This record was kindly provided by the generous assistance of Tony Cooper.


                                                                                                                 COPY No.
This book is invariably to be kept locked up when not in use and is not to be taken outside the ship or establishment for which it it issued without the express permission of the Commanding Officer
C.B.  04051 (26)
"U 556"
Interrogation of Survivors
August, 1941



          This book is the property of His Majesty's Government.  
          It is intended for the use of the recipients only, and for communication to such Officers under them (not below the rank of Commissioned Officer) who may require to be acquainted with its contents in the course of their duties.  The Officers exercising this power will be held responsible that such information is imparted with due care and caution.  


Attention is called to the penalties attaching to any infraction of the
Official Secrets Acts
C.B.  04051 (26)
"U 556"
Interrogation of Survivors
August, 1941


          The following report is compiled from information derived from prisoners of war.  The statements made cannot always be verified; they should therefore not be accepted as facts unless they are definitely stated to be confirmed by information from other sources.  


  Introductory Remarks  
  Crew of "U 566"  
Early History of "U 556"
First Cruise of "U 556"
  Last Cruise of "U 556"  
  Sinking of "U-556"  
  Details of "U 556"  
  General Remarks  
  Diesel Engines, Electric Motors and Speeds  
  Drive between Engines and Motors  
  Air Compressor  
  Emergency Floats  
  Diesel Foundation  
  "U 137"  
Crew of "U 556"  
  (C42315)                                                                                                                            B*  


           AT ABOUT 0700 ON FRIDAY, 27th JUNE, 1941, IN POSITION  
60° 18' N., 29 ° 20' W.
          This report on the interrogation of survivors of "U 556," a 500-ton U-Boat contains only such information as refers to "U 556" and "U 137"; some remarks on the latter U-Boat was included because she was formerly commanded by the captain of "U 556" and his career is thus more easily followed.  
          All general information obtained will be published in the report on the interrogation of prisoners captured at the sinking of "U 651."  
II.  CREW OF "U 556"
          "U 556" carried four officers, fifteen Chief and Petty Officers, twenty-four ratings and, in addition, a Sub-Lieutenant and a Midshipman whose suitability for U-Boats was being tested; the total was thus forty-five men.  
          One officer, one petty officer and two ratings lost their lives, when the U-Boat was sunk, and a third rating died later.  
          The captain, Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant-Commander) Herbert Wohlfarth, was considered by the Germans to have been one of their "U-Boat Aces."  He was born on 5th June, 1915, in Japan, and entered the Navy in 1933; he transferred to U-Boats in 1937 and was appointed to his first command in 1940.  An earlier statement to the effect that Wohlfarth had at one time commanded "U 22" could not be confirmed; if he had command of this U-Boat, it would only have been for a short time, as he was no longer on board at the end of March, 1940.  
          In April or May, 1940, he was appointed to command "U 137," a 300-ton U-Boat of the same series as "U 138" (C.B. 4051 (25) ), built by the Deutsche Werke, Kiel.  Some statements regarding "U 137" are given in Section VIII of this report.  
          By the time Wohlfarth was appointed to command "U 556," he had to his credit sinkings alleged by prisoners to total about 56,000 tons.  His activities in "U 556" brought his total claims up to 93,977 tons, representing 22 ships, including an escort vessel.  
          On 25th May, 1941, Wohlfarth was awarded the Knight Insignia of the Iron Cross.  
          He was extremely security-conscious, and gave the impression of being a disciplinarian, rather a bully, and arrogant; his success had made him conceited, but he showed a certain sense of humour.  He was adequately educated and reasonably polite, but in conversation he betrayed occasional streaks of callousness and cruelty.  
          He was not married and his home was in Berlin; he spoke fair English.  
          The First Lieutenant, Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant) Hans Schaefer, aged 30 years, was a Rhinelander by birth and education; he was married and his wife lived in Hamburg.  He joined the Merchant Service in 1928 and transferred to the Navy in 1934.  He formerly served in the A.A. Gunnery and Coastal Defence Section.  
          The Chief Quartermaster expressed his surprise that Schaefer should have so responsible a position as First Lieutenant of a U-Boat considering that this officer was only on his second active service cruise; it was admitted, however, that Schaefer was an exceptionally efficient officer and that possibly that fact justified the risk.  Had he returned safely from "U 556's" last cruise, he would have been appointed to a course for prospective U-Boat captains, lasting a few weeks, and would then have been given the command of a U-Boat of his own, according to the Chief Quartermaster.  
          The junior officer, Leutnant zur See (Sub-Lieutenant) Hans Souvard, 22 years of age, came from Western Germany, joined the Navy in October, 1937, and transferred to U-Boats fairly recently.  He was the most arrogant survivor of  


  "U 556," and based his confident pronouncements regarding the war on "German invincibility"; he welcomed the war against Russia as a further duty of the German nation in the crusade for the establishment of Hitler's New Order, under which the subject and abject nations would be shown by the "Herrenvolk" how to live.  
          The engineer officer, Oberleutnant (Ing.) (Engineer Lieutenant) Körner, lost his life when "U 556" was sunk.  He joined the Navy in 1935.  
          Leutnant zur See (Sub-Lieutennant) Frank Rolinck, aged 28 years, was carried in "U 556" on her last cruise, to determine his suitability for the U-Boat service.  He was a Westphalian and single, but engaged to a girl from his native village.  At the age of twenty he joined the Navy on the lower deck and after two years became a cadet.  He served in the pocket battleship "Deutschland" during the Spanish Civil War.  His last appointment before joining "U 556" was recruiting officer at Murwik in Schleswig-Holstein.  His family were wealthy brewers and Rolinck was quite well educated, had pleasant manners, was not as thoroughly drilled in security matter as the other prisoners, and was altogether a more human type.  
           The midshipman, Fähnrich zur See (Midshipman) Felix Urbanski, also being tested for U-Boat service, was a nineteen-year-old Viennese who had been educated at a "National Political Training Establishment" (National Politische Erziehungsanstalt"), a new type of school introduced soon after the Anschluss; the object of such establishments is to provide free education from the age of 10 up to the "Abitur" examination, usually taken at about 18 years of age, for suitable sons of poor parents; special emphasis is laid on "mental and physical toughening in the spirit of National Socialism."  More attention is paid to games than in most high schools; but sport is not allowed to interfere with "Political instruction," a form of enlightenment considered to be of paramount importance and imparted by the headmaster, with reverent quotations from "Mein Kampf."  Pupils chosen for these schools are those intended for military or technical careers; the object aimed at is the increase in numbers of tough and militant Nazis in the fighting forces and in the professions.  
          Urbanski joined the Navy at the outbreak of war, and, after some preliminary training, served in a mine-sweeper for several months.  He had not yet had any U-Boat training at all, and admitted that, had he been considered suitable for U-Boat service, such training would have been hasty and inadequate.  He was an ardent Nazi, not intelligent, poorly educated, gauche, and scarcely suitable to have become an officer.  He professed contempt for the masses of the German people whom he thought stupid and gullible.  
          The chief and petty officers included a very few trained and experienced men who had previously served in "U 137" under Wohlfarth' but most petty officers were men of limited experience who had been hastily promoted after inadequate promotion courses.  
          Discontent with their lot and with the lack of prospects was coupled with criticism not so much of their own officers as of the naval authorities, service conditions, and what they considered the absence of realisation on the part of higher authorities of the conditions and requirements of the lower deck.  
          The ratings were the usual propaganda-fed, sheep-like Nazis of about 19 to 22 years of age; many were typical products of the "Hitler Jugend" organisation, had joined the Navy because they had been attracted by clever propaganda, and had been drafted without option to U-Boats.  Some were men of poor brain and had lived the simplest peasant lives until they found themselves, almost to their surprise, in the Navy.  
          The petty officers were extremely critical of these recruits and expressed much apprehension as to the results to be feared from entrusting work of any importance to such men.  
          There seemed to be an atmosphere of suppressed anxiety and an incipient fear which they themselves could not define.  
          On the other hand most men expressed satisfaction with the internal state of their country and were not anxious about their families; they had great faith in the Government care of the civilian population and this feeling of security of their relatives and homes helped largely to keep their morale at a high level and compensated for their personal grievances.  
  (C42315)                                                                                                                        B* 2  


          "U 556" was built by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg.  Prisoners were unable to state when she was laid down; in September, 1940, the first members of the crew were drafted to stand by the U-Boat during the final stages of construction.  While the U-Boat was still on the slips, the crew was not allowed on board, but received theoretical instruction in the "Gotenwind," formerly a sailing training ship.  
          Some engine room ratings were first sent to a special course of four weeks at the Motorenwerke, Mannhiem, before being sent to the Blohm & Voss yard.  
          The U-Boat was said to have been launched during the first or second week of December, 1940; during that month and January, 1941, most of the crew joined, and "U 556" was commissioned on 6th February, 1941.  
          During this period the crew lived in barracks in Steinwerder, according to prisoners.  
          She started her acceptance trials on 17th February, proceeding through the Kiel Canal to the Baltic.  
          It was stated that "U 556" carried out her trials alone and visited Gotenhafen, among other places.  
          She returned to Kiel in April 1941, to be prepared for her first cruise.  
          The Captain was Wohlfarth, the Engineer Officer was Körner, the First Lieutenant was Schäfer, and the Junior Officer was Souvard.  
          It was established that "U 556" left on her first war cruise on the morning of 1st May, 1941, and proceeded through the Kiel Canal.  She was stated to have been in company with "U 67," Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant-Commander) Bleichrodt, which was proceeding to a dockyard at Wilhelmshaven.  "U 556" proceeded to the north of the British Isles into the Atlantic.  Two spare torpedoes were said to have been carried in the containers on the upper deck, in addition to five torpedoes in the tubes and five in reserve.  Prisoners admitted that they sank by gunfire a three-masted schooner north of the Faroes; the ship was described as a "guard-ship" and as having been shelled from a great distance; the date was given as about a week after leaving Germany, i.e. about 7th May, 1941.  The Germans stated that their first shell hit and put out of action the sailing ship's gun, and that "U 556" fired 23 shells before the ship sank.  
          (N.I.D. Note.  The ship was the unarmed Faroese fishing trawler "Emanuel" of 166 tons.  She was sunk at 2300 on the 6th May, just west of the island of Mygannes.  The crew consisted of eight men of whom three were killed.)  
          This revolting incident of the sinking of a harmless Faroese fishing trawler is described by Wohlfarth in an interview which was broadcast from Germany on the 5th June, 1941.  Wohlfarth said: "The other interesting experience was right at the beginning of our trip.  I was suddenly disturbed by a patrol boat.  It was dusk and I surfaced near her and attacked her with my gun.  The patrol boat of only 500 tons was set alight after some five minutes fire during which we expended some 30 rounds of ammunition.  She was fully ablaze, it was a most beautiful sight to see her burning in the dusk.  She had also a gun on board, but it seems that our first round put it out of action.  These 500 tons were at least something to speak of or we would have been forced to return with bad luck.  It gave us a better feeling for the beginning of our cruise.  
          Thus Wohlfarth described the murder of three inoffensive Faroese fishermen.  
          The next victim was said to have been an independent freighter of about 5,000 tons, sunk by one torpedo about four days later.  
          The cruise was then uneventful, according to prisoners, until about 21st May, 1941, when "U 556" sank by torpedo five or six ships in convoy, within a short space of time.  One of "U 556's" victims was described as a 3,000 ton ship sunk by gunfire, the U-Boat having fired 101 rounds at her.  A petty officer stated that not more than three ships were sunk on any one day.  
          Several prisoners gave the number of ships sunk on this cruise as eight, including one tanker, and added that the U-Boat was not attacked at all; the total tonnage claimed for the cruise was 49,000 tons.  


          On 23rd May, 1941, the German radio announced that unspecified U-Boats had sunk 70,900 tons of shipping, including tankers of 8,000 to 10,000 tons and 13,000 tons, as well as an ammunition ship of 7,000 tons; the broadcast added that Wohlfarth and Gysae had particularly distinguished themselves.  Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant-Commander) Gysae is known to command "U 98."  
          (N.I.D. Note.  The following ships of Convoy HX 126 were sunk on 20th May, 1941, in approximate position 56° to 58° North and 41° West:  
"Norman Monarch" 4,718 tons
"Harpagus" 5,173   "
"Cockaponset" 5,996   "
"Darlington Court" 4,979   "
"British Security" (tanker) 8,470   "
"Rothermere" 5,356   "
"John P. Pedersen" (tanker) 6,128   "
  On 21st May, 1941, the tanker "Elusa," 6,237 tons, was sunk in position 58° 53' N., 39° 45' W.  It is believed that these ships are those referred to in the exaggerated German claim of 23rd May, 1941.)  
          On 25th May, 1941, the German radio announced that Wohlfarth had been awarded the Knight Insignia of the Iron Cross.  
          The Chief Quartermaster stated that on 26th May, 1941, when on the way back to Lorient, "U 556" received orders from the Admiral, U-Boats, to turn round and proceed towards "Bismark" and to stand by the battleship.  Prisoner said that "U 556" obeyed and reached the vicinity of "Bismark" at some time on 26th May; the U-Boat was on the surface within sight of "Bismark" during the night of 26th/27th May.  
          Prisoners claimed to have approached submerged to within 800 metres (874 yards) of H.M.S. "King George V" and H.M.S. "Ark Royal," but having no torpedoes left, were powerless to attack them; they added that, at that time, they saw no destroyers protecting the warships.  
          The Chief Quartermaster of "U 556" stated that "King George V" passed within 200 metres (218 years) of the U-Boat submerged to periscope.  Later the U-Boat surfaced and reported by W/T the position, on the German squared chart, of "Bismark," and "King George V" and a British aircraft carrier; she also gave their course.  
          "U 556" continued to report the position, in the hope that other U-Boats would arrive on the scene or that aircraft would be sent to bomb the British warships.  
          Prisoners said that the battle started with renewed violence early in the morning of 27th May, and destroyers were sighted.  
         At 0600 "U 556" met "U 74," Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant-Commander) Kentrat.  As "U 556" had no torpedoes left, except the two in the containers on the upper deck which could not be loaded into the U-Boat because of the rough weather, and as she was running short of fuel oil, she told "U 74" that she was forced to make for Lorient without any further delay; she then submerged and proceeded.  Wohlfarth knew that "U 74" had three torpedoes left, but had been damaged by a depth charge attack and could not dive.  But he believed that other U-Boats were in the vicinity.  
          Wohlfarth had already used his motors on the surface in order to save as much fuel as possible and feared that, if he continued to stand by, he would exhaust either his fuel oil, and would then be unable to make port, or her would deplete his batteries and be unable to escape submerged.  
          He professed to have been unable to approach near enough to "Bismark" to take off any of her crew, although he believed that he would have been able to rescue 200 men.  
          (N.I.D. Note.  Other U-Boat officer prisoners considered that he would not have been able to take on board more than about 150 men from "Bismark.")  
          "U 556," on her homeward journey, surfaced again at about 1100 on the day in question, according to the Chief Quartermaster, and received a further message from and Admiral U-Boats, ordering her to take off "Bismark's" war diary and bring it back to German Naval Authorities; this message was a repetition of the one transmitted earlier, but not received, as "U 556" was  


  proceeding submerged.  But by this time the U-Boat was far away from "Bismark" and had only four tons of fuel oil remaining.  The Quartermaster persuaded the Captain to attempt to carry out the order, as the remaining supply of fuel would have been insufficient; this prisoner used the additional argument that the handing over of "Bismark's" war diary would have had a bad effect on the morale of the battleship's crew who might have felt that they were doomed and were apparently being abandoned to their fate by the German Admiralty.  
          Thus "U 556" continued her homeward journey and arrived at Lorient on 30th May, 1941, with only 80 litres of fuel oil remaining.  
          Various members of the crew received Iron Crosses, and some of the men went for a week's holiday at Carnac.  
          The U-Boat was said to have undergone a general overhaul, but did not go into a dry dock; some repairs to the cooling system were carried out, but later proved to have been unsatisfactorily done.  
          In discussing the performance of the U-Boat during the first cruise, prisoners said that they had experienced constant difficulties with the Diesels, the cylinder heads and the jets being unsatisfactory; the repairs at Lorient took some time as the engines were lacking in compression.  
          It was rumoured that the U-Boat was to proceed to the South Atlantic on her next cruise, and a W/T Petty Officer stated that he was issued with special W/T books for that purpose, but the latter orders were apparently changed.  
          Some members of the crew left "U 556" at Lorient and were replaced.  
          Rolinck and Urbanski joined the U-Boat shortly before the beginning of the second and last cruise.  
          "U 556" was said to have left Lorient on 19th June, 1941, on her last cruise; prisoners added that she was not escorted out of the port.  It was stated that five torpedoes were carried in the tubes and five reserves inside the U-Boat, but prisoners did not know whether or not two more torpedoes were carried in the upper deck containers.  
          When west of Brest the U-Boat received a signal to the effect that "U 552," Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant) Erich Topp, was setting out on a cruise.  
          The cruise was uneventful until "U 556" met "U 552," which seems to have been about 23rd or 24th June; it seems that "U 552" had received information about a convoy but had not been able to find it.  
          Wohlfarth and Topp arranged that the latter should proceed towards the east.  After patroling the area for a while Wohlfarth calculated that the convoy could not be very far off.  "U 556" then proceeded on a zigzag course to the west, and on 25th June located and followed the convoy.  
          During the night of 25th/26th June the U-Boat proceeded on the surface most of the time, approaching to within 2,000 metres of the convoy, and only dived for long enough to listen on her hydrophones; these tactics were repeated eight or nine times during the night.  
          On the 26th June "U 556" continued to follow the convoy, and was joined by Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant) Reinhard Suhren's U-Boat, stated by prisoners to have been "U 564."  
          "U 562," Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant) Collmann, and a fourth U-Boat also arrived on the scene.  
          "U 556," obeying signals from the Admiral U-Boats, continued to transmit the position by W/T, in order to guide still more U-Boats, believed to have been operating in the area, to assist in an attack on the convoy.  
          Prisoners stated that "U 562" came near "U 556" about midnight on 26th June, and Collmann and Wohlfarth spoke to each other.  
          Then "U 556" went ahead of the convoy and lay in wait.  During the night, 26th/27th June, 1941, the crew of "U 556" claimed to have seen the blowing up of a "12,000-ton petrol tanker," torpedoed by another U-Boat.  


          (N.I.D. Note.  The convoy was HX 133.  Two tankers were torpedoed on the night in question, namely, the Dutch "Tibia," 10,356 tons, in position 59° 55' N., 30° 49' W., and the Norwegian "Kongsvaard," 9,467 tons, in position 60° N., 30° 42' W.  Both of these tankers subsequently reached port.)  
          The next morning, 27th June, was misty and the U-Boat dived to listen on her hydrophones.  She heard the sound of ships, surfaced at once, and followed in the direction of the sounds.  
          The mist cleared suddenly and "U 556" sighted the convoy almost on top of her; she dived at once and ran in to attack with all her tubes ready to fire.  
          "U 556" made her last signal at 0400 (German time), presumably just before she dived.  
          The Germans believed that a Sunderland flying boat sighted the submerged U-Boat and reported it to the British "Hunting squadron," described as consisting of "three gun-boats, escorting the convoy from Canada"; prisoners added that these ships were only just ahead of the U-Boat.  
          (N.I.D. Note.  A Sunderland flying boat reported sighting a U-Boat at 2330 on 26th June in position 59° 32' N., 29° 55' W.)  
          At about 0600 on 27th June, 1941, H.M.S. "Nasturtium" gained a contact on the port side of the convoy and was joined at once by H.M.S. "Celandine."  The position then was that "Nasturtium" had a contact but few depth charges, while "Celandine" had a plentiful supply of depth charges but no contact.  After expending all her own depth charges, therefore, "Nasturtium" led "Celandine" in close order over the U-Boat, giving her a signal when to fire.  Several attacks were carried out in this manner, although "Celandine" never established contact.  
          "Gladiolus" was present for the latter part of the hunt, but only established contact in time to make two attacks after damage had already been inflicted on "U 556" by the other corvettes.  
          "U 556," having dived as quickly as possible, was at a depth of 70 metres (230 feet) when the first depth charge attack took place; the Germans stated that six depth charges were dropped on that occasion, and caused very serious leaks.  Some water entered and the boat went deeper to what was stated to have been 130 metres (426.5 feet).  
          One W/T petty officer said that he smashed the cypher machine (M-Schüssel) immediately after this first attack, in accordance with instructions laid down.  The other W/T petty officer insisted that it was he who smashed the cypher machine towards the end of the action.  
          Later the increasing quantity of water in the after part of the U-Boat short-circuited the starboard motor, and the port motor had to be switched on again, despite the noise.  
          The Germans blamed this noise, to a large extent, for their capture.  
          They claimed that fifty-four depth charges were dropped on them during a period of over five hours.  
          The midshipman stated, that after the fifth depth charge attack, two men came into the control room and demanded that the U-Boat should surface, but that he drove them back to their action stations with his revolver.  
          Some of the crew stated that the last depth charge attack exploded a torpedo inside the U-Boat and killed two men.  Others professed not to know of this incident, but stated that at one stage of the action water poured in through the after torpedo tube.  
          Extensive damage had been caused in "U 556" and the starboard motor, though still running, was becoming overheated; the quantity of water shipped was extremely serious, and much valuable compressed air had been used to work the pumps, so that only 30 to 40 kgs. remained in the bottles.  The lighting system had failed earlier in the action, but the emergency lighting system worked well.  Various parts inside the U-Boat had been painted with phosphorescent paint, to help their crew to find the way about.  


          Wohlfarth decided to go to periscope depth, in order, if possible, to torpedo one of the British warships, and then try to escape on the surface, as the Diesels had not been pt out of action.  
          But the U-Boat rose at a great speed and on surfacing it was found that the attacking ships were in positions which excluded any chance of an attack by the U-Boat being successful.  
          As "U 556" surfaced, "Gladiolus" was running in to make a second attack with her last remaining depth charges; one charge from the port thrower actually fell on the after part of the U-Boat, but in the general noise and splashes of shells, "Gladiolus" and the other two ships having at once opened fire, it was not noticed whether it eventually exploded or not.  
          Prisoners stated that one shell penetrated the conning tower, killing one man.  The crew immediately abandoned ship and the engineer officer ad a petty officer opened all vents in order to ensure the sinking of the U-Boat.  
          A petty officer was loud in his criticisms of some of the senior engine room petty officers; he said that they fought to be the first to escape from the U-Boat, and turned deaf ears to a wounded man who was calling for help.  Other men tried to help the wounded man who had had three fingers shot off, but in vain, and he was ultimately drowned.  
          The British ships ceased fire as soon as it was seen that the Germans were abandoning ship.  
          The engineer officer and three men lost their lives; the rest of the complement was rescued, but one man died later of potash poisoning caused by allowing water to get into his escape apparatus and then breathing the resultant gas.  
          The U-Boat remained afloat, slowly sinking for about one hour and efforts to prevent her sinking proved in vain.  
          The position was 060° 18' N., 029° 20' W.  
          Both officers and men denied with every appearance of sincerity all suggestions that the had ever put in to any Icelandic port and that they had ever been in communication with any German agents in Iceland or Greenland.  They had no knowledge whatsoever regarding British dispositions in Iceland nor of German agents in that country.  They professed to have had no instructions as to whom to contact in Iceland in case of need and denied that "U 556" had sent no meteorological reports to Germany from the Icelandic area.  
  (i)  General Remarks  
          "U 556" was one of the newer type of 500-ton U-Boats; she was built by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg.  
          The crew were enthusiastic in their tributes to the powers of resistance to attack shown by "U 556."  
          The Chief Mechanician believed that the pressure hull was 12 mm. (.472 inches) thick; this statement should be treated with reserve.  The aperture through which the Diesels and all large units of machinery were passed while the U-Boat was under construction, was closed, riveted and welded; formerly riveting only was considered sufficient but had not proved so and recently welding has also been done.  Prisoners stated that it was planned to reopen this aperture every two years during a major refit.  
          "U 556" was said to have had four bow and one stern torpedo tubes, and to have had two upper deck containers for the stowage of two additional spare torpedoes.      
          "U 556" was said to be 70 m. (229.6 ft.) long.  
          She was painted a uniform grey and not camouflaged, according to prisoners.  
          The upper deck was described as being covered with wooden planking which extended from a line 2 m. (6.5 ft.) abaft the bow to within 3/4 m. (2.46 ft.) of the stern.  
          Prisoners said that a small wooden dinghy was stowed in the superstructure between the pressure hull and the upper deck.  


          It was implied that "U 556" had various improvements and new fittings not included in older 500-ton U-Boats; very little confirmation was obtained on this score, and the implications were thought to have been intentionally misleading and often made in a spirit of defiance.  
  (ii)  Diesel Engines, Electric Motors and Speeds  
          "U 556" was said to have been fitted with two Deutsche, Cologne, Diesel engines of 1,400 h.p. each, and two Brown, Boveri electric motors.  
          "U 556's" speeds were given as:  
Utmost speed on surface (Ausserste Kraft 16.8
Three-quarter speed on surface (Grosse Fahrt) 14
Half speed on surface (Halbe Fahrt) 10
Slow speed on surface (Langsame Fahrt) 7-8
Cruising speed on surface (Marschfahrt) 6-7
Dead slow speed on surface (Kleine Fahrt) 5
Utmost speed submerged 6-7
Cruising speed submerged 2
Dead slow speed submerged Less than 1.
  (iii)  Drive between Engines and Motors  
          It was stated that no geared drive was fitted between engines and motors or between motors and shaft.  The clutch was said to be a friction clutch, operated "automatically or by hand."  
  (iv)  Air Compressor  
          Some engine room personnel was sent to the Junkers Works at Munich at various dates to study the new type of air compressor fitted in "U 556."  This new type was said to save considerable electric current.  
  (v)  Tanks  
          "U 556" was said to have had a pair of saddle tanks; each saddle tank was described as having been divided into three parts, the forward part being the trimming tank, the central part the main diving tank, and the after part another diving tank; the latter was also used for fuel oil.  
          Prisoners said that there were no other diving tanks inside or outside the pressure hull; no confirmation was obtained of this statement.  A fuel oil tank was stated to have been fitted inside the pressure hull.  
          The Chief Mechanician said "U 556" could carry 108 cubic m. of fuel oil and 3-1/2 cubic m. of lubricating oil.  
  (vi)  Guns  
          Prisoners stated that one 8.8 cm. gun was carried forward of the conning tower and one 20 mm. gun on the conning tower, and that the guns' crews and ammunition passed up through the conning tower.  
  (vii)  Emergency Floats  
          Prisoners confirmed some earlier statements to the effect that the emergency floats are made of sail cloth; it is presumed that there is an opening to let in sea water, as it is known that water acting on chemicals inside the float cause it to become inflated.  Prisoners believe that there is a self-sealing valve.  
  (viii)  Device  
          "U 556" formerly had an "up-turned thumb" painted on the conning tower as a badge, but this had lately been painted over when "U 556" was repainted, and had not been replaced.  On entering port Wohlfarth hoisted a large model of this thumb on the top of the periscope.  
  (ix)  W/T  
          Prisoners stated that "U 556" carried an extensible aerial which could be raised to a height of 13 m. (42.6 ft.) above the conning tower, when the U-Boat was proceeding at periscope depth.  


          The receiving and transmitting apparatus was described as being inside the U-Boat and capable of rotation through an angle of 90° in either direction.  
          Only the W/T petty officers were permitted to transmit W/T messages.  W/T ratings being allowed to transmit only if no petty officer was available by reason of illness.  
          Four hour watches were said to have been kept on H.F. and M.F., two men being on duty at a time.  
  (x)  Diesel Foundations  
          Prisoners stated that no anti-shock device was fitted to the Diesel foundations as a means of lessening the shock of depth charge explosions.  
VIII.  "U 137"
          Before his appointment to the command of "U 556" Wohlfarth had commanded "U 137."  Prisoners who had served in "U 137" stated that she was in the final stages of construction when they joined her on May, 1940, at the Deutsche Werke, Kiel, while she was still on the slips; she was said to have been completed on 23rd June, 1940.  
          The First Lieutenant was Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant) Gerhard Massmann, and the engineer officer was Oberleutnant (Ing.) (Engineer Lieutenant) Jünck.  
          Wohlfarth was stated to have made three cruises in "U 137"; the first having been in September, 1940, when four ships, totalling 28,000 tons, were alleged to have been sunk from a convoy; it was added that this cruise, which started at Kiel and ended at Lorient, took about three weeks.  
          On 27th September, 1940, the German High Command claimed that a small U-Boat under Wohlfarth had sunk four steamers totalling 23,000 tons, one of the ships having been a tanker.  This tonnage was corrected in a subsequent broadcast two months later to 23,800 tons.  
          The second cruise, also of about three week's duration, beginning at Lorient, was said to have been carried out during October and early November, 1940.  Prisoners claimed to have sunk an auxiliary cruiser of 18,000 tons, but no other ships; the victim was described as a former liner of the Bibby Line of Liverpool.  
          (N.I.D. Note.  H.M.S. "Cheshire," 10,600 tons, formerly a ship of the Bibby Line of Liverpool, was torpedoed at 2030 on the 14th October, 1940, in position 55° 10' N., 13° 25' W., 270° Bloody Foreland 177 miles.)  
          They said that they were at sea when "U 32" sank S.S. "Empress of Britain" on 26th October, 1940, and that they sighted an empty life-boat from that ship; "U 137" was stated to have tried to reach the area in which "Empress of Britain" had been reported damaged by aircraft and on fire, but to have been too late to take any useful action in the sinking.  
          Prisoners stated that "U 137" then proceeded to Bergen and hinted that she had some special mission of which they did not know the nature.  Some prisoners said the U-Boat then returned to Lorient.  
          On 20th November, 1940, the German radio announced that Wohlfarth's small U-Boat had increased her total sinkings to 61,500 tons.  This, coupled with the correction of the tonnage claimed on the first cruise, indicated that the official figure for the sinkings on the second cruise was 37,700 tons, or 19,000 tons more than claimed by prisoners.  
          The third cruise was said to have been the least successful and seems to have been carried out soon after the second cruise, probably during December, 1940; some prisoners stated that "U 137" operated very close to the west coast of Scotland and north of Ireland; other prisoners claimed that the U-Boat operated "in a Northern Channel."  
          Three fast ships proceeding independently were said to have been sunk, their total tonnage amounting to about 14,000 tons.  


          (N.I.D. Note.  It is considered possible that one of the ships referred to may have been M.V. "Rotorua," 10,890 tons, a straggler from Convoy HX 92, sunk at 1339 on the 11th December, 1940, in position 58° 56' N., 11° 20' W.)  
          "U 137" returned to Kiel at the end of this cruise.  
          According to prisoners Wohlfarth's sinkings then totalled about 56,000 tons.  But a German broadcast at a later date stated that, in his small U-Boat, this officer had sunk eighteen ships amounting to 75,477 tons; this figure is almost 20,000 tons more than that quoted by prisoners who actually made all three cruises.  
          (N.I.D. Note.  A subsequent broadcast on 25th May, 1941, reduced Wohlfarth's claim in respect of his first cruise in "U 556," thus bringing his grand total at that date to approximately the same as that quoted by prisoners.)  
          "U 137" is believed to have returned to Kiel about the end of December, 1940, and Wohlfarth was then appointed to "U 556."  He took as number of his men with him to his new U-Boat.  
          The First Lieutenant of "U 137," Massmann, was said to have succeeded to the command of the U-Boat.  
          Prisoners had no information regarding the subsequent activities of "U 137," and Massmann has not yet been mentioned in German High Command communiqués nor in any broadcast; he is known to have been in Berlin on 10th April, 1941.  


Crew of "U 556"
List of Survivors
English equivalent
Wohlrarth, Herbert Kapitänleutnant Lieutenant-Commander 26
Schäfer, Hans Oberleutnant zur See Lieutenant 30
Rolinck, Franz Oberleutnant zur See Lieutenant 28
Souvard, Hans Leutnant zur See Sub-Lieutenant 22
Urbanski, Felix Fähnrich zur See Midshipman 19
Jung, Emil Obermaschinist Chief Mechanician, 1st Class 28
Seppemann, Hans Obermaschinist Chief Mechanician, 1st Class  
Becker, Franz Obersteuermann Chief Q.M., 1st Class 29
Hayden, Fritz Obermechanikersmaat P.O. Artificer, 1st Class 28
Bayer, Willi Bootsmannsmaat Boatswain's Mate, 2nd Class 24
Schlauch, Werner Bootsmannsmaat Boatswain's Mate, 2nd Class 23
Cherubin, Ernst Bootsmannsmaat Boatswain's Mate, 2nd Class 22
Grimm, Wilfried Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 23
Geresbeck, Wilhelm Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 23
Finger, Heinz Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 26
Zimmer, Martin Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 24
Söllig, Werner Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class 21
Schlupp, Ernst Funkmaat P.O. Telegraphist, 2nd Class 23
Beckmann, Willy Funkmaat P.O. Telegraphist, 2nd Class 23
Ruhland, Alois Maschinenhauptgefreiter Leading Stoker 24
Linne, Hermann Maschinenobergefreiter Stoker, 1st Class 24
Stahlberg, Hans Maschinenobergefreiter Stoker, 1st Class 21
Flügel, Benno Mechanikerobergefreiter Artificer, 1st Class 21
Gaisch, Adolf Funkobergefreiter Telegraphist 22
Sterneck, Friedrich Funkobergefreiter Telegraphist 21
Will, Helmut Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 20
Wimmer, Petre Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 22
Laux, Erich Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 19
Wöhler, Heinrich Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 21
Grünwald, Franz Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 19
Wemhöner, Hugo Matrosengefreiter Ordinary Seaman, 1st Class 21
Radtke, Horst Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 20
Rehfeldt, Günther Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 21
Stier, Friedrich Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 20
Karl, Maximilian Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 20
Mühlenburg, Fritz Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 20
Felsches, Heinz Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 20
Rödel, Hans Maschinengefreiter Stoker, 2nd Class 20
Brüsewitz, Herbert Matrose Ordinary Seaman, 2nd Class 17
Sokolowski, Adolf Matrose Ordinary Seaman, 2nd Class 20
Petty Officers
        The following did not survive:
Körner Oberleutnant (Ing.) Engineer Lieutenant.  
Lienow Maschinenmaat Mechanician, 2nd Class.  
Freitag Mechanikerobergefreiter Artificer, 1st Class.  
Faust, Alfred Matrose Ordinary Seaman, 2nd Class.  
Winkelmann Heizer Stoker, 3rd Class.  
        Total Crew:
Petty Officers
  (C42315)    B25       8/41  



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