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S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine 1935 - 1945

The War-Zones of the S-Boats

Russia Campaign 1941 (Unternehmen Barbarossa)

For Unternehmen Barbarossa minebarriers had to be laid to prevent Soviet units to break out from the Baltic. The S-boats from 1., 2. and 3. SFltl were to protect the minelaying vessels. With three boats of the 1. and two boats of the 2. SFltl the 5. SFltl was formed under command of the commanding officer "S 28" (Kptlt. Klug).

Only immediate before the commencement of the attack on 22.06.1941 the flotillas took up their starting positions:

The 1. SFltl (Kptlt. Birnbacher) with 6 boats and tender „Carl Peters“ in the Porkala-Cliffs off Helsinki with the mining-ship-group „Kobra“ and half of the 5. Räumbootsflotilla (5. RFltl).

The 2. SFltl (KKpt Petersen)with 8 boats and tender „Tsingtau“ in the Abo-skerries off Turku with the mining-ship-group "Nord" and the other half of the 5. RFltl.  

"Tsingtau" and Boats of 2. SFltl in the Abo-Skerries (Picture from: Bürger - Schnellboote vor)

The 3. SFltl (Kptlt Kemnade) with 10 boats in Pillau with 3 mining-ships and the 15. Minesweeperflotilla (15. MSFltl). Tender „Adolf Lüderitz“ stayed in Swinemünde because of the air threat.

The 5. SFltl (Kptlt. Klug) with 5 boats in Gotenhafen (Gdingen) with the 5. MSFltl.

The 6. SFltl (Kptlt Obermaier) still under training with the battleships „Schlesien“ and „Schleswig-Holstein“ in Korsør, to secure Sound and Belt against Sovjet attempts to break through.  

"S 54" in Camouflage-Painting -  Picture: Archives Förderverein 

The CinC of the Torpedoboats (Führer der Torpedoboote (F.d.T.), Kpt.z.S. Bütow) was to command the operations of the boats in the Gulf of Finland from Helsinki.

Between the 18. and the 21.06.1941 had already the first 1.500 mines and 1.800 explosive buoys been laid between Memel and Øland.  

On 22.06.1941 two further barriers were laid. The groups "Kobra" and "Nord" laid two barriers under escort by the 1. and 2. SFltl respectively in the estuary of the Golf of Finland. The other units mined the Moonsound and the Soelosound.  The 3. SFltl mined the harbour-mouth of Libau, the 5. SFltl the Irbenstraits. On their way back the Letuvian s teamship "Gaisma" was sunk by torpedoes of "S 59" and "S 60". The Soviet trawler „Šuka“ was sunk by explosives. The Estoian steamer „Estonia“ was brought up (later she was rebuilt and used as tender). Furthermore the Estoian freighter "Liisa" was sunk. During the same night a Soviet unit consisting of one cruiser and three destroyers sailed into the barrier „Apolda“ in front of the Golf of Finland. Destroyer „Gnevnyj“ sank,  destroyer „Gordyj“ was heavily damaged, the foreship of the cruiser  „Maksim Gorkij“ was torn off. The third destroyer only suffered light damages and was able to escort the cruiser into harbour. On 23.06.1941 a Soviet submarine was sunk by "handgranades and depth charges of "S 60" and "S 35". "S 31" and "S" 59 torpedoed the Soviet destroyer „Storoževoj“.

During the night 26./27.06.1941 the boats "S 43" and "S 106" were lost in a Soviet minefield north of Dagø, taking 19 crewmembers with them to the ground of the sea.

Boat with Camouflage-Paintig at High Speed in the Baltic Sea - Picture: Archives M. Scheer

On 30.06.1941 Libau was taken, so that the 3. SFltl with tender „Adolf Lüderitz“ was able to move to Libau on 04.07.1941. Since there were no mines to their disposal the boats undertook assault operations against Soviet shipping.  On 10.07.1941 during an attack of the 1. SFltl on a Soviet convoy three misfirings happend, during another attack on a second convoy 13 misfiring occurred. The ships could take avoiding courses due to the lightnes. The same happened on 14.07.1941.  

S-Boats with Camouflage Painting at Saßnitz - Picture: Archives H. Haag

The S-boats in the following time took over the escorting of own reinforcement trafic. In so doing the Soviet boat „TKA 71“ was shot on fire, The ex-Lethuanian Icebreaker „Lacplesis“ and the Soviet destroyer „Smelyj“ were sunk.  

Four S-Boats an Supply-Ship at Riga - Picture: Archives H. Frank

On 08.08.1941 the mining operations were reassumed. The boats took again the escort role. On 15.08.1941 the 1. SFltl sank the Soviet minesweeper „No. 41“. In the minefileds sank the Soviet transport ship „Vodnik“, der Lithuanian freighter „Utena“, and the Soviet minesweeper „T-202 Buj“. On 18.06.1941 " S 58" sank the Soviet minesweeper „No. 80“. On 24.08.1941 the Soviet destroyer "Engels", the minesweepers „T-209 Knecht“ and „T-214 Bugel“, the Estonian steamship „Eestirand“ (4444 BRT), and the Soviet navy tanker „No. 11“ (16.809 BRT), sank in a minefiled. The latter took 600 soldiers from the Reval garrison which had been on their way to Kronstadt with her to the ground of the sea.  

S-Boat at HighSpeed in the Baltic - Picture from: Bürger - Schnellboote vor

On 27.08.1941 Kptlt. Birnbacher gave over command of the 1. SFltl to the commanding officer of "S 60", Oblt.z.S. Wuppermann, in order to prepare the ordered transfer of the flotilla to the Black Sea at Swinemünde.

During the night 27./ 28.08.1941 the Soviets evacuated Reval. The ships run into the minefileds and suffered harsh losses. Also contributed the Luftwaffe to the decimation of the ships. Five destroyers, to patrol-boats, two submarines, three minesweepers, some tugs and smaller vessels sank and also the training vessel  „Leningradsovet“, the maintenace ship „ Serp i Molot“ as well as 24 transport ships (44.093 BRT). Heavily damaged were flotillacommandship „Minsk“ as well as two destroyers.

The 3. SFltl took part in the capturing of the Baltic islands. The 2. and the 3. SFltl carried out escort operations for the so called „Baltenflotte“, which was gathered to prevent the Soviet Baltic Fleet from breaking through from Kronstadt to Sweden.  

S-boat alongside "Carl Peters" at Turku - Picture: Archives Ola Erlandsson

On 24.09.1941 the 3. SFltl received orders to return to Swinemünde, were it arrived on 26.09.1941, to prepare for the transfer to the Mediterranean. The  2. SFltl was dismissed on 01.10.1941 in order to transfer back to the western front after a short overhaul period.

Only the 1. SFltl remained in Finland, to escort convoys and to carry out assaults against the Soviet traffic from and to Hangö. Also after evacuation of Hangö on the 26.10.1941 the flotilla stayed in Finland, to cover minelaying operations. Only when icing of the Golf of Finland threatened the flotilla was dismissed and returned home on 24.11.1941 because bad weather did not permit an earlier transfer.

Pre-Action Briefing of the 1. SFltl in a Finnish Fjord - Picture from: Bürger - Schnellboote vor

Tender "Adolf Lüderitz" and four boats of the 3. SFltl in Finnland 1941 - Picture: Archives E. Skjold