Walker gets another U-Boat – U-264 and crew

HMS STARLING, leader of a group of British sloops under the command of Captain Walker.

HMS STARLING, leader of a group of British sloops under the command of Captain Walker.

Captain Walker had surpassed himself with three U-boat kills in one day on the 9th February. There was no pause for celebrations or rest, the relentless search continued. during the course of this patrol his 2nd Escort group would get six U-boats in total. On the 19th it was the turn of U-264.

On this occasion we can see things from the other side, because, unusually, the whole crew survived. As was normal practice, they were closely interrogated by the Royal Navy Naval Intelligence Division. This thorough process which was applied to all prisoners, regardless of rank, revealed much about the U-boat service and the general state of German morale.

The U-boat had attempted to fight back with acoustic torpedoes, but this threat had been neutralised by the simple expedient of stopping all engines on the destroyer under attack:

On the night of 18th/19th February, “U 264,” following directions received from a German aircraft, approached a convoy. A G.S.R. contact was received on a wavelength of 135 cm. and was judged to have originated from a destroyer. About 30 minutes later, the contact-keeping aircraft dropped a contact-keeping flare, and the convoy was sighted.

The U-Boat attempted to signal Control giving the usual particulars of the convoy, but, due to the fact that the cypher machine jammed, only a fragmentary message was sent. Suddenly the escorting vessels fired star shells, illuminating the U-Boat and revealing that one of the destroyers was dead astern. “U 264” fired a T5 torpedo from her stern tube, but the destroyer came to a dead stop and the torpedo passed across her bows at a distance of about 10 yards. Some of the prisoners attributed the miss to an imperfection in the mechanism of the torpedo.

The U-Boat then dived and took evasive action. Several patterns of depth-charges were dropped, but they fell wide of the mark. The destroyers then gave up the search and at about 0500 the entire convoy was heard passing directly over the U-Boat.

(N.I.D. Note. At 0325 on 19th February, H.M.S. “Forester” obtained a Radar contact and fired a star shell which revealed a U-Boat on the surface. The U-Boat dived and, at 0404, “Forester” attacked with hedgehog. She followed the U-Boat through the convoy until 0449 when contact was lost.)

“U 264” remained submerged for some time after her contact with the convoy. At about noon on 19th February, she came to a depth of about 20 m. (65 ft.) in order to signal Control. She was then discovered by a group of destroyers which immediately began a prolonged attack. The U-Boat immediately submerged to a greater depth and, taking evasive action, released several S.B.T. charges. She was unable to shake off her pursuers and depth-charges continued to rain down on her. After about the fourth attack considerable damage was sustained.

(N.I.D. Note. The Second Escort Group gained contact on a U-Boat at 1011 on 19th February. At 1035, H.M.S. “Starling” dropped a ten-charge pattern set to 150/300 ft. At 1101 and 1110, S.B.Ts. were noted. At 1125, H.M.S. “Woodpecker” made a creeping attack of 26 depth-charges set at 500/700 ft. A third pattern of 26 charges was dropped by “Starling” at 1129. The fourth attack was made at 1251 by “Woodpecker” who dropped 26 charges in a creeping attack. They were set for 500/850 ft.)

The damage was described by the prisoners as not of a serious nature, but its cumulative effect was fatal. The lights failed, a high pressure air line fractured, the Diesels were shaken from their seats and the extensible Diesel intake and exhaust was broken. Several small leaks appeared and water entered through the packing of one propeller shaft. The gland was tightened in an attempt to stop the leak and this resulted in overheating and filling the after compartment with smoke.

The depth-chare attacks continued with unrelenting fury. The U-Boat submerged to great depth, but was unable to get clear. The prisoners estimated that between 150 and 200 depth-charges were dropped. Asdic noises were heard, but they were of a higher pitch than usual and the prisoners believed that a new type of gear was being used. The crew became increasingly nervous throughout the attack. The din was so terrific that it was impossible to man the hydrophones. Pumps were kept going, but were not able to cope with the flow of water into the boat. The boat dived deeper and deeper, at one time reaching a depth of 210 m. (689 ft.).

When at last it became apparent to Looks that the U-Boat must be abandoned, he gathered his men together and said, “We are going to surface. If we must die, we’ll die for Greater Germany. Three ‘Sieg Heils’ for our Führer.”

(N.I.D. Note. “Woodpecker” and “Starling” made a total of seven attacks on the U-Boat between 1035 and 1621. Over 150 depth-charges were fired.)

At about 1700, “U 264” surfaced. Looks gave the order to abandon ship and personally supervised the execution of the order. He and the Engineer Officer were the last to leave, having remained below to see to the scuttling. The prisoners believed that the U-Boat was flooded and that no scuttling charges were set. When the U-Boat appeared on the surface, the destroyers opened fire, scoring several hits and slightly wounding three or four of the crew. The boat was abandoned in an orderly manner and the entire ship’s company was rescued by destroyers of the Escort Group.

(N.I.D. Note. At 1659 the U-Boat broke surface, bows first. “Starling” opened fire with all weapons and five hits were observed. At 1707 the U-Boat sank in position 48° 31′ N., 22° 05′ W. At 1735 a heavy underwater explosion was heard.)

U-264 was one of the first operational u-boats equipped with a ‘schnorkel’ , a breathing tube for its diesel engines. The capture of these prisoners gave the Allies a good picture of its capabilities, and of the difficulties they encountered with it, see U-Boat Archive to read the full report.

Kapitänleutnant Hartwig Looks

Kapitänleutnant Hartwig Looks

YouTube has a post war interview with Kapitänleutnant Looks.

USS U-3008 (ex-German submarine U-3008) View of the submarine's conning tower, with her snorkel raised. Taken at Key West Naval Station, Florida

USS U-3008 (ex-German submarine U-3008)
View of the submarine’s conning tower, with her snorkel raised. Taken at Key West Naval Station, Florida

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