submarines

Mar

17

1941

“Depth charges – captured – Heil Hitler – Kretschmer.”

The crew of U-99 celebrate return from a successful patrol in the summer of 1940.

As the U-Boat did not seem to be sinking fast enough, and it was feared that the British might try to board her, the Engineer Officer again went below to open wide the galley hatch which had previously been only partly opened. He never got out again, and the crew heard him shouting as the U-Boat sank. The Captain said that a W/T message was sent in clear, just before “U 99” sank; but he did not know whether it was transmitted on full strength or not, or whether it had been received at his base. The signal read: “Depth charges – captured – Heil Hitler – Kretschmer.”

Dec

15

1940

HMS Thunderbolt sinks Italian submarine

HMS Thunderbolt started out as HMS Thetis which had sunk during sea trials in 1939. The salvaged boat had been renamed and was now very much operational.

When 130 degrees on the U-Boat’s starboard quarter, periscope range estimated to be 4,000 yards, the disposition of the trawlers was thought to be reminiscent of the start of an A/S exercise. Thunderbolt therefore allowed the enemy a low nominal speed of 6 knots, and altered a few degrees to reach the firing course. Commencing at 0920, six torpedoes were fired at 12 second intervals, an alteration of three degrees to port being made after the third torpedo.

Dec

8

1940

Churchill seeks support from Roosevelt

The lookout maintains a constant from a destroyer escorting a convoy.

We can endure the shattering of our dwellings, and the slaughter of our civil population by indiscriminate air attacks, and we hope to parry these increasingly as our science develops, and to repay them upon military objectives in Germany as our Air Force more nearly approaches the strength of the enemy.
The decision for 1941 lies upon the seas.

Dec

2

1940

HMS Forfar sunk by Kretschmer’s U-99

HMS Forfar the armed merchant ship sunk by five torpedoes in the early hours of 2nd December 1940.

Two minutes later the 5th and last torpedo struck, again on the Port side. This was the final blow as the ship broke in two owing to the after magazine blowing sky-high. She was well down by the stern now and I remember the ghastly cracklings as the after end bent inwards crushing the decks like matchwood. She heeled quickly over on her Sta’b’d side, the after end disappeared, and as she settled, she turned right over and sank slowly and steadily by the stern.

Nov

2

1940

The second sinking of U-boat U-31

U-31 sinking

At 1350 U31 surfaced right astern of Antelope. The Destroyer’s after group opened fire, until the crew were seen to be abandoning ship. The U-Boat’s motors were left running ahead with port wheel on, speed about 4 knots. Antelope’s whaler tried to board, but the U-Boat’s speed was too great, and as it was not quite certain whether all the crew had left U 31, fire was opened again at 1405. Twenty-three rounds were fired but owing to the large swell no hits were obtained.

Oct

25

1940

U-Boats now operate from France

U Boat U-37

It is thought that, in view of the better repair facilities available in French than in Norwegian ports, this policy will be increasingly pursued in the future, and that Norwegian ports will largely be used as stopping places for submarines homeward bound for Germany after 2 or 3 cruises, to give leave. There is no reason to believe that any. of the submarines in Lorient came there by way of the English Channel, and it is possible that fear of air attack, has made them take the long sea route from Germany.

Oct

19

1940

The Wolfpack moves on to Convoy HX79

Kapitänleutnant  Otto Kretschmer, also known as Otto der Schweigsame (Silent Otto), November 1940.

0015. Three destroyers, line abreast, approach the ship, searching the vicinity. I went off at full speed on a south-westerly course and very soon regained contact with the convoy. Torpedoes from other boats exploding all the time. The destroyers are at their wits’ end, shooting off star shells the whole time to comfort themselves and each other. Not that that makes much odds in the bright moonlight. I am now beginning to pick them off from astern of the convoy.

Oct

18

1940

U-Boat Wolfpack savages Convoy SC7

October 1940, On board the escorting destroyer HMS Vanity on an east coast convoy. Views of the Convoy going north up the East coast.

22:40 – Sighted a “U” boat on surface straight ahead steaming fast on the same course. Distance 3000-4000 yards. Opened fire with star shell. The “U” boat and her wake were clearly visible but not sufficiently for the Gunlayer of “A” gun to get his sights on before she submerged a few minutes later. Contact by echo was obtained at about 3000 yards range and was held on the run in up to 800 yards.

Aug

7

1940

Troopship SS Mohamed Ali el-Kebir torpedoed

The SS Mohamed Ali el-Kebir had previously operated out of Alexandria before being requisitioned as a troopship in 1940.

Open fractures were reduced under local anaesthesia (2% novatex) roughly splinted and debridement followed by instillation of powdered sulphonamide. Debridement was assisted by staining the wound with an alcoholic solution of 1/1000 Gentian Violet – all stained and dead tissue being removed. Only one death occurred – a naval rating, name unknown (body transferred to Naval Authorities, Greenock) from multiple fractures of tibia, femur, pelvis and humerus.

Jan

30

1945

Worst ever maritime loss – the Wilhelm Gustloff

Wilhelm Gustloff in Gotenhafen (Gdynia), Poland in 1942. Gotenhafen would be the last port the Wilhelm Gustloff would sail from.

The young man next to me had fallen inside the net. He stared at me and saliva came out of his mouth. I tried to lift him up, but couldn’t. Across from me was a young seaman. He begged his comrades for one cigarette and told us about his daughter that had been born on Christmas and that he had not seen her. Then he fell backwards into the water. Finally he was gone. The remaining other two started to talk very negative – how our feet will be amputated, etc., etc. Then they complained about my feet. I tried to move to hold them still. I bumped against theirs and that hurt.