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

16 - 30 November 1939


Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
          U 47 sailed for her operations area in accordance with Operations Order No. 11.
Group Headquarters West
          The next boats to be ready for operations will be:
U 31 and U 35
18 November
U 48
20        "
U 36
25        "
          I intend to send U 31 and 35 to the sea area south of Ireland and to allow them considerable freedom of action there.  They must be able to approach the coast or move further out to sea according to weather conditions and patrol.  Cooperation will only be possible to a limited extent and will probably be confined to an exchange of individual reports rather than shadowing for any length of time.   At first U 28 and 29 will be in the same area.
          U 48 is a boat with wide radius of action.  She is therefore to operate west of Spain and Portugal, where U 47 will also be and possibly U 49.
          This area has 2 great advantages:
1) The weather is better here in the winter than it is further north.
2) There is less patrol, especially air patrol.  If there is any air activity at all it must be very slight.  The traffic situation is very favorable.
          U 53 has apparently lost the convoy which she reported on the 15th for good.  Her last report said that she had been driven off by a/c with bombs.  It was a small convoy of 7 ships.  As the boat is now west of Gibraltar and her operations area is east of Gibraltar, she has presumably started on her return passage.
          C-in-C Home Fleet is in the area north and northwest of Scotland.  U 29 is approximately north of the Shetlands.  She has been informed.
          U 53 reported another convoy off Lisbon, 18 ships in 4 columns, 5 destroyers escorting.  Speed 7-8 knots, main course north.  It is clearly the same convoy that the Radio Intelligence Service picked up on 16 November and fixed several times.
              It is valuable to have the radio intelligence report confirmed by the U-boat.  If reports continue to be as accurate and to arrive in such good time they will be of great use in the conduct of the war.  U 41 and U 43 are still very far north.  It is known from experience that it is too early to order them to operate against this convoy yet; but they are proceeding south and should be on a level with it in 2 days time.  U 53 is shadowing and reporting at intervals of several hours
              Order received from Naval War Staff to the effect that unrestricted action can be taken against passenger ships which are seen to be armed.  As most passenger ships are already armed, this will mean a great step forward.
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
              In practice of course, boats will only be able to attack passenger ships which they can recognize as armed.  Written lists of armed ships are seldom of any value, because the C.O. usually cannot identify the type of ship until very late on, shortly before he reaches a favorable position for firing.  Mush time is then lost looking up in lists to see if the ship is armed and once the enemy has passed the boat has to haul ahead again; this means that she must have a greater speed than the ship, which is not usually the case with passenger ships.
          U 31 and 35 sailed for their operations area in accordance with Operations Order No. 13.
          U 53 continued to shadow the convoy.  If contact is maintained it may be possible to bring up U 41 and 43.  The last 24 hours prove that it can be maintained.  U 41 and 43 have been ordered to operate against the convoy.
          U 31 had to enter port again because of engine trouble.
          Contact with the convoy was lost after it altered course, shortly before first light, just at the critical moment.  By afternoon the other boats could have been there.  Enemy destroyers drove U 53 off.  Although this was very regrettable, the C.O.'s achievement in shadowing for 36 hours must be recognized.
          At 1330 the boat had made contact again however.  The others should have been in the vicinity.  It must be taken into account that they have been in operations areas in the north for several days in bad weather.  Considerable errors in E.P. were to be expected.  U 53 was therefore ordered to make beacon signals.  The danger of her being D/F'd was small; it would have been impossible from shore and unlikely from the convoy.  At 1820 contact was lost again, but only an hour later U 41 sighted the convoy.  It had come off; a second boat had been brought up to the convoy.  Soon U 53 was also there again.  The boat's error in EP was about 6-8 miles; this is not much.  Nothing was heard of U 43, but this does not necessarily mean that she was not there.  She had no cause to report, as the enemy was under constant observation.
          After a long silence U 26 reported from west of Gibraltar.  She has not carried out the minelay.
          U 49 reported a premature detonation with the adapted pistol.  This is so far an isolated case and no judgment can be made.
          U 55 lost the convoy when it altered course.  U 41 was still there however, and made beacon signals.  It is odd that there is no news of sinkings yet after such a long pursuit.  U 55 attacked and heard 2 explosions.  It must be assumed that U 41 also attacked.  No failures have been reported.  Probably the boats have not been able to observe results after firing.  Perhaps the enemy is purposely not making any losses known, as has happened before.  If he has had losses however, he should by now have strengthened the escort and sent out a/c.  The convoy is only 200 miles away from the French coast.  As it is so near the coast it will not be possible to attack
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
  it for much longer.  Boats taking part will have to have new operating areas.  Nothing is known so far of U 43 and U 49.  According to a French report, a German U-boat is said to have been sunk.  Both boats have been ordered to report their positions and intentions.
              Later U 43 made a radio message.  She was ahead of the convoy, but not yet in sight of it and was waiting for daylight to make an attack.
          U 49 did not report until much later.  She was damaged by D/C's, and her bow torpedo gear unserviceable.  As she has only one stern torpedo left serviceable, she has been ordered to return.  U 41's gyro is temporarily out of action due to D/C's.
          The attack on the convoy must be regarded as ended.  The boats have been given a new operations area between 50 and 480 north, east of 120 west.  The disposition originally planned cannot be carried out now as U 49 has to return home and the other boats have only a limited amount of fuel left.
          U 53 reported that she was starting on her return passage.
          U 31 and U 48 sailed, for the first time with anti-mine escort through the declared area.
          In connection with a large-scale operation by our own battleships U 35, U 47 and U 33 have been kept back in the area west of the Orkneys.  According to a sighting report, not entirely reliable, from an a/c, the Home Fleet is supposed to be in Scapa.
          U 38 lay off Westfjord for a few days.  The weather was very bad and the boat observed no traffic.  In accordance with orders she reported that she was proceeding north.
          U 43 made contact with a convoy 60 miles north of Cape Ortegal.  Unfortunately there are no other boats in the vicinity.  U 26 is the nearest, approximately in the latitude of Porto.  As she has been in her operational area for a very long time, she presumably has only little fuel remaining.  Cooperation must be attempted however.  Unfortunately U 26 has only AFB on board, and shadower's reports will therefore have to be made with this clumsy and slow cypher system.
          By evening U 43 was driven off and contact lost.
          U 33 reported that she had sunk a Q ship.  Radio Intelligence reports received late this afternoon indicate that an enemy unit may have been sunk in connection with the operation of our surface forces, begun on the 22nd, north of the line Shetlands-Norway.  Thus the enemy must know that there are German forces in this area. It remains to be seen what his reaction will be.  As there is no clue as to what he will do, the 4 boats off the Orkneys and Shetlands have been left in their present positions. The deterioration in weather conditions will probably mean that the U-boat's action will be restricted.
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
          There is still no indication as to what steps the British C-in-C is taking.  Weather conditions preclude air reconnaissance.  As it can no longer be assumed however, that the British Fleet is in the Clyde, the 2 western boats - U 47 and U 35 - were ordered to move further to the northeast, off the Pentland Firth and Fair Island Passage.  Here also they will be in a better position to cut off the fleet east of the Shetlands if this should become necessary.
          Bad weather continues.  It is very doubtful if light forces will still be at sea; they have probably sought shelter off the coast.  It is also possible that they have had to put into protected places to refuel, as they have been at sea for some time.  The 4 boats were therefore ordered to search the east coasts of the Shetlands and Orkneys especially Lerwik.  Another good reason for giving this order was the fact that, in this weather at sea, boats will probably not be able to attack, where as on the leeward coast it might still be possible.
          U 33 entered port; she laid mines according to plan and encountered little patrol.  There was no traffic in her operations area off the North Channel, and in the end she attacked fishing trawlers before she left in order not to come home empty-handed.  The C.O.'s report shows that this was a well-conducted patrol and it is not the fault of the boat that she had so little success.
           Air reconnaissance identified several groups of light and heavy naval forces at midday in the Shetland-Norway Straits, with varying courses.  Contact was lost after 2 hours, owing to the shadowing a/c's lack of fuel.  It is nevertheless plain that the enemy intends to take up a cutting-off position here.  Search along the leeward coast apparently led to no success. A temporary slight improvement in the weather is forecast.  I decided to let the 3 boats off the Shetlands coast reconnoiter to the east as far as the Norwegian coast.
1) Searching the coast did not lead to anything; there is apparently nothing there.
2) The enemy was in the Shetlands-Norway Straits.  As the situation as a whole has not changed, it can be expected that he will still be there tomorrow (Our own battleships had not yet returned).
3) The improvement in the weather forecast should mean that the boats will be able to attack.
          Our own battleships have returned from the operation; their return passage apparently went unnoticed.
          Air reconnaissance again identified enemy forces in the Straits.
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
              Soon after U 35 reported a London class cruiser and then U 47 reported a hit on another cruiser of the same class.
            The decision to send the boats into the Straits was therefore correct.
              As there is no indication that the enemy knows that C-in-C Fleet has returned home, it is to be expected that he will remain in his cutting off position again tomorrow.  I have decided to let the U-boats remain in the same area.
          Again air reconnaissance identified light naval forces and a convoy northeast of these in the same area.  The weather continues very stormy.  Apparently the U-boats have not been able to fire.
          As it must now be taken that C-in-C Fleet's return cannot remain unknown to the enemy for much longer, there is no point in the boats remaining in the Shetland-Norway Straits for another day, especially as there are believed to be many destroyers in the vicinity.
          U 47 and 48 will continue on their passage to the North Atlantic.
          U 31 and 35 have been ordered to occupy the operations areas on the east coast of England.  Their radius of action is too small to make it worthwhile for them to go into the Atlantic after the operations of the last few days.  They are to report their stocks of fuel when leaving.
          A radio message received from U 29.  She does not consider that the minelaying operation off Milford can be carried out in the present circumstances.  (She had orders not to carry out the operation if undue risks were involved).  The boat was allocated an operations area in the Bristol Channel.
  U 49 entered port.  She only managed to fire one torpedo during the short time she was in the Atlantic, at an escorted steamer which probably sunk.  The boat suffered considerable damage from D/C's.  There are no further details.  The propaganda organization has exaggerated U 47's hit on a cruiser to a sinking.  From the service man's point of view these inaccuracies and exaggerations are undesirable.
          Radio message from U 38:  No shipping sighted off Lola Bay.  No successes.  This boat was sent there on the orders of Naval War Staff, in the belief that there was considerable traffic in the area.  Later information received by Naval War Staff indicated that these hopes were unjustified.  Now the boat herself has confirmed this.  In the circumstances it is pointless to keep the boat there any longer.  She has been ordered to return.
              U 31's fuel report received, but not U 35's.  The boat was again ordered to report.
      U 53 entered port.  This is the boat which shadowed the convoy west of Portugal and Biscay from the 17th to the 19th and the operations orders of which were to penetrate into the Mediterranean.  She sank nothing on this patrol.  The C.O.'s report shows that she had many chances to attack but did not make use of them.  The boat did not show enough fighting spirit.  I have therefore decided to
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
      relieve the C.O.
              On 30.11 B.d.U. reported to C-in-C Navy in Berlin on the results of the mining war and further intentions:
  The mining war has 2 aims.
1) To attack military bases (in continuation of the attack on Scapa Flow) with the object of driving the enemy out of ports near the North Sea.
  Acting on these lines, B.d.U. carried out minelays in the beginning of November in Loch Ewe, off the entrance to Invergordon, and at the entrance to Rosyth in the Firth of Forth.
2) To attack enemy merchant shipping.  The following fields were laid for this purpose:
  2 in the Bristol Channel
  1 off the Shambles (Portland)
  1 off South Goodwin
  2 off Orfordness
  2 off Lowestoff
  1 off Newark Lightship
  1 off Inner Dowsing
  1 off Flamborough Head
  1 off Middlesborough (Hartlepool).
   3)  The following points are of importance with regard to        the mining war:
a) It is a good thing to lay mines at many suitable places, so that shipping is disorganized everywhere.
b) Places which are particularly suitable, because of narrow entrances, should be entirely closed for as long as possible by several minefields.
c) Mines should therefore be laid starting at the innermost point and working outwards, so that possible later operations are not prejudiced, even if this means that the first mines are laid in less promising positions.
d) Mines must be laid at depths at which their effect is likely to be fatal.  Wartime experience has shown that, despite peacetime expectations, TMB's do not have this effect at depths greater than 25 meters.  The Inspectorate of Mining and Barrage was therefore requested at the beginning of November to construct a S/M-laid ground mine with a much heavier charge.  They have worked very energetically at this and at present 2 new mines, type TMC, with a 1000 Kg charge, have already been manufactured for experimental purposes.
4) The next steps in the mining war are therefore planned as follows:
  A) Military Positions:
    a) Closing the Firth of Forth, first with 2 TMB-minefields north and south of the one laid by U 21 and afterwards by 3 TMC fields east of this, but not
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Position, Wind, Weather
Sea State, Illumination,
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
      further east than the longitude of May Island.
    b) Fouling of the Clyde with TMC.  After the Scapa incident the Clyde became the main anchorage for the heavy ships.  Only TMC's can be used in the Clyde.
    c) Completing the minefield off Invergordon with 2 TMB minefields, followed by 2 TMC fields outside these.
    d) Fouling of Plymouth with TMC's.
    e) Fouling of the Needles Channel (Portsmouth) with TMC's.
  B) Minelaying against merchant shipping:
    a) Closing the Bristol Channel by adding to the 2 minefields already laid. The minefields to be laid now by U 26 and U 29 off Milford Haven and Swansen also come within this framework.
    b) Laying TMB's off Liverpool.
    c) Laying TMC's on the south coast, off Falmouth, St. Alban's Head, St. Catherine's Point, Royal Sovereign and Dungeness.
    d) Laying TMB's on the east coast at the north entrance to Yarmouth Roads off Cockle Lightship (now being laid by U 59), off Newcastle (now being laid by U 61), and off Dundee.
5) As there are so few boats and torpedo warfare still has to be waged, this plan will take some time to carry out.  Some of the operations can only be carried out at new moon and they are so difficult that special commanding officers have to be selected, all of which means time.
              C-in-C Navy agreed to the proposals and also instructed me to go into the question of laying mines off Halifax and Blyth.  I requested to defer the Halifax operation until the weather improves, as in bad weather the boat's radius of action does not permit their remaining off Halifax for long.  Blyth will be mined by one of the small boats.
                                     (signed):  Donitz
                                           Rear Admiral and B.d.U.
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