|Wreck of "S 103"|
Translation by: Kalle Scheuch; Copyright © 2011 of translation Kalle Scheuch
Right to use text and pictures granted by Peter Klink
A dive to S 103 is a good opportunity to render the last honour to a fallen man of war.
Many divers will also know it as torpedoboat.
There is a big amount of small or big sights at the wreck, which will awaken the interest of divers with ambitions.
But cautions, in the area there is a lot of sport sailing and not all pleasure sailors are distinguished by keeping shart lookout for diver boats or divers in the water.
During the first days of May 1945 the Second Worldwar in Europe came to an end. In Westgermany the American and the English tank columns marched unstoppable in direction northeast while the Russian troops performed a last storm on Berlin. Early the month Fieldmarshal Montgomery started in his Commandtrain the negotiations about capitulation with German representatives in the Lüneburge Heide. As a consequence of that all German units of the fleet in northern waters in Sound, Small and Large Belt were to stopp all actions imediately, enter the next harbour and be surrendered to the Allies.
In the Fleet-diary W 18/76 the last voyage of S 103 was documented.
On Friday the 4. May 1945, only a few day prior to the unconditional capitulation of the German war machinery the S-boat S 103 was in square AO 77, said more understandable in the sothern part of the Little Belt off Alsen in the vecinity ofg the little harbour of Mommark, when the fate came over it.
The 62 Allied aircraft of type Hawker Typhoon, MK 31 De Havilant Mosquito FB VI and P51 North American Mustang ans P47 Republic Thunderbolt as well as B24 bombers of type Consolidated Liberator of the 2nd TAF /Tactical Air Force) and the Air Strike 9. USAAF/XXIX. T.A.C. (United States Army Air Forces / XXIX. Tactiacl Air Command) belonged to the Banff Strike Wink Coastal Command stationed in the Scottish Banff and were assigned to the RAF-Squadrons 143, 235, 248, the exile Norwegian 333 Squadron and the RcAF Squadron 404. At this point in time they were under the command of Wing Commander William (Teddy) Pierce. They had to carry out armed recconnaissance over Danish waters and had the orders to attack everything that was moving on the surface of the sea. To this unit belonged also three air rescue aircraft of the British aircraft factory Vickers of type "Warwick ASR/Mk 1" which were utilized as search and Rescue aircraft and were equipped with a lifeboat and two 1.800 HP (1.380 kW) Pratt & Whitney motors.
S 102 was detected accidentially through a whole in the clouds. Wing Commander Foxley-Norris ( + 16.03.1917, + 28.09.2003) the commanding officer on scene issued the attack order immediately whereupon the boat was instantanously attacked and sunk by rockets and aircraft armaments. The later collated sinking report of the RAF states detailed information about the success: "At least ten rocket hits over the waterline, many hits of the aircraft armaments, boat exploded and was left stopped and heavily burning."
A little further south were some minutes later U 2521 in a short and uneven fight sunk and U 236 heavily damaged by the same aircraft.
Remark: Organization of 2.nd TAF and scuttling of U 236 is left out!
Boat of type S-38 at flank speed
31 years should go by until the last chapter of the history of S 226 should b written. At the Langelandfortet on the island Langeland a lecture was held concerning dangerous goods on the shore and in the water. Among the listeners were also members of the local diving club. After the lecture the speaker was contacted by the chairman of the diving club. He explained that members of the diving club frequently were diving to the wreck of the German S-boat southeast of Mommark. He was of the opinion that the divings were very dangerous since the ammunition and ammunition parts left on board were still very dangeous.
Some days later the Danish Sea-Mine Service was pointed to the Wreck and gave them the Decca-position of the wreck. In Danish charts the wreck was not recorded, which was no wonder with a water depth of 30 m above the wreck, for no threat to shipping was to recon wtih. A localizing unit of the Danish Navy equipped with then very modern underwater localization equipment was sent to that position a little later. It was conformed that a wreck was laying on the bottom of the Sea. A Navy diver went down and reportet after surfacing again that it was a German SW-boat from the times of war and that it was still armed with torpedoes. The wreck was laying 33 m deap on the ground about 3 nm southeast of Mommark and about 2 nm off the coast of t he island of Alsen. The ammunition removal service was tasked with the possibilities to blow up the wreck or the ammunition. Unfortunatly there arose a problem since an underwater-cable was in close proximity so that the possibility of blowing up was discarded for the time being.
See NfS Nr. 9/77 of 4. March 1977
The wreck was later visited again by divers of the mine clearing service. This time it was discovered that in the proximity of the wreck also some depth charged were situated.
These activities were monitored by Danish and German media so that also the "German Authority for the Information of the Next of Kin of Killed in Action of the Former German Wehrmacht" with main office at Berlin got knowledge thereof.
The office which is dedicated to reveal the fate of soldiers started an inlightenment process, since a lot of the archives of German men of war including that of S 103 had been lost. After big endeavors finally a survived crew member was found. Obermaschinist (Engineering Chief) Hans Schott was living at Neuss and knew about nine other survivors among them Funker (Radio Man) Hans Grothe, the Maschinist (Egneering Rating) Ludwig Dumesnil, and the last Commanding Officer of the boat Berleutnant zur See Hans Wulkf Heckel.
"Bubblewatcher Diving Service" could get into touch with the former Commanding Officer of SW 103, Oblt.z.S. Heckel, and learned the true history of the last voyage of S 103.
At this end we like to thank Mister Heckel warmly for the very friendly and utmost informative details.
On 02.04.1945, it was a Wednesday, a sunny day, I took command of the Torpedoboat S 103 laying at the Danish Svendborg at the time. I was very familiar with the service on board since I had been Commander and Division Commander in a S-boat-flotilla in the Mediterraneum. With the exemption of some few soldiers with war experience S 103 was manned with young inexperienced soldiers.
Without the posibility to give them a basic training I got two days after my arrival the order being the onla Commanding Officer with front experience, I had served as S-boat-division-commander in the Mediterraneum and in the Black Sea, to sail the the boat which was laying at Svendborg with the 2. S-Boat-School-Flotilla to Flensburg and to find out whether the British troops had already advanced thereto. Because the only thing that was known, was that the British troops had passed the Eider already.
In spite of my doubts which I reported at higher authority I was ordered to leave harbour. It was almost to 100% sure that we would not be able to reach Flensburg undetected. The crew was not educated, the combat training on board could not be executed efficiently enough. But order was order and therefore we left harbour on 4. May 1945 about 14:00 h, with cloud covered sky and partly rainy weather. On board were 32 persons fo which two did not belong to the crew and had just to be brought to Flensburg. The air over Denmark and Northern Germany was always filled with enemy aircraft.
I was continuously searching the sky with my navy glasses. In spite of all safety precautions which were taken under the then conditions like e.g. double look outs, all battle stations manned, all weapons loaded, and wartime cruising condition an hour after we had left Svendborg we wereshocked by an explosion and many hits. Through a whole in the cloudcover fighterbombers had discovered us and the hunt was on. The first attack with rockets resulted in a direct hit behind the steering house and at the same time we received many small hits from aircraft armaments. Unfortunately the forward 2cm/65 anti aircraft gun model 1930 of Rheinmetall as well as the aft 3,7/C 38 anti aircraft gun and a mayority of the crew were fallen out by the first hits. Our other weapons (two MG 34 and 2 MG 42) also fell out within relatively short time so that we could not defend ourselves any more.
S-boat type S-38
The side-engines were down and the middle-engine did only run on a few cylinders. We were only limited maneuvreable. During the following minutes we were attacked by six fighter-bombers, two twin-engined and four four-engined, and shortly thereafter the boat were sinking. It was a pure target shouting.
Twelve saved or unharmed crew members which also I belonged to had to rescue themselves swimming and partly holding onto a life raft with only one hand. After three quarters of an hour in the very cold water we were picked up by a Danich fisherman who had observed the fight from ashore. They brought us ashore and took care of the wounded and cooled out crew members. We got warm covers, food and a housing.
Of 32 only 12 survived.
Just after we had arrived the island Alsen, I saw a German submarine (perhaps U 2521, the boat of Oblt. Joachim Methner) which was attacked by about 30 fighters and was taken heavily under fire. This boat did not come out better than mine. The superior strength of the aircraft was just too big. The U-boat had almost nothing to encounter the enemy. After a hopeless fight also this boat was defeated and sunk to the bottom of the Baltic Sea. By the Commanding Officer of an anchored minesweeper to which I went on board I learned that from 08:00 h the next day an armistice would prevail. That was a load off my mind.
With these words Oberleutnant Heckel ended his report.
The wreck today
The wreck is in a good condition.
There are many possibilities to come to the wreck of S 103. The best and safest of all possibilities is however to entrust oneself to a professional provider to enjoy a beatiful, safe and a carefree dive because it does not suffice to take a GPS mobile telephone and a boat and then to try and find the boat. It is necessary to have some experiences in the areas of navigation, seamanship und shiphandling and the other practices and conditions for divng at wrecks which are not necessarily to compare with the diving in a lake at home or other.
As almost everywhere in the Baltic Sea the water is green and turns with larger depth if one is closing the 33m mark into darkness. Depending on wind direction the is more or less current to expect. There are many days with good sight (more than 7 - 8 m) and there are days with less than 1 meter. There are therefore enough conditions to enjoy a good dove at the wreck. The bottom of the sea around S 103 is a bit boring. A little away from the boat the mud is getting thicker. There in the mud are surely laying a lot of ammunition or parts thereof, which is not detonated during the attack on S 103.
S 103 is a beautiful wreck which is in very good condition and has not got bigger damages due to trawler nets or similar.
The most remarkable of this boat were the two torpedo tubes on starboard and port sides of the hull. Unfortunately these torpedo tubes have been removed from the wreck with simple and brute force including their explosive ingreadients in the course of ammunition recovery. The 2 cm/C 38 Anti aircraft gun amidships behind the steering house is said to have been removed without permission by a Danish diving club, was then confiscated by Danish authorities and brought to Copenhagen but then came back to Sonderborg/DK on some way or the other. But that are only rumors.
S 103 seems to still be watchful because the barrel of the anti aircraft gun still points threatening towards the sky. The wreck seems still to wait for an enemy, which will however never come, except for such in the form of robber-divers. Unfortunately the boat cannot defend itself against this sort of enemies.
Still on the wreck is the 3,7 cm anti aircraft gun (it might also be a 4 cm gun) on a single carriage on the aft end. A handle to direct the gun can still easily be moved. The barrel is the home of peaceful and all sort of beautiful underwater plants.
The forward heavy machine gun has been removed by Danish divers already shortly after the wreck is found and is disappeared since, but the circular well in the forecastle in which it was mounted is still recognizeable. A little furhter astern shortly before the bridgehouse are three companion ways. They lead into the petty officers quarter, the chief petty officers quarters, and into the navigation room. To dive into them is, however, almost impossible. The rooms are already filled reasonably good with sand and to dive through the narrow companion ways with the diving gear should be avoided by responsible divers.
With som acrobatic one could dive into the rudder room but caution it is very very narrow. And one would destroy a lot of the vegetation. It is fully sufficient to look from the outside through the bridgehouse windows or the doors on the sides. With a little of phantasy one can discern the steering wheel under a thick cover of barnacles and blue mussels. Next to it are the remains of the engine room telegraph.
Directly behind the steering house one can see to the middle engine. Unfortunately also the engine rooms are filled good with sand. The big exhaust pipes with a diameter of 300 to 400 mm are partly good recognizeable. In all lthe boat had three engines of type Daimler MB 501 with 20 cylinders each and a total cylinder capacity of 134,4 l. With this motors the boat could sail at a considerable speed, such that is earns its name Schnellboot (fast boat) rightly. On the aft deck there are two cylindical containers. One of them has been torn out of its mounting, the second is laying partly next to its mounting. These containers were presumably additional fuel tanks as the commanding officer tild us becaus some of the boats were involved with the evacuation of refugees from the east territories.
As already said S 103 is always worth a visit but it is valid as in all other dives also here to be very carefully since also after the mentioned ammunition removal there may still be part of ammunition be on board or in the vecinity of the wreck. It is explicitly warned not to anchor or to fish in a perimeter of 0,5 nm.
Therefore, be careful with what you touch.
© 2002 by
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