Coastal Command aircraft captures U-Boat

U 570 photographed from one of the circling aircraft as the Anti Submarine Warfare trawler approaches her.

The following summary of the incident was made by Naval Intelligence following the interrogation of the crew:

At approximately 0830 on the morning of 27th August, 1941, “U 570” submerged in position about 62° 15′ N. and 18° 35′ W. to obtain some respite from heavy seas which had already caused much seasickness among her inexperienced crew.

At 1050 the captain decided to surface again and brought the U-Boat up from a depth of approximately 90 ft. What happened next can only be attributed to the lack of training of the Commander. Rahmlow entirely forgot to make any observation for hostile aircraft before exposing his ship.

It so happened that a Hudson aircraft “S” belonging to 269 Squadron, and piloted by Squadron-Leader Thompson, was almost immediately overhead. “U 570” perceived her danger too late and, while she was attempting to crash dive, the aircraft dropped a stick of four 250 lb. depth charges, at an angle of 30° to the U-Boat’s track. These exploded close to her, the nearest being about 10 yards away. One minute after the water disturbance had subsided “U 570” surfaced again, bow down, and 10 to 12 of her crew came on deck. The aircraft attacked with guns until a white flag was waved from the conning tower.

It was established by interrogation of prisoners that, at the moment of the attack, confusion reigned within the U-Boat. The detonation of the depth charges, the smashing of instruments, the formation of gas, thought by the crew to be chlorine gas, and the entry of a certain amount of water apparently convinced Rahmlow that his boat was lost, for her ordered the crew to don life-jackets and mount the conning tower.

Prisoners stated that once on deck it became necessary for them to wave the white flag, as it was possible that the aircraft, imagining that they were about to man their gun might have attacked once more. Seas were apparently so high, that the manning of the gun was out of the question, as also was the launching of a boat, and no-one among the crew relished the prospect of being cast into the seas, when not a single ship was in sight. Huddled in their miserable position the crew remained throughout the day.

At 1345 the Lockheed aircraft was relieved by a Catalina Flying Boat, which, like its predecessor, proceeded to circle the U-Boat with its guns trained on the crew. As the day drew on “U 570’s” officers seem to have regained some of their composure, and a number of men re-entered the U-Boat. A wireless signal was sent informing the Vice-Admiral U-Boats that the U-Boat could no longer submerge and that she had been captured. After this unskilled attempts were made with a hammer to smash vital and secret mechanisms.

Confidential papers were dumped over the side, and the cipher machine was broken to pieces and also dumped. Water was rising in the control room and, after working the electric pumps, current ran low and the lighting failed. The forward compartments were shut off because of leakage.

At 2250 the aircraft and “U 570” were sighted by H.M. Trawler “Northern Chief.” This vessel closed the U-Boat and made the following signal: “If you make any attempt to scuttle I will not save anyone, and will fire on your raft and floats.” The reply was made: “I cannot scuttle or abandon; save us to-morrow, please.”

The U-Boat was then ordered to show a small white light to ensure that contact might be maintained, and this was fitted aft. The crew of “U 570” were still apparently anxious about their fate and began to jettison ammunition and provisions in order to lighten ship. Many of the men appear to have gone below to recover their most precious possessions, and one or two prisoners have stated that they actually slept below on this night.

For much more on the capture of U-570, including reports and photographs made by the U.S. Navy, see U Boat Archives.

A closer view of the crew of U 570 crammed into the conning tower as fuel is pumped overboard to maintain buoyancy.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Chape April 15, 2017 at 11:14 am

My father, Squadron Leader Bill Chape was at the time of the capture, injured and unable to fly. Accordng to dad SL Tommy Thompson took over his Squadron during that period. I stayed at Tommy’s home for 2 nights in 1987 when I visied the UK. It was wonderful to meet one of my fathers closest wartime friends and spend some time with him and his wife. I have been living in Perth Western Australia since my parents moved here in 1955. My father died in 1979.

Editor May 15, 2014 at 7:50 am

Malcolm, many thanks for adding this. Would very much like to add more stories of how the blitz affected towns like Hull outside London.


Malcom Rushworth May 15, 2014 at 1:15 am

I believe that Squadron Leader Thompson was from my home town of Kingston upon Hull in the U.K. I believe that he was a member of the Hull family who were car dealers, and had the main Vauxhaul Dealership on Anlaby Road, and perhaps also the Jaguar Dealership.

Anyway I learned of this great adventure years ago, but until now I never learned of the details. It is a great true story, and I do hope it was a Hull pilot who was responsible to the great extent for causing the submarine to surrender at sea.

My hometown was very badly damaged in the war years and the scars still exist there and the city received no acclaim during those years for holding out so well as a major port.

Perhaps Squadron Leader Thompson’s effort was considered in Hull to be a great personal contribution to Victory in those early days of War when so much bad news was received by the public almost daily. I wonder these days who in Hull will recall the event.
Thanks for making the story available.

Malcolm Rushworth.

Mike Royans May 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Thankyou for this story. My father from Australia was a navigator flying Wellingtons in Coastal Command in RAF during the war. I am compiling his memoirs and happy to share with others.

Leave a Comment

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: