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S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine 1935 - 1945

War-Zones of the S-Boats

English Channel and Northsea 1945

The beginning of the year 1945 was dominated by bad weather, so that the boats did not leave harbour or had to return early from operations.

The 5. SFltl had entered Den Helder with six boats on 10.01.1945. During the night 14./15.01.1945 the boats of the 2. and the 5. SFltl laid mines on the route off Cromer. When returning "S 180" (OLt zS Pillet) run into a German mine. The torpedoes exploded and the boat sank. The dead bodies of CO and seven men washed ashore one week later. Three dead, three wounded and nine unharmed men could be rescued. 

During the night 15./16.01.1945 a torpedo operation was conducted with different attack points in the Thames estuary and off Zeebrügge.The 8. SFltl succeeded to torpedo the landing ship tank "LST 415" off the Thames estuary. The boats returned undamaged.


Bad weather prevented every operation of the boats until 20.01.1945. Not earlier than during the night 22./23.01.1945 the 4., 6., 8., and 9. SFltl left harbours Ijmuiden and Hoek van Holland with a total of 16 boats, to operate against convoys in the Scheldt estuary and in the Channel. Since no reconnaissance reports were available only the 9. SFltl could execute an attack against a struggler of a convoy. The freighter "Halo" (2.365 BRT) was sunk with a twin-shot. The other flotillas were pushed away by escorting vessels, In the course of this "S 168" (Oblt.z.S. Dau) got a 7,6 cm hit on the bridge, a 5,7 cm hit destroyed the port torpedo tube. One man was killed in action, six men were slightly wounded. "S 175" was slightly damaged. On "S 219" one auxiliary engine fell out, on "S 202" strong vibrations occurred, so that the boat took damage. Both boats had to be be reportet not ready for action. 

The 8. SFltl came into fights with a British frigate, a British sloop and three MGB groups of three boats each without having sighted the convoy. In the course of this "S 701" and "S 199" collided. By a collision between the MGBs "MGB 495" was severely damaged. "S 199" (Oblt. z.S. Quistorp) was damaged so severely that she could not be held afloat and had to be scuttled.

One of the last Immages of "S 199" before its Loss - Picture from Steve Wiper: Kriegsmarine Schnellboote

In some sources it is assumed that "S 701" was rammed by "S 199". Also it is presumed in some sources that "S 199" was sunk by the AA-batteries of Fort Tongue Sand. Hümmelchen reports: The survivors (of "S 199") went ashore off Fort Tongue Sand and were made prisoners of war.

But according to a report of OLt.z.S. (ret.) Quistorp on 25.08.2012 the survivors were rescued after 6 1/2 hours in the life-rafts by minesweeper RCS "Neave" from the icecold waters of the Channel. One man was killed  and three men were wounded by the propellers of "Neave". Oblt.z.S. Quistorp and 17 survivors were taken to Gillingham and became POWs. Oblt.z.S. Quistorp stated, that the seamanship and the friendliness of the Canadian "Neave"-crew was outstanding.


Locations of Forts in the Thames estuary - Picture from Wikipedia

 When entering Ijmuiden "S 194" run aground but could free itself again. "S 701" was taken under fire by own pickets, it had taken so severe damages by the ramming that it did not become ready for action again before the end of the war.  

During the night 23./24.01.1945 the 4., 6., and 9. SFltl left harbour with eight boats for a torpedo operation against the Thames-Scheldt-traffic. They had to return because of bad weather. The 5. SFltl left harbour with six boats for a mining operation. Due to engine failure on two boats and because of one boat loosing contact in bad visibility only three boats laid mines on the route. When the flotilla had laid its mines it was attacked from the air with bombs and machine guns. The leading boat, "S 98" took fragment damages on the bridge and at the ship's side.

During the night 24./25.01.1945 again mining operations were conducted against the convoy route off Orfordness. All boats returned unharmed to their harbours.

Since the ice situation at Rotterdam had worsened, the harbour had a close ice cover, on the Maas drifting ice was prevailing, the 4. SFltl with boats "S 205" and "S 703", the 6. SFltl with "S 211", "S 222", "S 223", and "S 704", and the 9. SFltl with "S 130" transferred to Ijmuiden on 26.01.1945.  

On 29.01.1945 the 2. and 5. SFltl left harbour with 11 boats to contaminate the route between Cromer and the Humber estuary. The bad weather caused a lot of trouble for the boats, part of the mines jumped out of their rails. All boats returned with severe sea damage and had to be reported not ready for action.  

Also on 31.01.1945 the weather did not permit any operation of the S-boats. On 03.02.1945 occurred an attack by 17 Lancaster-bombers against Ijmuiden.  

During the night 05./06.02.1945 the 2. and the 5. SFltl left harbour for a mining operation. Because of bad visibility they had to return. On their way back the boats were attacked with bombs without taking any damages. On 08.02.1945 occurred another bomb attack against the harbour of Ijmuiden with 15 Lancaster-bombers.

On 12.02.1945 another minelaying operation was ordered which had to be abandoned because of fog. The same hapened on 15.02.1945.  

During the night  17./18.02.1945 the next minelaying operation was carried out by 11 boats of the 2. and the 5. SFltl against the Humber estuary. On these barriers sank the French destroyer escort "La Combattante" on  23.02. and on 25.02. the trawler „Aquarius“. The freighters "City of Lincoln" (8039 BRT) and „Cydonia“ (3517 BRT) on 19. and 28.02. respectively were hit by mines without sinking.  

During the night 20./21.02.1945 20 boats of the 2., the 4., the 8., and the 9. SFltl conducted a torpedo operation against a southbound convoy, but had to return without having found the convoy.

During the night 21./22.02.1945 the six flotillas carried out a torpedo operation with 22 boats against a convoy off Smith’s Knoll. The boats "S 174" and "S 209" of the 2. SFltl suddenly were in the middle of the convoy due to poor visibility, "S 174" fired two LUT (lageunabhängiger Torpedo = course angle independant torpedo), "S 209" two T-1 (G 7 a), without hits. After reloading "S 209" fired two more torpedos, also without success. When retreating they heard five detonations. One freighter had been shot to fire. "S 209" got several hits in a fight with escorts. A fire could be extinguished quickly. One man was wounded. 

The 1. group of the 2.SFltl and the 5. SFltl attacked a convoy south of Great Yarmouth and could report four and seven torpedo hits respectively. The British freight steamers "Goodwood" (2.780 BRT) and "Blacktoft" (1.109 BRT) were sunk, the former Danish freighter "Skjold" (1.345 BRT) was shot to fire.  

All boats of the 2. SFltl had engine disturbances during this operation because of the diesel fuel containing salt. The flotilla fell out for two days in order to remove and to clean the tanks. The 8. SFltl attacked a landing unit off the Thames estuary and could sink "LCP 707". The 4., 6., and 9. SFltl were without success. On the way back "S 167" (St.Ob.Strm. Seifert) had to be given up after a collission

After a bombraid on the SBB Ijmuiden "S 193" (Oblt.z.S. Schuur) was caught in the bunker by debris.  

During the nights 22./23.02. and 23./24.02.1945 the 4., 6., 8., and 9. SFltl laid mines on the Thames-Scheldt-route, on the way back three boats of the 8. and two boats of the 2. SFltl shot down a fighter bomber. On these minebarriers five vessels with a total of 25.226 BRT sank. In the same night "S 167" was scuttled in the Hoofden after a collision. 

Since on 19.02.1945 for the first time Russian S-boats had attacked the traffic from and to Kurland, the MOK Nord ordered the transfer of the 5. SFltl to the Baltic. The F.d.S. proposed to utilize the 1. SFltl  in stead which was in the forming up phase, since all COs were experienced and familiar with the Russian way of conducting the war at sea, therefore, the 5. SFltl stayed in the west for the moment.    

 During the night 24./25.02.1945 the 4. SFltl again laid mines on the Thames-Scheldt-route with five boats. The 11 boats of the 2. and the 5. SFltl were to attack off Smith’s Knoll. Due to detection by air reconnaissance the escorts could push the boats away.

During the night 28.02./01.03.1945 14 boats of the 2., the 5. and the 8. SFltl were to carry out a torpedo-operation off Sheringham but did not find targets. In the same night in a battle with a British destroyer escort and a British frigate "S 220" (Kptlt. Dross) took a hit in the starboard engineroom and had to be given up. After blowing her up and further hits by the escorts a torpedo detonated and the boat sank quickly. The crew was rescued by the British besides of three men. 

During the night 09./10.03.1945 the 4. SFlt with five boats, the 6. SFltl with four boats and the 9. SFltl with four boats conducted a mine operation along the coast off the Schelde estuary. It came into a fight with a MGB and four MTBs, which had lurked for them without taking noteworthy damages.

During the night 11.03./12.03.1945 11 boats of the 2. and of the 5. SFltl had to break off a torpedo operation off the British eastcoast because they did not find targets. In the night 13./14.1945 six boats of the 2. SFltl, three boats of the 4. SFltl, five boats of the 6. SFltl and three boats of the 9. SFltl were to carry out a torpedo operation off Sheringham but they did not find targets. On their way out and back in they had to take numerous air-attacks. During the night17./18.03.1945 it went similarly for them.

The 2. SFltl could lay a barrier with 30 mines off Smith's Knoll during the night 17./18.03.1945. A torpedo operation of the 6. and 9. SFltl off Margate had to be broken off due to fog.  

The 6. SFltl laid 42 mines off the English eastcoast with seven boats during the night 18./19.03.1945 and attacked a convoy with torpedoes off Lowestoft.  Seven sunk ships and a torpedoed destroyer were reported. In reality only the freighters "Rogate" (2.871 BRT) and "Crichtoun" (1.097 BRT) were sunk. The 2., 4., 5., and 9. SFltl operated with mines and torpedoes on the Thames-Scheldt-route. On the mines sank on 19.03. and 20.03. two freighters with together 14.315 BRT, a trawler, and the landing ship tank "LST 80". A Liberty-ship was damaged. An attack of the 4. SFltl off the British eastcoast was  without success due to a bomb attack and a fight with British escorts.  

The 8. SFltl was not ready for action as a result of an attack against Ijmuiden with nine B 17-bombers on 14.03.1945.

During the night 21./22.03.1945 the 2. SFltl conducted a torpedo operation. On "S 210" the compressor of the middle engine fell out. Since the flotilla consisted only of three boats they turned around. On the march back the boats were attacked by Beaufighters with rockets and machine guns. On the leading boat "S 181" a fueltank, department VII and the armoured bridge were hit, the boat burst to fire. The flotilla-commander (Kptlt. Opdenhoff), the CO (Oblt. z.S. Schlenk), and 12 men were killed in action. On "S 210" the air pipe for starting the engines was hit. Therefore, "S 209" took over to rescue the crew of "S 181". The burning "S 181" sank 34 nm northwest of Texel. The 2. and the 5. SFltl were ordered to operate against a convoy but did not find any targets.  

During the night 22./23.03.1945 the Thames-Scheldt-route again was subject to a minelaying operation of the 4. and 6. SFltl. Already on their march thereto the boats were involved in fights with MTBs. "S 205" got a hit in the bridge superstructure. Two men were killed in action, two men were wounded. On "S 204" two men were wounded. 

During the night 25./26.03.1945 the 4., 6., and 9. SFltl were underway again to contaminate the convoyroute with mines. Only the 9. SFltl could lay its mines. The two other flotillas were attacked and pushed away by the destroyers escort "Arendal" (Norwegian) and "Krakowiak" (Polish) and the British frigate "Riou". "S 205", "S 204", and "S 703" had to take hits, in the battle three man were killed on "S 205". On the mines of the 9. SFltl sank two freighters with together 14.423 BRT and the British motorlaunch "ML 466".

The 4. SFltl laid mines with four boats during the night 25./26.03.1945. In the course of that they were pushed away by MTBs and fired at by a destroyer escort. A torpedo fired at this went wrong. On the mines sank the British "LCP 840". A Norwegian motor tanker was damaged.

Three more boats of the Northsea flotillas were lost due to bomb hits on 30.03.1945 when 358 B-24 bombers of the USAF attacked Wilhelmshaven, "S 194" was laying there for repairs after a mine hit in February off Ijmuiden, "S 186" and "S 224" were laying there for engine repairs. "S 22" from the 3. S-School-Flotilla which was at Wilhelmshaven for repairs was damaged so severely that it sank in the harbour of Wilhelmshaven in early  April. 

Lack of fuel kept the boats in their harbours during the first week in April. The transfer of the 5. SFltl to the Baltic commenced on 02.04.1945.  

Not earlier than during the night 06./07.04.1945 the 2. SFltl (Kptlt. Wendler) could leave harbour with six boats for a minelaying operation.  The mines were laid under fire of a British frigate and a British destroyer escort. Then "MTB 5001" and "MTB 781" intervened in the battle. "MTB 5001" sank after hits in the engine. On the way back three MTBs bumped into the 2. SFltl as asurprise . "S 176" (Oblt.z.S Stockfleth) rammed "MTB 494", which capsised and floated bottom up. "S 177" and "MTB 493" collided and the MTB also rammed the wreck of "MTB 494". During the battle "S 177" got several underwater hits and had to be abandoned. "S 174" took over the complete crew. "S 176" burst in fire by direct hits and had also to be given up. The crew was rescued by "MTB 497" and "MTB 775". Five men were killed in action. This was the last operation of the 2. SFltl.

In the evening of the  07.04.1945 15 Lancaster-bombers and two Mosquitos coducted an attack against the S-boat-bunker at Den Helder under cover of 24 Spitfires.

During the night 07./08.04.1945 the 4. SFltl with six boats and the 6. SFltl with seven boats conducted a minelaying operation against the Thames-Scheldt-route. In a battle with British MTBs "S 202" (Kptlt. Wiencke) and "S 703" (Oblt.z.S Steinhauer) collided. Both boats had to be given up. On "S 202" six men among them the CO were killed, on "S 703" seven men were killed. The survivors became POWs. "S 223" (Oblt.z.S Brandi) run off Ostend into a mine and sank. CO and eight men could be rescued, 20 men drowned with their boat. The 9. SFltl tried to launch "Linsen" in the Scheldt estuary. Strong sea state damaged the launching devises, therefore the operation was broken off.

During the night 12./13.04.1945 the 4., 6., and 9. SFltl with a total of 12 boats were conductiong a minelaying operation. Upon completion they came under fire of a British destroyer escort and a British frigate and some MTBs. "S 205" got severe hits but could as all other boats, which were additionally taken under fire by another destroyer escort, enter Hook van Holland.  

The situation at the landfront in the west and the lack of fuel did no longer permit further S-boat operations. The base personnel had been set in march to Denmark. On orders by Dönitz, to come to Flensburg, "S 174" and "S 209" had to bring SS-Obergruppenführer Seiß-Inquart to Germany. On his way back to the Netherlands he was captured by the British at Hamburg.

On the day of the German partly capitulation, the 04.05.1945,  the following German S-boat-flotillas were still laying in Holland:

2. SFltl Den Helder S 210 and S 221  
8. SFltl Den Helder S 197 and S 701
4. SFltl Rotterdam S 204, S 205, S 219, and S 304
6. SFltl Rotterdam S 211, S 212, S 213, S 222, S 704, S 705, and S 706  
9. SFltl Rotterdam S 130, S 168, S 175, S 206, S 207, and S 214.

The boats "S 209" and "S 174" belonging to the 2. SFltl were laying at Tönning and Brunsbüttel respectively.  


"S 209" at Brunsbüttel - Picture: Archives Förderverein

The boats "S 204" (Lt.z.S. Hinrichs) and "S 205" (Kptlt Seeger) brought  KAdm Breuning (Befehlshaber Sicherung West) from Den Helder with the charts of the mining areas to Felixstowe on 13.05.1945. Also on board were commander 4. SFltl, Korv.Kpt. Fimmen, and I a Operations of F.d.S., Kptlt. Rebensburg. Also boat "S 211" (ObStrm. Schneider), which after the capitulation had transported freed prisoners of war from Tereschellingl to Den Helder sailed to Gosport to surrender to the Royal Navy from where the complement as 'Surrendered Enemy Personnel' (SEP's) did not come into a POW-Camp but within a few days came home and in freedom via the Netherlands.

"S 205" entering Felixstowe 13th May 1945 - Picture: Archives Roderick Timms

Crew falllen in - Picture: Archives Roderick Timms

"S 204" and "S 205" at Felixstowe - Picture: Archives Roderick Timms

KAdm Breuning reports to the Harbourcaptain Felixstowe - Picture: Archives Roderick Timms

"S 211" of 2. SFltl *) with Ace of Cross with Bar en Route to England accompanied by a British MTB - Picture: BfZ

*) According to the KTBs of 2. SFltl and F.d.S. "S 211" belonged to the 6. SFltl, according to IWM "S 211" belonged to 2. SFltl on the day of the capitulation

Crew of "S 221" with the Boat's cCoat of Arms on the Caps on their Way to the Transport to the Netherlands - Picture: Archives Ola Erlandsson

"S 112" had taken part in the surprise coup of VAdm Hüffmeier from St. Peter Port against Granville on 07.02.1945 and had entered St. Peter Port again after  the action had been abandoned. With only one operational engine the boat could not participate in the operation next day and transferred to St. Lorient. On board were six army officers among them three bataillon commanders. The CO, Lt.z.S. Nikelowski, had a deadly traffic accident in April. The boat stayed at St. Lorient and was sold by the French navy on 27.06.1951 for breaking up.  

During the last year of war six ships were sunk with together 10.467 BRT. 

The own losses were: 67 killed in action, 20 wounded, 18 POWs. 13 boats were lost: "S 180" and "S 223" by mine hits; "S181", "S 186", "S 194", and "S 224" by bombs/aircraft weapons; "S 176", "S 177", "S 193", and "S 199" by/after artillery hits; "S 167", "S 202", and "S 703" by collisions.

It is of interest that the radiotelegrams encrypted with the supposedly safe "Enigma" were not only intercepted but also decoded by the British reconnaissance within a short time, so that the enemy was well informed about the movements of the S-Boats. The following radiotelegrams are serving as excamples:

Time of Reception in England Text
12.04.1945 17:47 S-301 with S-305, S-191, S-215, S-92 and S-48 moving from Wilhelmshaven to Wesermünde at 19:00. Speed 27 knots (W/T watch on Northsea-Short-Wave and S-Boat-Wave 1). Continue to move to Brunsbüttel at 22:30 with S-196 and one new-construction each in tow. Speed 10 knots.
12.04.1945 22:15 S-48, S-82, S-191, S-211 and S-305 departed Wilhelmshaven at 19:20.
15.04.1945 06:18 All boats secured at Wesermünde besides of newconstruction ?? S-316 at 02:30 Uhr. S-316 scuttled in position 533415 N/0081612 E. 17 m waterdepth, no obstruction for shipping.
16.04.1945 19:05 Departed Wesermünde to Brunsbüttel at 19:30 with S-301, S-306, S-215, S-191, S-95 and S-305 as well as 6 new-constructions. Speed 12 knots.

The above Enigma-radiotelegrams are from the Archives of Flemming Hansen.

The mentioned new-constructions presumably were boats of the loot "S 307" through "S 321", which were never commissioned. Thereof "S 316" was lost. The whereabouts of the other boats are not clarified. Probably they went to Abeking & Rasmussen at Gl. Hestehauge close to Svendborg/Denmark for final fitting-out. It is assumed that eight of them were scuttled on 6th May 1945 in the Lunkebight/Denmark.