HM Submarine Urge has now been found

HM Submarine Urge has now been found

HMS Urge

HM/Sub Urge underway – official Admiralty picture from the IWM Website

The Loss and Finding of HM/Sub Urge

Please see this earlier post for a false report of finding HM/Sub Urge, coming out in 2017, which is now corrected.

Reuters reports the finding at this link, while this German article has many good quality sonar pictures of the wreck, and the Royal Navy has good information here.

Now that it is confirmed that she is found, hopefully the relatives will then have some more knowledge on what happened to the crew. 

The History of HM/Sub Urge

HM/Sub Urge was, as the name indicates, a U-Class submarine, and a highly decorated one at that. Her very active wartime history is very well set out on U-Boat Net at this linkUrge was lost with 44 men on board, carrying 12 passengers apart from her complement of 32. The crew and passengers were very highly decorated, between them accounting for:

1x D.S.O. and bar

1x D.S.C. and bar

2x D.S.C.

1x D.S.M. and bar, twice Mentioned in Despatches

10x D.S.M.

4x Mentioned in Despatches

Operations and Successes

HM/Sub Urge conducted all bar one of her patrols in the Mediterranean. Of these, Urge conducted four patrols during Operation CRUSADER, on its 14th patrol damaging the modern Italian Littorio-class battleship Vittorio Veneto in an attack that led to the cancellation of the critical convoy operation M.41 in mid-December 1941, where Veneto was part of the distant escort, guarding the convoy from attack by Force K (see this earlier post).

 

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Vittorio Veneto firing a salvo of its 381mm guns (Source: Marina Militare)

While this attack by HM/Sub Urge was quite a success, it appears that the Admiralty was not too happy that Urge’s commander did not try to sink her, even if it would have been suicidal to do so. Nevertheless, Veneto returned to port without great difficulty, but would not undertake another mission for exactly six months, when she sortied on 14 June 1942.

Urge also carried out two failed attacks on merchants in this period.

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HM/Sub Urge alongside in Malta, with HM/Sub Upholder outboard – HM/Sub Upholder was lost less than two weeks before Urge, also in inconclusive circumstances (Source: Royal Navy)

1 April 1942 – HM/Sub Urge’s Biggest Success

Urge’s most famous victim was the Italian light cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere, a Condottieri-class light cruiser from 1930. She was lost with about half her crew when Urge put a torpedo into her 11 miles south off the island of Stromboli on 1 April 1942. She was the last survivor of her sub-class (Giussano) of four light cruisers. Somewhat confirming that the class was very vulnerable, she broke in two after being hit centrally by just one torpedo, and quickly sank.

The exact location of her sinking and two pictures can be found at this link. Delle Bande Nere took 381 of her over strength crew of 772 with her when she broke up and sank rapidly, having been hit while underway 11 miles south of the island of Stromboli, off Sicily. A very good account of her sinking can be found on Luigi Colombo’s blog at this link.

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Giovanni delle Bande Nere at anchor, probably pre-war. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Giovanni delle Bande Nere broken in two and sinking. (unknown source, probably taken from one of the escorts)

Loss of HM/Sub Urge

The loss for HM/Sub Urge now appears to be confirmed as mining, when she was just out of Malta on 27 April 1942.  HM/Sub Urge was being transferred out of Malta, together with the remainder of 10th Submarine Flotilla, for its new home of Alexandria. Malta had come under increasing pressure in the early months of 1942, and was no longer considered a viable naval base due to constant air attacks, which forced submarines to spend the day at the bottom of the harbour to evade bombardments.

HM/Sub Urge was sent to Alex with its full crew of 32, 11 additional naval personnel, and 1 war correspondent. Just a short distance outside La Valetta, she hit a mine on a newly laid, thus unknown barrier bow-on, and with her bow blown off plunged into the deep out of control and with no chance of survival for anyone on board. 

The German 3. S-Flottille (E-Boats) had dropped a new mine barrier (MT13) across the path she took to Alexandria just an hour before she left Malta on the last journey, and it is now confirmed that this barrier caused the loss of HM/Sub Urge.

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S-33 Krebs going at speed, showing her unusual camouflage. From the highly recommended Seekrieg site.

 

Lost with HM/Sub Urge (from Naval History Net – the date of death is the date she was declared overdue)

ROWLEY JOHN KENNETH 27 D S M 06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/SSX 21371’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 56, 1. SON OF HARVEY SWANN ROWLEY AND SYBIL MARY ROWLEY, OF HALL GREEN, BIRMINGHAM.

DAY FREDERICK 21   06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/SSX 20578’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 53, 3. SON OF ANNIE DAY.

PARKINSON JOHN LESLIE 24   06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/JX 204152’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 66, Column 2. SON OF JOSEPH AND EDITH PARKINSON, OF COPPULL, LANCASHIRE; HUSBAND OF ADA PARKINSON, OF COPPULL.

DAVISON ROBERT 21   06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/JX 190316’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 64, Column 3. SON OF ROBERT JAMES DAVISON AND AGNES DAVISON, OF NORTH WALSHAM, NORFOLK.

GOSS RONALD HENRY 22   06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/SSX 20989’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 65, Column 1. SON OF SAMUEL AND DAISY GOSS, OF CWMBRAN MONMOUTHSHIRE.

WILDMAN RICHARD 22   06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/JX 204322’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 67. Column 1. SON OF RICHARD JOHN AND MARY ALICE WILDMAN, OF LANCASTER.

O’NEILL JOHN 22 Mentioned in Despatches 06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘P/JX 217252’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 64, Column 3. SON OF WILLIAM JOHN AND ANNIE O’NEILL, OF HUCKNALL, NOTTINGHAMSHIRE.

TOMS CHARLES HERBERT 38 D S M 06-05-42   Chief Engine Room Artificer Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/M 35358’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 3. SON OF HERBERT AND ALICE TOMS; HUSBAND OF VERA MURIEL TOMS, OF GOSPORT, HAMPSHIRE.

JACKMAN CHARLEY JOHN 33 D S M and Bar, Twice Mentioned in Despatches 06-05-42  Chief Petty Officer  Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘P/J 110919’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 62, Column 2. SON OF GLOSTER AND CATHERINE ARABELLA JACKMAN; HUSBAND OF ELSIE ROSALIE JACKMAN, OF BROCKENHURST, HAMPSHIRE.

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Chief Petty Officer J.C. Jackman, 2x MiD (Source: Royal Navy)

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Chief Petty Officer J.C. Jackmans young son (Source: Royal Navy)

 

RUTTER RONALD FREDERICK 24   06-05-42   Electrical Artificer 4th Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/MX 59915’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 63, 3. SON OF WILLIAM THOMAS AND ELLEN LOUISA RUTTER, OF UXBRIDGE, MIDDLESEX.

HELLYER REGINALD 28 D S M 06-05-42   Engine Room Artificer 2nd Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/MX 47775’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 60, 2. SON OF ERNEST AND OLIVE HELLYER; HUSBAND OF VERONICA ANN HELLYER.

VARLEY ERIC 28 Mentioned in Despatches 06-05-42   Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/MX 52497’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 69, Column 1. SON OF JOHN AND HANNAH EDDEN VARLEY, OF HORDEN, CO. DURHAM.

WHITE WILLIAM PETER 21   06-05-42   Engine Room Artificer 4th Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/MX 76840’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 60, 2. SON OF GEORGE VICTOR AND CHARLOTTE LEASK WHITE, OF EAST HAM, ESSEX.

HARMAN STANLEY GORDON     06-05-42   Engine Room Artificer 4th Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/MX 76070’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 60, 2.  

NORRIS JESSE   D S M 06-05-42   Leading Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/JX 142500’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 52, 2. SON OF JESSE AND MINNIE NORRIS, OF ROCHESTER, KENT.

OSBORN HERBERT GEORGE ARTHUR 27 D S M 06-05-42   Leading Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/JX 134094’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 52, 2. SON OF HERBERT CHARTER OSBORN AND ROSE EMILY OSBORN; HUSBAND OF VIOLET MAY OSBORN, OF CAMBRIDGE.

GROVES LAURENCE FRANK 36 D S M 06-05-42   Leading Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/J 101563’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 52, 2. SON OF FRANK AND ROSE GROVES; HUSBAND OF GLADYS WINIFRED GROVES, OF FLEETWOOD, LANCASHIRE.

MORRIS FREDERICK HAROLD 22   06-05-42   Leading Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘P/JX 145545’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 63, Column 1.

LAW ERIC CHARLES 22 Mentioned in Despatches 06-05-42   Leading Signalman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/JX 145120’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 58, 2. SON OF CHARLES FREDERICK AND LOUISA ALICE LAW.

WILKES SAMUEL CORNELIUS     06-05-42   Leading Stoker Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/KX 81223’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 61, 3.  

WOOLRICH JOHN EDWARD 24   06-05-42   Leading Stoker Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘P/KX 90716’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 2. SON OF WILLIAM AND EDITH WOOLRICH, OF CHELL, STAFFORDSHIRE.

ASHFORD HAROLD GEORGE 32   06-05-42   Leading Telegraphist Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/JX 127562’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 1. SON OF GEORGE AND ESTHER D. ASHFORD, OF FROME, SOMERSET.

ROGERS ROY WILLIAM GEORGE 22 D S M 06-05-42   Leading Telegraphist Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/SS 26082’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 1. SON OF GEORGE WILLIAM AND EDITH LOUISA ROGERS, OF WHITSTABLE,

KENT. TOMKINSON EDWARD PHILIP 30 D S O and Bar 06-05-42  Lieut-Commander Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 61. Column 3. SON OF ROBERT EDWARD AND BEATRICE LUCY TOMKINSON; HUSBAND OF MYRTLE ALICE TOMKINSON, OF LANGHAM, SUFFOLK.

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Lt.Cdr. E.P. Tomkinson D.S.O. and Bar (Source: Royal Navy)

ALLEN DAVID BENNETT   D S C 06-05-42   Lieutenant Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 61, Column 3.

RANSOME JOHN SANDEMAN DEANE 26 D S C 06-05-42   Lieutenant Royal Naval Reserve H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 71, Column 1. SON OF CAPTAIN FRANK DEANE RANSOME AND CELIA NOEL RANSOME.

POOLE JAMES MALCOLM STUART 23 D S C and Bar 06-05-42 Lieutenant Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 62, Column 1. SON OF JAMES AND FLORENCE MAY POOLE; HUSBAND OF LILIAN ELIZABETH ANNE POOLE, OF STREATHAM HILL, LONDON.

BOTTING HENRY JOHN     06-05-42   Petty Officer Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/JX 137747’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 51, 3.  

WATTS HENRY RONALD JOSEPH 31 D S M, Mentioned in Despatches 06-05-42   Petty Officer Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘P/JX 129967’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 62, Column 3. SON OF JOSEPH EVANS WATTS AND EDITH CLARA WATTS, OF ARBORFIELD, BERKSHIRE. HIS BROTHER STANLEY HORACE WATTS ALSO FELL.

ASHFORD WILLIAM GEORGE 28 D S M 06-05-42   Petty Officer Stoker Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘C/KX 82966’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 60, 3. SON OF HENRY GEORGE AND ALICE M. ASHFORD; HUSBAND OF VIOLET FRANCES ASHFORD, OF MERTON, SURREY.

WISEMAN PETER DUGDALE 27 Mentioned in Despatches 06-05-42   Petty Officer Telegraphist Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/JX 134000’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 1. SON OF THOMAS AND JANE WISEMAN, OF BLYTH, NORTHUMBERLAND.

STANGER MARCUS 26   06-05-42   Stoker 1st Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/KX 90258’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 70, Column 3. HUSBAND OF GEORGINA ALEXANDRA STANGER, OF PLYMOUTH.

McMILLAN JOSEPH CRESSWELL DIXON 21   06-05-42   Stoker 1st Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/SSX. 32970’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 70, Column 2. SON OF ROBERT AND MARY A. MCMILLAN, OF FAULDHOUSE, WEST LOTHIAN.

TWIST HENRY ERNEST   D S M 06-05-42   Telegraphist Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge United Kingdom ‘D/JX 225829’ PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 2.

BAXTER LESLIE GORDON     06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve H.M. Submarine Urge. United Kingdom ‘C/LD/X 3971’ CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL 66, 2.  

McDIARMID FRED 21   06-05-42   Able Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge. United Kingdom ‘P/SSX 32644’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 64, Column 2. SON OF GEORGE AND ELIZABETH B. MCDIARMID, OF GLOSSOP, DERBYSHIRE.

CHAMBERLAIN SIDNEY WILLIAM 22   06-05-42   Leading Seaman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge. United Kingdom ‘P/SSX 22878’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 62, Column 3. SON OF ERNEST WILLIAM AND EMILY CHAMBERLAIN, OF BRIGHTON.

LEEKE RONALD WILLIAM 20   06-05-42   Leading Signalman Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge. United Kingdom ‘P/JX 154364’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 66, Column 2. SON OF THOMAS WILLIAM AND ADA DOROTHY LEEKE, OF SCOTTER, LINCOLNSHIRE.

LAMB JAMES WILFRED 24   06-05-42   Leading Stoker Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge. United Kingdom ‘P/KX 94635’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 1. SON OF CLARENCE LAMB, AND OF JANE A. LAMB, OF YORK.

MAIDMENT JOHN 22   06-05-42   Leading Telegraphist Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge. United Kingdom ‘P/SSX 22031’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 66, Column 3. SON OF JOHN AND ETHEL MARY MAIDMENT, OF DORCHESTER, DORSETSHIRE.

BRYANT ALBERT EDWARD 38   06-05-42   Stoker 1st Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge. United Kingdom ‘P/K 61633’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 2. SON OF ALBERT AND ROSE BRYANT; HUSBAND OF ETHEL MARY BRYANT. 

BROWN CYRIL 28   06-05-42   Stoker 1st Class Royal Navy H.M. Submarine Urge. United Kingdom ‘P/KX 84490’ PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL Panel 68, Column 2. SON OF RUFUS AND HILDA ELIZA BROWN, OF COAL ASTON, DERBYSHIRE.

The loss of MFP148, 15 January 1942

The loss of MFP148, 15 January 1942

In late 1941 the Kriegsmarine introduced a new type of vessel into the Mediterranean theatre, the Marinefaehrprahm (MFP, or simply ‘Prahm’), of ‘F-Lighter’ as it was known by the Royal Navy. I have previously written about the early history of these vessels at this link.

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One of the first series of MFPs on the move from Palermo to Tripoli, late November 1941. In the background a Spica class torpedo boat, probably Perseo. (Author’s Collection)

F148, of the first series, was mined and lost on 15 January 1942, while proceeding to the forward area from Tripoli. At this stage, the Axis forces were in the Marada – Mersa el Brega position, having retreated from Agedabia on 6 January 1942. It was the furthest east they would move until after their defeat at El Alamein in October and November 1942. 

Supply to this area was not possible by normal ships, but could be carried out by the MFPs with their much shallower draft. The British on the other hand were well aware of the importance of coastal traffic to the Axis forces, and made persistent efforts to interdict it, both through direct attacks and through a mining campaign. Mines were dropped regularly by Fleet Air Arm Swordfish and Albacores operating out of Malta and Cyrenaica, on what the Malta forces called ‘cucumber’ raids. 

One such raid took place on 4 January, with two Swordfish from No. 830 Squadron F.A.A. and one Albacore from No. 828 Squadron F.A.A.  setting out from Malta to mine the approaches to Tripoli harbour, at this stage the only main harbour left to the Axis in North Africa. The raid is noted here. While it cannot be said whether this mining raid led to the loss of F148, it is the last one before she was mined. The location of the mining indicates that this was an air-dropped mine.

Report on the Loss of F148

15. January

18.00:

82 tons of fuel in canisters loaded.

18:30

About 4 nautical miles east of Tripolis, at a distance of about 800-1,000 metres from the coast, detonation under the rear of the vessel. Probably English E-Mine. Ship slowly slips down aft. Emergency signals. All rescue boats and one man blown overboard. Two man on fireship, three below deck, the others on the poop. 11 men are wounded, some of them severely. Try to bring floats closer again to recover the wounded. Attempts are broken off since Italian 34th AA Battery and one Arab come alongside with three boats to take off the crew. Emergency signals seen from the coast. Admin Officer grips an Italian motor boat with some men and takes it to the site of the incident, but doesn’t find any crew on board. Boat continues to float.

Flotilla CO leaves port with Italian rescue tug, touring in the ship if possible. Because of the draft of the tug the site of the incident can only be reached at 22.00 hours. Life boat is hoisted out. Lighter has however already capsized, poop has sunk, prow sticks out of the water keel up. Nobody left on board. On return to port English air attack on Tripoli, therefore only tied up alongside at 24.00 hours. Crew was moved to hospital Tripoli by Battery.

Thus ended one of the small dramas of the desert war. Nobody was killed, but a valuable supply vessel with 82 tons of fuel was lost.

For the wargamers, you can play with these vessels here.

Mansplaining Submarines to the Regia Marina – German-Italian Cooperation September 1941

Mansplaining Submarines to the Regia Marina – German-Italian Cooperation September 1941

It doesn’t often happen that I come across a text in my files that makes me roll my eyes. But this is clearly one of them, as it shows some breath-taking, and probably subconscious arrogance by the Germans towards their Italian allies. I can only imagine the Italian ASW specialists fuming when reading the entry section. It was helpfully translated into Italian. The translation below is mine, and the German original is from the NARA files of the Chief of the Naval Liaison Staff at the Italian Navy High Command, the ranking German navy officer in the Mediterranean.

As outlined in older posts (here, here, and here), the German Kriegsmarine  and the Italian Royal Navy, the Regia Marina, had a close technological co-operation when it came to matters of mutual interest, such as preventing Royal Navy submarines from wreaking havoc on the supply lines to North Africa.

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The Commanding Officer, Lieut Cdr R D Cayley, DSO, RN, (centre) with his officers and men on board the UTMOST beneath their Jolly Roger success flag. (Courtesy IWM Photo Collection)

The document in question is a memorandum about the current state of anti-submarine warfare on the Axis and the Royal Navy side, with a reasonably amount of detail. It is part of an exchange of information that ultimately led to the installation of German active sonar (S-Geraet) and depth charge launchers on Italian vessels, to help protect supply convoys in the Adriatic, Aegean, and Central Mediterranean. Royal Navy submarines had become a clear part of the menace to the supply lines, together with airborne interdiction, primarily from Malta, and the occasional surface action, although by early September the last one was almost five months ago, when Force K intercepted and destroyed the Tarigo convoy off Kerkennah buoy in a night action on 16 April 1941 (see here for background).

To protect against air attack, the AA defense of the merchants was thickened with naval AA guns from the German Marinebordflakkompanie Sued, as outlined in this older post. It wasn’t perfect, but between this, and the AA defense by the escort units, attacking convoys became a more risky endeavor, with high loss rates for the Malta-based Blenheim day bombers, as outlined here. Other co-operation measures included the transfer of Kriegsmarine DeTe shipborne radar to be installed on Italian major units, the transfer of Italian aerial torpedoes in exchange for German 2-cm AA guns and ammunition from the Italian air force to the Luftwaffe.

By September, that left the submarine threat. It was clear that Italian technology was behind German in this regard, and because the Malta-based submarines threatened German and Italian supplies indiscriminately, something had to be done. So the Germans proceeded to explain the nature of the submarine to their allies, as below. The memo is quite long, and mostly very sensible. It covers location devices including passive and active sonar, radar, radio detection, and buoyed nets, as well as anti-submarine weapons such as depth charges (ship- and air-launched), submarine nets. It interestingly also covers some experimental or research-stage Kriegsmarine detection measures, such as a fotografic device to locate a submarine that is stationary on the bottom of the sea, an electromagnetic device that showed when a sub-hunter was in a circle of 70m on top of a sub, a magnet that would attach itself to a sub and transmit sounds from it to the sub-hunter, and mentions the Flettner helicopter, which was expected to come into ASW service in the next two years.

C o p y

Re: B.Nr. Skl.U III 3030/41 Gkdos. 

Berlin 3 September 1941

SECRET COMMAND AFFAIR

Overview of Current Status of Anti-Submarine Warfare of the Opponent and the Kriegsmarine

1. General

The specialty of the submarine is that it can make itself invisible, by day through diving, by night through its small silhouette. All means of submarine defense aim to negate this special characteristic of the submarine by using specialized means, and to locate the submarine despite its invisibility.

As soon as a submarine has been located it can be engaged, which is again made more difficult when the submarine is submerged because it can evade in three dimensions. Engagement of a surfaced and located submarine by night at first is attempted by gaining visual perception through the use of search lights. If this succeeds, the submarine is forced to dive, and the engagement of the submarine happens in the same form as it would against a submerged submarine during the day, just with the added use of search lights.

 

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German Sonar on Italian Vessels – Pt. 3

In the third and, for the moment, final part of this mini series on the use of German S-Geraet sonar on Italian vessels, here is a list of the vessels which had it installed, or were scheduled for installation, as of 28 February 1942. The list excludes Antonio da Mosto, which had been sunk by that date (see this link and this link and this link).

The list is fairly self-explanatory. I am using the Italian abbreviations, so ‘Ct’ stands for Cacciatorpediniere – Destroyer, and ‘Tp’ for Torpediniere, Escort Destroyer or Torpedo Boat. The destroyers listed are an interesting mix, and five were going to be assigned to the Italian fleet following the installation of the S-Geraet. They included the older Navigatori class, of the late 1920s, and the most modern fleet destroyers of the Soldati class.

The Torpediniere are also a bit of a mix, primarily Spica class, but with two older vessels included, the San Martino and the Calatafimi, both of which dated back to WW I destroyer designs and had only recently been downgraded to Torpediniere status. Unlike the destroyers, most of the Torpediniere were going to be assigned to specific stations, Sicily (4), Libya (3), Greece (2), Rhodes (2), Naples (1), and the escort group (1).

A number of destroyers and Torpediniere have no destination allocated to them.

In the table, ‘DC’ stands for depth charge. For Italian depth charges installed, where it reads ‘0 16/50 12/100’, this means ‘no depth charge launcher, 16x50kg depth charges and 12x 100kg depth charges’. For background on the Italian depth charges, please see this link. I am not certain the information in the report is fully correct, but it is given as is.

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Destroyers Usodimare and da Noli in port, late 1930s. The picture shows well the range finder, rounded bridge house, and the twin-turret with its 4.75” (12cm) guns. Courtesy Wikipedia.


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San Martino entering a port. Courtesy Wikipedia

Apart from the naval vessels, some auxiliaries were also equipped with the S-Geraet, for harbour defense in La Spezia and Taranto, and two motor sailing vessels (Motoveliere) for serving with the submarine defense school at La Spezia, to train new personnel. The only vessel where the future port of service isn’t given is the Cyprus.

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Use of German Sonar on Italian vessels – Pt. 2

In a previous post (at this link) I had written about the use of German sonar (S-Geraet) and depth charges by the Italian navy, the Regia Marina. This commenced at the end of 1941, and gave the Regia Marina an important new capability in providing convoy defense on the North Africa route, which led to some quick successes, such as the sinking of HMS P-38 (see also this link). A technical description of the history and functioning of the S-Geraet can be found at this link.

In the post below, I have translated a report of the Special Command of the German navy, the Kriegsmarine, which was charged with the task of overseeing the operation of the German equipment on the Italian vessels. The document is from the war diary of the German Liaison Staff at the Admiralty of the Royal Italian Navy, and can be found in NARA under T-1022 Roll 2481.

Overview of the Activity Carried Out Thus Far by the Special Command for the Installation and Deployment of German S-Geraete on Units of the Royal Italian Navy

(Commenced 17 November 1941)

1.) Introduction followed proposals made by Chief Naval Liaison Command to Italian Navy during July 1941.

2.) Exectution

a) Personnel:

1 Officer (Commander Ahrens)

1 Chief Petty Officer[1]

3 Non-Commissioned Officers from the Submarine Defense School Gotenhafen[2]

Furthermore listening crew (from destroyer Lody, strength 1/4[3] from beginning November to mid-December on Torpedo Boat (Torpediniera) Castore, and
listening crew strength 1/4 on destroyer Da Mosto from beginning November to 1 December. 3 other ranks were killed when the boat was sunk. The NCO and one man remain at the disposal of the Special Command.

b) Activity:

At the start of the activity:

Clearance of specific questions of detail concerning submarine defense with the relevant Italian offices, especially Admirals Strazzari and Da Zara. Determination of equipping Italian vessels with S-Geraet installed with German depth charges and depth charge throwers.

Instruction of Italian crew and shore personnel in various naval stations about installation and maintenance of the German depth charges.

Schooling of listening and depth charge crews on the units with S-Geraet installed. Carried out trials.

Instruction of all captains in all questions relating to submarine defense, especially about the method of attack. Participation in combat missions.

c) Successes of Italian vessels equipped with S-Geraet up to 28 February 1942.

1.) Torpedo boat Castore near Gaeta on 24 November 1941: based on S-Geraet location report evaded two torpedo trails. Carried out attack with 36 depth charges. Destruction of submarine possible.[4]
German listening crew.

2.) Destroyer Da Mosto, southern tip of Sicily, 27 November 1941: location of an unknown minefield.
German listening crew.

3.) Torpedo boat Lince, Gulf of Taranto, early December, attack on located submarine with Italian depth charges. Success questionable.
Italian listening crew and Construction Advisor Morgenstern.[5]

4.) Torpedo Boat Orsa, 115 Degrees, 63 nautical miles off Sfax on 7 January 1942. Attack on located submarine with 30 German depth charges. Success: initially strong aural location ceases; location continues to show in large oil slick. Location of attack had to be left early to ensure protection of the escorted steamer.[6]
Italian and German listening crew, directed by Commander Ahrens.

5.)  Torpedo boat Sagittario at Cape Ducato on 8 February 1942. Evaded torpedo. Enemy submarine rammed, has to be considered destroyed. Torpedo boat heavy damage on the bow.
German and Italian listening crew.[7]

6.) Torpedo boat Circe on 13 February 1942: located enemy submarine was fixed for six hours. Submarine surfaces after 3 attacks with German depth charges; 23 prisoners made. Attempt to bring her in fails, boat sinks. English submarine “Tempest”.
German and Italian listening crew.

7.) Torpedo boat Pallade at Capo dell’Armi on 16 November 1942. Located submarine attacked in three runs with 45 German depth charges. At water depth of 1,600m signal ceases after final attack. Oil slick of 1,000 x 2,000 m.
German and Italian listening crew, directed by Commander Ahrens.

8.) Torpedo boat Circe at Ras Hallab on 23 February 1942. During escort of convoy attacking submarine is located and periscope is sighted. 10 depth charges dropped on diving location. Submarine surfaces briefly, twice, and finally sinks. Bag with flags, parts of interior (door of cupboard, tabletop), cans of biscuits and cigarettes as well as human body parts come up. Large oil slick. Continuous rising of air bubbles.
German and Italian listening crew.

d) Intended equipping of Italian naval and merchant units

Delivered:

1.) 29 S-Geraete of which one fixed in Spezia. One further S-Geraet lost when destroyer da Mosto was sunk.

2.) 40 depth charge throwers, 72 reloading installations, 20 depth charge rails, 60 single depth charge holders.

3.) 4,000 depth charges Type Dora

2,000 depth charges Type Fritz

1,500 stamps and cartridges for depth charges WB D60m and WB F40m.

By 28 February 1942, 10 Italian torpedo boats and 1 destroyer as well as 9 auxiliary vessels have been equipped with the S-Geraet.

For equipping further Italian naval units with S-Geraet, see attached list, Appendix 17.[8]

NewImage

R.N. Pallade, a Spica-class, Alcione sub-class Torpedo Boat, photographed pre-war. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

[1] Oberfeldwebel

[2] Ubootabwehrschule (UAS)

[3]1 NCO, 4 other ranks

[4] There is no submarine loss recorded for this day, and no attack in the region of Gaeta either. I used the ASA database at this link for checks.

[5] Baurat, a German civil servant grade. I have not verified this attack.

[6] This was not actually a successful attack – see this link, in particular comments below.

[7] The submarine was HM/Sub Proteus (N29), and while she was damaged, it appears she came off better than Sagittario. Details from the crew of HM/Sub Proteus can be found at this link.

[8] This will follow in another post.

The History and Operations of F-Lighters during CRUSADER

Background

In the spring of 1941, the German navy in the Mediterranean considered the expansion of its capabilities by adding a new type of vessel to support coastal traffic in North Africa, in particular for supply of smaller harbours such as Derna and Bardia, which could not be reached with large merchant vessels. The type of vessel was called a Marinefaehrprahm (MFP), or Naval Ferry Lighter. Because of their ‘F’ class designation, they became known as ‘F-Lighters’ to the Royal Navy. 

MFPs were originally designed after the experience with make-shift landing vessels in the preparations for the invasion of the UK in 1940 had shown that a specialist type was needed. The MFPs had a carrying capacity of 70/100 tons in adverse/good weather conditions, or three tanks, and displaced about 200 – 220 tons. They had broad front doors to unload through the bow, and were powered by diesel engines. The initially planned range of 120 nautical miles was quickly seen to be insufficient, and the design range grew to be sufficient to make the 420 nautical mile leg Tripoli – Benghazi without refuelling. The crew consisted of 14 men.

The planned use of the MFP was i) as transports, and ii) as escorts for other slow and unprotected transports. Thus even freight MFPs were reasonably well armed with light AA, captured 7.5cm guns, and depth charges to combat submarines.

2. L-Flottille, a cover name meaning 2. Lehr-Flottille (2nd Instruction Flotilla) instead of 2. Landings-Flottille (2nd Landing Flotilla), was to become the main Kriegsmarine unit under which the MFPs operated in the Mediterranean. It was ordered to be established in mid-August 1941, with a first HQ at Palermo, where the MFPs were laid down at Cantieri Rinuniti Navale, and then Tripoli in Libya, as ordered on 9 October 1941, with a view to having it operate in the Tripoli-Benghazi zone. A total of 30 MFPs were foreseen at this time, in two lots of 15, of which 22 were to be built in Palermo, and eight in Varna, Bulgaria. 15 of these vessels had been ordered in April 1941, to be built in Italy. In October the Italian order was expanded by another 15, and in December another 20 were planned to be built. The intent was to grow the fleet to about 100 vessels.

The first ten MFPs were commissioned in Palermo in November 1941, MFPs F146 to F154 and F160. In the first half of December the remaining five of the first order, F155, to F159 commissioned. The latter two showed how quickly these boats could enter service. They were launched on 6 December, and commissioned on 10 December. 

Operations

Below are two pictures I came across in NARA a number of years ago. Apologies for the bad quality, the pictures were taken off a microfiche reader screen. They show the first MFP convoy to North Africa, which arrived in Tripoli on 5 December 1941. It consisted of four MFPs, F146, F148, F150, and F160. The four lighters had left Palermo on 22 November 41 to move to Trapani, where I presume they were loaded up. They then went to North Africa escorted by the torpedo boat Perseo. The load carried consisted of 800 barrels of fuel, 20 tons Italian cement, Draeger diving gear, 132 tons of equipment, and 20 tons of rations.

These four MFP went across without their 7.5cm guns, which only arrived in Palermo on 2 December 1941. They were subsequently equipped with these I presume. They were also expecting a 2cm AA gun each, from stocks in Benghazi.

NewImage

First MFP convoy on the way to North Africa. Escort is the Spica-class Perseo

MFP160

3 December 1941, MFP160 sinking with 400 barrels of fuel and 10 tons of cement and the diving gear, after the front loading doors gave way to wave action. Perseo is taking over the crew.

After the arrival of this convoy, the three survivors underwent repairs, and were then employed on coastal supply duties. E.g. F150 was sent to Bardia in mid-December to pick up tank engines, and F146 was sent to beleaguered Bardia on 20 December, with 70 tons food, 20 tons ammunition and 2 tons mail. This must have been a somewhat harrowing journey, since the Allies at this point controlled the Libyan coast almost up to Benghazi, and were running supply convoys up to Tobruk. F146 was then ordered to remain in Bardia to ensure supply between Bardia and Sollum. It was lost on 24 December to artillery fire, with all of the crew rescued.

NewImage

Telegram to Naval Transport Command Italy, with information about the planned trip to Bardia.

The first 15 MFPs quickly diminished in number. Information about their fate during Operation CRUSADER is from the Historisches Marinearchiv at this link:

F160 – sunk due to heavy weather on 3 December 1941

F146 – set on fire and beached at Sollum due to enemy artillery fire on 24 December 1941

F148 – mined and sunk off Ras el Ali on 16 January 1942, with a load of 80 tons of gasoline

F151 – heavily damaged and partially submerged while unloading due to heavy weather. Finally destroyed by enemy air attack, 3 January 1942.

Five each were then lost in 1942 and 1943, and the last of this series, F155, ran aground off southern France and became a total loss.

Initial Transport of the Afrikakorps to North Africa

While not strictly related to CRUSADER, this information is nevertheless of interest and relevance. This post was born from this discussion thread on the Axis History Forum.

Below the initial transports of Army units covering 5.lei.Division (later to become 21st Panzer) and I./Flak 18, as well as some smaller units I guess. Where available the size of the ship is given when it is first mentioned (thanks to Mescal on AHF for this), and any damage due to enemy action is also mentioned. Luftwaffe transports are not included in this. The organisational unit of were small convoys, termed ‘Staffel’ in German. Attached to these were supply ships which carried purely supply apparently, rather than new units.

1st Staffel 8 Feb 41 (back in Naples 18 Feb, so 10-day roundtrip):
Ankara (4,768 GRT)
Arcturus (2,596 GRT)
Alicante (2,140 GRT)

2nd Staffel 12 Feb 41
Kybfels (7,764 GRT)
Adana (4,205 GRT)
Aegina (2,447 GRT)
Ruhr (5,954 GRT)

3rd Staffel 17 Feb 41
Menes (5,609 GRT – torpedoed and damaged on return journey by HM/Sub Regent, who herself was damaged in the counter attack)
Arta (2,452 GRT)
Maritza (2,910 GRT)
Herakleia (1,927 GRT)

4th Staffel 23 Feb 41:
Ankara
Marburg (7,564 GRT)
Reichenfels (7,744 GRT)
Kybfels

5th Staffel 25 Feb 41:
Leverkusen (7,368 GRT)
Wachtfels (8,467 GRT)
Alicante (2,140 GRT)
Arcturus

6th Staffel 1 Mar 41:
Castellon (2,086 GRT)
Ruhr
Maritza
Amsterdam (8,673 GRT – Italian vessel, not sure whether she carried German load)

7th Staffel
Adana
Aegina
Arta
Herakleia
Sabaudia (1,590 – Italian(?) attached as supply ship)

8th. Staffel 5 Mar 41
Ankara
Marburg
Reichenfels
Kybfels

9th Staffel 7 Mar 41:
Alicante
Arcturus
Wachtfels

10th Staffel 12 Mar 41
Castelleon
Ruhr
Maritza
Leverkusen (this was after the famous fire which caused the loss of 13 tanks, according to WD CO Naval Transport)

11th Staffel 14 Mar 41
Adana
Aegina
Herakleia
Galilea (8,040 GRT)
Arta (supply ship)

12th Staffel 16/17 Mar 41
Marburg (16 March from Naples)
Reichenfels (dto)
Ankara (17 Mar from Palermo, re-directed to pick up 150 urgently needed vehicles)
Kybfels (dto)

13th Staffel 19 Mar 41
Arcturus
Wachtfels
Santa Fe (4,627 GRT?)
Procida (1,842 GRT)

14th Staffel 22 Mar 41:
Alicante
Leverkusen
Castellon
Maritza

15th Staffel 26 Mar 41:
Adana
Herakleia (sunk by submarine HM/Sub Utmost off Tunisian coast, 69 out of 206 soldiers on board lost)
Ruhr (damaged by submarine HMS Utmost off Tunisian coast)
Galilea (damaged by submarine HM/Sub Upright on return journey, beached in Tripoli a few days later)
Samos (2,576 GRT – supply ship)

Also 26 Mar 41, tanker Persiano (2,474 GRT) with fuel for the army from Naples.

16th Staffel – 29/30 Mar 41
Marburg (29 March from Naples)
Kybfels (dto)
Ankara (30 Mar from Palermo)
Reichenfels (dto)

17th Staffel – 2 Apr 41
Maritza
Procida
Alicante
Santa Fe

18th Staffel – 8 Apr 41 (last troops of the original contingent)
Wachtfels
Arcturus
Leverkusen
Castellon

19th Staffel – 11 Apr 41 (last load of original units, possibly first load of 15th Panzer)
Ankara
Marburg
Kybfels
Reichenfels

Various Runs – 10 Apr 41
Persiano (tanker – attacked 40nm north of Tripoli by HM/Sub Tetrach, set on fire and sunk)
1st Supply Runs to Benghazi:
Samos from Tripoli
Ramb III (3,667 GRT, Italian vessel) from Naples, effective loading capacity only 1,100 tons due to ballast
Motor sailing vessels for coastal traffic from Trapani:
Rosina
Giorgina
Unione
Luigi
Frieda

The organisation of the transport had to be made with the consideration of several constraints.

1)  Harbour capacity in Tripoli was restricted by a policy of not unloading at night, to reduce the risk of enemy air attacks disrupting unloading and maybe blocking quays by sinking ships alongside. My guess is that at dusk ships were moved off the quays into more open water. This essentially reduced capacity by about 50%, is my guess. See this older post on port capacity.

2)  Ships were of different sizes and speeds, so slow and fast convoys were organised, and optimisation of unloading was an issue, since ideally convoys were supposed to return together.

3)  Italian reinforcement convoys continued at the same time as the German transports, and convoys were timed to reduce the number of ships in Tripoli harbour at any given time. This also indicates the very heavy call on Italian escort vessels, which would have been in service non-stop.

4)  There was a conflict between the Kriegsmarine and the army (Rommel/Halder, who for a change saw eye to eye on something) about the loading of ships. The navy wanted to send troops and vehicles separately, to presumably reduce risk to losing troops if a slower supply vessel was sunk, while the army wanted them to be sent together, in order to have the units immediately ready for action once they hit the quayside in Tripoli. Following a number of ship losses the navy method was adopted.

5)  There was no capacity at first at the receiving end to handle navy matters, and everything had to be run from Italy. This included coastal convoys in North Africa.

6)  Not all ships were available immediately, and arrived in drips and drops throughout the period. Furthermore, not all ships were protected against magnetic mines from the outset.

7)  The Luftwaffe had to be given space on the ships as well, but it wasn’t fully integrated into the transport system, and there appears to sometimes have been a lack of clarity on when supplies would arrive.

8)  AA armament on the ships had to be organised, and when the Luftwaffe refused to provide it, it had to be borrowed from the Italians. This left vessels relatively weakly equipped for AA defense, and they had to rely on the escorts. Navy AA detachments (Marinebordflakkompanie Sued)only arrived during the period. See this older post for AA equipment about half a year later.

Source for all this: War Diary Naval Transport Command South for 1941, while the identity of the attacking subs is based on Royal Navy Day by Day. Many thanks to Dirk for sending this war diary through!