legitimate prize

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Senior Member
It was in one of the most open and least frequented parts of the broad Pacific that the packet of which I was supercargo fell a victim to the German sea-raider. The great war was then at its very beginning, and the ocean forces of the Hun had not completely sunk to their later degradation; so that our vessel was made a legitimate prize, whilst we of her crew were treated with all the fairness and consideration due us as naval prisoners.
I'm confused by the wording here. The narrator was captured by sea-raiders (I'm assuming pirates?), so how could his stolen vessel be legitimize?

Source: "Dagon" by H. P. Lovecraft
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    They don't seem to be pirates. WWI was just beginning, so it seems to be one of these:

    German commerce raiders in World War I - Wikipedia
    The German commerce raiders of World War I were those surface vessels used by the Imperial German Navy to pursue its war on Allied commerce, (the Handelskrieg). These comprised regular warships, principally cruisers, stationed in Germany's colonial empire, express liners commissioned as auxiliary cruisers and, later, freighters outfitted as merchant raiders.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    The great war was then at its very beginning,
    The two countries were at war. If a ship is captured then, under the rules of war, that side can keep it.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    They followed the rules of war in place at that time, which made the capture of the ship legitimate. They rescued the passengers and didn't kill them unnecessarily.

    Later, I believe, they would just sink the ship and kill all the people and move on. The people on those ships were not sailors or soldiers. They were civilians.

    Also called: packet boat a boat that transports mail, passengers, goods, etc, on a fixed short route


    Senior Member
    English - England
    "Prize" here is used in a special technical sense (but I think the original sense)
    something seized or captured, esp. an enemy's ship and cargo captured at sea in wartime
    (from the WordReference Dictionary)
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