old crew member Sarah S., fell 27 metres to her death during a climbing exercise, sparking a “mutiny” now under investigation by German authorities.

Earlier this week Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg relieved the ship’s commander Norbert Schatz of his duties and ordered the Gorch Fock to return to Germany immediately.

Meanwhile other cadets told investigators that the crew behaved “like kings,” allowing barely any contact with cadets. Commander Schatz was “mainly seen wearing bathing trunks” and attended only mandatory meetings, the report said.

Other cadets reported that instructors immediately returned to regular training after the death of their comrade, with Schatz holding a “dry” speech that called the accident unlucky, but normal like a plane crash.

Instructors allegedly held a large celebration for Karneval shortly thereafter, Der Spiegel reported.

Another cadet reported incidents of sexual assault in the ship’s showers by instructors.

Pending further notice, the Gorch Fock will not leave the harbour in Kiel once it returns to Germany.

The ship will be out of action "until a commission is appointed, in cooperation with representatives of the German Bundestag, to decide the extent to which the Gorch Fock has a future as a training ship and ambassador for Germany on the world's oceans," Defence Minister Guttenberg told daily Bild.

Story continues below…

According to broadcaster ARD, the ship's captain was informed of his dismissal in a phone call. The Gorch Fock, which is currently moored in Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina, is expected to set sail for Kiel on February 4.

Schatz's predecessor, Michael Brühn, is set to take over command of the ship. In its show Nachtmagazin, ARD reported that Brühn is also a member of the investigative committee that is expected to arrive in Ushuaia next Thursday.

The Local/DPA/DAPD/ka

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:49 January 25, 2011 by storymann
As was previously thought,,there was more ,much more to the original story..

Out of control officers and a vacationing captain, abuse,sexual assault,insensitivity to the death of the cadet,sounds like something out of Dante's Inferno.
09:59 January 25, 2011 by So36
Excessive drinking, death threats, sexual assault and unprofessional conduct - isn't that what being in the Navy is all about?
10:22 January 25, 2011 by catjones
Training hasn't evolved much since the 18th century. Who is going to take care of the parrot?
12:03 January 25, 2011 by golfcricket
Now it's getting interesting. I really hope the parents of the girl who somehow plunged to her death gets all the right answers and truth.. That's the least they can get out of it right now. There's more to come and bunches of it... Stay tuned!! :-)
15:12 January 25, 2011 by tallady
The girl that drowned ,,adds a lot of mystery to this "Ship of Fools",,better to keep the vessel at the dock.
16:05 January 25, 2011 by heathen
buggery on the high seas and Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest--...Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum
21:04 January 25, 2011 by Prufrock2010
Why has it taken nearly 3 months for this to be investigated and the facts disclosed?
23:36 January 25, 2011 by wenddiver
I think we need to remember what profession we are training these youth for, their going to be Naval Officers, so a certain amount of thick headed Machismo is probably to be expected. Think Nelson moving in with the married Lady Hammilton, the Tail Hook scandal in the US,, etc, etc. It sounds like they are being given a nice overview of the culture.

I think we should remember that eminent Lord of the Admiralty' , Sir Winston Churchill' advice - Rum and Sodomy may be facts of Naval Life, they are not actual Naval traditions.
01:33 January 26, 2011 by Prufrock2010
That would justify everything, I guess, from sodomy to a young woman's death. It's just the culture of the Navy, something to be expected.
06:17 January 26, 2011 by wenddiver
Look at Leyte Gulf (the Worlds Biggest Naval Battle). The Battle starts off with the Japanese surprise the Fleet supporting the invasion an lure away the main Battle Fleet. Japanese Battle Ships are now right on top of the small lightly armed escort carriers and some light destroyers. The US Destroyer Captains throw their small destroyers at the huge Japanese Battleships with such a reckless disreguard for their Ships and crews safety that the Japanese withdraw. The main US Fleet attacks from so far out that the planes can not make it back to the ships. The young Officers who flew those missions knew that their orders would not let them make it back to the fleet, but they obeyed them anyway. The Americans won at Leyte, the Philipines were freed, Democracy won the day.

Sometimes we ask alot of Naval Officers, so we have to train Midshipmen to handle stress. I would have been surprised if the Oficers didn't live it up in Brazil or if the Captain got all bo ho teary eyed, or lost it at a funeral. A leader who made excuses not to train, would be failing the men.
07:57 January 26, 2011 by Brian K
Naval training for officers should be "Hell on the High Seas". Everyone of these cadets who become officers will have to make split second decisions involving life or death. I cannot agree with the sexual abuse and those involved should be in prison. Even Naval Cadet's are entitled to some basic human rights.
08:25 January 26, 2011 by hOU
Keelhaul them all.

Bugger any survivors.

Sell the ship to the French (as a sea-toilet).
08:56 January 28, 2011 by toemag
It's getting pretty easy to see and recognise those of us who have enjoyed serving in our respective countries armed forces :-)

Work hard, play hard, and the environment that exists on such a training ship as the Gorch Foch is bound to bring out the worst and the best of some individuals, if those individuals break the law, they should be punished for their crimes/actions, not the whole ship/establishment.

We had a guy die during training and the only sympathetic comment from our leaders was that he had "failed the course", but I guess you'll have to be ex-forces to find that funny.

Guess the hyenas still want their pound of flesh.
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