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Type XXI U-Boats

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U-3008, one of only two Type XXI U-boats to make a wartime patrol albeit brief, as the war ended en route.
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Admiral%20Donitz

The mass production and build programme for U Boats during WWII was incredible in speed, accuracy and co-ordination. The German Navy accepted 1,158 U Boats into service that were built during the war. These were mostly in prefabricated sections and floated to the coast on barges, where they were welded together and launched at such places as Howaldswerk in Keil. The most prolific build programme was for the Type VII and over 500 of these were constructed. As new technology progressed, the U Boats pioneered many features which were ground breaking, including deep diving techniques, made possible by quality build contruction and heavy gauge pressure hulls, which led to shallow set depth charges to miss their target. The Royal Navy based depth charge settings on their own experiences of submarine depth capabilities. It was several years before U Boat deep diving techniques became known.

Rubber coatings of "Alberich" for the upper works and Conning Towers were designed to absorb radar emissions and delay detection while on the surface in response to the growing threat of night time use of radar by Allied aircraft, while U Boats were on the surface charging batteries and replenishing the air supply. In addition, special high capacity batteries were developed for U Boats that could produce higher underwater speeds than the Royal Navy Boats and enable 17 knot underwater escapes from attackers. The picture shows Admiral Donitz, leader of the U Boat arm of the German Navy, who always tried to meet returning crews in person.
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Type%20IA%20U%20Boat


U Boat production began prior to WWII in order to comply with the current naval restrictions in force after the first war, an all welded construction was used to save weight. This had the added side effect of adding great strength to the pressure hull. A smaller than average conning tower was also designed - again to save weight. The Type I displaced about 980 tons, compared to the British T class of 1,575 and the American Salmon class of 2,210 tons. A distinctive feature of the Type I was the "sharks teeth" net cutter on the bows and full length guard wires on the upper deck - both of these features were later to be discarded.

A later development of the craft was the IA, which showed improvements in manouvrebility and stability on the surface. The Type IA carried four torpedo tubes forward and two aft and these were built to the international standard of 21" or 533 mm and the previous 500mm standard was dropped. The boat carried a single 105mm gun on the foredeck and a single 20mm cannon on the conning tower. Speed was 17 kts on the surface and 8.3 kts submerged. Length overall was 237 feet and 20 feet beam and with a draught of 14 feet. Two such craft were built U 25 & U 26 and launched in 1936 - they were both lost in 1940

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Type IIA U Boats

Type%20IIA%20U%20Boat


As a result of the relaxation of the Treaty of Versailles and with consent to build U Boats granted by the Anglo-German naval agreement, designs were worked up for an improved version of the German WWI boats. Designs had been produced post war and a boat had already been built in Finland to avoid the Treaty. The first Type II was launched in 1935 as U 1. These were designated as Coastal Boats and were known as "Einbaume" or dugout canoes. Developments and improvements followed rapidly and types were known as IIA IIB IIC IID with increased endurance and reduced diving times. Speed was 13kts on the surface and 7 kts submerged. They carried three torpedo tubes forward and one 20mm gun. A total of fifty boats of this class were built. Six were transported overland to operate in the Black Sea at Constanza to support operation Barbarossa.
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Type VII U Boats

Type%20VII%20U%20Boat


This was one of the most successful U boat designs and the most important class of U boat built. 709 were constructed between 1936 and 1945. It was realised that if the war was to be successfully prosecuted, then the Atlantic would be the battlefield and this boat was designed with that aim in mind. Donitz realised that the the type VII was the boat required to win the war and the forthcoming battle of the Atlantic. When in command of the U boat fleet, he specified this boat. The boat carried four torpedo tubes forward and one aft. An 88mm gun was located on the foredeck with a 20mm gun abaft the conning tower. Speed was 16 or 17 kts on the surface and 8kts submerged.Range was between 6,500 and 10,000 nautical miles depending on type. U 48 was the most successful boat of the war and this sunk 53 ships totalling 304,000 tons under five captains on 12 operational patrols. It was turned over to a training role on 1943, survived the war to be scuttled in 1945.
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The Type IX U Boats

Type%20IX%20U%20Boat


This was the long range boat required by the German Navy for blue water operations and it was based on the type IA with uprated engines, greater speed and endurance with a range of 23,500 nautical miles. Two hundred of these were built at between 1000 and 1,600 tons displacement but only 24 survived the war. The boats were 230 to 280 feet long and 20 - 24 feet beam with 12-17 feet draught. Speed was 20 kts and 8kts submerged. Four bow tubes and two stern tubes were fitted. A 105mm Gun was fitted forward with a 37mm flak gun and one 20mm cannon. The boats were slow to dive and suffered early engine problems leading to emission of white smoke while on the surface, both of which were dangerous ailments. Probably the most successful boat was U123 which carried out 13 war patrols sinking 44 merchant ships totalling 225,100 tons. Decommissioned in 1944 it was taken over by the French who used it until 1959 as the Blaison.
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Type%20X%20U%20Boat

The Type XB U Boats


The largest boats built by the Kriegsmarine were the XB type and originally designed as minelayers. Eight were built of 2,177 tons displacement and 294 feet long. Some of these craft were converted as cargo carriers to Japan. Speed on the surface was 16 kts and two defensive torpedo tiubes we fitted aft. One 105mm gun was fitted and two 20mm cannon and one 37 mm flak gun. In a resupply and rendevous role they were usually betrayed by radio transmissions and were easy targets on the surface for aircraft due to their slow dive capability.

U 234 set course for Japan from Norway at the end of the war in a resupply role with 10 German and two Japanese passengers. In addition plans and prototypes of the latest weapons under test and development were on board. Also sealed contaimers of uranium oxide. The boat was hunted down with surprising diligence by the US Navy and was eventually captured and taken to Portsmouth New Hampshire. The uranium was quickly removed but the weapons it was to have been used for remain a mystery.




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Type%20XIV%20%20U%20Boat

The Type XIV U Boats


These "Milchkuh" U Boats were intended to refuel support and re-supply the rudeltaktik type VII "wolfpacks" in the Atlantic and elsewhere, at long distances from home. They had a large flat deck for carrying out replenishment at sea (RAS) and carried a doctor, spare fuel food and torpedes. They had facilities for baking bread to resupply U boats. Their effectiveness was severely compromised by radio transmissions and continued reliance on Enigma Code for rendevous locations and most were sunk by aircraft while in resupply mode on the surface. Underwater refuelling was perfected too late in the war be effective. Displacement was 1600 to 2000 tons and speed 14 kts. Here one is supplying mail by messenger line, but this was not usually possible in weather above a force four as the low freeboard caused seas to wash over the decks. As a result the flush deck resupply hatch could not be used and instead supplies had to be manhandled up the conning tower. As long range Allied aircraft with radar became effective, daylight surfacing and resupply became hazardous. Refuelling type VII boats could take five hours to complete and became operationally dangerous. Battery charging had to be undertaken at night, but even that was problematic as the Allies gained control of the airspace and RAF Coastal Command gradually closed the Atlantic Airgap. Development of the Leigh Light, Torpex high explosive depth charges, HFDF radio direction finding and short wave radar, all gradually led to an Allied victory in the battle of the Atlantic by May 1943.
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The Type XXI U Boats


These were the "Electroboots" and were probably 10 years ahead of Allied designs. These boats had the ability to end the war in Germany's favour. However, they were rushed into production after too little testing and only low numbers became operational. A modular mass production system was devised, based on construction of a the boat in complete sections with all internal fittings and to accurate tolerances. These were transported by barges and welded together. Each section took eight hours to weld. The process had to be continuous and was not stopped for air raids, or stress of weather.

Surface speed was 16 knots and underwater speed was 17 knots. This was as a result of the streamlined shape (designed by professor Walter) and powerful batteries carried. The boats were 250 feet long with a 21 foot beam and a displacement of 1,600 tons. a formidable torpedo armament was carried in six forward tubes, with a quick reload facility and 23 torpedoes were carried. The pressure hull was constructed of a steel/aluminium alloy 26 mm thick.

War patrols were undertaken by only two of these boats in April 1945 and the pennant numbers were U 2511 and U 3008. In each case, despite detection by surface ships they managed to easily outpace the hunters, carry out dummy attacks and escape at high underwater speeds. Surface ships wrre conditioned to the 3 knot underwater speed of traditional type VII U boats.

U 2511 was sunk by gunfire after the war as part of Operation Deadlight on January the 7th 1946 with no loss of life. It rests in 50 metres of water a few miles off Malin Head.

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Type%20XXIII%20%20U%20Boat

The Type XXIII U Boats


These were small craft with a displacement of 275 tons, designed to operate in coastal waters and to replace the type II. A total of 62 were built - the first in 1944. The craft was based on a Walter design and had two non-reload tubes forward and no other armament. Underwater speed was 12 kts and a hydraulic snorkel was incorporated. Surface speed was 9kts. The boats were 113 feet long with a 10 foot beam.

U 2365 was commissioned in 1945 but was scuttled in the Kattegat on May 5th 1945. After the war it was raised by the Bundesmarine and refitted and relaunched in 1956. It sank with loss of 19 men in 1966 due to an accident.

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Pens%20St%20Nazaire

Concrete U Boat Pens


A catch 22 situation began to arise in the Atlantic. Only the successful U Boats made contact with convoys and they stood a high chance of being sunk themselves, as soon as a torpedo attacks commenced and as allied ASW tecqniques improved. The original "happy time " was over and the U Boat losses began to mount as Allied detection became better. Only on the American east coast did the pickings continue due the lack of rigid convoy systems which the Americans, due to lack of experience, felt was not required. Substantial concrete U Boat Pens were constructed in Norway and France as the land war progressed. These gave the German Navy access to Atlantic ports, to evade the blockage created by the Royal Navy in the Channel. These pens were designed to be inpregnable from the air and were effective until the last year of the war, when Prof Barnes Wallis developed "Earthquake" and "Tall Boy" bombs and as precision bombing was developed and high payloads could be carried. The main locations were Lorient, St Nazaire, Brest, Bordeaux and Trondheim.
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U%2048%20St%20Nazaire

U 48 Leaving Pens for an Atlantic Patrol


Destruction of the pens in Brest by Tallboy and Blockbuster precision delivered bombs, could only be achieved by wholesale destruction of the town. Modern Brest is a conrete replacement of the original.

The Royal Navy paid a goodwill visit to the town of Brest directly after the war. The town had been systematically destroyed by day and night bombing, to prevent use of the U Boat Pens in the harbour and to increase the ability of the Allies to win the Battle of the Atlantic. Eyewitness accounts reveal that the residents were not happy to see the The Royal Navy at that time, as the city still lay in ruins as a result of repeated Allied attacks. Precision bombing with "Tall Boy" 10,000 lb bombs had penetrated 20 feet of concrete to destroy both the pens and the U Boats within.

The gaping holes are still visible today in the roof of this massive structure. In May 1999 Brest hosted the 36th International Submarine Convention, which was attended by 500 Allied and Axis Submariners, who meet annually to remember the those who have crossed the bar. As the old Pathe Newsreels were shown inside the disused U Boat Pens, German Italian French and British submariners stood side by side, recalling individual memories

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The Schnorchel

Snort%20Mast



The U boats, like their counterparts elsewhere in the world at that time, were not true submarines but only submersibles. Underwater speed and endurance was slow and short due to battery restrictions. As a result, Allied convoys could escape even at their slow seven knot speeds, if U Boats could be forced to submerge by destroyets and aircraft. In order to combat this disadvantage, the schnorchel mast was developed to allow diesel engines to run while the boat was submerged. This reduced detection by radar and allowed battery charging day and night while underway at speed. Special "Tarnmatte" coatings of rubber and iron oxide were used to counter the effect of Allied radar. However, masts could still be detected by radar at about three miles in calm conditions. Also, the exhaust smoke from worn or damaged engines was a tell tale sign in clear weather, during daylight.


Details surrounding losses of a boat such as this were not usually radioed to B-Deinst, due to suddeness of Allied attacks. As a result, there was general scepticsm that the boat had been lost as a result of the failure of the new fangled "schnorchel". However, as relentless pressure of Allied air attacks continued, boats needed to remain underwater as long as possible and the requirement for the snort mast was finally accepted and proven.
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Reunion%20U264

The first operational boat to be fitted with a "snort mast " was U 264. This was a Type VIIC built by Bremer Vulkan and commissioned on May 22 1942. It was sunk on its first operational voyage in the Atlantic by scuttling charges, after an attack by warships of the Royal Navy 2nd Escort Group. All the crew survived and a reunion photograph is attached, taken in 1995. One of the crew of U 264, the late Hans Ronnpage, (shown top left) was rescued by a Royal Navy destroyer. However this was torpedoed by another U boat, Hans was rescued a again by the Royal Navy and was taken back to England. He settled in Wales after the war and attended many Submarine (SOCA) reunions. When recounting the story he described this as "Hans avays in der vorter - in der vorter again!"
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The Type VII U Boat

Type%20VII%20U%20Boat


A type VIIC submarine displacing 769 tons 220 feet long with a 20 foot beam and a draught of 16 feet. She was powered by two MAN diesels with a power output of 2800 hp and had a range of 6000 nautical miles at a speed of about 12 knots. Her safety limit for diving was 440 feet and she had a fuel capacity of 110 tons. Armament was four 20mm AA guns on the "bandstand" abaft the conning tower and she was also fitted with a 37mm AA gun. The boat's crest was painted on the side of the conning tower and this consisted of a black panther with the world globe as as a backdrop. All hatches were circular for strength rather than the traditional RN ellipsoid. There was no brass or other polished metal aboard.
The boat was uncommon in that it was named rather than referred to as a number, but German crews, like American bomber crews, enjoyed creating an image and a name for their respective craft. The hull of this boat had a black rubber coating to reduce the effect of asdic impulses and this may be where the name originated.
This boat was extensively evaluated by the Royal Navy at the end of the war. The German Navy U boat archives at Cuxhaven established links with the Submarine Old Comrades Association (SOCA) branch at Gatwick after the war and sought to create a record of all the British crews who had sailed in the boat after the war. U 1105 went to the United States in 1946 and is now reported lying on the bed of the Potomac river off Piney Point in Maryland USA. The boat is a recreational diving attraction.
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U Boat 2326

Kapt%20Jobst%20of%20U%202326


U 2326 sailed into Dundee, Scotland at 0930 hrs on the 14th May 1945, wearing a black flag over the German Ensign. Approximately 1000 dockworkers and others gathered on the quayside to watch her sail in. She was one of the latest type of U Boat with a length of 100 feet and displacing 250 tons of the type XXIII. The skipper was Captain Jobst. His radio had broken down while on patrol in the North Sea and he had not been aware the war was over. He was signalled by a Liberator bomber but did not have charts of the minefields outside English harbours and made course for Keil on the surface. A second Liberator dropped a bomb nearby and requested a change of course for England and he was directed to Dundee.
Of the crew of fifteen, two had the Iron Cross and a Dutch naval officer based in the port acted as interpreter. The boat was evaluated by the Royal Navy and was transferred to the French in 1947. Unfortunately, this boat sank off Toulon while on delivery, the sinking report refers to "a welding defect." A second report indicates that the boat went down with all hands (French) in the Bay of Biscay in 1947.
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