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

1 - 15 December 1939

PG30253

     
 
 
 
Date
Position, Wind, Weather
 
and
Sea State, Illumination,
Events
Time
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
 
 
 
   
 

Group Headquarters West

1.12.

          The second order to U 35 has remained unanswered.  As every radio message is made at various times on long and short wave, it is out of the question that the boat did not receive it.  Either her radio is out of order or something has happened to her.
 
 
 
2.12.
          U 47 and 48 have also been ordered to report their fuel stocks.  It is necessary to find out how far south they could still operate, as weather conditions off the Channel seem very unfavorable.
 
   
 
3.12.
          According to reports received they could still operate south of Finisterre for a few days.  No decision can be reached until we see what the weather is like when they arrive off the Channel, not before 5.12.  In itself it would be better to have them off the Channel, as they could operate there longer.
 
          U 38, on her way back from Kola Bay, was ordered to occupy the Westfjord as operations area and to attack the ore exports to England, outside the 3 mile limit.  There have been many reports of this traffic, which is fairly heavy.  English ships take a large part.  Apparently the ships do not sail individually, but assemble off Loedingen and sail together, escorted by English forces.  It is not known whether close escort is provided or whether the escorting vessels merely remain in the vicinity.
      The main difficulties of intercepting this traffic are:
 
 
1) the uncertainty as to when the ships sail.  The attacking boat might have to wait a very long time.
2) The uncertainty as to whether the ships sail from or at what point they leave territorial waters.
 
  The area off Westfjord is too large to be covered by one boat, especially in the long winter months.
 
          There is not much hope of success therefore with a single boat off the Westfjord.  There are no further boats available in view of requirements in the other theatres of war It is therefore necessary to penetrate into the Westfjord.  Permission to do this has only recently been received from Naval War Staff.  It is stated that the whole of the fjord need no longer be regarded as territorial waters, as claimed by the Norwegians, but that here too Germany will only respect the 3 mile zone.
 
   
 
          U 46 will be ready for operations within the next few days.  She is to operate on the west coast of Portugal.  At present this is the best area for U-boats operating against merchant shipping, as conditions in the winter are better.
 
   
 
          U 30 and U 32 will be ready to sail approximately on 10th December.  I intend to give both boats minelaying operations.  By their radius of action they are limited to the area around England, where weather conditions are at present unfavorable for torpedo operations, while the long nights assist minelaying close inshore.  U 32 will lay mines off the Clyde with the large TMC's, which have
                   
                                      
 
 
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Date
Position, Wind, Weather
 
and
Sea State, Illumination,
Events
Time
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
 
 
 
  meanwhile been finished (charge 1,000 Kg).  U 30 will proceed to the Irish Sea, off Liverpool.  I think this latter operation should be very successful because:
     
1) There is a great deal of merchant shipping traffic here.
2) So far no U-boats have appeared in this area.
     
              The British radio announced the sinking of a German U-boat the crew of which had landed at a Scottish port.  Similar reports by the enemy have so far been found to be correct.  U 35 must be presumed lost.  Nothing has been heard of U 28 or 29, which should by now have carried out their operations, and it is feared that something may have happened to them too.  But it is also possible that they are waiting for the new moon to lay their mines.  In that case they should report within the next few days.
 
   
 
4.12.
          U 43 reported that she was starting her return passage and added that a southwest gale was raging off the Irish Sea.
 
          U 47 and U 48, which will be arriving there soon, will hardly be able to do anything in such weather conditions.  U 47 was ordered to report if weather made action impossible.  In this case I intend to send the boats south of Finisterre in spite of the short time they will be able to remain there.  Letters from captured members of her crew indicate that U 40 struck a mine.  This is the first proof of mines in the Channel.  Air reconnaissance of the Dover-Calais Straits has not so far been carried out.  Buoys and lightships have been laid off the English coast, showing that minefields have been laid, but nothing certain is known of their position and type.  I must now give up this route into the Atlantic; there must not be losses on passage.  With so few boats, each loss means such a considerable reduction in strength that it outweighs the disadvantages of a long and fruitless passage.  With regard to the boat's operations as such, I do not see any other way of conducting them if successes are not to decrease.  It will be necessary to carry on in the same way as at present and accept the inevitable losses.  It is only thus that the small U-boat arm, pitted against far superior forces, can hold its own as a part of the war as a whole.
 
   
 
5.12.
          C-in-C Navy paid a short visit to Group Headquarters and to B.d.U.
 
   
 
          U 26 entered port.  She did not carry out her minelaying operation off Gibraltar as the weather there was too bad.  She was afterwards in the Mediterranean, as ordered, but apparently struck a poor time for traffic.
 
          The result of her patrol is one steamer sunk.  Very little for 44 days.  The stormy weather is mainly to blame.  The C.O. cannot be blamed for not carrying out the minelaying operation because he did not consider it possible in view of local conditions.
 
          These things can only be judged at the time.  But he did not take long enough to make his observations; he should have at least made one more attempt in different weather conditions.
               
                              
 
 
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Date
Position, Wind, Weather
 
and
Sea State, Illumination,
Events
Time
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
 
 
 
          It was a mistake to send U 25, U 26 and U 53 into the Mediterranean.  U 25 had to return before she ever got there, U 53 did not get through and U 26 hardly encountered any shipping worth mentioning.  This patrol shows all the disadvantages of a long outward passage.  The boat can only operate for a few days and the operation is without success if she does not come upon any traffic in those few days.
       
 
6.12.
        B.d.U. requested Naval War Staff to extend the limits within which darkened ships may be attacked without warning. This is desirable:
     
1) in view of U 38's present operation off and in the Westfjord.  It is most probable that the English ships there are darkened.  Nearly all of them are painted grey, to make them less visible, and are armed.
2) for U-boat operations in the Mediterranean and off the Portuguese coast.  Returned boats say that they sighted darkened ships there and were never certain what to do.  Action according to prize law is very difficult and dangerous for the boat especially near Gibraltar.
 
          Naval War Staff would not give their approval, as there might be German ships off the Norwegian and Spanish coasts.
 
   
 
7.12.
          U 29 reported that she was returning.  The boat could not carry out her minelaying operation because of anti-S/M activity and weather conditions (11 days of gales) and now has to return home as her fuel stocks are exhausted.  Thank God our fears for her safety were without foundation.
 
   
 
          U 41 entered port.  She sank:
 
 
1) Trawler Creswell
275
  tons
2) Tanker Arne Kjode
11,500
  tons
3) S.S. Darine
1,350
  tons
4) Trawler Les Barges
290
  tons
   
13,415
  tons
 
          On her way out the weather was bad and sometimes stormy and she did not encounter much shipping.  Northwest of Cape Finisterre in good weather, she came upon the convoy reported by U 53, but could not maneuver into a good attacking position.  She fired a number of failures and misses, reasons for which are being investigated.  She still had the old type pistols.  The results of her patrol were only fair, due to these failures, but nevertheless shows ability and determination.
 
   
 
8.12.
          An indication of the presence of U 47 and U 48 off the Channel and south of Ireland is given in the first reports of ships sunk.
 
   
 
          U 38 has fired 12 torpedoes and has reported that she is
               
                              
 
 
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Date
Position, Wind, Weather
 
and
Sea State, Illumination,
Events
Time
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
 
 
 
  returning.She had new type pistols. It remains to be seen how many of these shots were failures.
       
 
9.12.
        U 30 sailed for her operations area. Minelaying off Liverpool.
       
 
10.12.
          There is no news of U 28 and some cause for concern. If so far she has not been able to lay her mines because of the weather and the moon, she must at least be able to decide now, with a new moon and calm weather, whether she can lay them at all.  In any case her fuel stocks should have forced her to return by now.
 
   
 
11.12.
          U 30 reported from the northern North Sea that her port exhaust valve would not close. The boat was in the dockyard from 9.10 to 5.12, during which time her engine casing was changed and her diving tanks altered.  She sailed on 9.12.  If the exhaust valve cannot be repaired at sea, the boat will be unable to dive and therefore forced to break off her patrol.  This means that the operation will have to be postponed until the next new moon.  After that long dockyard period it is hardly too much to ask that the exhaust valve should be in working order.
 
          If U 30 has to break off her operation I shall demand a thorough investigation by the dockyard to determine who is to blame.
 
   
 
          U 47 reported that she is starting her return passage.  She too has had several dud electric torpedoes, though the nature of the failure is not mentioned in the report.  One thing is certain now, however; the steps which the Torpedo Inspectorate promised themselves would remove the cause of these failures have not led to the desired results.
 
   
 
          U 31 entered port.  She was kept back off the Orkneys for a time, in connection with an operation by our own surface forces, and then operated in the North Sea (See F.O. U/B West's War Log).
 
   
 
          In the evening a report was received from U 28.  I had begun to think she was lost. She has been on her way home for several days and has carried out her minelaying operation.  There could have been no better news today!  The German U-boat Arm has one more boat than we thought.
 
   
 
12.12.
          U 30 has not been able to repair her exhaust valve and is returning.
 
   
 
          The fate of U 35 is now known.  A newspaper picture from Scotland shows the C.O. and some members of the crew.  The British radio has given out several names of members of the boat's crew.
 
          The boat has been declared missing with effect from 12 December.
                
                                       
 
 
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Date
Position, Wind, Weather
 
and
Sea State, Illumination,
Events
Time
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
 
 
 
          U 47 reported that she was starting on her return passage.  She has had 6 torpedo failures.  U 48 is now the only boat left in the Atlantic operations area.
       
 
13.12.
        An English S/M successfully attacked some of our light surface forces in the North Sea.  So that as extensive a S/M hunt as possible can be organized, all boats in the North Sea were ordered to make their positions.  All the Atlantic boats reported, except U 38.  There is some clue to her position however, because of a sinking report near the west coast of Norway.
       
 
14.12.
          U 38 reported her position off Utsire.  U 30 and U 43 entered port.  U 43 sank:
 
 
1)
steamer unidentified:
 
6 - 8,000
tons
2)
tanker,         "         :
 
10 - 12,000
tons
3)
S.S. Uskmouth:
 
2,483
tons
 
total at least
 
18,483
tons
 
          The Commanding Officer did very well in spite of his young, inexperienced crew and, considering the circumstances, was very successful.
 
   
 
          The case of U 30 has led me to take up the whole question of dockyard repairs and to get in touch with the Admiral Superintendent.
 
          The failure of torpedoes has had a very bad effect on U-boat operations.  The material weaknesses of the boats are of no less importance and they seem to have come more into evidence since the engine casings have been changed.  Even if this matter were settled, there still remains the fact that the dockyard periods are very long by comparison with the number and duration of patrols and that this state of affairs cannot go on.
 
 
1) One of the reasons for the long dockyard periods are defects in the boats which are only coming to light now in the war and can lead to losses.  So for instance, defects in the exhaust valves have meant that boats could not operate or had to return home, because they could not dive to a sufficient depth.  Against my recommendations, boats were not allowed to dive below 50 meters in peacetime; if they had these defects would have been found out before the war started.  After they can only be put right by structural alterations and long and tedious work.  This means more work for the dockyard in addition to the extra efforts required in wartime.
2) Long dockyard periods mean that there are many boats in the dockyard at a time, which leads to shortage of skilled labor and supervisors.  Personnel untrained in U-boat work cannot take the place of skilled workmen.  Either therefore the skilled workers are overworked or else the untrained men make mistakes which mean an even longer period in the dockyard.
 
                                                
 
 
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Date
Position, Wind, Weather
 
and
Sea State, Illumination,
Events
Time
Air Pressure, Moonlight etc.
 
 
 
   
 
 
3) The dockyard periods must be shortened by rigid organization of the work.  I will not accept bad organization which causes boats to have to remain days longer in the dockyard.  Individual commanding officers have been ordered to assist the dockyard by departments in carrying out the work.
4) On 5.12 I had a conference with the admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard to discuss these matters. The following was established:
  a) that short dockyard periods of 3-4 weeks after patrols are necessary, apart from changing engines and making other alterations.
  b) that numbers of trained dockyard personnel must be increased to meet the greater demands.  The nucleus of workmen to service 8 boats is not considered adequate.  Peak requirements cannot be met by withdrawing labor from surface vessels.
  c) Items of work must be organized by the dockyard quickly and efficiently.
    The length of dockyard periods for operational boats must be reduced at all costs.
 
 
 
15.12.
  "Graf Spee" is damaged and has put into Montevideo after her action in the South Atlantic.  Naval War Staff has asked B.d.U. what support U-boats could give the pocket battleship off the mouth of the La Plata.  I have assured Naval War Staff that I will do all I can and I am determined to try everything possible, in spite of the great difficulties which an operation of this kind with U-boats involves.
 
          2 U-boats (U 44 and U 46) can be got ready in time to reach the La Plata at the beginning of February.  The operation depends mainly on the question of supply.  It will be necessary to refuel on the way out, on the way back and in the operations area. Naval War Staff promises supplies in the Canaries and off the La Plata from "Altmark".  This means that the operation can be attempted. It means going into the Tropics and there is no experience of U-boats in these areas.  Preparations must be made accordingly.
 
          Special attention will have to be paid to victualling supplies, clothing and medical matters in view of the changes of climate, high temperatures and strong sun.  Torpedo pistols, electric torpedo batteries and ammunition are also likely to be effected.  The necessary steps are being taken immediately.
 
   
 
   
         
                                       (signed):  Dönitz
 
                    Rear Admiral and B.d.U.
 
   
 
   
               
                              
 
 
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