F.d.U./B.d.U.'S War Log

16 - 30 September 1939


Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.


Group Headquarters West

          In order to get further information on English trade routes, the amount of merchant shipping traffic and the convoy system, a collection of questions for investigation has been sent to the intelligence service.
          With Supreme Command of the Navy, Naval War Staff (1st Division)'s Most Secret 6559 control of U-boats under F.O. U/B Baltic passes to F.O. U/B West.  For details see War Log of F.O. U/B West.
          U 30 requested leave to call at Reykjavik to land a seriously wounded man; she reports slight damage to her bows, 2 tubes out of action.  She has 2 captured Air Force officers on board.  Permission was given in radio message 0145.  She will probably put into Reykjavik during the night 16/17.  The Consul is to be informed by Naval War Staff as late as possible, so that her movements will not be known too soon.  U 26 made contact with the convoy reported by U 31 at 1900/15.  According to dead reckoning it was making 6-8 knots.  According to a radio intelligence report one boat appears to have attacked.  17.9 U 41, 48, 52 entered port.
   Successes: U 41 brought in 2 Finnish ships from the North Sea as prize.  No sinkings.  
U 48 sank:   S.S. Winkleigh   5,055 tons
  S.S. Royal Sceptre   4,053 tons
  S.S. Firby   4,869 tons
    14,977 tons
          U 52 sank a ship type Appalachee, 8826 tons.  "ERWIN WASSNER" sailed for Kiel.  This completed the separation of the operational and administrative staffs.  It remains to be seen how it will work out.  In the evening U 32 reported her operation carried out:
          "As per your order, lettered E
          have fouled the British swine his sea."
         (Minelay in the Bristol Channel).  The boat has been allocated operations area C.  U 31 and U 28 are also there.  The latter will, however, have to return home very soon.  There is nothing against having 3 boats in such a wide sea area.  C is one of the best positions and must therefore be heavily occupied.
          U 34 reported that she had started her return passage, the first boat of the 2nd U-Flotilla.This flotilla has orders to remain in the operations area until ammunition and fuel are used up.  The equipment has therefore sufficed for 18 war days in positions.
  U 38 and U 40 entered port.
Successes: U 38 sank Manaar   7,200 tons
                     Inverliffey   9,445 tons
    14, 645 tons
U 40 no sinkings.  
              The British radio published the sinking of the a/c carrier Courageous (22,500) tons by a U-boat.  A wonderful success and further confirmation of the fact that the English defense forces are not as effective as they advertise themselves to be.
              A number of radio intelligence reports received during the last week show clearly that the enemy is introducing the convoy
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
  systems in the Mediterranean.  Agents' reports point to English troop transports leaving for France from Channel ports.  U 35 has therefore been ordered to occupy area F and operate from there against these troop transports.  It is also intended to attack them simultaneously from the North Sea.  (War Log F.O. U/B West).
          The inadequate firing of torpedoes is causing grave concern.  G7a and G7e torpedoes have repeatedly exploded after a run of about 250 meters, before reaching the target. In one case the boat was slightly damaged owing to this (U 27).  The Torpedo Inspectorate does not know the reason at present.  Everything is being done to remedy the defect.
          Towards midday C-in-C Navy arrived at Group Headquarters.  He enquired into the process of the U-boat war and raised the question of sending U-boats to the Mediterranean to withdraw light Naval forces from the North Sea.  In my opinion it would not be a good thing, with the very few U-boats available at present, to split them up over too many theatres of war.  The withdrawal of light Naval forces from the one area can also be achieved by transferring the war against merchant shipping to the areas West of Gibraltar and Portugal.  This was already done with the first disposition and it is intended to continue on the same lines later.
          Then C-in-C Navy spoke of the conduct of the war in general.  He said that the next step he intended to take in the war at sea against England, before declaring unrestricted danger zones, was to declare danger zones only against English ships, not against neutrals.  He wished first however, to hear F.O. U/B's views.  I replied that in my opinion warfare limited to certain nations would not bring the desired results, because:  
1) In most cases the U-boat, which has to wait submerged for a suspicious ship, cannot identify the ship's nationality in time to attack without warning.
2) Presumably the enemy would very soon sail his merchant ships under the protection of neutral markings and flags.
The results would be:
a) either many neutrals would be sunk without warning as supposed enemies, which is just what we want to avoid
b) or many enemy ships would get away as supposed neutrals, which we want to avoid ever more.
  U 26, 27 and 23 reported:
  Started on return passage.  U 27 and U 33 had been expected to leave the operational area since the 15th.  They have been out longer than was expected, 17 days, apart from the time before the outbreak of war during which they used up provisions only.  U 26 on the other hand has left much sooner.  The reason is probably lack of ammunition.  She was only able to take 6 torpedoes besides the mines.  As she made contact with the convoy reported by U 31 she probably fires some torpedoes at ships in it.  No report has yet been received from U 30 about her putting into Reykjavik.  Possibly the boat is having to proceed at most economical speed, as she had not expected this detour.
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
          Radio intelligence reports give the impression that England is now using her air force on a large scale against U-boats.  The operation is favored by the calm weather conditions.
          U 28 reported that she was starting her return passage.  There are now only 4 boats at stations.This void cannot be concealed from the enemy; this is shown by the fact that far fewer U-boat warnings and sightings are received.  Many of them are still false and cover a wide area, but the total number is less.
          There is still no news of U 30.  Also none of U 39.  The boat could have been home some days ago, but there are many possible reasons for delay.  It is not intended to order her to make her position, as this cannot help the boats and may make their return passage more difficult.
          The long awaited report from U 30 was received.  The boat put into Reykjavik on the 19th and is at present SE of Iceland.  It is now essential to get news of U 39.  In radio message 0837 she was ordered for the first time to report her position.
          Naval War Staff has sent a T/P to F.O. U/B, ordering that all attacks on French ships are to be avoided at all costs.  This means that U-boats cannot operate in the Channel against troop transports.  This operation (U 35 see also F.O. U/B West's War Log) was arranged because of Naval War Staff's orders that convoys could be attacked North of the Latitude of Brest even if the escort consisted of French Forces.  It can be taken as certain that these transports sail at night; and at night the U-boat must be able to assume that a darkened ship is an enemy ship, even if in convoy.  It is often impossible to establish the nationality of ships in convoy even by day and when flags are not being misused, but at night it is quite out of the question.  I therefore informed Naval War Staff that, if this order is to stand, I cannot let the boats operate in the Channel.  At first Naval War Staff would not make a final decision as to conduct towards France, but later Captain Fricke informed me by telephone, that today's order was cancelled and that things stood as before, i.e. French ships could be sunk without warning if they were proceeding in convoy North of the latitude of Brest.
          It does not appear necessary or desirable to define definite limits of operations areas for the 4 boats remaining in the sea area SW of England.  There is hardly any information available here as to escort of shipping, sea patrol main direction of traffic etc. in this area.  Positions of sinkings show that there is much traffic from the south to the Channel and the Irish Sea, but little from the North to the Irish Sea.  Boats are to adapt themselves as much as possible to the traffic situation and be able to get away from local patrol.  The South and West limits of the operations area have therefore been lifted.  In the evening U 53 and U 32 reported that they were starting their return passage.  This is much sooner than expected and must be due to their having used up their ammunitions.  There are therefore only 2 boats left at stations.  U 39 was again ordered to report her position.The signal was made several times during the night on both the North Sea and Atlantic waves.
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
          U 39 did not report.  It is possible that her radio is out of order, but even at slow speed she should have reached home by now.  She must be presumed lost.  A british broadcast reports the arrival of captured U-boat men in England.
          U-boats which have returned say, that in very many cases ships use their radio when they are ordered to stop, with the result that in several cases a/c have appeared over the positions reported.  In this way ships assist enemy anti-S/M activity.  I consider it necessary to take action against such ships in order to prevent their taking part in anti-S/M operations in this way, and I have asked Naval War Staff for a ruling.  The question of the treatment of French ships is becoming increasingly urgent with present developments (troop transports, convoys).
          In Most Secret 8027 Naval War Staff gives the following ruling:  French ships are to be treated in the same way as English ships.  For passenger ships, orders as hitherto issued remain in force.  Merchant ships which use their radio when stopped are either to be brought in or sunk.  Mines may be laid on the French coast.  Boats received orders accordingly in radio message 1641.
          U 33, on return passage in the North Sea, reported at 2217 an enemy cruiser and 3 destroyers on the Ling Bank, course 1000, speed 15 knots. Apparently the boat soon lost contact. (see also F.O. War Log)
          U 31 reports:  Have started on return passage because of lack of fuel.  This boat is also returning much sooner than had been calculated.  She was not expected to leave until 7.10.
          Experience so far has shown that such calculations are very unreliable in the end.  It is not possible to judge from here how much fuel a boat actually uses in the operations area. It depends on how often and for how long she has to chase ships. Engine defects lower the speed and make it necessary to leave earlier. The period a boat can spend in the operations area is finally dependent on her stocks and consumption of ammunition.
          The condition of boats when they return varies greatly from case to case.  Periods required for repairs differ very much and the next operation often depends more on this than on the state of the crew.  For operational control this means that of necessity if full use is made of the boats, there will be periods during which a large number of boats are out against the enemy and periods when there will be only a few in operations area.
          U 30, coming from Reykjavik, gave her position as AN 3840 and reported one Diesel unserviceable and other damage.  She was picked up by a minesweeper and escorted to route Blau.
          U 26, U 29 and U 34 entered port.
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
            U 26 carried out a difficult minelaying operation with determination and ability.  Except for the Belgian S.S. "Alex van Opsal", sank shortly afterwards in the minefield, she did not meet with any success.
  U 29 sank:
  the a/c carrier "Courageous"   22,500 tons
  the tanker "Regent Tiger"   10,176 tons
          "          "British Influence"     8,431 tons
  the tug "Neptunia"        900 tons
      19,507 tons
      An outstandingly successful patrol.
      U 34 sank:
  S.S. "Pukkastan"     5,809 tons
  S.S. "Kennebec"     5,548 tons
      11,357 tons
      and also brought in the Estonian S.S. "Hanonia", 2543 tons, as prize.
              Towards midday heavy English naval forces were reported in the central North Sea.  Apparently U-boats made no contact.  (see F.O. U/B West's War Log).
          Several heavy units of the English Naval forces which penetrated to the center of the North Sea have been damaged by a/c bombs.  According to reconnaissance and radio intelligence reports, they are returning to their bases.  U 32 and U 53, which are believed to be off the Shetlands, were ordered to wait off Scapa for as long as fuel stocks permit.  U 53 reported that her fuel would not run to this.
      U 30 entered port.  She sank:
  S.S. "Blairlogic"   4,425 tons
  S.S. "Fanad Head "   5,274 tons
      9,699 tons.
              Stopping "Fanad Head" nearly proved fatal for the boat.  While the prize party was examining the ship, a/c appeared and the C.O. was faced with the problem of either taking unrestricted action or losing the prize party.  He chose the first alternative and finally achieved all he wanted by skill and daring.
              This case shows how very difficult it is for U-boats to have to act according to prize law, especially with a/c.  They make themselves vulnerable and lose their strength, which lies in being able to surprise and to dive.
      U 33 entered port.  She sank:
  S.S. "Olive Grove"   4,060 tons
  S.S. "Arkleside"   1,567  tons
  S.S. "Coldew"     600  tons
      6,227 tons.
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
          The Fürhrer visited U-boat headquarters.
          F.O. U/B gave details, in the presence of C-in-C Navy and Major General Keitel only, of the operation of U-boats so far and further prospects for U-boat warfare.  After explaining individual operation problems for the Atlantic and the North Sea, I summarized my views as follows:
1) The actual and psychological effect of the U-boat over a wide area is still very great and not less than in the World War.
2) It is not true that England has technical means which nullify the U-boat danger.  Boat's experience confirm that English anti-S/M activity is not as effective as it claims to be.
3) Undoubtedly progress has been made in anti-S/M warfare, but it is balanced by considerable improvements in the U-boat:
  a) The boats proceed more quietly.
  b) Splashless discharge of torpedoes, which does not give the boat away.
  c) The torpedo's track is invisible and its effect much greater than before.
4)  Enormous strides have been made in U-boat communications.  It is possible today to operate U-boats over the widest areas according to plan and to let them operate together.  It is thus possible to counter a concentration of merchant ships in convoys with a concentration of U-boats.  The convoy becomes the focal point for all U-boats stationed in the area.  The Biscay exercises from 11-15 May showed that this was a practical proposition.
5)  After considering all questions relating to U-boat warfare I am convinced that it is a means of inflicting decisive damage on England at her weakest point.
6)  U-boat war can only be waged successfully if there are enough boats.  This means at least 300 boats.  Therefore a far larger number of boats must be built, as the current losses have to be covered.
7) If this number of boats is available. I believe that the U-boat Arm can achieve decisive success.
          The Führer spent an hour with the U-boat officers at their club and then left Wilhelmshaven.
          U 28 entered port.  No merchant ships sunk.  One auxiliary cruiser with strong escort attacked, hit and probably sunk.
          U 28 was SW of the cruiser in the Bristol Channel.  The C.O. confirmed my suspicion that the assembly points for ships
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
  given at first were not correct.  They were probably points of reference.
          It is 10 days since U 27 reported that she was starting her return passage at 0700/19/9.  She will be ordered to report her position tonight.  If she does not answer is must be assumed that something happened to her.
          U 27 has not reported. A few days ago the English radio again spoke of captured U-boat men.  They were interned in the North of England.  A merchant ship captain told of firing on a U-boat which was said to have got caught up in a fisherman's net.  There may be some connection.
          Radio message from U 35 (English Channel):  "One week in the area Portland, Casquets, Dieppe, Hastings.  Very strong air patrol.  S/M's and small surface craft, no large warships, transports or convoys.  Heavy single ship traffic off the English coast.  Little traffic off the French coast, including Le Harve.  Impossible to act according to prize law because of patrol vessels." etc.  Valuable due to the present state of affairs in the Channel.
          U 32 entered port.  She carried out her minelaying operation according to plan and, in addition sank:
  S.S. "Kensington Court "   4,863 tons
  S.S. "Jern"      875  tons
      5,738 tons.
  U 53 entered Kiel.  She sank:
  S.S. "Cheyanne"     8,825 tons
  S.S. "Kafiristan"     5,193 tons
      14,018 tons.
          Nearly all boats are at home now.  I shall take advantage of this opportunity to address the U-boat commanders in Wilhelmshaven and afterwards in Kiel, to give them instructions once more and explain the mistakes made before they put to sea again.
                              (signed):  Dönitz
                                  Captain and Commodore
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