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  S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine - Channel 1942



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S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine 1935 - 1945

War-Zones of the S-Boats


English Channel 1942

Until well into February bad weather hindered the S-boats at the west front. Only twice mine operations could be conducted. Ice on river Maas enforced transfer of the 2. SFltl (Kptlt. Feldt) with the boats "S 29", "S 39", "S 53", "S 62", "S 70",  "S 103", "S 104", "S 105", "S 108", and "S 111" to the still unfinished Ijmuiden. 

The 4. SFltl (Kptlt. Bätge) with the boats "S 482, "S 49", "S 50", "S 51", "S 52", "S 64", "S 109", and "S 110" transferred to Boulogne. The 6. SFltl (KptLt Obermaier) joining on 17.01.1942 with the boats "S 18", "S 19", "S 20", "S 22", "S 24", "S 69", "S 71", and "S 101" was stationed in Ostend. During a mine operation in the night 18./19.01.1942 off buoy 8 B "S 39" came under artillery fire at a visibility below 100 m without being able to see flashes from the muzzles by the first British destroyers at the east coast being equipped with radar.

In Boulogne the 4. SFltl prepared itself for the support of the operation „Cerberus“, the break through of the battleships „Gneisenau“ and „Scharnhorst“ as well as the heavy cruiser „Prinz Eugen“. The flotilla was filled up with the boats "S 39" and "S 108" from the 2. SFltl and the boat "S 69" from the 6. SFltl to 10 boats. In order to avoid to be mistaken with enemy boats by Luftwaffe the upper decks of the boats were painted in shining yellow. The flotilla was stationed to secure the flank at  seastate 5 to 6 during the break through on the 12.02.1942. During an attack by Spitfires "S 64" had to take hits with two seriously and two slightly wounded men, a fire occurred in the forward tankroom, so that the boat had to be sent back. During an attack by Swordfishes (torpedo aircraft) " S 69" shot one aircraft down. An attack by five British MTBs was without result. The break through was a success without further casualties.

The 2. SFltl laying in immediate readiness, did not come into action because of heavy weather coming up.

 After this operation mining and torpedo operations alternated. When the 2. SFltl after a minelaying operation was hunted by British destroyers during the night 19./20.02.1942, "S 39" and "S 53" collided. While "S 39" with a torn up side and a flooded compartment IV reached the homeport, it was learned from the British radio that from "S 53" (Obltl.z.S. Block) 18 men had been rescued, 8 men amongst them the commanding officer (CO) were missed in action.

On 15.02.1942 the order was given by SKL, to transfer the 6. SFltl with eight boats and tender "Tsingtau" for operations in the area Lofot Islands - Narwik. End of April the 6. SFltl (Kptlt. Obermaier) moored in the new base Svolvær with four boats.

Througout February and March 1942 the 2. and the 4. SFltl co-operated. Mining and torpedo operations alternated. During the night 09./10.03.1943 the 2. SFltl reported the sinking of two steamers with 5000 BRT by "S 70" and "S 105". However, only the British freight steamer "Horseferry" (951 BRT) was lost from a torpedohit  by "S 70".  

The 4. SFltl during that time laid mines between Dover and Dungeness. In the course of that the own Funkaufklärung (Electronic Support Means = ESM) realised, that the British coastal radar stations could locate the boats, measure the minefields, and direct the British convoys around the mined areas.  That was the momentary end of the mining operations in this area.

Because of the short ways from and to Boulogne the 4. SFltl could withdraw almost always from prosecution by enemy forces. The 2. SFltl, however, was always confronted with the alarmed defence. 

During the night 14./15.03.1942 "S 104" from the 2. SFltl could sink the British destroyer   "Vortigern" out of a convoy, the boats then had to march back without sightcontact as single boats or in pairs. On  "S 104" occurred a hit from a 12-cm-shell on the bridge without an detonation. There was one man slightly wounded by MG-fire.

After mooring the 2. SFltl got the message, that one boat had shortly been in contact with enemy MGBs. The flotilla left harbour to search for the missing boat "S 111". The boat had already been fought down by 3 MGBs and had been boarded and was being towed. There had been 14 men killed in action amongst those the CO, Oblt.z.S. Popp. 

The heavily damaged "S 111" under the White Ensign - Picture from Hümmelchen

When the 2. SFltl bumped into this towing, "S 111" was unfastened, the MGBs could escape in a wall of fog. On the march back the flotilla was attacked by 11 Spitfires. During the attacks lasting 30 minutes the boats had to take many damages, the were four severely and eight slightly wounded men. "S 111" had to be abandoned and was scuttled. All boats were out of  readiness for action for four weeks.

On the mine barriers laid by the S-boats during March two freighters and a tanker with a total of 11.534 BRT sank

The outset of the month April was determined by bad weather. Only a few operations were possible. During a minelaying operation one man was torn over board by a mine.

On 20.04.1942 the S-boat force became independent. The Commander of the Torpedoboats (Führer der Torpedoboote = FdT), who in the past had mainly cared about the S-boats, became Commander of the S-boats (Führer der Schnellboote = FdS). The torpedoboats came under command of the Commander of the Destroyers (Führer der Zerstörer = FdZ). The new FdS became KorvKpt. Petersen, who held this post – at last as Commodore – until the end of the war. 

The second half of April and the first week of May were again determined by bad weather. To be able to operate the 4. SFltl was transferred to Boulogne on 10./11.05.1942. The 2. SFltl laid mines off Orfordness and realised that the boats were continuously tracked by radar.

On 13.05.1942 the 4. SFltl together with the 5. T-Fltl. and the 2. and 8. M-Fltl. conducted escorting for the auxiliary cruiser "Stier". The T-boats "Iltis" and "Seeadler" were sunk by British MGBs. The S-Boats could rescue a total of 83 German and three British seamen. Thereafter the flotilla was transferred back to the fleet base Hoek van Holland.

Until early June the 2. SFltl and the 4. SFltl - in the meantime returned to Rotterdam - mainly conducted minelaying operations. Then the flotillas transferred to Boulogne, to lay mine barriers on the convoy routes along the British coast, although is was known, that the radarstations could measure the barriers exactly. The FdS transferred his staff to Wimereux. Mid June 7 boats were ready for action in the two west flotillas.

End June the two flotillas transferred to Cherbourg, to operate with just five ready-for-action boats under control of the Commander 2. SFltl against the British convoys. With the new tactic the „Stichansatz“ based on enemy contact reports by Luftwaffe, already during the second operation during the night 08./09.07.1942 they succeeded in sinking six vessels with estimated 22.000 BRT. In reality there were sunk by "S 67" the British tanker "Pomella" (6.766 BRT), by "S 48", "S 109", and "S 70" the Norwegian steamers "Kongshaug" (1156 BRT), "Rüsten" (736 BRT), and "Bokn" (698 BRT), by "S 50" the Netherlands steamer "Reggestrom" (2.836 BRT). "S 104" missed an escort with two torpedoes and "S 63" sank the British trawler "Manor", which the CO thought to be a tanker.

During the following months again minelaying operations were carried out due to the lack of enemy contact reports by the air reconnaissance.

In the meantime both flotiIlas were filled up by boats getting ready for action. The 5. SFltl (Kptlt. Klug) with the boats "S 77" and "S 68" was transferred to Cherbourg. On 26.07.1942 the 2. SFltl got order to transfer to Guernsey. On 31.07.1942 the 5. SFllt now with five boats arrived there and on 01.08.1942 also the 4. SFltl moored in St. Peter Port. During the night 01./02.08.19442 the 2. SFltl escorted a mining operation of the 8. M-Fltl.

With 19 boats the three flotillas attacked a convoy during the night 03./04.08.1942 but were pushed away by the escorts so that only three boats had the chance to shoot. They reported hits, however no vessels were sunk.

Since the nights became longer, permitting operations from the Netherlands, FdS transferred the 4. SFltl on 13.08.1942 to Rotterdam and the following day the 2. SFltl to Ijmuiden, the 5. SFltl transferred to Boulogne. He himself transferred with his staff  to Scheveningen. 

Early September 1942 the 6. SFltl returned from Norway and was stationed in Ijmuiden. Therefore, in the following period of time always three flotillas could alternating be on torpedo or mining operations.

On 11.09.1942 the returning boats bumped into a MGB group of three boats. During the developing gun fight "MGB 335" was so heavily damaged that it was abandoned, the other MGBs escaped. "MGB 335" was towed in, signal book, mine charts, radio and radar equipment were captured. The new 40-mm-gun on  "S 117" had proven totally worthful. However, there had been hits on all German boats and on "S 62" and "S 80" there were five heavily and five lightly wounded on "S 78" there were two wounded and one in the 6. SFltl.


MTBs of type Fairmile C - Picture: Imperial War Museum

The FdS requested as a consequence of this fight reinforment of the brigde armouring (Scull-bridge = Kalottenbrücke) and equipment with 40-mm-guns as well as Funkmess- (radar) and Funkmessbeobachtungsgeräte (ESM).

In September and October 1942 the 5. SFltl conducted alternating mine  and torpedo operations based upon Cherbourg but could only sink the trawler "Lord Stonehaven". 

During the night 06./07.10.1942 for the first time there were ESM-reports again. With 17 boats from three flotillas the sinking of one steamer of 7000 BRT ("Jesse Maersk", 1972 BRT), of the tugboat "Caroline Møller",and the minevessel "ML 339" could be reported. The torpedoed British freighters "Sheaf Water" (2730 BRT) and "Ilse" (2844 BRT) sank during towing in. The patrolvessel "Shelldrake" and the auxiliary minesweeper "Monimia" were damaged. The new GA-Winkel-Stellzeug (straightrunning angle equipment ), permitting the shot at an offset angle from the ships course) on "S 80" had proven worthful.

There followed a week with such bad weather that S-boat operations were not possible.

On 13.10.1942 the 5. SFltl with eight boats conducted an operation against a westbound convoy (CW) but did not find targets. Thereafter they searched for survivors of the auxiliary cruiser  "Komet", which had been sunk by British MTBs. From the 251 crew nobody survived.

In the same night the 6. SFltl with eight, the 4. SFltl with five, and the 2. SFltl with four boats operated from Holland. The 6. SFltl reported the sinking of four freighters with 8.000 BRT, in fact the Norwegian steamer "Lysland" ( 1.335 BRT) and the British steamer "George Balfour" (1570 BRT) were torpedoed. The burning "Lysland" was towed into the Humber. "George Balfour" broke into parts during the towing and run aground.

During the next weeks only a few operations were possible due to the upcoming winter storms. On 09.11.1942 the 6. SFltl with seven, the 2. and 4. SFltl with eight boats each were out on operations. They reported the sinking of six steamers with 16.000 BRT and the torpedoing of an escort. Sunk were only the Norwegian steamer "Fidelio" (1.843 BRT) and the British steamer "Brite Wandle" (1.482 BRT) was torpedoed. She was towed in. The boats "S 113" and "S 112" had to take some 4-cm-hits. On "S 113" three men were wounded.

On 19.11.1942 the 5. SFltl. conducted an attack on a convoy off Eddystone Lighthouse and reported the sinking of two freighters of  3000 BRT each, one freighter of 2500 BRT, and one freighter of 1000 BRT. "S 112" sank the British trawler "Ullswater". Furthermore the Norwegian freighter "Lab" (1118 BRT) and the British steamers "Yewforest" (815 BRT) and "Birgitte" (1595 BRT) were sunk.

On 30.11.1942 the British trawler "Jasper" was sunk by the 5. SFltl. The freighters of the convoy were not hit, there occurred a longer fight with British destroyers.

On 02.12.1942 the 5. SFltl with eight boats fought a convoy. "S 81" and "S 116" fired at the same time at a steamer of estimated 3000 BRT, "S 82" hit a steamer of estimated 2000 BRT, and "S 115" sank the British destroyer escort "Penylan". The French freighter "Gatinais" (1087 BRT) sank. On "S 116" two men were killed in action, on "S 82" tree men.

During the night 12./13.12.1942 again a "Stichansatz" could be carried out. The boats of the 2. and 6. SFltl positioned on the flanks could withdraw the escorts, the 4. Sfltl had a chance to shoot and reported four steamers and a tanker with estimated 12.000 BRT as sunk, in reality "S 49" sank the British freighter "Avonwood" (1056 BRT), "S 117" the British freighter "Knitsley" (2272 BRT), "S 63" the British freighter "Lindisfarne" (999 BRT) and the Norwegian freighter "Marianne" (1915 BRT), and "S 110" the British freighter "Glen Tilt" (871 BRT). "S 105" took a 10,2-cm-hit without personnel losses. "S 114" took a 4-cm-hit and some 20-mm-hits also without personnel losses.

In total during the year 1942 there were sunk in the Channel: Two destroyers ("Vortigern" and "Penylan"), one motorlaunch (ML 339), four trawlers ("Manor", "Lord Stonehaven", "Ullswater", and "Jasper"), 19 merchant ships with a total of 33.049 BRT. Torpedoed were five freighters with a total of 4387 BRT, by mines were sunk five merchant ships with a total of 14.667 BRT, damaged by mines were two destroyers ("Whitshed" and "Cotswold") and one merchant ship with 2820 BRT. Captured was one MGB ("MGB 335").

Own losses were:  14 men killed in action, 5 severely and 12 slightly wounded, 18 POWs. "S 53" was lost by collision with "S 39", "S 111" was scuttled after artillery hits.