The Legacy of the Sailor Poet Gorch Foch, Killed in the Battle of Jutland


Johann Wilhelm Kinau – Gorch Foch

Johann Wilhelm Kinau was one of the more than 8,000 sailors who died in the Battle of Jutland just over 100 years ago. Kinau was 36 when he was killed while serving as a lookout on the German light cruiser SMS Wiesbaden. Kinau is better remembered by his pen name, Gorch Foch, the sailor poet and writer. The son of a fisherman, he worked as an accountant at a Hamburg-Amerika-Linie in Hamburg. In 1904 at the age of 24, he started publishing poetry in Low German. His most popular work, the novel Seefahrt ist Not! (Seafaring is Necessary) was published in 1913.The novel describes the lives of the deep sea fishermen of his home island of Elbe of Finkenwerder.  Kinau was drafted into the German Navy two years later.

Although he died quite young, his legacy has endured. The first of three sailing school ships built for the German Reichsmarine starting in 1933 was named Gorch Foch in his honor. The ship was scuttled in 1945. She was salvaged by the Russians two years later and renamed renamed Tovarishch.  In 2003, the ship became a museum ship in Stralsund. Its name was restored to Gorch Foch.

In 1958, the German navy built a new sail training ship also named Gorch Foch, which is still in active service.

The two near sister vessels of the original Gorch Foch are also still in service.  The second German navy ship of the series was the Albert Leo Schlageter, which is now sailing as the Portuguese Navy school ship, NRP Sagres.  The second German navy ship, originally named Horst Wessel, is now sailing as the USCGC Eagle.  The Eagle is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in US military service, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels, along with the USS Constitution.

Segel setzen auf der “Gorch Fock”

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One Response to The Legacy of the Sailor Poet Gorch Foch, Killed in the Battle of Jutland

  1. Peter Belenky says:

    The name is spelled Gorch Fock, the low German version of “George Foresail.” (Ferdinand Foch was a French field marshal).