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U-353 crew interrogation report
The following report has very kindly been provided by John Jones whose father, Lt Peter Morgan Jones, was the Navigating Officer on HMS Fame at the time of the ramming and sinking of U-353 in the North Atlantic, 16 October 1942. 39 of the 45 crew on board the U-boat survived the attack by HMS Fame and were taken prisoner.
The report was available on line at one time, but has since been taken down so it’s great to be able to provide a copy here.
It’s quite a hefty document so I have added this as a seperate page, but for a short account of the ramming of the U-boat, and the story of Convoy SC 104 please see here.
Mr Jones also provided the lead photo above and it is used with his kind permission. The photo appears to show the boarding party, which was commanded by his father, rowing away from the U-boat as it sank. The party briefly managed to access the stricken U-boat in the hope of finding information, an act for which Lt Jones was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He and others were mentioned in London Gazette (see the image below, also kindly provided by Mr Jones). Mr Jones says, “They weren’t able to spend long aboard, because the ballast tank vents had been opened and she was sinking.”
REPORT OF INTERROGATION OF SURVIVORS FROM “U 353,” A 500-TON U-BOAT, SUNK AT 1502 G.M.T. ON 16th OCTOBER, 1942.
I. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
“U 353” was sunk at 1502 G.M.T. on 16th October, 1942, by H.M.S. “Fame,” in approximate position 53° 54′ N., 29° 16′ W., while about to attack Convoy S.C. 104.
Thirty-nine survivors were landed at Liverpool by H.M.S. “Fame” and H.No.M.S. “Acanthus,” and arrived at the interrogation centre on 20th and 22nd October.
The outstanding feature of this boat is that she was experimentally fitted with a German Search Receiver to detect enemy R.D.F. transmissions. (See Section VII.)
Her captain also provided much information regarding tactics, routes followed and general matters. (See Sections XIII, XIV and XV.) It is believed that the majority of his statements were made in good faith.
The level of security-consciousness was comparatively low. The captain does not appear to have given his men any great measure of security training, or to have been interested in such matters himself.
The following are the English equivalents of naval ranks used in this report:
Kapitan zur See Captain.
Fregattenkapitän Commander (senior).
Korvettenkapitän Commander (junior).
Oberleutnant zur See Lieutenant.
Leutnant zur See Sub-Lieutenant.
The expression (Ing.) after a rank denotes Engineer, (M.A.) denotes Marine Artillery, and “der Reserve” denotes a Reserve Officer.
II. COMPLEMENT OF “U 353”
“U 353’s” complement was 45, of whom 39 survived. There were six officers, two of whom were midshipmen, three Chief Petty Officers, 12 Petty Officers and 24 other ratings. Of the ratings, 16 were seamen, four telegraphists and 19 engine room personnel.
Her captain was Oberleutnant zur See Wolfgang Römer, aged 26, of the 1936 term. He did his initial training at the Naval College at Flensburg-Mürwik, after which he made a cruise in the training ship “Schleswig-Holstein” to South America, calling at Dublin on the way home. He visited Southern England in 1936 in the training ship “Gorch Fock.” He joined the U-Boat service before the war, after becoming a torpedo specialist. He was commissioned in October, 1938, while he was at Neustadt. He then proceeded to Kiel and Flensburg, and spent a short while in the gunnery training ship “Bremse,” in which his father had served in the last war.
At the outbreak of war he was already at sea in the North Atlantic as Second Lieutenant in “U 40,” under Kapitänleutnant Wolfgang Barteb. (N.I.D. Note: “U 40” was lost on 13th October, 1939.) When “U 40” returned to port, Römer was sent on a training course at Plon, after which he was for a while on the staff of Fregattenkapitän Rose, Signals Officer at Wilhelmshaven, and of Korvettenkapitän von Schmidt, on the naval staff at Plön. He was later appointed to the building at Bremen of “U 103,” then commanded by Kapitänleutnant Viktor Schütze, with whom he remained until Schütze relinquished his command in April, 1941. He said that in this period “U 103” had sunk 113,000 tons.
Römer was then given command of a 300-ton boat, “U 56,” in which he instructed two batches of Rumanian officers. These Rumanians were stated to form part of the complement of the Rumanian submarine “Delfin.” (N.I.D. Note: This is probably the submarine “Delfinul,” of 713 tons, built at Fiurne.) They were trained in German tactics and especially in crash-diving at high speed, which greatly amazed them.
In early summer, 1941, “U 56” was sent to Kiel for refit for a short while, after which Römer, Kapitänleutnant Günther Kuhnke and Kapitänleutnant Hans Werner Kraus were ordered with their boats to the vicinity of the Shetlands. At the last moment, however, the operation was cancelled and the three boats were ordered instead to Helsingör. Römer said this was due to the outbreak of the Russian war. He remained the whole summer of 1941 in Helsingör and Copenhagen, with little to do and enjoying himself greatly. (N.I.D. Note: Kapitänleutnant Kuhnke commanded “U 125” until April, 1941, when he was given a new boat. Kapitänleutnant Werner Kraus is now in command of “U 83.”)
Römer recalled how Kapitänleutnant Otto Harms, whose supply U-Boat, “U 464,” was sunk on 20th October, 1942, had been the previous captain of “U 56,” and how Kapitänleutnant Werner Pfeifer, whose boat, “U 581” was sunk on 2nd February, 1942, had also trained in her. He knew both these officers well, and was particularly amused at coming to join his friends from the same boat as prisoners.
He had leave until the end of 1941, when he was appointed to “U 353” and went immediately to stand by her building at Flensburg.
Despite his four and a half years of U-Boat experience, Römer was not regarded by his shipmates as a popular or an efficient officer. There were two reasons for this: he was extremely difficult to please and was greatly lacking in initiative. He never gave praise where it was due, and everyone on board had the feeling that he trusted neither himself nor his ship’s company. As, however, they knew him to have so much more experience, they did not like to criticise him openly, often reminding them that they had no right to go on leave, though frequently indulging in long leave periods himself. “U 353’s” ship’s company referred to him as “Der Kleine” (“The Little Man”). To meet, Römer was far from being unfriendly and often expressed his admiration for the British as a people and in particular as seamen.
(iii) First Lieutenant
The First Lieutenant, Leutnant zur See Hanns Werner, was aged 21. He entered the German Navy as an ordinary seaman in 1937 and did his preliminary training at Stralsund, afterwards proceeding as officer cadet to the training ship “Schlesien,” in which he remained until mid-1940. He then went to the Naval College at Flensburg as a midshipman until September, 1940, afterwhich he joined the U-Boat service, serving in school U-Boats until early 1941, when he went to the U-Boat school at Pillau for further training as senior midshipman. After serving a few weeks in Torpedo-boat T.135 he was appointed to stand by “U 353” at the end of 1941, and was promoted Leutnant zur See in April, 1942. “U 353” was his first operational U-Boat.
(iv) Second Lieutenant
The Second Lieutenant, Leutnant zur See Hellmut Kruse, was also aged 21. His father was a rich man, being closely associated with the Deutsche Bank, and Kruse was well educated and extensively travelled. After serving a short period in the German Army in 1939, he transferred to the Navy and did his preliminary training at Stralsund. He then served some time in the training sailing ship “Albert Leo Schlageter” and then in “Schleswig Holstein” before being appointed to patrol boats in the Channel and North Sea, where he remained for a year. This was followed by a period at the Naval College at Flensburg-Mürwik, a period of service in an ex-Norwegian torpedo-boat and a course of U-Boat instruction in “U 37” before being ordered to stand by “U 353,” his first operational U-Boat. He was commissioned Leutnant zur See in early summer, 1942.
(v) Engineer Officer
The Engineer Officer, Leutnant (Ing.) Rolf Holz, aged 22, entered the German Navy at Stralsund in 1938, after which he went to the Naval College at Flensburg-Mürwik. Before the war he served as an officer cadet for a short while in “Schlesien” and then did another course at Flensburg. His next appointment was to “Gneisenau,” in which he served throughout the Norwegian campaign and until he joined the U-Boat service at the beginning of 1941. He then went to the Naval College at Kiel until mid-1941, when he went to the U-Boat School at Pillau, serving as Engineer Officer in a school-boat, and then stood by his first operational U-Boat, “U 353.” Holz had rather a good opinion of himself and felt that he could have commanded “U 353” better than his captain, with whom he was on poor terms. He was unpopular with the men, who thought him conceited and callous. Survivors said he sometimes punished them with “Flagge Luzzi” (shifting from whites to blues continuously throughout one day), although he knew it to be forbidden.
Fähnrich zur See Margis, aged 19, was the only one of the two midshipmen to survive. He entered the German Navy in May, 1941, at Stralsund, after which he served for about a year in “Scharnhorst” participating in the Channel dash of early 1942. He then did a course at Flensburg-Mürwik and was appointed to “U 353” during her building. He had never before had anything to do with U-Boats. Under interrogation, he was the only officer to adopt an unpleasing and unduly security-conscious attitude. He nevertheless appeared to have been popular with the ship’s company.
The other midshipman was named Fähnrich Petri.
(vii) Experience and Morale
Römer himself complained frequently of the excessive youth of his officers and their almost complete lack of experience. He said that the Engineer Officer was the only one of them with any previous U-Boat experience, and that only from a school-boat. He also said that the men were 80 percent of them without previous U-Boat experience and asked how he could possibly be expected to make a success of things with such a raw body of men. As interrogation progressed, an atmosphere of mutual recrimination developed between the captain, his officers and the men which gave the impression that “U 353’s” ship’s company had been put together in a hurry and with few experienced men from which to choose. None of the officers, except Fähnrich zur See Margis, gave the impression of being particularly Nazi in his outlook. Two of them deliberately said they were not Nazis.
Interrogation of the ratings established that none of the three Chief Petty Officers, seven of the twelve Petty Officers and only three of the 24 other ratings had any previous U-Boat experience. One of the Chief Petty Officers had formerly commanded an E-Boat.
III. EARLY HISTORY OF “U 353”
(i) Building Yard
“U 353,” a 500-ton Type VII C U-Boat of the series “U 351” to “U 380,” was laid down at the years of the Flensburger Schiffsbaugesellschaft in Flensburg in summer, 1941.
She was launched in November, 1941, and her ship’s company was drafted to her from time to time from then onwards. They were all accommodated at the infantry barracks in the Waldstrasse. For some of the time in Flensburg “U 353” lay at the old shipyards towards the west of the estuary.
“U 353” was ready for commissioning in early February, but ice conditions delayed this until 31st March, 1942. This was marked by a party on board a depot ship, attended by Römer’s father, a Korvettenkapitän der Reserve from the Admiralty in Berlin, and a number of other officers. “U 353” bore a recognition sign consisting of a white square, followed by three vertical white bars to one side of it, and was attached to the 5th U-Boat Flotilla at Kiel until going on patrol.
She remained in the vicinity of Flensburg for the next three weeks doing exercises, since there were too many U-Boats at the U-Boats Acceptance Command (U.A.K.) at Kiel for her to proceed there immediately.
On arrival at Kiel, about 21st April, she lay in the Wik Harbour, whence she did the normal U-Boats Acceptance Command trials in the Kieler Foerde. She also entered the pressure dock at the Deutsche Werke and was tested to the equivalent of a depth of 100 metres (328 ft.).
The U-Boats Acceptance Command trials lasted until about 20th May.
(v) Silent Running Tests
She then proceeded to Rönne for silent running tests, but these were interrupted by the threat of Russian submarines. She consequently sailed to Danzig, where she arrived about 23rd May, proceeding immediately to Königsberg, where she put into the Schichau yards for a few days for small repairs to her compressor.
(vi) Torpedo Firing Exercises
On leaving Königsberg, she proceeded to Gdynia, where she spent some five days carrying out torpedo firing exercises, and thence to Hela for the Agru-Front trials.
“U 353” spent about four weeks at Hela, which survivors admitted to be an unusually long time. Most of them were not aware of the reason for this, but Römer explained that it was because of his being called on to train a batch of German Engineer Officers. During the Agru-Front exercises, some very steep dives were done, including one at 56, which caused her batteries to spill. Kapitänleutnant (Ing.) Gerd Suhren, in charge of the Agru-Front, came on board several times. During some of the time that she was based on Hela, many of her ship’s company were accommodated on board the depot ship “Iberia” at Danzig.
(viii) Further Silent Running Tests
On leaving Hela about 3rd July, “U 353” proceeded once more to Rönne for her silent running tests, which had been previously interrupted.
(ix) Final Adjustments
She returned to Flensburg for final adjustments on 11th July. She had been prevented from doing her usual tactical exercises off Gdynia and Pillau, owing to the large number of U-Boats present causing congestion. One man said that the real reason for this was that the presence of Russian submarines in the Baltic had considerably interfered with existing arrangements.
During final adjustments, the K.D.B. was removed, the Search Receiver and S.B.T. (see Sections VII and VII) were fitted, and certain minor repairs to the engines were carried out. The ship’s company went on leave in watches.
(x) Tactical Exercises
In mid-August “U 353” sailed from Flensburg to Gdynia for her tactical exercises, which lasted until early in September. Diving tanks 1 and 2 were out of order, but were repaired locally.
“U 353” once sighted a Russian submarine which fired at her. It was not stated whether she sustained any damage.
(xi) Fitting-Out at Kiel
On 11th September “U 353” arrived in Kiel for fitting-out before proceeding on patrol. She entered Deutsche Werke for small adjustments and embarkation of her four upper deck air torpedoes, and then proceeded to the Wik Harbour, where she remained a few days fuelling, embarking provisions and electric torpedoes.
On the evening of 20th September a “Bierabend” was held in the Wik barracks for the ship’s company. Next day the officers met privately and drank a toast in champagne to the success of their first patrol.
IV. SOLE PATROL OF “U 353”
(i) Sailing Date
“U 353” sailed from Kiel at 0700 on 22nd September, 1942. She was accompanied by two other 500-ton U-Boats commanded by Kapitänleutnant Von Zitzewitz and Korvettenkapitän Hermann, and for a short distance by two “Sperrbrecher.”
She had provisions for ten weeks on board and carried 130 tons of fuel oil. It was expected that she would remain at sea just over eight weeks, after which she was to make Brest, where she was to join the 1st Flotilla. In view of the length of her patrol, she had orders to economise strictly in the use of fuel and consequently proceeded most of the time on Diesel-Electric. One man said that she was due to refuel from a Supply U-Boat in the week following her sinking. Römer, however, said that she did not intend to refuel until after eight weeks, when she would stay at sea for another four.
(ii) Passage to Kristiansand S.
She proceeded at five knots on the surface to Kristiansand S., where she arrived about 0700 on 24th September. There she topped up with fuel and minor adjustments were made to her compass, which had been adversely affected by damp. The Engineer Officer had to remain on duty in Kristiansand S., but the others went for motor trips in the neighbourhood.
“U 353” lay opposite the grain silos at Solyst while at Kristiansand S., with the two other U-Boats between her and the pier. Refuelling took place from two Norwegian oil lighters which came alongside.
(iii) Departure from Kristiansand S.
At about 0700 on 25th September she left Kristiansand S. accompanied by the U-Boat commanded by Korvettenkapitän Hermann, which had a defective gyro compass and is also believed to have developed an oil track soon after leaving port, having to put into Bergen.
“U 353” hugged the Norwegian coast northwards at four knots after leaving Kristiansand S. She was escorted by minesweeping and patrol boats (“Vorpostenboote”), but had no air protection. On making Skudesnes (off Stavanger), the escorts parted company, and she set course 270° on the evening of 26th September and proceeded until she reached the 100-fathom line, when she altered course for a position due east of Iceland. Römer said that after leaving Skudesnes until reaching their position in the Atlantic, all U-Boat commanders are allowed to use their discretion regarding diving. He himself kept east as far as possible for fear of aircraft.
While proceeding due north, Römer several times detected R.D.F. transmissions on his search receiver, each time diving immediately. He continued due north until he had reached his intermediate grid square before altering course to pass through the so-called “Rosengarten” between Iceland and the Faeroes.
(iv) Passage of “Rosengarten”
The passage of the “Rosengarten” began on the evening of 30th September and continued during part of the following day. Throughout “U 353” proceeded at about six knots on Diesel-Electric on the surface.
On 30th September, just as she was entering the “Rosengarten” area, she again detected an aircraft with her search receiver and dived for a short while. While proceeding through the “Rosengarten” Römer was woken every hour with reports of drifting mines, and in the morning sighted three only 50/100 metres distant. He never fired at any of them for fear of betraying his position. Heavy weather was encountered from now onwards, the wind force varying between 7 and 9.
Römer and his officers said they could not believe there were any moored minefields in the “Rosengarten,” since the depth of the water was much too great for them. They admitted, however, that aircraft were a great danger, and it was for this reason that they proceeded through the centre of the “Rosengarten” and not to either side. They also admitted the danger of the many drifting mines, which they thought the British had laid there in contravention of international law. There is no doubt that Römer and his officers were not informed before sailing of the presence of any British mine-fields in this area.
(v) Orders from Admiral U-Boats
After passing through the “Rosengarten,” “U 353” reported her position to the Admiral U-Boats and received orders to proceed, according to Römer, to a position roughly 400 miles west of Rockall.
(vi) Makowski’s Convoy
About 3rd October, “U 353” had just surfaced when she received s signal from the Admiral U-Boats reporting the presence of a convoy about 190 miles north-north-west of his then position. A U-Boat (number unknown) commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Makowski, had signalled the presence of this convoy to the Admiral U-Boats. “U 353” was then steering 200° and to attack this convoy would have meant altering course to 340° into a head-on sea. Römer said that, with a sea force 8 or 9 as it then was, this would have been impossible, so he decided to continue on his existing course. That night he submerged again because of the heavy sea.
He explained that the heavy seas prevented any U-Boats attacking the convoy just reported to him and many from reaching it at all.
About 5th October, the Admiral U-Boats ordered “U 353” and other boats to abandon the attack on Makowski’s convoy. The whole of the next day Römer spent submerged. On the night of 5th/6th October, Römer received a signal ordering him and Hesse and other U-Boat commanders to report their position and the weather.
(vii) Receipt of New Orders
Later he received instructions from the Admiral U-Boats to proceed to another position which sis not, however, involve any great alteration of course.
(viii) Arrival in New Position
On arrival in her new position about 6th October, “U 353” was one of nineteen U-Boats forming an approximate 360-mile line on 240°, boats 20 miles apart. Among the boats present were “U 413” and the boats commanded by Sturm, Hesse, Schulz and Makowski. (N.I.D. Note: Korvettenkapitän Sturm commands “U 410,” Kapitänleutnant Hermann Hesse commands “U 133,” Oberleutnant zur see Makowski in known, and Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Schulz is believed to command a U-Boat.) Other boats mentioned as having perhaps formed a part of this patrol sweep were those commanded by von Zitzewitz, Mengersen, Kapitzky, Neumann, Thilo, Hermann and Czygan. (N.I.D. Note: Kapitan von Zitzewitz, of the 1934 term, and Kapitänleutnant Kapitzky of the 1935 term, are both known to command U-Boats. Kapitänleutnant Mengersen, of the 1937 term, formerly commanding “U 101,” is known to have commanded another U-Boat since summer 1942. Korvettenkapitän Hans Werner Neumann, of the 1925 term, is believed to command a U-Boat. Korvettenkapitän Thilo, of the 1922 term, commands “U 174.” Korvettenkapitän Wolfgang Hermann of the 1928 term, and Korvettenkapitän Czygan of the 1925 term, are known to command U-Boats.)
Hesse’s boat took up the leading position in this newly formed patrol line. “U 353” was the seventh or eighth boat in the line and the sweep was due to begin the next morning at 0800 but was slightly delayed by the late arrival of some of the boats which had been following up Makowski’s convoy.
(ix) Commencement of Patrol in Line
As soon as Römer reached his position in the patrol line, he signalled his arrival to the Admiral U-Boats and commenced to carry out the standing orders for a U-Boat waiting in position. These were, he explained, to proceed on the surface at right angles to the line for half an hour, and then for an hour in each direction. He accordingly proceeded for half an hour at slow speed on course 240°-250° and then for an hour on 070°, before altering course to 250° for the next hour. Other boats did just the same. The nineteen U-Boats forming this line were named “Gruppe Panther.”
“U 353” and the other boats remained in position for one week. In theory, Römer explained, no enemy ship could have passed through this patrol line of about 400 miles without being seen, it being assumed that visibility was about 10 miles. In practice, however, he had to admit that day visibility was not usually more than six miles, while at night it was considerably less.
(x) First Sighting
While patrolling Römer sighted a fast independently-sailing ship at a range of about 4,000 yards. It was early in the morning and visibility was very bad, with heavy waves pounding the bridge. Römer could nevertheless distinctly make out her silhouette. In order to get into position to attack, he altered course in a wide arc, only to find when he had got into position that the ship was out of sight.
After a somewhat uneventful week had been spent in very bad weather, during which most of “U 353’s” crew were heartily sea-sick, one boat signalled that she had pursued an independently-sailing ship for about four hours without success. Römer said that it was quite usual for individual U-Boats to pursue independently-sailing enemy ships while forming part of a sweep, it being left to the discretion of their commanding officers to decide whether the ship pursued was worth breaking line for. If a convoy were sighted, the sighting U-Boat would be obliged to report it to the Admiral U-Boats, for interception by all boats in her group.
(xi) Second sighting
Early on 10th October, Römer sighted a ship, which survivors estimated to be of about 15,000 tons, sailing independently. Some said she was a floating whale factory. This ship was on a closing course and Römer decided to wait until she came closer, before submerging to attack at periscope depth. A few minutes later, however, he realised that her course gave an angle of 30° to 40° with his line of sight, and, since he had learned never to submerge and await his target’s approach unless the angle were 15° or less, he was forced to abandon his original intention.
He decided instead to pursue her, but the weather rapidly worsened and the vessel disappeared behind a rain squall. Undeterred, Römer pursued his quarry in the direction in which he believed her to have sailed for another two hours at the highest speed he could muster. He said he was not at all sure what her basic course was, since she was zig-zagging much of the time. He had the strong impression that she had sighted him and consequently zig-zagged more than ever. He decided, however, to pursue her in conformity with the Admiral U-Boats standing orders, which state that, when a ship disappeared in a rain squall, the U-Boat captain should not abandon the chase or wait to catch sight of her again, but should pursue in the direction in which he believes her to have gone. Römer thought that he was sailing south. About midday he abandoned the chase and returned to his former station. He did not report this incident to the Admiral U-Boats. Survivors believed, however, that she had been sunk later by another U-Boat.
The First Lieutenant and the Engineer Officer were highly critical of Römer’s decision in regard to this ship,which they felt might well have been sunk had their captain shown more initiative. They were not slow to voice their opinions and Römer, remarking that their attitude was not far short of mutiny, severely reprimanded them both.
In later interrogations, Römer stated that he was twice obliged to submerge while pursuing this ship, owing to aircraft.
(xii) Hesse’s Convoy. (Creation of “Gruppe Leopard”)
Next day, 11th October, “U 133” (Kapitänleutnant Hesse) reported the sighting of a convoy of three fast ships and three destroyers, proceeding westwards at about 10 knots, adding that she was in contact with it. This was followed by a signal from the Admiral U-Boats ordering the boats in Hesse’s vicinity to attack this convoy if weather conditions permitted. The position from which Hesse had announced his sighting was 120 miles distant from “U 353,” but, as the weather was favorable, Römer decided to close to attack. Estimating his highest speed at 14 knots, he required about 30 hours to catch up with it. Two hours later a further signal from the Admiral U-Boats ordered all boats from Kapitänleutnant Schultz’s to Oberleutnant zur See Baberg’s, which included Römer’s, to attack Hesse’s convoy. Römer was already on his way.
Six boats were closing this convoy, thus diverting 120 miles of the original 380 miles of the “Gruppe Panther’s” front. The weather was extremely bad, and “U 353” was forced to slacken speed. Römer was particularly angry at not receiving sufficient signals from Hesse, who was meanwhile keeping contact with the convoy. Whereas it was to be expected that Hesse would constantly report the position and speed of the convoy, he only sent one signal describing its composition. This caused Römer to remark: “There seems little point in going on. The weather’s shocking.” Wind was south-westerly and the bridge frequently under water, necessitating the lashing of the watch to the bridge.
At this stage what Römer described as “a typical signal from Admiral U-Boats” was received ordering boats in “Gruppe Panther” from L to T to proceed on a course of 340° at 10 knots, so as to replace those he had ordered to attack Hesse’s convoy in the line of patrol they had just abandoned. He followed this with a signal “Boats operating against Hesse’s convoy will be known as ‘Gruppe Leopard.'” The boats comprising “Gruppe Leopard” consisted of those commanded by Baberg, Bleichrodt, Hesse, Römer, Schulz and Makowski. Soon afterwards, the Admiral signalled: “‘Gruppe Leopard,’ despite severe weather, to continue the attack.” “That’s all very well,” said Römer “He’s sitting ashore, while we have to do the dirty work.” But he comforted himself with the reflection that Dönitz had himself served in U-Boats for a long period. He nevertheless signalled the Admiral that he considered further search for Hesse’s convoy useless in view of the severe weather. In reply to this signal, he was ordered to “Continue to operate against Hesse’s convoy.”
(xiii) “Gruppe Wolf’s” Convoy (S.C.104)
An unexpected signal was then received, via the Admiral U-Boats, from a group of U-Boats known as “Gruppe Wolf,” stationed about 400 miles to the west of “Gruppe Leopard” and consisting of 10 boats, reporting that an eastbound convoy had been sighted. This signal emanated originally from the contact-keeper of “Gruppe Wolf” and was passed by the Admiral U-Boats not only to “Gruppe Leopard,” but also to the remainder of “Gruppe Panther.” The Admiral U-Boats then ordered “Gruppe Leopard” to attack to attack the convoy sighted by “Gruppe Wolf.” This new convoy was proceeding eastwards at eight knots and Römer calculated that he would contact it by setting course exactly 270°. (N.I.D. Note: This was Convoy S.C.104.) He explained that the “Gruppe Leopard” was ordered to attack this convoy, because the Admiral wanted the boats of “Gruppe Wolf” to abandon it and return to their original patrol line to westward.
At this point, “U 353” switched from the Irish W/T frequency, on which she had been operating hitherto, to the American frequency.
Römer complained that throughout the following period he was unable to take sights once, owing to the sun and the stars never appearing, and so was obliged to navigate by dead reckoning. He estimated, however, that it would take him about one-and-a-half days to contact the new convoy.
Several of “Gruppe Wolf’s” 10 boats managed to establish contact with this convoy. Among them that commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Trojer, who was on his first patrol as a U-Boat Commander. But they were all beaten off by the escort vessels. Various boats made signals during the day at 1100, 1500 and 1700, that they had established contact, some reporting a convoy course of 80°, others of 90°, and others of 45°. Römer attributed this difference in reports to the fact that none of the U-Boats ever got near enough to see more than the mastheads of the ships.
At 1800 on 11th October, “U 353” was steering due west, expecting to establish contact at 2200. A rain squall, however, blew up and visibility was reduced to two miles. By 2300, Römer had still failed to establish contact. He then received a signal from a part of “Gruppe Wolf” which stood further south, reporting contact, whereupon he altered course to about 165°. At 0100 he submerged and listened for H.E.
He heard nothing, however, and thereupon decided to surface and steer about 70° in case the convoy had eluded him in the night. At 0200 he went below to get some sleep.
(xiv) Third Sighting
At 0500 on 12th October, the look-out reported “Shadow to port!”, whereupon Römer was woken and went on the bridge, where he saw an independently-sailing merchantman of 4,000 to 5,000 tons. “U 353” went to action stations and Römer prepared to attack. Weather was still very poor, with spray interfering with visibility. The vessel was only 800 yards distant and Römer turned away as it was getting light, ordering “Port 15, full ahead both!” He estimated the speed of the vessel at six knots.
Seas were breaking over “U 353’s” bridge, making it difficult to aim accurately, but Römer fired two torpedoes from Tubes 1 and 3, with depth setting 10 ft. and speed 30 knots, at a range of 2,000 yards. After firing, he submerged to periscope depth, turning away from his target to observe the effect of his shots. He was anxious not to be sighted, as he could not use his 88 mm. gun owing to the seas, and appreciated that he would be at a disadvantage if it came to a gunnery duel.
The ship altered course immediately after he fired the first two torpedoes. In order to ensure his kill he followed with a third, this time from his stern tube, at a depth setting of 6 ft. The ship altered course 180° and was still under way and looked as though she was going to ram him. Römer was therefore forced to alter course. It was growing appreciably lighter.
The Engineer Officer asked Römer whether the ship was sunk, since all below decks had heard two loud explosions, the sound of which carried clearly through the water. Römer had to admit, however, that the ship had not sunk.
He observed her through his periscope and a short while later saw a cloud of steam rise from her amidships. She then broke in two and sank.
“U 353” promptly surfaced, being then some 10 miles distant from the scene of the sinking and closed her at full speed.
As he approached, Römer saw that another U-Boat was already present among the lifeboats and wreckage. He called her by flags to discover her identity and found that she was the boat commanded by Korvettenkapitän Hesse (“U 133”). He then hailed her, “This morning I made two hits on the ship you have just sunk.” There was an argument between the two captains, and it was finally agreed that Römer’s two hits had caused the steamer to alter course so that she came exactly into Hesse’s line of fire and Hesse then fired the torpedo which sank her. Neither captain knew her name, By arrangement with Römer, Hesse signalled the Admiral U-Boats that he had sunk a heavily damaged 4,000-ton ship, and he and Römer agreed to credit themselves with 2,00 tons each.
Survivors from the sunken steamer were in lifeboats and, according to Römer, the two U-Boats proceeded among them to apologise for not being able to rescue survivors. Römer explained that he did not inquire as to the ship’s name, as to do so would have meant talking to the survivors then swimming in the water, which seemed highly distasteful to him. Members of his crew, however, said that he proceeded at full speed through the wreckage, showing the greatest callousness towards survivors. Some prisoners said that the signal to Admiral U-Boats had mentioned that survivors were swimming in the water, to which the Admiral curtly replied that in future references to survivors were to be omitted. The Engineer Officer, according to one man, expressed the view that in any case the rescue of survivors was of no importance.
The Engineer Officer, himself no friend of Römer’s, frankly criticised his captain’s action in expending so many torpedoes on such a small ship. Several ratings were also critical of Römer’s handling of this attack.
After his conversation with Hesse, Römer compared his estimated position with him and set course eastwards on the surface, still in search of the same convoy. He had established that Hesse was also unable to contact it.
(xv) Meeting with Baberg (“U 618”)
Ten minutes later another U-Boat was sighted and exchanged recognition signals with “U 353” by Aldis.
Anxious to know which U-Boat this was, Römer ordered his W/T personnel to check up on her call sign and ascertained that this was “U 618,” commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Kurt Baberg, of his own term. He asked what luck he had had, to which the reply was: “Two ships sunk, one of them with torpedoes,” Baberg, according to Römer, had been at sea much longer than “U 353,” but it was his first U-Boat command.
“Good luck to you,” signalled Römer, “I fired some myself this morning, but Hesse took her from me.” “Any signs of the convoy?” asked Baberg. “No,” Römer answered, “but I estimate it to be on such and such a course.” The two captains then compared their estimated positions, prior to parting company.
Baberg then set course 50° and Römer 90°. Hesse had previously set course 140°.
(xvi) Aircraft Attack on U-Boat in Company
About mid-day, on 12th October, “U 353” was proceeding on the surface in daylight in company with two other U-Boats, one of which was commanded by Bleichrodt. (N.I.D. Note: Kapitänleutnant Bleichrodt is believed to command “U 109.”) Visibility was good and the recent stormy weather was not quite so marked. “U 353” was to port of the other two, being five or six miles distant from the nearest. A rating was engaged in repairing her W/T aerial.
Suddenly an aircraft which Römer described as a Sunderland appeared out of low cloud and attacked one of the other two boats, columns of water arising around her. Survivors were horrified to see what occurred, as they felt that the target had very little chance of escape. Römer immediately gave the order to submerge to 70/80 m. (229-262 ft.), and continued on the same course. He said that aircraft depth-charges were generally set to 40 m. (131 ft.) Survivors then heard the explosions of depth-charges some distance away, which they realised were not intended for them but for the boat attacked. An hour later, hearing no H.E., “U 353” surfaced and saw one of the other two boats over to port. The third boat was nowhere visible, but a smoke float was burning on the surface, which survivors presumed must have been dropped by the attacking aircraft. Though he admitted he realised the danger of such a course, Römer at once proceeded straight for the smoke float to see if there were any survivors from the sunken U-Boat, but none could be seen. He also said that he saw no wreckage or oil patch. He did not at first know the fate of Bleichrodt’s boat, but heard afterwards that she had signalled the attack as having damaged her although not rendering her ineffective. (N.I.D. Note: At 1323 G.M.T. on 12th October, 1942, a Liberator “C” of Squadron 120 attacked one of two U-Boats in position 53° 53′ N., 33° 43′ W.)
As soon as he surfaced, Römer mounted his search receiver in case he should be detected by aircraft from behind the low clouds. The third boat also surfaced, but the two exchanged no signals for fear of detection.
(xvii) “Gruppe Wolf” Reports Contact
A signal was then received from “Gruppe Wolf” that contact had at last been established with the convoy. Simultaneously came one from Oberleutnant zur See Trojer, also of Römer’s term, reporting the sinking of 47,000 tons in two nights. Römer explained that Trojer had been with the “Gruppe Wolf” in the west and that he also commanded a 500-tonner. He thought that Trojer had sunk a ship with every torpedo fired. A telegraphist said that Trojer had sunk eight ships with nine torpedoes.
(xviii) Meeting with Schulz’s U-Boat
Römer continued his search for the convoy, but again contact was lost. On 15th October he met another U-Boat, commanded by Schulz, who was also not in contact. (N.I.D. Note: The spelling of this name is not certain, and it is not known which U-Boat he commands.) Schulz and Römer parted company, Schulz later reporting a destroyer elsewhere. Römer continued on his previous course. By this time he admitted to being thoroughly tired.
(xix) Pursuit of S.C.104
Survivors said that all the shadowing boats had been attacked at some period. They were very impressed by the strength of the escort, which they described as consisting of four corvettes and two destroyers, compared with the total of two or three escort vessels which they believed to be normal.
Between the time of abandoning the first convoy and sighting the second, “U 353” received W/T signals from the other boats reporting their experiences. One reported that she had been D/Cd. for six hours on end, and many of her instruments were out of order, another that she had
been D/Cd. for four hours and other that they had been forced to abandon their attack. One boat signalled that she was no longer navigable and two other boats were ordered to her assistance, only to find that she had meanwhile been got under control.
(N.I.D. Note: Details of the attacks made by the escorts of this convoy can be found in C.B. 04050 (11)/42.)
Survivors thought that at least one of the U-Boats shadowing this convoy had been lost. They said that the Admiral U-Boats had twice signalled one boat to make her position and only received a reply three days later, whereas another boat had altogether failed to give her position. They therefore presumed her to be lost.
(N.I.D. Note: At 2331 on 15th October, H.M.S. “Viscount” in station 3,000 yards 30° on the port bow of the convoy, obtained an R.D.F. contact, range 6,200 yards, and altered to close at 15 knots. At 2342, when the range had been reduced to 2,000 yards, revolutions for 16 knots were ordered and she closed to ram. At 2344 the U-Boat was sighted fine on the port bow, fully surfaced. She increased speed and “Snaked the line,” commencing to port. “Viscount” followed her swing to port, but failed to catch her as she swung back to starboard. In “Viscount’s” opinion, the U-Boat then committed suicide by swinging back to port right across “Viscount’s” bows, who was then turning under full starboard rudder. “Viscount” struck the U-Boat on her port side about 20 ft. abaft the conning-tower. The stern hit her fairly, then lifted and crashed down on top of her, pinning her for about 15 seconds before she dragged clear to port with her back broken. The U-Boat drifted away to a distance of about 30 yards and passed slowly down the port side as “Viscount” forged ahead. She received quick broadside from every gun as she passed, receiving many hits from the close-range weapons. A heavy D/C set to 140 ft., was placed close alongside her by one of the quarter throwers as she sank stern first at 2347. The number “U 48” is reported to have been seen on her conning tower.
This attack has been assessed as “known sunk” and the U-Boat involved was no doubt the one referred to above as having failed to reply to Admiral U-Boats’ request for its position.)
(xx) Escort Attacks “U 353”
At about 0500 on 16th October, “U 353” was proceeding at full speed on the surface. Nothing was in sight and Römer was asleep. It was pitch dark. The look-out suddenly noticed a shadow and called his captain on to the bridge. There Rome saw a series of shadows all around him, the nearest of which he judged to be about five miles distant. He could not make out its outline, but estimated it to be about 60° to port.
Römer accordingly went hard a-starboard. Meanwhile, he noticed that the outline of the vessel sighted was narrowing, and he assumed that she was either turning towards him or away from him. He estimated her to be 2,500-3,000 yards distant. At the same time, he observed that her form seemed larger, and therefore decided she was making for him. He believed that she must have contacted him with some gear, or that his wake had betrayed him. In any case, two minutes later she opened fire on him, running right past him in the dark. This gave Römer the impression that she had not actually sighted him. She also fired several rounds of starshell. The fire, according to survivors, went over them.
Römer then submerged to 150 metres (492 ft.). He explained that is was a first principle in U-Boats never to allow the enemy time to establish accurate gunnery range.
He heard 20 depth-charges exploding at a distance of about 400 yards, a range which he described as not fatal but unpleasantly close. This caused a few instruments to break, especially the gauges, but the electric lighting, to everyone’s relief, remained in order. The attack lasted about one hour, Römer taking evasive action throughout.
One prisoner said that Römer twice used his Submarine Bubble Target during this attack.
(N.I.D. Note: At 0253 G.M.T. on 16th October, H.M.S. “Eglantine,” escorting Convoy S.C.104, made an R.D.F. contact 240°, 2000 yards. She turned to the bearing at full speed and opened fire with Oerlikons to illuminate target, but she did not sight it. At 0255 at 1,800 yards R.D.F. contact was lost and Asdic reported H.E. and echo from wake and bubbles. Asdic contact was obtained at 1,000 yards, echo slightly high. At 0258 “Eglantine” attacked with a full pattern of depth-charges set to 100-150 ft., the U-Boat turning to port. Firing was too late by at least 10 seconds. Echo remained astern with doppler low. At 0305 “Eglantine” went in for another attack, but owing to a breakdown of communications this failed. Contact was lost at 0306, but was regained at 0308, with doppler slightly high, 220° at 700 yards. At 0312 “Eglantine” attacked with four depth-charges set to 150-385 ft. Contact was lost at 400 yards and regained astern, only to be immediately lost again, only to be immediately lost again. Contact was regained at 800 yards bearing 010, doppler slightly low. At 0320 “Eglantine” delivered another attack with full pattern 150-300 ft. afterwards regaining echo astern, but this faded. At 0330 she made for the convoy and was in station at 0402.)
An hour after the depth-charge attack was over, Römer could hear no H.E. and therefore surfaced. It was then 0500 G.S.T. and still dark.
The Admiral U-Boats had previously signalled the speed of this convoy as eight knots, and Römer had received estimated position and course made good from the other shadowing U-Boats. He accordingly set course so that, by proceeding at full speed, he would arrive at a given position ahead of the convoy at a stated time. He assumed, in making his calculations, that the convoy would not in the meanwhile alter course.
Visibility was very poor and, as dawn was breaking, he altered course slightly away from the estimated course of the convoy so as not to be surprised by its escorts in the half-light. He reckoned that he would then be six to seven miles on its beam, a distance which, in view of the poor visibility, he felt to be safe. He proceeded on the surface the whole forenoon in this manner.
(xxi) “U 353” Submerges to Await Convoy
At 1305 he estimated himself to be about eight miles ahead of the convoy and at 1315, visibility being then only about 500 yards, he submerged and, proceeding at his slowest underwater speed, started to listen on his hydrophones. He heard nothing, however, and then rose to 20 metres (65 ft.) or just below periscope depth. Many of his ship’s company thought this was a very foolish move, saying that he should either have remained at periscope depth or gone to a depth where he would have been relatively safe from depth-charge attacks.
A short while before submerging, he had received a signal from the Admiral U-Boats, reporting the presence of a second westbound convoy in the vicinity. Römer had calculated that the two convoys would cross at about 1800 that evening. He therefore felt that, even if he failed to attack the eastbound convoy which he had contacted that morning, he would have a good chance of attacking the westbound.
V. SINKING OF “U 353” (All times G.M.T.)
At about 1110 on 16th October, 1942, “U 353 was proceeding dead slow at a depth of 20 metres (65 ft.). Römer thought that he was still about eight miles to eastward of the eastbound convoy and, as he had so far picked up no H.E., went to his cabin, according to his own version , to study his charts. Ratings said that he went to sleep. The First Lieutenant admitted to having lain down in his bunk.
The P.O. Telegraphist operated the multiple hydrophones, and at about 1115, soon after Römer went to his cabin, heard faint propeller noises bearing 045° relative. “U 353” was then steering in the general direction of the convoy. The operator said he could hear the H.E. of what he imagined to be the leading ship in the convoy, giving 54 to 56 r.p.m.
He reported this to Römer, who immediately altered course so as to bring the H.E. on the beam. “U 353” then proceeded for about half an hour at about 120 r. p.m. The P.O. Telegraphist said he found listening somewhat difficult at this speed; he preferred listening at 60 to 90 r.p.m., which he described as “U 353’s” silent slow submerged speed. Meanwhile the seaman torpedoman was shifting ammunition cases from forward to aft, which further added to the difficulties of accurate listening. Survivors even blamed this noise for having betrayed their position to the hunting craft’s hydrophones.
Suddenly the hydrophone operator heard faint propeller noises bearing 252° relative. He was in some doubt as to whether to report this; he said to Römer however, “I think I can make out some propeller noises coming towards us, sir, but I’m not sure whether they’re our own.” He was also disturbed by the noise of his own propellers. At the same time he asked Römer to alter course 20° so as to bring the H.E. on the beam. In this position, he felt he would have a much better chance of determining whether they were his own or another ship’s H.E.
Römer altered slowly to 336°, continuing at 20 metres depth and at 120 r.p.m. After another quarter of an hour, the operator again reported to Römer that he could distinguish the oncoming propeller noises from his own. The Second Lieutenant began to show signs of nervousness. The H.E. became more pronounced. Römer slowly rose from his bunk. The torpedo tubes were manned. THe Engineer Officer suggested rising to periscope depth. (N.I.D. Note: At 1407, while H.M.S. “Fame” was about two miles ahead of column 4 of S.C. 104, a firm Asdic contact was obtained at 2,000 yards and at once classified as submarine. Speed was increased to 15 knots.)
Suddenly among the other noises could be distinguished the propellers of a destroyer. By now Römer had left his cabin and reached the control room, where he had ordered the Engineer Officer to go to periscope depth and the boat was gradually rising. The hydrophone operator again reported “Noises clearer and louder. Now bearing 225°.” By then it was no longer necessary to use earphones to hear the propeller noises, which sounded only 50 yards distant.
Then came a number of ear-splitting explosions, which prisoners said were immediately below their boat. (N.I.D. Note: At 1413 H.M.S. “Fame” dropped a pattern of 10 depth-charges set to 50 and 140 ft. The visibility had now closed to about one mile.)
The lights in “U 353” went out and there was a water entry aft and forward through the K.D.B. shaft. The pressure hull, however, was undamaged. The electric motors ceased to function, all but one of the depth gauges broke and the after hydroplanes were put out of action. Römer nevertheless ordered “Submerge deeper!” The depth gauge in the bow compartment was still operating and showed a depth of 20 metres.
“U 353” then submerged much deeper, though owing to the general confusion, survivors did not know the exact depth. They said, however, that the sides of the boat started to crack and the paint peeled off them. The Engineer Officer then said to Römer that he could not be responsible for the boat’s movements, as his instruments were broken, and Römer accordingly ordered the boat to be brought to the surface. She still had a pressure of 2,700 lb. per square in. in her air bottles.
The boat was almost out of control, but the Engineer Officer, realising the weight of water aft, which was being worsened by a water entry through her after torpedo tube causing her to lose trim, blew number 5 tank aft and she began to surface. He then blew No. 1 tank forward and her bows broke surface. Römer ordered all hands to assemble in the control room and prepare to abandon ship. The water tight doors on either side of the control room were then shut, though the search receiver cables were in the way and had to be removed.
Some difficulty was experienced in opening the lower conning-tower hatch owing to excess pressure having developed inside the conning tower. As soon as the pressure was equalised inside the boat, however, this became possible and Römer clambered into the conning-tower. In the excitement he got stuck half way and was pushed through with great difficulty. Meanwhile the galley hatch had been opened. His officers described Römer as trembling with fear and deathly white. (N.I.D. Note: “Flame” had just turned to the position of the attack and was preparing for a hedgehog attack when a large bubble was seen, followed by the bow of the U-Boat breaking surface at a very steep angle. Speed was increased to 18 knots and fire opened with every weapon which would bear.
“Flame” then rammed her forward. By the time that “Fame” had reached the U-Boat’s position the latter was on an even keel and stopped. “Fame’s” bow hit the U-Boat a glancing blow and the U-Boat scraped down her starboard side. A pattern of five depth-charges set at 50 ft. was dropped when the U-Boat was abreast the stern and as her men were coming on to the upper deck “Fame” then made another circle to come up to attempt boarding.)
According to ratings, the Engineer Officer failed lamentably in his duty. Not only was he panic stricken, but, instead of waiting to the last to open the vents to sink the boat, he clambered on to the upper deck as fast as he could, afterwards shouting below” “Flood her! Flood her!” Realising there was no one left below to carry out his orders, he sent one of the control room stokers to do it for him. He said that, as the men panicked, he was forced to kick them back into the boat to make sure of his own escape. He said to Römer, “If you’ll give me a pistol, sir, I’ll see to it that no one leaves the boat.”
According to his own version of the incident, he first discovered there was no one left below and then himself went back again and opened the vents.
The whole of “U 353’s” ship’s company then jumped overboard and swam towards the escort vessels. A midshipman who was too weak to catch hold of a rope thrown to him by “Flame” was killed by her propellers and one man was said to have been killed by gunfire from the merchantmen. Römer complained bitterly about the latter incident, though he admitted that none of the warships fired at his men. According to the Engineer Officer, who was much disgusted. Römer was swimming in the water while others were still on board. He shouted out several times “Chief, sink the boat.” (N.I.D. Note: By this time the convoy was steaming past on either side of the sinking U-Boat, most of them firing everything they had got. H.Nor.M.S. “Acanthus” joined “Fame.” Just as “Fame” was about to lower a boat an echo was reported at about 600 yards. This was, however, discovered to be non-sub and the whaler was lowered and an officer boarded the U-Boat, only leaving her one minute before she sank at 1502 in approximate position 53° 54′ N., 29° 16′ W. “Acanthus” rescued 20 ratings while the captain, four officers and 14 ratings were picked up by “Fame,” who had sustained a long narrow rip on the starboard side of her engine room on the waterline.)
In captivity, Römer admitted that he should have waited at 100 or 150 metres (328 or 492 ft.) for the convoy and not at 20 (65 ft.) He said he did not wait at periscope depth owing to poor visibility. He attributed the loss of his boat mainly to defective multi unit hydrophones (G.H.G. gear) which he said had been damaged in the encounter with the escort vessel early in the morning of 16th October. His officers, however, said that this was a feeble excuse and that everyone on board knew that the hydrophones were functioning perfectly.
The Engineer Officer said that he thought much of the trouble was due to Römer having allowed one of the two midshipmen on board to navigate, although he knew perfectly well that a strongly escorted convoy was in the vicinity. Some prisoners said that the reason for Römer’s apparent lack of concern was that he never in any case placed much faith on his hydrophones and was consequently too easily disposed to ignore the warning they gave.
Römer said he was unable to send a signal to the Admiral U-Boats, reporting his sinking, as his set was put out of action by depth-charges.
VI. DETAILS OF “U 353”
“U 353” was similar in most respects to other 500-ton Type VII C boats, described fully in previous C.B.s in this series.
(ii) Diving Depth
According to some survivors “U 353’s” depth gauges were marked up to 250 metres (820 ft.) but others said that they were not marked higher than 200 metres (656 ft.). She had never submerged deeper than 150 metres (492 ft.). The gauges had no danger mark. She was only guaranteed to 100 metres (328 ft.).
(a) Diesels. Two new type, 4-stroke, 6 cylinder nominal 950 H.P., manufactured by Germaniawerft under licence from M.W.M. (Maschinenwerke, Mannheim). Each developed a maximum of 1,500-1,600 H.P. with supercharger. (A prisoner compared this type with the older type of nominally 850 H.P. developing 1,200 H.P.)
Maximum revolutions, 480 r.p.m. (“Graph” 480 r.p.m.).
Maximum speed, not ascertained (“Graph” 17.8 knots).
Bore 400 mm. (15.7 in) and stroke 470 mm. (18.5 in.) (“Graph” bore 15.75 in., stroke 18.11 in.).
A special metal, bright silver coloured, termed “V 2 A,” was said to have been used in construction of these engines.
(b) Motors. A.E.G. developed 350 H.P. at 280 r.p.m. No reduction gear to tail shafts fitted.
(a) Type. “36 M.A.K.”
(b) Cells. Sixty-two, each with 36 negative and 38 positive plates.
(c) Voltage. Maximum when charged, 149.
(d) Capacity. Each guaranteed for 9,200 ampere hours.
(e) Spilling. When filled to normal will not spill when diving angle does not exceed 45°. When filled higher, 30° to 35° is danger angle.
(f) Non-spilling Device. One man said that each cell was fitted with a non-spilling device resembling an inverted funnel.
(a) Total carried. 128 tons.
(b) Consumption. Slow speed (“Kleine Fahrt”) on Diesel-Electric: 2 cu.m. (1.7 tons) per day. Slow Speed (“Kleine Fahrt”) on both Diesels: 3.5 to 4 cu.m. (2.8-3.2 tons) per day.
(a) Guns. One 88mm. forward. One 20 mm. on bridge. Four M.G.s could be mounted on bridge.
(b) Torpedoes. Number. 12 electric below decks. Two air in upper deck containers.
Propellers. Electric torpedoes have two blades. Air torpedoes have four or six blades.
Pistols. New type whisker pistols.
(a) W/T Transmitters. 40 watt. 150 watt. 200 watt.
(b) V.H.F. Fitted in control room. It was known as the “Tornister Gerat” (Knapsack Gear) from the container in which it was carried. It was only used in home waters.
(c) Supersonic Telegraphy. Fitted. One man said he used it for communication with other U-Boats on patrol, but others did not confirm this.
(viii) D.F. Gear
(a) Search Receiver Gear. Fitted (see Section VII).
(b) S-Gear. None.
(c) R.D.F. None.
(d) K.D.B. Removed before sailing.
(e) G.H.G. Hydrophones. Fitted.
(f) Echolot. Fitted.
Fitted in motor compartment on starboard side (see Section VIII).
(xii) Fresh Water
The distilling plant produced 15 gallons a day.
Old type with telemotor, similar to British. Production of new type (as in H.M.S. “Graph”) has been delayed owing to shortage of skilled workers.
(xiv) Adoption and Badge
“U 353” had been adopted by the 122nd Artillery Regiment stationed in Brittany. Römer had previously wanted his home town of Dessau to adopt her, but this could not be arranged. She carried no badge.
VII. R.D.F. SEARCH RECEIVER
“U 353” was fitted with an R.D.F. search receiver shortly before leaving Kiel. She was one of the first ten or a dozen boats to be so fitted and the set was only provisional. It is thought that the description which follows is fairly accurate. The Commanding Officer stated that it had become imperative to have some such apparatus owing to the frequency with which U-Boats in the Bay of Biscay have in recent months found that they were suddenly caught at short range in a searchlight beam from an aircraft of whose presence they were unaware.
Accounts of the appearance of the aerial have not been entirely consistent. The whole aerial is known as a “Dipol Antenne” (dipole aerial) and consists of a 16-in. by 24-in. diamond-shaped wooden frame, inside which the aerial array is mounted on two jars of thick glass or porcelain. The frame, owing to its shape, is popularly known as the “Kreuz des Südens) (Southern Cross).
The aerial is detachable and is mounted, when required, with clamps on to the periscope shaft. It is rotatable by hand. When the set has passed the experimental stage it is expected that a permanent aerial will be fitted; as it now is, it has to be removed before diving and the slight delay thus involved prevents the use of the set when there is any likelyhood of the U-Boat having to crash dive in an emergency, as, for instance, when actually engaged in an attack.
The wires in the aerial where variously stated to be of brass or magnesium; they are probably rubber-covered; the leads down to the set are certainly insulated in this way and are 2-3 cms. thick. It was stated that the aerial wires were embedded in the wooden frame. The P.O. Telegraphist was of the opinion that the secret of the set lay in the glass jars which contained two “anodes.” (N.I.D. Note: The word “anode” could have no scientific meaning in this context.)
(ii) Receiving Set
The set is manufactured by “Medox,” a Paris firm, and contains French, American and German parts; certain small valves are stamped with American manufacturer’s names. It is mounted in the listening compartment, next to the W/T office.
The tuning dial in the centre is calibrated from 0-100 and is rotated by a knob below it, the reading being taken against a mark at the top. The dial is probably red. A connection at the top leads to the aerial on the bridge, through an insulator, and there is another connection for headphones. The set is said to have a central removable panel. The dimensions of the case containing the receiver are approximately 26 in by 9 in by 7 in.
(iii) Method of Use
Apart from the fact already mentioned that at the present stage of its development it is impractical to use the set when engaged in an attack, “U 353” did not keep a constant watch on the search receiver, nor did she carry the extra personnel which this would entail. It was generally operated by one of the two P.O. Telegraphists or by one of the midshipmen, and the routine was to keep watch only when the cloud base was low and conditions therefore favorable for an aircraft to make a sudden attack before the U-Boat had a chance to submerge.
An R.D.F. transmission from aircraft or surface forces when picked up by the aerial is transmuted into a low-pitched sound signal heard by the operator in his earphones. The operator, who is constantly searching over the full range of his dial, reports to the Captain on picking up a signal and the U-Boat submerges immediately; since the set was fitted experimentally and reports were required on the results obtained the general procedure in such a case was to come to periscope depth and observe the kind of craft the signal emanated from, i.e., whether a destroyer, a corvette, and aircraft, etc. By tuning the central dial until maximum intensity is obtained the operator will have obtained a reading on the 0-100 scale before submerging. By means of this reading the frequency or wavelength can be read off from a graph kept under the set and calibrated along the bottom from 0-100, on the right-hand side in centimetre wavelengths and on the left-hand side in Mc/s. The resulting wavelength was logged together with the type of craft subsequently observed. It was hoped that, as a result of collating a series of reports in this form from different U-Boats, a new dial might, in future, be fitted marked no longer from 0-100, but with the craft known to operate on the particular wavelengths, in the same way that wireless sets are often marked with the names of the stations.
The most reliable prisoners stated firmly that it was impossible to obtain any bearing of the transmitter and that the only possible deduction from the interception of a signal was that something was transmitting in the neighbourhood. Other stated that a rough bearing within 45° could be obtained and some justification for this given by the admitted fact that the aerial was occasionally rotated through 90 by the bridge watch on orders from the operator and by the statement of one prisoner that the aerial had a blank sector.
No range was obtainable nor could a range ever be obtained from a receiver, but the senior P.O. Telegraphist believed that he could obtain a rough range by estimating the strength of the reception. He stated that at six miles the signal was only just audible. The Commanding Officer confirmed that the maximum range for R.D.F. reception was six miles; he stated on more than one occasion that he had been told that the set was only effective up to this range; the highest estimate given was ten miles. (N.I.D. Note: It is possible that the set has for tactical reasons been restricted to short-range reception. It should in theory be capable of reception at much greater range.) The aerial was, however, capable of freak reception of R/T over very long distances and the P.O. Telegraphist recalled how, when 1,000 miles away, he clearly received traffic of the “calling all cars” variety from police cars in New York City.
Many survivors were of the opinion that the receiver had been of great value to “U 353.” This is confirmed by the fact that during the whole of her patrol she had never been attacked by aircraft, having always had prior warning of their presence. According to the Commanding Officer, the set would be most useful when crossing the Bay of Biscay where the greatest concentration of hunting aircraft is expected. The disadvantage of not having a permanent aerial, and therefore not being able to keep watch when likely to have to crash-dive, was shown by the sudden attack on the morning of 16th October by a destroyer, which survivors imagined, in the visibility conditions prevailing, must have detected “U 353” by R.D.F. The P.O. Telegraphist found it convenient to report the picking up of a signal when it was suggested to him by those on watch on the bridge that the weather was so wet that they would prefer to dive; even apart from such occasions survivors were of the opinion that they often dived unnecessarily; in particular, it was noticed that they sometimes dived for half-an-hour and on surfacing found that the signal was still being received. They imagined that this must have come from a shore station in England, but against this must be set the very definite statements as to the limited range of reception and the knowledge that “U 353” was never close to any but the Norwegian coast, where transmissions were twice detected.
The Commanding Officer was of the opinion that aircraft should not operate A.S.V. when flying over 1,000 ft. All prisoners believed that different frequencies are used by different types of vessel or aircraft and that with experience they would be able to tell from the frequency whether the enemy was a destroyer, a cruiser, a Sunderland and so on. The P.O. Telegraphist on one occasion stated that he could already tell by looking in his log.
Prisoners believed that no measures we took to counter the search receiver would be effective, since all we could do would be to alter the frequency of our transmissions; this would involve complete reconstruction of our transmitters, and would in any case be nullified by the capacity of the receiver to pick up transmissions over a large wave band.
VIII. SUBMARINE BUBBLE TARGET
Considerable information on S.B.T. was obtained from prisoners, principally from the Commanding Officer, who described the tactics he employed. Prisoners generally referred to the apparatus as “Rohr 6” (Tube 6), but one man called it the “Bold Verfahren” (Bold Principle), presumably the name of its inventor.
It was confirmed that the S.B.T. was fitted in the motor compartment, as in previous U-Boats. The only important new information as to the apparatus itself is that it is fitted with a safety device, so that the outboard cap and the breech cannot be opened simultaneously.
Six boxes, each containing four pills, were kept in the Captain’s cabin. Each pill is said to contain 12 smaller pills, separated by springs, the whole being kept together with papier mache. The smaller pills are of two kinds; one kind produces a bubble screen; the other, noises similar to those of a U-Boat, and both types are contained in each larger pill. The acoustic pill is believed to be known as a “Gerauschkugel.” When a pill is discharged the action of the sea water disintegrates the papier mache, the springs and the U-Boat’s propellers scattering the pills. It was confidently stated that by reason of the chemical reaction of the pills to sea water, they remain at the depth at which they are ejected, however deep that may be, and that they are active for half-an-hour.
The Commanding Officer stated that S.B.T. is never used unless it is quite certain that the U-Boat has been detected and is being hunted. He admitted that it could in theory be used before that stage had been reached. In his opinion the device was only of use so long as the enemy was unaware of its existence.
It was made clear by Römer and by senior ratings that the main object is to create a bubble screen astern of the U-Boat behind which it can escape, the Asdic impulses getting a false echo from the bubbles. The senior P.O. Telegraphist stated that Asdic transmissions could still be heard in the U-Boat even when the screen lay between her and the Asdic fitted vessel.
The following description of his usual tactics was given by the Commanding Officer. When detected the U-Boat dives to about 150 m. (492 ft.) and, whilst diving, four pills are ejected in a pattern like the letter Z, at intervals of about 1 minute. After the first pill has been ejected, course is altered hard a -starboard and two more are ejected on this new course, the wheel then being put hard a-port, after which the fourth is ejected.
When attacked by a destroyer early on 16th October, “U 353” is said only to have ejected two pills.
A P.O. who had served in “U 11,” in which all experiments relative to new devices are carried out, confirmed that experiments have been made with long interlocking tubes fitted with glass-wool and that this was another anti-Asdic device.
Although “U 353” was not fitted with R.D.F., several prisoners conformed the description of R.D.F. aerials mounted on the forward part of U-Boat conning-towers, already given in C.B. 4051 (50), Section XII (xvi). It was understood from prisoners’ statements that there are, however, two types of aerial, one revolvable, the other fixed; in the case of the fixed aerial the U-Boat has herself to be headed in the general direction required.
Prisoners, none of whom had operated the apparatus in U-Boats, were confused as to its precise purpose. Both the Commanding Officer and the Senior P.O. Telegraphist stated that it would be used to detect drifting mines, but they also said that it was a device for use on the surface, that its transmissions could be picked up by the search receiver fitted in “U 353,” and that it would be principally used at night for detecting surface craft. In both cases the name given to it was F.M.G. (Funk Mess Gerät W/T rangefinder). Other prisoners called it D.T.
(N.I.D. Note: The term “D.T.” was previously used by “Bismark” survivors when referring to R.D.F. (See C.B. 4051 (24), page 43).)
A petty officer stated that he had heard of a new apparatus which produced an image of the vessel or aircraft detected, and he imagined that the destroyer which opened fire on “U 353” in the dark must have been fitted with a similar device. In common with his Commanding Officer, he stated that all new U-Boats were being fitted with R.D.F.
The Senior P.O. Telegraphist, when serving at the Luftwaffe station at Lister in Norway, had taken part in tests of a new R.D.F. shore transmitter. He had been in a boat near the coast which was detected at 14 miles range. He believed the transmitter to work on a wavelength of about 130 cms.
X. OTHER U-BOATS
(i) Information from prisoners of War
“U 1.” “U 1” is sunk. (N.I.D. Note: This confirms previous information from prisoners of war.)
“U 2.” A prisoner said he had served in “U 2” under Korv. Kpt. Wilamowitz-Möllendorff. (N.I.D. Note: This officer is believed now to command one of the series “U 459” to “U 464.”)
“U 3” and “U 4.” “U 3” and “U 4” are still in commission as school-boats at Pillau.
“U 5,” “U 6” and “U 7.” “U 5,” “U 6” and “U 7” are in commission as school-boats at Pillau.
“U 9.” “U 9” is still in commission as a school-boat. She carries an Iron Cross as a badge on her conning-tower.
“U 10.” “U 10” is still in commission as a school-boat.
“U 11.” A prisoner said he had served for some time in “U 11” under Oberleutnant zur See Paters. This boat, he added, has been used for a long time for experimental purposes. Whilst on board, experiments with long tubes packed with glass wool were carried out, which prisoner stated were anti-Asdic devices.
“U 17.” “U 17” is stated to be sunk.
“U 18,” “U 19,” “U 10,” “U 21.” These U-Boats are still in commission as school-boats.
“U 24.” “U 24” is still in commission as a school-boat.
“U 37.” An officer said that when he trained in “U 37,” just prior to being appointed to “U 353,” in December, 1941, she was commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Reburg. (N.I.D. Note: Nothing is known of this officer.)
“U 46.” “U 46” is still in commission.
“U 53.” At the outbreak of war, “U 53” was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hans Jochen Heinecke, of the 1926 term. She sailed in September, 1939, on a patrol off the west of Eire, during which she stopped the tanker “Cayenne,” and, deciding that she was carrying contraband of war, sank her. She later sighted and chased another vessel, which escaped. Both ships sent distress W/T signals on being sighted. On returning to the scene of the sinking of the “Cayenne” to provide survivors with provisions, “U 53” sighted a third ship, which later transpired to be a destroyer, whereupon “U 53” submerged and heard a few depth-charge explosions. The destroyer then picked up the survivors of the torpedoed ships, subsequently making off at high speed.
A few days later “U 53” stopped the “Kafiristan,” which was found to be carrying a sugar cargo and sank her. In order to rescue the survivors, the attention of a U.S. ship was attracted by Very lights. Wile this was proceeding a British aircraft appeared and “U 53” submerged.
Later, “U 53” stopped a Norwegian ship en route for England, but finding she was carrying no contraband, allowed her to proceed. She also stopped a small Portuguese ship carrying a fish cargo to Portugal. She then returned to Kiel after a patrol lasting some four weeks.
Heinecke made one more patrol from Kiel in the North Atlantic before Christmas, 1939, when he relinquished his command.
Prisoners had heard that “U 53” has since been sunk.
“U 56.” Römer said that Kapitänleutnant Zahn, of the 1930 term, was the first Captain of “U 56.” He fired all five torpedoes at H.M.S. “Rodney” during the Norwegian campaign without success, and afterwards had a nervous breakdown. Zahn, he said, is now on the staff of the Admiral U-Boats. Kapitänleutnant Harms was the next Captain, and he was followed by Kapitänleutnant Pfeifer, who handed over to Römer in summer of 1941. (See also under Section II (ii) ). Römer said that he had handed over the command of “U 56” to another officer, whose name he did not give. He believed she was now a school-boat again. (N.I.D. Note: Not only did the first captain of “U 56” break down in health, but the second, third and fourth are all in captivity-an almost unique record for any boat.)
“U 60.” A petty Officer said that “U 60,” a school-boat attached to the U-Boat School at Pillau, was commanded in January, 1942, by Oberleutnant zur See Lange.
“U 96.” when commanded by Klt. Lehmann-Willenbrock did a patrol from Germany to Lorient in November, 1940, when she sank 44,000 tons (see also C.B. 4051 (21) ). On her next patrol she sank “Oropesa” and “Almeda Star,” and on her next 55,000 tons. Her next patrol started on 11th April, 1941; on this she sank 33,000 tons. On neither of her two subsequent patrols did she sink anything.
“U 101.” After the Norwegian campaign of 1940, “U 101,” then commanded by Kapitänleutnant Fritz Frauenheim, of the 1930 term, carried aircraft parts and 500-lb. bombs to Trondheim. She then returned to Kiel, after being at sea a fortnight without firing a torpedo.
“U 103.” Römer said that Kapitänleutnant Viktor Schutze, while in command of “U 103,” had sunk 188,000 tons. He received the Ritterkreuz after sinking 103,000 tons. On one occasion, while sailing under Schutze, “U 103” had fired up to five torpedoes at a tanker without sinking her.
He told how, on his first patrol with Schutze, they had taken an apparatus with them which looked like a torpedo for laying on the Porcupine Bank. It was fitted with an anchor and antennae, and is was designed to emit a weather report for the German Air Force automatically every few hours. He said, however, that it had not been a success. For this special mission they carried a meteorologist.
“U 137.” In summer, 1942, “U 136” was on patrol off the Shetlands, engaged in minelaying. (N.I.D. Note: She was then commanded by Kapitänleutnant Wohlfarth, who was taken prisoner from “U 556,” his next command. (See C.B. 4051(26).)
The Telegraphist C.P.O. said that “U 137” had been mined and sunk, but other prisoners did not confirm this. (N.I.D. Note: She is known to be commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Gerhard Massmann, of the 1936 term.)
“U 140.” “U 140” was engaged in operations off Finland in summer, 1941.
“U 144.” Römer said that “U 144,” commanded by Kapitänleutnant Graf von Mittelstädt, of the 1932 term, was lost. A C.P.O. said that she was sunk with all hands of Finland in summer, 1941. She was then on her third patrol.
“U 146.” “U 146” was engaged in operations off Finland in summer, 1941.
“U 150.” Prisoners said that Oberleutnant zur See Kelling, promoted from the lower deck, is in command of “U 150.” They said this boat was built at the Deutsche Werke, Kiel, towards the end of 1940, since when she has served as a school-boat.
“U 202.” Römer said that “U 202.” commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hans-Heinz Linder, of the 1932 term, is lost.
“U 213.” Römer said that “U 213,” commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Amthing von Varendorff, of the 1935 term, is sunk.
“U 218.” Römer said that Kapitänleutnant Richard Becker, of the 1934 term, commands “U 218.”
“U 351.” “U 351,” the first of the series to which “U 353” belonged, is already in commission.
“U 354.” Römer said that “U 354,” commissioned after “U 353.” Other prisoners said that she commissioned in April, 1942, and was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Herschleb, of the 1934 term.
“U 355.” Römer said that “U 355” commissioned before “U 353.” She is commanded by Kapitänleutnant La Baume.
“U 356.” Römer said that “U 356” was the boat that commissioned just before “U 353.” Other prisoners said that she was commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Wallas and commissioned about 20th December, 1941.
“U 509.” (U-Boat commanded by Schäfer.) A U-boat commanded by an officer named Schäfer lay in Kiel when “U 353” sailed. (N.I.D. Note: This probably refers to Kapitänleutnant Wolf Axel Schäfer, of the 1930 term, who is known to be in command of “U 509.”) One of his officers is named Werner Kraus. An officer from “U 464” said that Schäfer’s boat had once fired the wrong recognition signal, thus forcing “U 464” to fire a shot across her bows with her 20 mm. gun. Schäfer thereupon submerged and gave rise to the impression that his boat was a Russian. He later surfaced, however, and all was well.
(ii) “U.A.” A prisoner who had served in “U.A. from September/October, 1940, to spring 1942, provided the following information about her:
September/October, 1940. In September/October, 1940, “U.A.” was refitting at Kiel, where she had just returned from a patrol under Korvettenkapitän Hans Exkermann, of the 1925 term, sinking 40,000 tons.
February/March, 1941. In February/March, 1941, “U.A.” sailed from Liek to Lorient. This patrol lasted for three weeks and resulted in the sinking of a U.S. refirgerator ship of about 15,000 tons near Iceland.
May, 1941. About May, 1941, “U.A.” sailed from Lorient to the South Atlantic. This patrol lasted for 14 weeks and for leave purposes counted as two patrols. She sank nothing, her orders being to make no attacks but to lie off Freetown and make weather and traffic reports. On 28th May, 1942, she refuelled from the “Egerland.” “U.A.” approached so close to Freetown that harbour works were plainly visible. On her return to Lorient, the crew were given extended leave.
July/December, 1941. Between July and December, 1941, “U.A.” made four patrols all lasting for several weeks except the first, which lasted only for two weeks, during which “U.A.” never went further than the Azores.
The last of these cruises was of 66 days’ duration and she returned to Lorient on Christmas Day, 1941. During this patrol she helped to rescue the survivors of Raider 16 (see C.B. 4051 (49). page 17) taking some of then on board from other U-Boats when in the neighborhood of Cape Town.
February, 1942. “U.A.” sailed from Lorient in February, 1942 for U.S. waters. On this patrol she was commanded by Korvettenkapitän Cohausz, of the 1926 term, who was in command of “U.A.” before Eckermann took over and who had in the meanwhile been Senior Officer of the 1st U-Boat Flotilla at Brest. She again acted as a traffic and weather reported, returning to Kiel in spring, 1942, through the Rosengarten.
Details of “U.A.”
Armament. One 10.5 cm. (4.1 in.) gun forward. Two 20 mm. aft. Several M.G.s.
Torpedoes. Six tubes (four forward, two aft). Twelve torpedoes, some electric, some air. No upper deck containers.
Engines. Two 10-cylinder Burmeister and Wain diesels (Two blocks of five.)
Complement. Her ship’s company was specially picked; nearly all of them left her in spring, 1942. The last Engineer Officer she carried was Oberleutnant (Ing.) Triebs. His predecessor was Kapitänleutnant (Ing.) Teichmann, of the 1930 term.
“U.D.5”. The C.P.O. Telegraphist said that the ex-Dutch submarine “U.D.5.” was mined off Kiel shortly before 22nd September, 1942, and sank. Only one sub-lieutenant and one rating were saved.
(iii) Various U-Boat Commands
U-Boats commanded by Gysae, Hartmenn, Ibbeken, Lueth and Sobe. Römer said that Kapitänleutnant Gysae, of the 1932 term, Fregattenkapitän Hartmann of the 1921 term, Kapitänleutnant Lueth, of the 1932 term and Fregattenkapitän Sobe, of the 1924 term, all holders of the Ritterkreuz, command “Uberseekühe”. (See Section XV (vi).)
U-Boat commanded by Nordheimer. Oberleutnant zur See Nordheimer, of the 1936 term, is in command of one of the series “U 351″ to U 360.”
U-Boat commanded by von Schmidt. Korvettenkapitän von Schmidt, of the 1926 term, commands a large minelaying U-Boat, according to Römer
U-Boat commanded by Stein. Oberleutnant zur See Stein, of the 1936 term, commands a 500-ton U-Boat. Prisoners said he claimed to have sunk 33,000 tons in two nights on one occasion. Stein’s boat formed part of “Gruppe Panther” in October, 1942.
U-Boat commanded by Thäter. Oberleutnant zur See Thäter, of the 1936 term, and son of the Admiral, is in command of a U-Boat.
The following information derives from intercepted correspondence:
(iv) Information from Intercepted Correspondence
“U 127.” It was confirmed that Kapitänleutnant Bruno Hansmann, of the 1929 term, is lost. (N.I.D. Note: He is known to have commanded “U 127.”)
“U 158.” Kapitänleutnant Erwin Rostin, of the 1932 term, was lost prior to September, 1942. (N.I.D. Note: He commanded “U 158”)
“U 456.” Oberleutnant zur See Teichert, of the 1934 term, was in Kiel in June, 1942. (N.I.D. Note: He is known to command “U 456.”)
“U 577.” It was confirmed that “U 577,” commanded by Kapitänleutnant Rolf von Schauenburg, is lost.
“U 587.” Kapitänleutnant Ulrich Borcherdt, of the 1933 term, was lost prior to September, 1942. (N.I.D. Note: He commanded “U 587.” The Commanding Officer of “U 701,” sunk on 7th July, 1942, supported this statement.)
“U 652.” Oberleutnant zur See Fraatz, of the 1935 term, in command of “U 652,” returned from patrol in August, 1942, having narrowly escaped capture in American waters.
“U 751.” Kapitänleutnant Bigalk, of the 1933 term, was lost prior to September, 1942. (N.I.D. Note: He commanded “U 751.)
U-Boat commanded by von Puttkamer. Oberleutnant zur See Konstantin von Puttkamer, of the 1936 term, was on patrol early in September, 1942. He commands a boat built at Danzig since April, 1942.
U-Boat commanded by Reichmann. The U-Boat commanded by Korvettenkapitän Wilfred Reichmann, of the 1923 term, was sunk prior to September, 1942. (N.I.D. Note: He is believed to have been on his first patrol. The number of his boat is not known.)
U-Boat commanded by Staats. Oberleutnant zur See Georg Staats, of the 1935 term, had been on patrol for five weeks on 24th July, 1942.
U-Boat commanded by Stark. Oberleutnant zur See Günther Stark, of the 1936 term, in command of a U-Boat, returned from a distant patrol early in August, 1942, and left on another shortly afterwards.
XI. BASES, TRAINING ESTABLISHMENTS, ETC.
Oberleutnant zur See der Reserve Maurer commands the 4th Company of the W/T School at Aurich. (Information as at July, 1941.)
The depot ships “Patria” (16,000 tons) and “Cariba” (12,100 tons) lie here. (September, 1942.)
Work in the yards of the Flensburger Schiffsbaugesellschaft is carried on extremely slowly. Römer himself said that the yards have little experience in building U-Boats and that a number of the workmen had been called up for military service in Russia. Other prisoners said that the quality of the boats produced at Flensburg was good, since the small number built there gave opportunities for detailed attention, which were lacking in larger yards. The fact that the yard formerly only built merchantmen, and is still without the up-to-date machine tools for U-Boat construction, results in slow work of good quality.
The officer in charge of the U-Boat building at Flensburg is Korvettenkapitän (Ing.) der Reserve Schön, who was in U-Boats in the last war under Weddigen.
The torpedo school is commanded by Kapitan zur See Frey, said to be an Austrian. The 1st and 2nd Companies of the school are for torpedo courses, but the 3rd is a guard company, commanded by Leutnant zur See Kugler.
(N.I.D. Note: It has previously been reported that the Torpedo School at Flensburg had been moved to Pillau during 1940. A report dated August, 1941, stated, however, that building had been extended. It would therefore appear that the school has either returned to Flensburg, or never moved.)
The “Raubtier” class of torpedo-boats (“Leopard,” Jaguar,” Luchs,” etc.) are now based on Flensburg, where they are attached to the Torpedo School.
An ex-Norwegian A/A/ cruiser lies at anchor in the estuary. In August, 1942, she was temporarily undergoing repairs at the Deutsche Werke, Kiel.
(a) U-Boats Acceptance Command. Römer said that Kapitan sur See Bräutigam is C.O. of the U-Boats’ Acceptance Command in Kiel, a post he has held since the war began.
(b) Pressure Dock. Römer said that the Kiel pressure dock resembles a large pipe. He said that no pressure dock had yet been built for testing to more than 100 m. (328 ft.). He thought it would be ideal to have one that could test up to 170 m. (557 ft.).
(c) Operations Room. Römer said that, before leaving Kiel, each U-Boat captain is bound to spend up to three weeks in the Kiel operations room, so as to study U-Boat operations. He is obliged to read through all reports and fully to study the U-Boat position.
The 8th Manning Division is commanded by Kapitan zur See (Ing.) Schmidt. Oberleutnant zur See der Reserve Rodewald commands the 5th Company. (Information as at July, 1941.)
Prisoners said that the U-Boat school at Gdynia is divided into two sections, the first for seamen and the second for stokers. Leutnant (Ing.) Adam commands the 2nd Company of the Second Division (January, 1942) and Kapitänleutnant Burghagen the 7th Company (January, 1942).
Kapitan zur See Siebert is stated to be in command of the Navigation School (September, 1941.).
C. The Netherlands
The 20th Manning Division was here early in 1941. (N.I.D. Note: The 4th Manning Division has since replaced it.)
A Manning Division is stationed here. The 1st Company is commanded by Kapitänleutnant Adler. (Information as at November, 1941.) The campo is stated to be very large, but, owing to frequent air-raids, half of the barracks are in ruins.
The Hotel d’Angleterre has been taken over by the German Navy as their local headquarters. The public rooms are, however, still open. (Summer, 1941.)
There is a W/T station at Lister, near Egersund, situated in a white house on top of a hill, about 1,000 yards from the coast. It operates on a frequency of 130 to 132 m.
XII. OTHER SHIPS
In September, 1938, the gunnery-school vessel “Drache” (790 tons) was attached to the gunnery school at Kiel. She was in Kiel when war began.
She took part in the Polish campaign of 1939, when she shelled Hel, Oksywie, and various other places in the Bay of Danzig. She also convoyed ships in the Neufahrwasser and engaged in a number of minesweeping operations.
She later took part in the Norwegian campaign, operating off Oslo and Horten.
In the polish campaign, she was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Walter Bach, of the 1930 term, who was relieved by Kapitan sur See Wutsdorff for the Norwegian campaign. This officer was later relieved by Oberleutnant zur See Laubental.
(ii) “Karl Galster” (Destroyer “Z.20”)
One prisoner said he had joined the destroyer “Karl Galster (1,811 tons) in Wilhelmshaven in August, 1940. She was then commanded by Korvettenkapitän Freiherr von Mauchenheim genannt Bechtolsheim, of the 1923 term, and proceeded immediately to Brest, whence she too part in local Channel actions, including the mining of the Bristol Channel, before returning to Germany. (See also C.B. 4051 (51), Section XII (i).) (N.I.D. Note: There is no evidence that destroyers laid mines in the Bristol Channel in autumn, 1940.)
The cruiser “Blücher (10,000 tons) was commanded from the outbreak of war until her sinking in the Norwegian campaign by Kapitan zur See Woldag, of the 1911 term. At the time of her sinking, she was carrying Marinestosstruppen and ammunition for their use. Not many of her ship’s company were killed, except for engine-room personnel. The Engineer Officer, Korvettenkapitän (Ing.) Thanermann, of the 1918 term, survived. (N.I.D. Note: Prisoners from “U 26,” sunk on 1st July, 1940, said that 900 men lost their lives. An officer prisoner from “U 570,” sunk on 27th August, 1941, said that “Blucher’s” captain was killed in an aircraft accident eight days after the cruiser was sunk, during the Norwegian campaign.)
(iv) “Gyller” Class Torpedo-Boats
An officer who had served in one, said that the “Gyller” class of ex-Norwegian torpedo-boats (625 tons) taken over by Germany had been fitted with much heavier armament since the transfer. Their old names have been cancelled and numbers substituted.
A prisoner said he had served in Oberleutnant zur See Töniges’ S-Boat from Cherbourg, Rotterdam and Bergen. Töniges was at that time (1940) operating in the flotilla, whose Senior Officer was Kapitänleutnant Birnbacher. (N.I.D. Note: Kapitänleutnant Birnbacher was Senior Officer of the 1st S-Boat Flotilla in 1940.) He added that, although he took great risks, Töniges never brought back a casualty. (N.I.D. Note: Töniges was appointed to “S.19” in April, 1940. “S-19” was then in the 1st Flotilla at Bergen, and proceeded later to French ports.)
The Engineer Officer of “U 353,” who had served as a cadet in “Gneisenau,” gave the following information:
When Gneisenau” and “Scharnhorst” attacked and sank H.M.S. “Glorious” on 8th June, 1940, ‘Gneisenau” fired a number of torpedoes at “Glorious,” none of which found their mark.
He stated that 38-cm. (15 in.) guns were now being mounted in “Gneisenau.” (N.I.D. Note: This corroborates a similar statement made by another prisoner – see C.B.4051 (51), page 24 – but has not been confirmed from other sources.)
Speaking of “Gneisenau’s” return from her Channel dash of early 1942, he said that she had run on to a wreck outside Cuxhaven, but had sustained no serious damage.
Referring to “Scharnhorst’s” and “Gneisenau’s” sortie in 1941, he said they ran into a snowstorm off Iceland. Rear-Admiral Lütjens, in command, had ordered speed to be reduced to seven knots, but the Engineer Officer said it would take him 20 or 30 minutes to do this. While they were reducing speed, they were surprised to hear several loud explosions from astern, probably from 15-in. guns. They were proceeding up sun and realised they were sharply outlined to any force astern of them.
She immediately increased speed, it taking 18 minutes to work up from 7 to 28 knots. She turned broadside to the direction of enemy fire, and fired with her 11-in. guns, then started to zigzag. In the ensuing action, however, she lost her mainmast and sustained several hits in her gunnery office. She thereupon increased speed to 32 knots and took avoiding action.
“Gneisenau” carried an Arado 96 reconnaissance aircraft, flown by Oberleutnant Albrinck.
(vii) “Brummer” and “Bremse”
Römer confirmed that the gunnery training ships “Brummer (2,410 tons) and “Bremse” (1,460 tons) were both sunk. He added that two ex-Norwegian ships had been christened “Brummer” and “Bremse” to replace them.
Römer said that the battleship “Deutschland” had been renamed “Lützow” because Hitler feared the impression it might make if ever a ship named “Deutschland” were to be sunk.
Römer said that the E-Boat parent ship “Tanga” (4,200 tons) lay in Helsingör in summer, 1941. The E-Boat flotilla of which Kapitänleutnant Obermaier was Senior Officer was based there at the same time. (N.I.D. Note: This was probably the 2nd Flotilla.)
(x) Norwegian Torpedo-Boat “Kjell”
The Norwegian torpedo-boat “Kjell” (100 tons) was seized and taken to Germany by Kapitänleutnant Jüttner, of the 1932 term, one of the “Blücher’s” officers. She has been given an extensive refit and renamed the “Leopard” or “Löwe.”
(xi) “Gorch Fock”
The training sailing-ship “Gorch Fock” (1,500 tons) is now being used as an accommodation ship.
(xii) “St. Louis”
When “U 353” sailed from Kiel (22nd September, 1942) the “St. Louis” (16,700 tons) was still being used as the depot ship of the 5th U-Boat Flotilla.
XIII. U-BOAT TACTICS
Römer said that there are three main U-Boat formations in developing convoy attacks. These are:
(a) Vorpostenstreifen (Patrol Line).
(b) Aufklärungsstreifen (Reconnaissance Sweep).
(c) Angriffsaufstellung (Attack Formation).
(a) Vorpostenstreifen consists of a line of U-Boats, generally about 20 miles distant from each other and disposed on any given line of bearing, generally across convoy routes. This line is formed up by the Admiral U-Boats and may contain as many as 25 U-Boats. While waiting in position, each boat proceeds at slow speed for an hour in each direction at right angles to the line of bearing, half an hour on either side of the line. If she sights an independently-sailing ship, she is at liberty to pursue her without reporting to the Admiral. If, however, she sights a convoy, she must immediately report to the Admiral who passes the signal to the other boats in the “Vorpostenstreifen”. This formation is the pool of boats from which the Admiral may detail groups of boats for any given duty, e.g. an attack or reconnaissance formation.
(b) Auflkärungsstreifen. When it is reasonably certain that a convoy is approaching, the Admiral U-Boats will detail certain boats to form an “Aufklärungsstreifen” (reconnaissance sweep). This is a formation of U-Boats proceeding on parallel courses searching a restricted area through which the convoy is expected to pass. Speed is usually about 10 knots. The Admiral signals the limits of the new sweep, which may be as much as 150 miles apart, the hour at which it is to start and which boats are to take part in it. Individual boats then patrol their new lines at the speed ordered. The distance between each line patrolled does not necessarily remain at 20 miles, as was the case in the patrol line.
The object of the reconnaissance sweep is to make certain that one of the boats patrolling over the anticipated course of the convoy will make contact with it.
(c) Angriffsaufstellung. On establishing the position of the convoy, the Admiral U-Boats orders a group of U-Boats to take up an attack formation, which may be a semi-circle formed around the line of approach of the convoy. This is known as the “Angriffsaufstellung” (attack formation). When in position, each boat is at liberty to move as she likes within the limits of a given six-mile square. Her theoretical attacking zone is a circle with a 10-mile radius surrounding this square.
On taking up the attack formation, the “Fühlungshalter (the boat which has previously been in contact) takes local command of the group. If, however, there has been no contact-keeper, then the boat which first sights the convoy assumes command.
(ii) Tactics during Attack
Each boat then attacks at her discretion. There is no such thing as co-ordinated action between boats once a convoy has been attacked, although each may be kept aware of what the others are doing by means of W/T coded conversation.
(iii) “Schuhart” Tactics
Römer said that the “Schuhart” form of tactics has been abandoned. Other prisoners confirmed this. One man called the new method the “Quadrat Stellung.”
(iv) Naming of Convoys for Attack
Each convoy contacted and designated for attack is referred to in signals by the name of the U-Boat captain who first contacted it. Thus, the Makowski convoy indicated the convoy sighted by Makowski’s U-Boat.
(v) Duration of Convoy Attack
U-Boats ordered to attack a given convoy continue to do so until ordered by the Admiral U-Boats to break off.
(vi) Individual Method of Convoy Attack
Römer said his ideal method of convoy attack, once the stage of individual action was reached, was to manoeuvre himself by night in advance of a convoy, and then if possible fire all tubes. The forward torpedoes were usually fired first.
Alternatively, one could manoeuvre oneself between a convoy’s columns. He admitted, however, that entering the columns involved considerable risk, especially at night, when they are closer together and the U-Boat might be sighted more easily.
He himself, therefore, preferred to attack a convoy by night from either side ahead.
(vii) Day of Night Attack
A Petty Officer said that U-Boats now prefer to attack on the surface at night. Day attacks have become very rare.
(viii) Opinion on British Destroyer Tactics
Römer had the greatest respect for British destroyer tactics.
(ix) Reaction to British Destroyer Tactics
If attacked in daylight by destroyers, a U-Boat remains submerged for at least an hour at 150 m. (492 ft.) at “Schleichfahrt” (1 or 2 knots). Römer realised that by submerging for an hour the convoy would have gained about eight miles on him, but saw no remedy for this. He simply said the process of approach would have to start all over again. U-Boats feel safe at 150 m., as they are under the impression that British depth-charges cannot be set at over 140 m. (459 ft.), owing to the water pressure.
(x) Tactics to Avoid Aircraft
Römer said that the normal tactics to avoid an aircraft are to crash dive with the wheel hard over.
(xi) Attack with Guns
Römer said that the Admiral U-Boats had ordered that no U-Boat shall attack a vessel by gunfire at a range of over 1,000 yards. At this range a U-Boat stands a good chance of inflicting damage by surprise on a vessel. On the other hand,a U-Boat may never allow herself to get involved in a gunnery duel with a surface craft, since she would clearly come off worse.
(xii) Passage through Bay of Biscay
On passage through the Bay of Biscay the 20 mm. gun is always manned, but not the 88 mm., which is considered useless against low-flying aircraft.
Römer said that U-Boats, while themselves constantly receiving signals from the Admiral U-Boats, only transmit on very rare occasions, for fear of being D/F’d.
They only communicate with each other in very special circumstances. Permission to do so must always be first obtained from the Admiral.
In the position in which “U 353” was operating (i.e. around 30° W., 55° N.) reception was at times very poor at periscope depth, so that she was almost always forced to surface to receive the Admiral U-Boats’ signals. Römer did not think, however, that he missed many signals as a result of poor reception, since all were repeated later.
(iii) Weather Reports
Römer said that U-Boats make their weather reports from 0100 to 0500 on the surface. The items reported are: direction of wind, force of wind, state of sea, temperature, barometer reading and state of cloud.
(iv) Radio Receivers in German Navy
The best radio receiver in the German navy is the Radione, and Austrian product which also enjoyed a great popularity at home. It is particularly good on short waves, and has valves similar to those fitted to German tank radios.
XV. GENERAL REMARKS ON U-BOATS
(a) German Torpedo Manufacture Scandal. Römer admitted it had been impossible to date to manufacture an electric torpedo having the same speed as an air torpedo. As a result of failures in torpedo development, which might have been transformed into success by hard work, there had been a complete reorganisation of the German torpedo arm and certain leading personalities had been dismissed.
In the earlier part of the war, much attention had been paid to the development of the magnetic pistol. It was realised that a torpedo which exploded beneath a ship did much more damage than one that merely tore a hole in her side. The German magnetic pistols, however, did not function properly, and their development had consequently been abandoned. He recalled how Schütze, his first commanding officer, had once fired five torpedoes fitted with magnetic pistols at H.M.S. “Hood,” not one of them finding its target. Some had exploded too soon and others not at all.
Occurrences of this kind had led to the rumors that, for financial reasons, the best scientists had not been employed, and the job of developing the magnetic pistol given to less talented specialists. Römer said that the best-known personality in torpedo development is a Professor Cornelius, whose services had been refused because he charged too high a fee.
(b) Submerged Torpedo Firing. Römer did not think it possible in practice to fire a torpedo solely depending on instruments for direction. It is always necessary, he said, to be surfaced or at least at periscope depth.
(ii) U-Boat Personnel
Römer complained bitterly over the shortage of suitable personnel for U-Boats.
(a) Executive Officers’ Training. Speaking of the preliminary training period for officers at the Flensburg-Mürwik Naval College, he recalled how it had originally lasted for nine months, had then been shortened to six months and was now only four months’ duration. In such a short time, he said, the cadets learned next to nothing.
In 1935 and 1936 it was still fairly difficult to enter the German Navy. Not more than 15 of every 20 applicants succeeded in passing the psyco-technical examinations. By 1937 and 1938, however, it was very much easier.
Another officer said that all officers of the October 1937 term onwards had received insufficient training. It was then that the training period was first reduced.
(b) Quality of Lower Deck Personnel. Speaking of the ratings, Römer said that there was no difficulty finding enough of them, but their quality was poor.
(c) Officers Seconded to Luftwaffe. Referring to naval officers lent to the Luftwaffe for the usual four years while still midshipman, he complained that when they returned to the naval service, they were completely without naval experience. Those that went to U-Boats underwent a six-months’ course at a U-Boat school, but this was of purely theoretical value and, in the case of some, their only experience of an operational patrol before assuming their own command, is one patrol as a commanding officer under instruction. He described this state of affairs as extremely unsatisfactory.
(iii) Training U-Boat Engineer Officers
The Engineer Officer said that the normal course of training for a naval entry wishing to become a U-Boat Engineer Officer in 1938 was as follows:
(1) Preliminary disciplinary training for three months at Stralsund in a special company for future officers. The candidate is rated Ordinary Seaman.
(2) Period of Training at Flensburg Naval College. About two months.
(3) First Sea Time. As Officer Cadet. This is generally in “Gneisenau” or “Scharnhorst,” “Schleswig-Holstein,” “Schlesen,” or “Emden.” About six months.
(4) Second period of training at Flensburg Naval College. Six months. Leaves College as Midshipman (E).
(5) Second Sea Time as Senior Midshipman (E). About six months.
(6) Period of training at Kiel Naval College in technical matters. Three months.
(7) Training at U-Boat School. Generally as Engineer Officer in a school-boat.
(8) Promotion to Leutnant (Ing.) and appointment to a U-Boat. He said the average age of an Engineer Officer in U-Boats now is 24. The length of each course has been much reduced since the war.
(iv) U-Boat Flotillas
The following were, according to prisoners, the bases of U-Boat Flotillas and their Commanding Officers in September, 1942:
1st at Brest. Kapitänleutnant Werner Winter (1930 term).
2nd at Lorient. Korvettenkapitän Viktor Schütze (1925 term). (Only for 740-tonners.)
3rd at La Pallice. Kapitänleutnant Jurgen Osten (1933 term).
4th Stettin. Korvettenkapitän heinz Fischer (1925 term).
5th at Kiel. Kapitänleutnant Oskar Möhle (1930 term).
6th at St. Nazaire.
7th at St. Nazaire. Kapitänleutnant Herbert Sohler (1928 term).
8th in Italy.
9th at Brest. Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock (1931 term).
10th at Lorient. Kapitänleutnant Günther Kuhnke (1931 term). (Only for 740-tonners.)
11th at Bergen. Korvettenkapitän Hans Cohausz (1926 term).
12th at St. Nazaire.
13th at Salamis (?).
( 21st at Pillau. Kapitänleutnant Otto Schuhart (1929 term).
( 22nd at Gdynia. Korvettenkapitän Willhelm Ambrosius (1928 term).
( 23 at Danzig
School-boat ( 24 at Pillau.
Flotillas ( 25th at Gdynia.
( 26th at Pillau (?) Salamis (?)
( 27th at Pillau (?)
( 28th at Pillau (?)
29th at La Spezia. Kapitänleutnant Fritz Frauenheim (1930 term).
It is believed that Kapitänleutnant Herbert Schultze, of the 1930 term, is in command of a flotilla operating in the Black Sea or Mediterranean.
(v) U-Boat Construction
(a) Pre-War Development. Römer said that at the time of the repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany only possessed 250-tonners, built for her in Finland under German supervision, but that prior to that 500-tonners had been developed in Finland under German auspices, so that Germany was able to start building 500-tonners in German yards immediately.
(b) Situation at Outbreak of War. When the war began, Germany had three flotillas of 250-tonners, but production of 500-tonners was immediately accelerated, and no more 250-tonners were built. She also possessed a few 740-tonners.
(N.I.D. Note: It is believed the, at the outbreak of the war, Germany had ten 740-ton and twenty 500-ton boats in commission and several building.)
(c) Mass production Measures. In order to facilitate mass production of U-Boats, the various yards had been ordered to concentrate only on one or two types each.
(d) Numbers under Construction. Römer was emphatic that the number of U-Boats being produced is very much in excess of sinkings. He thought British claims to have interfered with U-Boat construction by bombing laughable.
Boats of more than 740-tons displacement, other then “Milchkühe” (1,600-ton Supply U-Boats) are colloquially referred to as “Uberseekühe” (Super sea cows).
(vii) Mine-laying U-Boats
Römer confirmed the existence of 500-ton mine-laying U-Boats and the description of them given by previous prisoners. He stated, however, that the mine shafts all pass through the pressure hull and are open to the sea. They are covered by a grating above each shaft, which contains three mines retained by a clip device. There are three shafts, one abaft the other on the centre line. They are all between the control room and the P.O.s’ mess. He added that there are also some spare mines carried on board, perhaps an extra three. The mines are all “Einheitsminen,” The pressure hull in these boats, he said, is longer than in a usual 500-tonner in order to permit the mine shafts being built in. (See also C.B. (46), Section VII.)
(N.I.D. Note: It is not considered likely that the mine shafts pass through the pressure hull.)
(viii) Two-Man U-Boats
Römer said that he had seen a German two-man U-Boat being tested out at Hel by a small private dockyard. The dock in which the boat was kept was well covered in and the boat was only visible when on trials. He did not think she would be ready before the end of the war.
A C.P.O. Telegraphist said that two-man U-Boats in Germany were still in the experimental stage.
(N.I.D. Note: Previous interrogation reports (see C.B.s 4051 (48), 4051 (49) and 4051 (50) have referred to Two-Man U-Boats, but there is no other evidence supporting the existence of these boats.)
(ix) “Tropical” U-Boats
The term “Tropenboote” (Tropical U-Boats) is applied to U-Boats whose interior has been sprayed with a cork solution to prevent condensation.
(x) U-Boats with E-Boat Diesels
Römer said that trials are being carried out with U-Boats fitted with E-Boat Diesels, giving a surface speed of about 30 knots.
(xi) U-Boats with Four Diesels
A number of prisoners said that some U-Boats are being fitted with four Diesels.
(xii) B.M.W. Diesels
One man said fast-running B.M.W. Diesels will be fitted to U-Boats in the future.
(xiii) U-Boats off Cape of Good Hope
1. Type. Römer said that larger type U-Boats are operating off the Cape of Good Hope. He did not know their exact displacement, which was kept very secret, but thought they were of about 1,600 tons displacement. These are known as “Uberseekuhe,” The advantage of there “Uberseekuhe” is that they have a very wide radius of action and carry a large number of torpedoes. They can stay at sea for “several months.”
2. Captains. In command of these “Uberseekuhe” are Kapitan zur See Ibbeken, Kapitänleutnant Lueth, Fregattenkapitän Sobe, Fregattenkapitän Hartmann and Kapitänleutnant Gysae and one other. All there officers are holders of the Ritterkreuz.
3. Bases. These boats have no bases in the South Atlantic area.
4. Complement. Their complement is not much larger than that of a 740-tonner.
5. General. Attacks on shipping in the South-Atlantic area are thought to be very easy, as the vessels are usually unescorted and have little experience in taking avoiding action.
(xiv) Provisioning from Supply U-Boats
Römer said that is was not usual for U-Boats to take torpedoes from supply U-Boats. A boat that has fired all her torpedoes almost invariably makes for base; those that refuel and re-provision are only those which still have torpedoes available.
(xv) U-Boats in the Mediterranean
Römer laid great emphasis on the difficulties of U-Boats operating in the Mediterranean, saying that their captains’ nerves were generally about all-in after four or five patrols. They are usually relieved in any case, he added, after one year.
(xvi) U-Boats for Mediterranean
U-Boats make the passage through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean on the surface at night. Sometimes they follow an enemy steamer through.
(xvii) U-Boats in the Black Sea
Römer stated that German U-Boats are operating in the Black Sea. They were, he explained taken to pieces and transported there in special trucks. He knew of no case in which a U-Boat had passed from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.
(N.I.D. Note: This corroborates previous prisoners’ statements to the same effect. See C.B.s 4051 (50 and 4051 (51).)
(xvii) Number of German U-Boats
Römer said that if it were desired to maintain 120 U-Boats at sea, a total of not less than 300 must be in existence.
He estimated that there are at present 350 U-Boats in commission, of which 300 are operational. Of these about 100 to 120 are on patrol at a time, about 80 proceeding on or returning from patrol and the remainder being overhauled.
(xix) Publication of U-Boat Losses
Römer said that U-Boat losses are not published in Germany, even to the German Navy. Officers therefore, only learned about casualties from hearsay.
(xx) Winter and Summer Operations
Römer said that, in general, the winter is a more favorable time for U-Boat operations than the summer, owing to the longer nights. This natural advantage has, however, been largely eliminated by the activities of Allied aircraft which, he felt, are all fitted with detection gear for spotting U-Boats on the surface.
(xxi) Weather and A/S Operations
Römer said that bad weather and stratification of the water are both of great assistance to U-Boats, since they render A/S instruments less effective.
(xxii) Silent Approach
Römer said that silent approach is made at 90 r.p.m. The hydrophone operator and stokers said that their boat was absolutely safe from H.E. at 65 r.p.m., and fairly safe up to 90 r.p.m.
(xxiii) D/C Effective Range
Römer said that British D/Cs were fully effective at a range of 50 yards or less. Over 50 yards, damage was to be expected, but not to the pressure hull.
(xxiv) Neutral Shipping Lanes
Römer said that certain lanes existed in which the Admiral U-Boats had ordered that no independently sailing merchantmen may be attacked. The Admiral had also ordered, however, that all shipping sighted outside these lanes must be sunk at night, unless it showed its neutral colours and full navigation lights. In the Cape Town area, however, it is customary to fire a warning shot and to search the ship’s papers for contraband, as Germany is anxious for neutrals to continue their trade.
(xxv) Co-operation with Kondor Aircraft
Römer said that it is still usual for Kondor aircraft sighting a westbound convoy to report it with the latter “A” and an eastbound with the letter “R.” He had heard shortly before sailing however, that Kondor reconnaissance had recently been greatly diminished.
(xxvi) Routes into Atlantic
Römer said that U-Boats proceeding into the Atlantic via Kristiansand S. receive orders there as to which intermediate grid square to proceed to prior to making the passage of the Rosengarten. They do not usually receive orders regarding their operational square until they have passed through the Rosengarten.
Römer said that it is not unusual to put a boat into dry-dock for refitting until she has completed 10 operational patrols. The period of refit then lasts for two months.
(N.I.D. Note: It seems unlikely that U-Boats would make 10 operational patrols between refits.)
(xxviii) Operations off America
The greatest danger on the American coasts, Römer said, is from aircraft and not from destroyers. The shallow water surrounding the American coasts, he thought, was also a great disadvantage to U-Boats, which were unable to crash-dive in shallow water for fear of hitting the bottom.
(xxix) Capture of Merchant Navy Officers
Römer said that the Admiral U-Boats had lately ordered that all Masters and Chief Engineers of Merchantmen sunk should be taken prisoner. The object of this is to create a shortage of such personnel.
(xxx) Attacks on Independently-Sailing Vessels
Römer said that the habit of independently-sailing vessels describing a full circle at dusk is extremely disconcerting to U-Boats, which did not know where to look for the target next.
(xxxi) Security Measures on Sailing
Römer said that, for security reasons, no public festivities were allowed to mark the sailing of a U-Boat on patrol. He nevertheless felt that British agents in Norway were responsible for much leakage of U-Boat information and thought it would be better not to call there at all.
(xxxii) Markings during Trials
Römer explained that the markings on U-Boats during much of their working-up denote the time during which the boat in question is built. They have nothing to do with the yard or the U-Boat’s number. The markings are changed from time to time, depending on the decision of the department of the 2nd Admiral U-Boats.
(xxxiii) Relations with Admiral Dönitz
Römer spoke frequently of the excellent relations between the Admiral U-Boats (Admiral Dönitz) and individual U-Boat officers. When Römer was based on Lorient in “U 103,” in 1940/41, Dönitz used to invite all the local U-Boat officers to an informal conference once a month in the officers’ club. First there was dinner and this was followed by a discussion. Everyone could speak freely as they wished.
He said that, despite the great increase in the size of the U-Boat arm, Admiral Dönitz continued to maintain personal contact with the various U-Boat captains. It was still obligatory for each captain returning to a French Atlantic coast base to report to Dönitz personally in Paris.
(N.I.D. Note: It is not confirmed that the Admiral U-Boats’ Headquarters are at present in Paris.)
(xxxiv) Award of Ritterkreuz
Römer said that the old system of awarding the Ritterkreuz after sinking 1000,000 tons and the oak Leaves to the Ritterkreuz after 2000,000, etc., had now been abandoned in favour of a points system. The new system takes into account the length and number of patrols done as well as the sinkings themselves.
(xxxv) Wearing of Badges
A U-Boat does not carry a badge until she has completed her first operational patrol.
(xxxvi) Whereabouts of Kapitänleutnant Herbert Schultze
Römer and members of his ship’s company ridiculed the report (see C.B. 4051 (46), Section IX (ix) ) that Kapitänleutnant Herbert (“Vati”) Schultze had been degraded to the rank of ordinary seaman. They said that he now had a very important position in the U-Boat arm. Some said that he is Senior Officer of a flotilla in the Black Sea.
(xxxvii) Leutnant zur See Walter Sitek
Römer said that Leutnant zur See Walter Sitek, who swam from the scene of the sinking of “U 581” to the Azores (see C.B. 4051 (42) ), had been decorated with the Iron Cross, 1st Class, and had been appointed to another U-Boat.
XVI. MISCELLANEOUS REMARKS
(i) Prisoners’ Reactions to latest News
Römer and several other prisoners were ready to admit that the position of Germany in the war had changed sensibly for the worse in the past months. Prisoners were particularly anxious on the following points:
(1) Large-scale air raid distress in Germany.
(2) Increasing military might of the Allies. (One man said “The worst enemy is one that stays out of reach and gets stronger daily.”)
(3) Increasing shortage of foodstuffs in Germany.
(4) Admittedly very serious losses on the Russian front. (Römer said that he believed only a percentage of the losses were allowed to be published.)
(5) Realization that the great measure of success Rommel has had in Africa has not led to any decisive victory.
(6) Acknowledgement of the hatred of the various subject peoples for their German overlords. (The officers thought this hatred most marked in Denmark and Norway. Römer could only meet his Danish girlfriend in private in Denmark for fear of their meetings exciting unfavourable comment.)
(ii) Position of England
Römer was keenly disappointed that the U-Boat arm had been unable to force England into surrender. He felt that if only England could be beaten, the other Allied countries would quickly throw in their hands and a German victory would be assured. He was convinced that Germany now has enough U-Boats to reduce England to starvation, were it not for the many other fronts that had been opened up, thus making it impossible to concentrate them on any one area.
(iii) German Invasion Preparations
Römer said that he had seen large-scale invasion exercises with invasion craft in the neighbourhood of Gdynia in summer, 1942.
Ship’s Company of “U 353 ”
Name. Rank. English Equivalent. Born.
Römer, Wolfgang Oberleutnant zur See Lieutenant 22.10.16
Werner, Hanns Leutnant zur See Sub-Lieutenant 17.3.21
Kruse, Hellmut Leutnant zur See Sub-Lieutenant 15.6.21
Holz, Rolf Leutnant (Ing.) Sub-Lieutenant (E) 24.3.20
Margis, Werner Fähnrich zur See Midshipman 5.5.23
Roder, Heinz Obermaschinist Chief Mechanician, 1st Class 28.12.15
Timm, Hermann Obermaschinist Chief Mechanician, 1st Class 9.1.17
Dressel, Georg Obersteuermann Chief Q.M., 1st Class 19.5.17
Ordnung, Kurt Oberfunkmaat P.O. Telegraphist, 1st Class 6.10.18
Sörensen, Heinrich Johannes Bootsmannsmaat Boatswain’s Mate, 2nd Class 10.12.19
Staats, Karl Bootsmannsmaat Boatswain’s Mate, 2nd Class 30.8.17
Westphal, August Bootsmannsmaat Boatswain’s Mate, 2nd Class 15.12.20
Standke, Karl Obermaschinenmaat Mechanician, 1st Class 23.11.16
Drechsler, Paul Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 21.9.20
Faustomann, Werner Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 9.8.19
Hausmann, Werner Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 16.1.20
Schoen, Paul Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 19.10.10
Simon, Eligius Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 13.3.21
Bohn, Werner Funkmaat P.O. Telegraphist, 2nd Class 11.2.19
Leuoth, Kurt Matrosenobergefreiter Able Seaman 2.3.21
Seeger, Lucian Funkobergefreiter Telegraphist 11.12.21
Schwarz, Hermann Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 12.1.24
Boeck, Heinrich Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 22.4.22
Binke, Johanes Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 18.11.22
Bloemers, Gerhard Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 27.5.22
Dieckmann-Emden, Karol Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 4.1.21
Kluver, Herbert Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 3.11.22
Ahrens, Kurt Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 2.8.21
Auell, Wilhelm Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 9.3.21
Fischer, Robert Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 20.9.22
Gassan, Günther Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 29.12.23
Horn, Heinz Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 4.2.22
Kardel, Heinz Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 10/1/21
Lang, Rudolf Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 23.2.23
Nagel, Horst Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 19.5.21
Schafers, Hubert Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 11.12.21
Wanke, Rudolf Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 7.10.22
Hohnsbehn, Kurt Funkgefreiter Ordinary Telegraphist, 1st Class 16.8.22
Kretzschmar, Heinz Mechanikergefreiter Artificer, 2nd Class 6.7.23
Officers . . 5
Chief and Petty Officers . . 14
Men . . 20
Name. Rank. English Equivalent.
Petri, Günther Fähnrich zur See Midshipman
Bennewitz, Adolf Mechanikersmaat P.O. Artificer, 2nd Class
Goerres, Alfred Matrosenobergefreiter Able Seaman
Bietenbeck, Helnrich Matrosenobergefreiter Able Seaman
Lenekamp, Willi Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class
Wilner, Erich Mechanikergefreiter Artificer, 2nd Class
Officers . . 1
Chief and Petty Officers . . 1
Men . . 4
(iii) Total Crew:
Officers . . 6
Chief and Petty Officers . . 15
Men . . 24
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