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  S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine - Baltic Sea 1944 - 1945

 

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S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine 1935 - 1945

War-Zones of the S-Boats

 Baltic Sea 1944 - 1945

In view of the successful winter offensive of the Soviet Army against the Army Group North (Heeresgruppe Nord) and the fall of Nowgorod on 20.01.1944 and the withdrawal from the town Luga on 12.02.1944 the SKL envisaged the danger of activation of the Soviet Baltic Fleet in the Gulf of Finland. Therefore, the immediate transfer of the 6. SFltl (Korv.Kpt. Obermaier) from Ijmuiden to the Baltic Sea was ordered.

At this point in time the flotilla existed of 10 boats:

S 39 Lt.z.S. Brandi  
S 76 Kptlt. Matzen  
S 79 Oblt.z.S. Korn  
S 90 Lt.z.S. (KrO) Zillmann  
S 91 Oblt.z.S. Nolte  
S 97 Kptlt. Schnebel  
S 114 Oblt.z.S. Nitsche  
S 128 Oblt.z.S. Rindfuß Installation of 40-mm at Rotterdam
S 132 Kptlt. Witt  
S 135 Oblt.z.S.d.Res. Licht Installation of 40-mm at Rotterdam

Upon completion of boats "S 128" and "S 135" they were put under control of the 2. SFltl for one operation. During this "S 128" was lost on 23.02.1944 due to a collision with "S 94" (Oblt.z.S. Bosenuik). 

The infavourable weather resulted in the flotilla's entering Reval on 15.02.1944 only with seven boats. A change of weather occurred with icing of the Gulf of Finland, so that the boats were taken back to Libau. 

On 07.03.1944 the flotilla transferred with tender "Carl Peters" (Oblt.z.S. Reuthal) to Reval-Kopli and end of March into the Finnish skerries off Luwista. The flotilla was mainly operating against pickets and small boat units since there were no torpedoworthy targets. Thus it came to frequent gun fights.

On 14.05.1944 the 6. SFltl sank the Soviet guard "MO-122" in a fight east of the island. On 26.05.1944 the flotilla reported the sinking of a guard again.

After  the Allied landing in the Normandy had taken place on 06.06.1944 and on 14.06.1944 14 S-boats had been victims of an Allied bomb attack at Le Havre, the 6. SFltl was ordered back to the western front.  

On 16.06.1944 the 6. SFltl left Helsinki with eight boats. "Carl Peters" stayed at Reval, "S 79" in the shipyard at Libau. On 19.06.1944 Cuxhaven was entered. The weather permitted the transfer to Ijmuiden not earlier than on 25.06.1944. "S 39" had an engine failure en route and was dismissed to Cuxhaven together with "S 135".

Since the SKL had requested F.d.S. to make proposals how he could imagine an S-boat presence in the Baltic Sea, he proposed to form a flotilla of eight boats with skull-bridges (Kalottenbrücke = armoured bridge) from the stock of the S-Boat-School-Division (S-Boot-Lehrdivision).

In addition to the already existing two S-Boat-School-Flotillas there had been formed the 3. S-Schul-Fltl (Kptlt. Siems) on 15.06.1944. The 10. SFltl (Kptlt. Müller, K.) having been formed in March 1944 was performing training with the older boats "S 65", "S 67", "S 80", and "S 85" and the new boats "S 183", "S 185", and "S 191" based on Swinemünde. The boat "S 192" commissioned on 07.06.1944 was still at Travemünde for remaining works.

"S 65" ona training voyage in the Baltic Sea (Picture: Archives E. Skjold)

On 15.06.1944 four Finnish S-boat-crews arrived at Saßnitz, which were to take over the boats "S 64", "S 83", "S 99", and "S 117". Also the boats "S 862, "S 89", "S 92", and "S 98" were planned to be deliveredy to the allied Romania. The handing over of eight boats in this phase of the war was a bigger bleeding. The political and the military development, however, did not let it happen, the boats foreseen for Romania stayed in posession of the KM. The boats already on the Danube were stopped and integrated preliminarily into the Danube-Flotilla before they were transferred back to the Baltic Sea.

"S 85" in a harbour in the Baltic Sea (Picture: Archives E. Skjold)

The SKL insisted in detachment of a S-flotilla to the Baltic Sea. F.d.S. finally detached the  5. SFltl, of which only "S 112" was still in service. The 5. SFltl (Kptlt. Holzapfel) had practically to be newly taken into service on 03.07.1944. It got the boats "S 65", "S 67", and "S 80" from the 10. SFltl. From the  2. S-School-Fltl came "S 120" and "S 68"; from the 3. S-School-Fltl came "S 85". As tender the 5. SFltl got "Hermann von Wissmann" (Kptlt. Jakobsen).

The 5. SFltl with "S 65", "S 67", and "S 80" together with the tender left harbour on 12.07.1944 to transfer to Finland. The crews were poorly trained. The boats were marterialy not 100 % ready for action. "S 85" remained behind with propeller problems. As berth the bight west of  Strømslandet was planned.

"S 68", "S 110", "S 116", and "S 120" were at Stettin for engine overhaul. End of July "S 68", "S 85", and "S 120" transferred from Libau to Helsinki, "S 110" and "S 116" were fitted with a 40-mm gun at Gotenhafen (Gdynia).

Iniitially the boats operated from Helsinki, then from Hamina, without finding worthwhile targets. Mostly they were employed in picket and mining service. 

On 30.08.1944 the 5. SFltl was ordered to drop depth charges on the sinking position of "U 250" in order to destroy the boat. The submarine had, however, already been salvaged by the Soviets. On the way back "S 80" (ObStrm. Borkenhagen) run into a mine and sank with five men. 

On 02.09.1944 the Finnish prime minister declared the breaking off of the diplomatic relations to Germany and requested that Germany should withdraw its troops from Finland. Therefore, the 5. SFltl and "Hermann von Wissmann" transferred to Baltischport (Padilski) on 02.09.1944. On 14.09.1944 the offensive of the Soviet army against the Army Group North (Heeresgruppe Nord) commenced.

On 22.09.1944 Reval (Tallinn) was given up and the 5. SFltl transferred to Windau (Ventspils).

On 14.09.1944 thee 5. SFltl left harbour with four boats to mine the base of the 1. Finnish SFltl. The mines were laid as planned off Kotka, however, the Finns had observed the mining operation and could therefore not be hindered to leave Kotka. The mining was a measure within the operation "Tanne Ost", the occupation of the island Hogland. The German landing corps, however, was forced to surrender to the Finns. The attack plan reached the 5. SFltl so late that it could not prevent the Finnish S-boat attacks.

On 16.09.1944 the 5. SFltl undertook a sortie from Reval in direction of Hogland, without Soviet ships coming in sight. A Finnish S-boat group passed without a fight developing.

On 17.09.1944 navy personnel was recovered from the island Pein Tytarsaari by the 5. SFltl, among them the commander of the 7. gunboat-flotilla, which had taken part in operation "Tanne Ost".

On 18.09.1944 the boats of the 5. SFltl escorted the hospital ship "Oberhausen", a German-Finnish POW-exchange were to take place, but the Finnish boats did not appear.

On 17.09.1944 the OKM ordered F.d.S., to dispatch the 2. S-School-Fltl immediately for operations in the east. The flotilla reported boats and tender "Tsingtau" ready to proceed on 19.09.1944. The transfer was ordered not earlier than on 29.09.1944. 

On 01.10.1944 the boats "S 64", "S 76", "S 81", and "S 135" were available at Windau. When the commander 2. S-School-Fltl, Kptlt. H.H. Klose, entered Windau, the newer tender "Hermann von Wissmann" was transferred back to Germany because of the high air threat. The 2. group of the 2. S-School-Fltl ontinued training based upon Swinemünde.

In the following time the 5. SFltl and the 1. Group of the 2. S-School-Fltl performed common reconnaissance voyages frequently and laid mines in many nights. During a sortie into the Bight of Riga "S 110" was attacked by a Soviet aircraft and had to take many hits on  26.10.1944.

During September and October 1944 many Soviet ships were lost on the barriers: a submarine, four minesweepers, three small minesweepers, three patrolboats, five S-boats, two tugs, and a gunboat.

On 29. and 30.09.1944 the two flotillas laid mines again. A sortie into the sea area off Dagø and Øsel remained without enemy contact. The island Dagø had to be given up on 03.10.1944, on 05.10.1944 the Soviets landed on Øland. On 18.11.1944 the attack on the peninsula Sworbe commenced.

The 5. SFltl performed reconnaissance off Sworbe on 18.11.1944 with four boats in order to find a reported landing unit. They bumped into a unit of six motor gunboats and 14 small vehicles. When they attacked them they got under fire of units that had approached unnoticed. "S 69" and "S 65" attacked the unit sighted first with torpedoes, all failed. "S 68" and "S 116" attacked the other unit. A group of Soviet S-boats intervened in the battle and shortly after six aircraft attacked the boats. "S 68" took some hits, on "S 116" one engine fell out and one man was killed in action. The landing unit was not sighted.

On 01.11.1944 the boats of the 1. SFltl were widely spread: Only one boat, " S 65", was ready for action at Windau. "S 68" and "S 116" were not ready for action at Gotenhafen, "S 67" and "S 120" at Stettin, "S 85" at Königsberg, "S 110" at Danzig. Of the 2. S-School-Fltl were "S 64", "S 69", "S 76", "S 81", "S 99", and "S 117" ready for action at Windau, "S 83" and "S 113" were at Swinemünde.

In December 1944 the 2. S-School-Fltl performed three mining operations. Mid December of the 5. SFltl were ready for action "S 68", "S 116", and "S 120" at Windau. "S 65" was in the shipyard at Danzig, "S 67" was not ready for action at Stettin, "S 110" was not ready for action at Gotenhafen. On 23.12.1944 the flotilla was called back to the west and arrived at Kiel on 26.12.1944 with "S 48", "S 67", "S 85", "S 92", "S 98", "S 110", "S 127" and "S 132". 

On 25.12.1944 also the 1. S-School-Fltl with tender "Adolf Lüderitz" was ordered to operate at the front. It was ordered to Norway.

On 25.12.1944 the provisional base at Windau was ready so far, that tender "Tsingtau" could be withdrawn. On the same day four boats of the 3. S-School-Fltl - "S 24", "S 25", "S 105", and "S 118" - transferred to Copenhagen. The other eight boats - "S 68", "S 97", "S 107", "S 108", "S 113", "S 115", "S 122", and "S 123" -  remained at Swinemünde. "S 21", "S 22", "S 50", "S 101", "S 103", "S 95", "S 120", and "S 82" were in the shipyard at Stettin. The newly formed 1. Section of the S-Boat-Trainingdivision only had "S 19" at its disopsal.

The newly formed 1. SFltl (Korv.Kpt. Büchting) had been provided with the newly built "S 225" (Oblt.z.S. Behrens), "S 707" (Oblt.z.S. Neumeier), and "S 216" (Kptlt. Seevers) at the outset of the New Year. In January 1945 followed "S 708", "S 218", and "S 217" (Oblt.z.S. von Dülong). In March  followed "S 226" (Lt.z.S. d.Res. v. Glasenapp).

Early March the first boats were fully trained and "S 707", "S 218", "S 216", and "S 225" transferred from Kiel via Gjedser to Saßnitz on 12.03.1945. On 18.03.1945 "S 217", "S 708", and "S 226" (Lt.z.S.d.Res. von Glasenapp) folowed. 

In the evening of the 06.03.1945 Saßnitz became target of a RAF air attack, 191 Lancaster-bombers and seven Misquitos attacked harbour and roads. On the roads the destroyer "Z 28",  the subchasers "UJ 1109" and "UJ 1119" were sunk, the fully engaged hospital transport ship "Robert Möhring" burned out. Also the base installations of the 11. SFltl were hit by bombs, the Fltlt-Ing and an administrations officers were killed. The attack caused totally more than 500 dead and 300 wounded.

On 18.03.1945 the 2. S-School-Fltl was on a patrol off Libau. It bumped into a group of Soviet S-boats. "TK-66" was sunk in gun fight. "TK-195" was damaged.

On 22.03.1945 "S 216" and "S 218" brought Gen.Adm. Kummetz, the Kpt.z.S. Junge and Liebeschütz and the Freg.Kpt. Dominik and  Heydel to Hela. En route they were joined by "S 217", "S 226", and "S 225". At Hela additionally Adm. Buchardi embarked for the voyage to Pillau.

On 25.03.1945 engine problems occurred on "S 216", "S 708", and "S 217" which could only be solved at a shipyard, therefore, from the 1. SFltl only "S 707" and "S 218" were ready for action. 

On the German side the bigger warships remaining were used as floating artillery of the army. Therefore, the war at sea was left to the few S-, U-, and R-boats.

The Soviet Baltic Fleet comprised of: 

Battleship 1
Cruiser 2
Destroyer 12
Coastdefence Ships (T-Boats) 5
Submarines 28
S-boats 78
Minesweepers 73
Small Minesweepers 204
Armoured Boats 47

The Maritme Aircraft of the Baltic Fleet were at its disposal: 

Fighter Aircraft

365

Torpedo Aircraft 87
Bombers 74
Graund Attack Aircraft 176
Recce Aircraft 66
Artillery Support Aircraft 13

On 27.03.1945 the boats "S 64" (ObStrm. Deckert), "S 69" (Lt.z.S. Runge), and "S 81" (Oblt.z.S. Wülflng) of the 2. S-School-Fltl patrolled west of Libau. In te course thereof they bumped into nine Soviet S-boats. In a gun fight "TK-166" and "TK-181" were sunk. "S 64" captured the damaged "TK-199". An attempt to tow it failed. 11 men were rescued. Besides of that "TK-16", "TK-60", "TK-136", and "TK-200" were damaged. 

On 30.03.1945 "S 707" and "S 217" got the order to torpedo the battleship having been sat on ground on 27.03.1945 off Gotenhafen (Gdynia), since the battle mast was used as a artillery observation platform by the Soviets. The effect of the torpedohits on the battle mast were equal to zero.

End of March 1945 the new boats of the 1. SFltl after rectification of shortcomings were ready for action. It transferred with six boats in thick fog to Hela on 06.04.1945 with the installed FuMG (Radar) permitting a perfect navigation.

The harbour of Hela was already under fire of Soviet artillery. The auxiliary "Franken" and the submarinechaser "UJ-301" were sunk on 08.04.1945. The 1. SFltl rescued 98 survivors.

On 09.04.1945 occurred four air attacks against the harbour of Hela. The S-boats could avoid the attack by alarm-start. M/S "Albert Jensen" fully occupied by refugees was hit, "S 707" and "S 225" went alongside and took over the survivors. Shortly thereafter the ship sank. "S 226" was damaged by fragments. The Flak on "S 216" fell out because of a barrel burst. 

"S 216" went into the shipyard at Swinemünde until 19.04.1945 for installation of a new 3,7-cm-gun and towed thereafter a new built S-boat to Saßnitz ("S 710"?). "S 226" went also into the shipyard and did not return to the flotilla.

The 5. SFltl (Kptlt. Holzapfel) having been withdrawn from the Baltic in December 1944 got the order on 02.04.1945 at Den Helder to transfer via Kiel to Swinemünde. Main base of the flotilla became Laboe by order of the Admiral Western Baltic (Admiral Westliche Ostsee) but the flotilla was to transfer to Rønne/Bornholm.

During the night 09./10.04.1945 "S 708" and "S 225" operated off Gotenhafen. After the fall of the town Danzig on 30.03.1945 Soviet S-boats operated from Neufahrwasser in the Bight of Danzig. They sank the little steamer "Neuwerk" by torpedo with 13 crew, 854 wounded, 60 railwaymen, 7 orderlies, and about 100 refugees on bord. Only eight persons could be rescued by a S-boat.

On 15.04.1945 the 5. SFltl entered Bornholm with seven boats. On 01.05.1945 "S 216", "S 208", and "S 217" entered Rønne. On 04.05.1945 "S 216" and "S 217" sailed to Hela, took over Vizeadmiral Thiele and brought him to Libau (Lipāla ). On 05.05.1945 "216" and "S 707" brought him back to Hela.  

In the meantime the 5. SFltl had performed several voyages the the Pommeranian coast and to Rügen, to take over blocked off troops.

On 05.05.1945 in Rønne the German capitulation in the western area became known. Thereupon agreed the commander of the 5. SFltl and the CO of torpedoboat "T 28" to leave to the west in the night to the 06.05.1945, to land the crews and to sink the boats. However, "T 28" got the order to take part in the evacuation of the peninsula Hela. The commander of the 5. SFltl decided to take part in the evacuation of Kurland. At the muster of the crews he requested from everybody to step forward if they did not want to take part and to stay with the staff. Nobody stepped forward. The march of the six ready for sea boats "S 127", "S 67", "S 85", "S 92", "S 48", and "S 110" to Libau passed without incidents. The flotilla entered harbour in the morning of the 07.05.1945. It was welcomed by the commander of the 2. S-School-Fltl, Kptlt. H.H. Klose. Also the 1. SFltl was moored in the harbour.

In the morning of the 08.05.1945 the boats  initially took 100 army soldiers on board each, when ceasefire was ordered the S-boats enlarged the number of soldiers to be transported to 165. In the evening minesweepers and small minesweepers, harbour defence boats, tugs, coasters, and tender "Tsingtau" left harbour with approximately 14.400 soldiers on board, alone "Tsingtau" transporting 2.000 wounded. After nightfall the 1. SFltl with "S 707", "S 217", "S 218", "S 225", "S 226", the 5. SFltl with "S 127", "S 67", "S 85", "S 92", "S 48", "S 110" and the 2. S-School-Fltl with "S 64", "S 69", "S 76", "S 81", "S 83", "S 99", "S 117", "S 135". The 19 boats had totally about 2.000 army soldiers on board. Left behind were the mayority of the Kurland-Army: 42 generals, 8038 officers, 181.032 petty officers and ratings as well as 14.000 Latvian volunteers became Soviet POWs.

The 19 S-boats entered the Bight of Gelting without incidents in the evening of the 09.05.1945. 

"S 216" (Kptlt. Seevers) had stayed behind at Hela. He took 99 soldiers on board and left harbour together with two small minesweepers. They escorted for a time the ex-passenger-ship "Rugard" with 1300 people on board on her way to the west. In the afternoon of the 09.05.1945 about 35 groud attack aircraft attacked a convoy of war fishery boats west of Christiansø. Some pairs also attacked "S 216" with bombs, rockets and machine guns. One bomb penetrated the forecastle without detonating. On board there were two men killed in action, 13 severely wounded and seven slightly wounded among the embarked soldiers. On 10.05.1945 the boat moored at Kappeln/Schlei and disembarked the killed and the unharmed soldiers then the boat continued to Schlewig to disembark the wounded.

The base personnel of the 5. SFltl having remained on the island Bornholm chartered two fishing kutters with owners and could thus arrive at the Bight of Gelting.

During the last days of war another seven boats were lost:

Date

Boat

CO

Lost by

03.05.1945 S  201 Lt.z.S. (KRO) Kohrt Air attack at Kiel
03.05.1945 S 226 Lt.z.S.d.R. v. Glasenapp Scuttled north of Heiligenhafen
03.05.1945 S 170 Lt.z.S.d.R. Arnhardt Sunken off Bagenkop/Langeland
04.05.1945 S 103 Oblt.z.S. Heckel Sunken after hits by rocket bombs off Mommark
05.05.1945 Herold ex S 18 ? Sunken after hit by bomb off Laaland
07.05.1945 S 191 Kptlt. Weber Scuttled after collision in Sound of Femern
07.05.1945 S 301 Lt.z.S. Benja Scuttled after collision in Sound of Femern

After the German capitulation and arrival of the boats from Kurland the tenders "Hermann von Wissmann", "Tanga", "Tsingtau", "Carl Peters", and "Buea" and 50 S-boats were laying in the Bight of Gelting:

1. SFltl S 208, S 216, S 217, S 218, S 225, S 707, S 708, S 306
5. SFltl S 48, S 65, S 67, S 85, S 92, S 98, S 127, S 132
8. SFltl S 196
9. SFltl S 227
10. SFltl S 110, S 215, S 228, S 305
2. S-School-Fltl S 64, S 69, S 76, S 81, S 83, S 99, S 117, S 135
3. S-School-Fltl S 19, S 20, S 21, S 24, S 25, S 50, S 68, S 82, S 95,        S 97, S 101, S 105, S 107, S 108, S 113, S 115, S 118,   S 120, S 122, S 123

On 11.05.1945 at 11.00 hours a last ceremonial colours was performed in the Bight of Gelting. The F.d.S., Kommodore Petersen, spoke from tender "Carl Peters" to the crews lined up on their boats of 1. SFltl, the 5. SFltl, and the 2. S-School-Fltl. With lowering of the flag the S-boat force had ended to exist.

Muster in the Bight of Gelting (Picture from V. Kühn: Schnellboote im Einsatz 1939 - 1945)