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  S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine - Channel 1943

 

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S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine 1935 - 1945

War-Zones of the S-Boats

English Channel 1943

 

At the outset of the year 1943 in the west there were four flotillas available with a total of 40 boats on paper. The 2. SFltl (KptLt Feldt) with six boats and the 6. SFltl (KKpt Obermaier) also with six boats lay at Ijmuiden, the 4. SFltl (KptLt Bätge) with four boats at Rotterdam and the 5. SFltl (KptLt Klug) with six boats at Cherbourg. 

The three flotillas stationed in the Netherlands only carried out a few successful attacks because of the strong defences. On 05.01.1943 the 2., 4., and 6. SFltl with a total of 14 boats left harbour to attack a convoy off Cromer. The 5. SFltl left harbour to operate in the Lyme Bay. In heavy weather with hail showers "S 116" and "S 82" collided, the commander 5. SFltl broke the operation off and returned to Cherbourg. "S 116" entered with difficulties St. Peter Port/Guernsey.  In the 6. SFltl collided"S 76" and "S 119" in a snow shower, both had to go into a dock upon returning to Ijmuiden.  The other flotillas also had to return without success, since no enemies came in sight. 

During a common sortie of 2. SFltl ("S 29", "S 62", "S 70", "S 80", "S 83" "S 86", "S 104") and 6. SFltl  ("S 39", "S 71", "S 113") against a southgoing convoi in the night 08./ 09.01.1943 "S 104" had to take a minehit, by which the foreship up to the bridge was torn off and FkObGefr Hans Heß was killed in action and to men were badly and to men were lightly wounded. "S 113" went alongside of the avarist and took over the crew. The boat had to be blown up.

During a common mineoperation of 2. SFltl ("S 29", "S 62", "S 70", "S 80", "S 83"), 4. SFltl ("S 48", "S 78", "S 87", "S 88", "S 109", "S 110", "S 117")  and 6. SFltl ("S 39", "S 71", "S 74", "S 75", "S 91", "S 113", "S 119") at bouys 59 to 62 in the night 18./19.01.1943 "S 110" wass dismissed early because of a wegen severe wounding of a soldier. On the way back "S 109" was damaged severely by a minehit. The forship up to the radioroom was torn off. The gunner of the bow-gun was missed in action, there were some lightly wounded men. "S 78" and "S 87" went alongside the avarist and towed her over the stern until to gs took over. The boat was tugged to the Droogdock-Shipyard, there it was repaired poorly and than towed through the chanals to Travemünde. After the repairs at Schlichting she was employed as school-boat.

During an attack on 09.01.1943 "S 104" was lost by a mine hit, one man was killed and there were two seriously and two slightly wounded men. On 12.01.1943 also "S 109" was suffering from a mine hit, the gunner of the forward gun was missed in action, there were some slightly wounded men. 

On 24.01.1943 the three flotillas stationed in the Netherlands were ordered to attack a convoy which did not come in sight, so that the boats returned without results. The 5. SFltl carried out a mining operation from Boulogne.

Until mid of February there were no S-boat-operations due to the weather. 

In the nightt 17./18.02.1943 the 2. SFltl ("S 83", "S 86", "S 89"), , the 4. SFltl ("S 78", "S 87", "S 117", "S 120") and the 6. SFltl ("S 39", "S 71", "S 74", "S 75", "S 76", "S 91", "S 114", "S 119") left harbour to lay mines off Sheringham. Because of the weathersituation the operation was given up. In a new attempt without "S 91" and "S 114" the mines could be laid. The pack "S 76"/"S 39"/"S 71" run into a britsh destroyer which immediately opended fire. "S 71" had to tak e a hit inthe engineroom with a developing fire and was lost. Of the 26-man-crew seven men could be saved by the British and were taken prisoners of war, the other men were killed in action: Oblt.z.S. Rüdiger Suhr (CO), Lt (Ing.) Helmut Otto (2. Flottillen-Engeneer), ObMasch. Ernst Tober (L.M.), MaschObMt Freitag, MaschMt Reer, FkMt (ROA) Kronke, MatrHptGefr Lissowski, FkObGefr x, FkObGefr Hohmann, MatrObGefr Naujoks, MatrObGefr Nieckwieciek, MatrObGefr Kolbe, MatrObGefr Arps, MechObGefr (T) Zgolik, MaschObGefr Meier, MaschObgefr Schilling, MatrGefr Kracik, Matr Lengert.

During the night 18./19.02.1943 the 2., 4., and 6. SFltl with 15 boats were directed to engage a convoy. In a battle with destroyers "S 71" was lost due to a hit in the engine room and a developing fire. Of the 26-men crew seven men were rescued by the British and became POWs. The other 19 men including the CO, Oblt.z.S. Suhr, sank with their boat.

During the night 19./20.02.1943 the 5. SFltl attacked a convoy, "S 65" reported the sinking of an escort, "S 85" reported a hit on a freighter of 2000 BRT and the sinking of a tanker of 2000 BRT. On 26.02.1943 the flotilla left St. Peter Port/Guernsey for an operation in Lyme Bay. In the operation area "S 85" hit a landing ship tank (LCT 381) with a torpedo and entered it. Thus 11 men were taken POW. The ship was sunk by a torpedo of "S 65". The 2. group reported sinking of an escort by "S 68". "S 68" and "S 81" also reported sinking a freighter. In reality the British motorship "Modavia" (4858 BRT), the LCT and the British trawler "Lord Hailsham" and the Norwegian trawler "Harstad" were sunk.

During an operation against a convoy in the night 04./05.03.1943 "S 70" (Oblt.z.S. Klose) run into a drifting mine and sank. Five men sank with their boat, the others could be rescued among them three lightly and two seriously wounded men. On the way back one pair of the 6. Fltl came into daylight and was attacked by British Spitfires in two waves. "S 74" took serious damages, "S 75" burned out and had to be blown up. 14 dead, eight seriously and seven slightly wounded men were to be mourned. Own fighter protection was not available although requested. Also in the following time there were no enemy contact reports by the Luftwaffe.

On 07./08.03.1943 the so called tactical variant "FuMB-Lauer" (Radar lurking) was executed for the first time. The 2. and the 6. SFltl were to carry out the normal "Stichansatz" upon availability of an enemy contact report and the 4. SFltl was to lurk remote from the convoy route and only attack upon availablity of FuMB-detection (Radar) by the boats equipped with radar. Because of a move of the convoy routes it only came to an attack by the 6. SFltl. It was, however, pushed away by escorting destroyers. During the chasing of the S-Boats it came to a collission of boats "S 119" and "S 114", by which "S 119" was so severely damaged that it had to be abandoned, after the entire crew had been saved by "S 114".

In the night 03./04.03.1943 for the first time the tactical variant „FuMB-Lauer“ (radar-lurking) was carried out. Upon availability of an enemy-report the 2. SFltl ("S 29", "S 70", "S 86", "S 89"), the 4. SFltl ("S 48", "S 63", "S 87", "S 88", "S 110", "S 120") and the 6. SFltl ("S 74", "S 75", "S 76", "S 91", "S 119") were to carry out a sting-approach (Stichansatz) against a southbound convoy. In this operation the 4. Fltl lurking apart from the convoy-route was to atttack upon availability of the reports by the radar-fitted units. Because of a minehit on "S 70" (OBlt.z.S. Klose), which caused that the boat sank, after a fire of the fuel, detonation of the amunition and an explosion of the aircontainer of a torpedo, the 2. SFltl turned around already on the march out . Killed in action were: MaschObMt Gerhard Wille, MaschObGefr Günter Ullrich, MaschGefr Konrad Wahl, MaschGefr Erich Hauke and MechGefr Rolf Bruder. The survivors were rescued by "S 29".

By redirecting the convoy-routes it came only to an attack by the 6. SFltl on the convoy. It was driven off by the escorting destroyers. During the developing hunt on the boats a collision between "S 119" und "S 114" occurred, whereby "S 119" was so heavily damaged, that it had to be given up, after the entire crew had been rescued by "S 114".  

On the march back teh pack "S 74"/"S 75" was attacked by Spitfire-fighters with aircraft armaments, "S 74" was damaged (one man killed in Action, eight men seriously wounded), "S 75" was lost(11 men killed in action, six men seriousely wounded).

 On 12.03.1943 Gruppe West (Group West) ordered following the suggestion of F.d.S., the division of all ready for action boats in three equal strong groups, to be prepared for an imminent invasion. Therefore the 6. SFltl transferred to Cherbourg in mid March in order to reinforce the 4. SFltl, whereas the 4. SFltl transferred to Boulogne and the 2. SFltl to Oostende. After several fake alarms the transfer back was permitted on 25.03.1943. On 26./27.03.1943 the flotillas performed the march back. 

For the night 28./29.03.1943 a common attack on a convoy was planned. Before arrival at the attack position one group of the 2. SFltl bumped into two MGBs. During the fight the CO of "S 29" (OLt zS  Lemm) and six men were killed in action, besides of that there were four severely wounded. Only towards morning the boat returning slowly was found by the other boats. At the same time a message for the MGBs was caught which ordered them to return since air attacks were to be conducted. Since own air support was not available the boat   was blown up.  

On 26.03.1943 the 2. SFltl with boats "S 29", "S 86", "S 89", "S 92" and "S 94" transitteded from Ostende to Ijmuiden.

For the night 28./29.03.1943 a joint attack againt a convoy was planned. Before arriving at the attack-postion a group af the 2. SFltl run into two MGBs. During the fighting the commanding officer of "S 29" (OLt zS  Lemm) and six men (MaschObMt Rudolf Leandrin, StrmMt X, MaschMt Hans Litz, MechObGefr, Lothar Scheibe, MatrGefr Alois Müller, FkGefr Heinz Hinrichs) were killed in action, there were also four men seriously wounded. Only in the morning the slowly sailing boat commanded by the Seaman No. 1 (BtsmMaat Josef Ziegelmeier) was found by the other boats. At the same time the message was received directing the boats to return to harbour because of possible MGB-attacks. Since own fighter-support was not available due to the bad weather the boat was scuttled. BtsmMaat Josef Ziegelmeier was decorated with Deutsches Kreuz in Gold (German Cross in Gold).    

On 14./15.04.1943 the flotillas carried out a common mining operation once more during which the 4. SFltl could sink a guard. The light nights did thereafter no longer permit offensive operations from the bases in the Netherlands. The F.d.S. let the 2. SFltl transfer to Cherbourg and the 4. and 6. SFltl to St. Peter Port on Guernsey.  

 Until then the 5. SFltl had operated alone against the convoy traffic in the English Channel. It had mined the Lyme-Bay. On 13./14.04.1943 the British steamer "Stanlake" (1742 BRT) was sunk by "S 121" (Oblt.z.S. Klocke), "S 82" reported the sinking  of a freighter of 4000 BRT. "S 90" reported the sinking of a destroyer which could not be confirmed. "S 65" and "S 112" sank the destroyer escort „Eskdale“.

On 15.04.1943 the 4. SFltl sank the British trawler "Adonis". In the fight "S 83" took a 40-mm-hit.

After some futile operations on orders of Group West (Gruppe West) against targets that had been detected by FuMB (radar) the common minelaying operations of all four flotillas commenced. During the nights 23./24., 28./29. and 30./31.05.1943 the convoy routes along the southern coast of England were contaminated. Because of the fierce defence of the British with destroyers, MGBs, and night fighters and the fact that the minelaying operations were exactly measured by the British with radar, such that the traffic was deviated correspondingly the last minelaying operations were conducted with 321 mines and 84 sweepingprotections.

Thereafter the 2. and the 6. SFltl transferred to Ostend to operate from there against the Thames estuary, the 4. SFltl remained at St. Peter Port, the 5. SFltl at Cherbourg, in order to break up the defence which had increasingly become stronger. While the 4. and the 5. SFltl carried out a common minelaying operation, the 2. and the 6. SFltl had to stay in harbour because of bad weather. In this time reconstruction and repair activities were carried out. Thus there was only a total of five to six boats available in from mid June to mid August in the different groups.

During a transfer back to Ostend "S 68" and "S 77" on 25.07.1943 were intercepted just before reaching the harbour by MGBs. In the fight both machineguns and a main engine failed on "S 77", one torpedo exploded, the boat burst in flames and had a severe flooding.  After scuttling four men were rescued by the British, 12 men were saved from an inflatable lifeboat next morning. The CO (Oblt.z.S. Ludwig) and six men were missed in action. The pair leader "S 68" had without interfearing in the fighting and without reporting the enemy contact continued the march. Help from boats laying in readiness at Ostend was therefore not possible. Replacement and court-martial were the outcome.

During a bomb attack against Kiel on 25.07.1943 two boats belonging to the 8. SFltl, "S 44" and "S 66", were destroyed.

On the march from Hoek van Holland to Boulogne "S 88" run into a mine on 27.07.1943 but could be towed in to Dunkirk.

During the night 03./04.08.1943 the boats of the 2. and 6. SFltl succeeded in a fast attack against a patrol reported off Orfordness and sank the trawler "Red Gauntlet".

In the night 07./08.08.1943 the 4. SFltl ("S 88", m"S 110", "S 117", "S 120") and the 5. SFltl ("S 84", "S 121", "S 136") transitted from St. Peter Port to Brest and on 11.08.1943 to L’Abervrach. During airattacks by fighters and fighterbombers "S 121" sanki. Killed in action were: The commanding officer Oblt.z.S. Klocke, MaschObMt N., StrmMt Pries, MatrObGefr Dobryzew, MatrObGefr F., MatrObGefr Rogosen, FkObGefr Lübbert, FkObGefr Maste, FkObGefr X., MechObGefr Pachur, MaschObGefr Schiffel, MaschObGefr Störk). 

On "S 110" the Flotilla-commander 4. SFltl (KKpt. Lützow) and the commanding officer (Obltl.z.S. Graser) were lightly wounded. During a second attack "S 117" took hits in the forship and in the engine room, one man was killed in action, three men were wounded.. All boats besides of "S 110" were aut of war-readiness (aKB). That caused that these two flotillas did not perform any actions in the following weeks. 

For the remainder of month August the 2. and the 4. SFltl had to prepare themselves for an iminent landing. Frequent readiness interchanged with covering actions for minelaying operations by minesweepers and small minesweepers. In spite of some enemy contacts and attacks by  Typhoon-nightfighters with rocketbombs there were no casualties but also no sinking successes. 

In September the flotillas were filled up again, now all boats had an armoured bridge and the 4-cm-gun had been installed at large scale. The boats of the 5. SFltl had got the new MB 511 engines with 2.500 PS, permitting a march speed of 35 knots.

Since the nights became longer, the 2. and the 6. SFltl transferred to Ijmuiden, the 4. SFltl (KKpt Lützow) went to Rotterdam and was reinforced there from the 12.09.1943 by the newly formed 8. SFltl (KKpt Zymalkowski). The 5. SFltl remained at Cherbourg. 

Boats of the 4. SFltl leaving SBB Rotterdam - Picture: Archives Förderverein   

After a period of bad weather a first joint mineoperation of the 2. SFltl (S 62, S 67, S 80, S 83, S 86, S 89, S 92, S 98), the 4. SFltl (S 63, S 87, S 88, S 96, S 99, S 110, S 117, S 122), the 6. SFltl ((S 39, S 74, S 76, S 79, S 90, S 91, S 97, S 114), and the 8. SFltl (S 64, S 65, S 68, S 69, S 93, S 127) with Luftwaffe was conducted in the night 24./25.09.1943, in which the convoy-route off Orfordness was contaminated with the new mines which could switch themselves to safe in order to make minesweeping more difficult.  Because of an engine-failure "S 87" had to return. "S 90" was damaged seriously by a collision with "S 39". She had to be supported by "S 39" and"S 74" and was towed in to Hook van Holland.

The 4. SFltl was ripped apart because of their running into a British MGB-group. "S 96" sank the French navy-trawler "Franc Tireur" (314 BRT) and collided in the fighting with British MGBs with "ML 145" (73 t), which was so badly damaged that she sank. "S 96" was also so badly damaged that it had to be scuttled. On "S 96" (Olt.z.S.  Sander) was killed in action: OLtzS Wilhelm Ritter von Georg (CO-trainee), ObStmMt Jost, FkMt Heinr. Uhlmann, MatrHptGefr Hermann Berg, MatrObGefr Engelbrecht Well, MatrObGefr Otto Lehr, MatrObGefr Heinrich Lords, MatrObGefr Bruno Mauk, MatrObGefr Ludwig Hartmann, FkObGefr Hubert Jansen. MaschObGefr Alfons Albert, Maschgefr Heinz Sannow. 16 men of the crew became prisoners of war.

"S 68" got a hit by artillery which caused damage to both outer engines. "S 39" had an engine-failure and transitted back to Ijmuiden accompanied by  "S 74". When mooring at   Ijmuiden "S 79" lost the starboard-propeller, so that she was aKB.

 The minebarriers laid had no effects since the laying boats had been under radar-coverage continuously.   

F.d.S. therefore came back to the old procedures to carry out alternating minelaying and torpedo operations. The first torpedo operation of the 2., 4., 6., and 8. SFltl took place in the night 24./25.10.1943. The British defence had strengthened itself continuously such that the employed 32 boats under guidance of F.d.S. who was embarked in the 2. SFltl in the so called "Stichansatz" only could sink the trawler "William Stephen" by "S 74". 

 The 2. SFltl was pushed away by destroyers and the boats were subsequently involved in fightings with "MGB 603" and "MGB 607", "S 88" (St.Ob.Strm. Räbiger)  was hit serieously and burst into flames from bow to stern. She sank after the explosion of the airbottle of a torpdotube.  The commander 4. SFltl (Korv.Kpt. Lützow), the CO "S 88" and BtsmMaat Hubert Eigner (Seem. Nr.1), MatrObGefr Franz Kiedrowski, FkObGefr. Josef N. were killed in action.

"S 63" (Lt.z.S. Howaldt) in trying to assist "S 88" although also damaged seriously was rammed by "MGB 607" an had to be scuttled. MaschMatr Großmann was killed in action. 17 survivors of "S 63" were rescued by " S 64", which had taken tree 40mm-hits itself. "S 65" and "S 69" rescued a total of six men. 19 survivors dof "S 88" were fished out of the water by "MGB 603" and became prisoners of war.

"S 87", S 120", "S 120", "S 74", "S 68", "S 69" and "S 127" had to be reported aKB because of damages taken in the fightings.

From the action narrative of the CO of "MGB 607" it is known that the MGBs were equipped with hydrophones and radar. The tactics employed were to lay stopped and watch the hydrophones. Upon accoustic detection radar was switched on at short range and supported by radar data the S-boats were attacked with all guns that could be brought to bear. The S-boats were surpriced by this sudden attack.

Last leaving harbour of S 63 - Picture: Collection A. Hullmann

On 03.11.1943 the 5. SFltl bumped into a convoy, "S 141" and "S 112" had the chance to shoot but all torpedoes failed. "S 141" got a 40-mm-hit in the engine room but could enter harbour safely. "S 100" sank the British fishing steamer "Foam Quen" (811 BRT) and "S 138" sank the British freighter "Storea" (1967 BRT). "S 136" reported the sinking of the British freighter "Dona Isabel" (1179 BRT). "S 138" and "S 142" reported misses.

The 4. SFltl already turned around on their way out to lay mines because of an explosion in the crankshaftcase on "S 48". Because of an explosion in the crankshaftcase on "S 79" of the 6. SFltl the boat on her way out also returned to harbour.

The 6. and the 8. SFltl turned around after laying their mines because of bad weather. Because of an explosion in the crankshaftcase on "S 114" and an engine-failure on "S 116" the 6. SFltl came into the early morning light. It was attacked by six Beaufighters. "S 74" got a hit and had to be scuttled. Besides of one man, MatrObGerf Heinrichs, killed in action all crewmember could be rescued. Two other boats - "S 116" und "S 91" - were lightly damaged. 

During the night 04./05.11.1943 a common minelaying operation of the four flotillas was conducted off Cromer. On the march back the first group of the 2. SFltl bumped into a destroyer patrol and sighted a northbound convoy behind them. The British steamers "Firelight" (2841 BRT) - sunk by "S 80" and "S 89" - and "British Progress" (4581 BRT) - hit by "S 62" -, towed in but never back at sea again - were victims to the torpedo attack in which for the first time the area-search torpedoes FAT were used. 

The second group was taken on by two destroyer groups. In total there were eight destroyers in action because of the falling out of the MGBs, three at the convoy, three on patrol, and two in area search. 

Because of an engine failure the second group of the 6. SFltl came into the morning twilight. It was attacked by six Beaufighters. "S 74" took hits and had to be given up. Besides of three dead bodies all crew could be saved. Two boats - "S 116" and "S 91" - suffered lighter damages.

On 18.11.1943 the first four boats - "S 130", "S 144", "S 145", and "S 146" - of the newly formed 9. SFltl (Kptlt. v. Mirbach) arrived at Rotterdam. The heavy winter gales, however, prevented all further operations for the remainder of the year.

The balance of the year 1943 was unsatisfactorily: There had been sunk 26 ships with a total of 44.585 BRT,  in 1942 it had been 91 ships with a total of 214.885 BRT. This was a direct outcome of the strengthened and co-ordinated defence of the British. The F.d.S. talked of a crisis of the S-Boat-Force.

 The own losses were:  84 killed in action, 15 severely wounded, 19 slightly wounded, 37 POWs, 1 missed in action. 15 boats were lost: "S 104" and "S 70" by mine hits, "S 71", "S 77", "S 63", and "S 88" by/after artillery hits, "S 75", "S 44", "S 66", "S 74", "S 56", and "S 121" by bomb hits, "S 119", "S 29", and "S 96" by collision. In addition there was a loss of six boats by sale to Spain: "S 73", "S 78", "S 124", "S 125", "S 126", and "S 134".