On 5 January while in the Noord Zee Kanal a Seehund torpedo
discharged itself, hitting a lighter and damaging a harbour defence boat.
Hullmann + Hinrichsen in U-5013 had failed to find any ships
on their first voyage. Their rations were ruined, compressed air and oxygen
used up. The hatch was open, following seas washed over the boat partially
flooding it, and it had sunk in 18 metres. After a superhuman effort the crew
managed to raise her an hour or so later and ran into Ijmuiden on 5 January
totally exhausted. After that Hinrichsen was given a shore appointment.
In this first operation, K-Flotilla 312 lost sixteen Seehund
and eighteen men, an appalling statistic. K-Verband Command and OKM were
horrified. Kptlt Rasch was ordered before Grossadmiral Dönitz to deliver a
personal report. Despite these heavy losses, a new operation was planned for 9
Between 1830 and 1930 on 10 January, four Seehund sailed for
Margate on the Kent coast. A fifth boat dropped out with trim problems. Two of
the four boats returned prematurely. Wegner + Wagner had compass failure in
U-5311, Stürzenberger + Herold were tracked by radar, damaged by aircraft and
pursued by two MLs. Both these boats put back into Ijmuiden on 11 January.
South of the Kentish Shoals (naval grid square AN 7935),
Kiep + Palaschewski sank a collier of about 3,000 gross tons at 1500 on 12
January in heavy seas, wind force 5–6 with persistent snow showers. This was at
the entrance to the Thames estuary. The name of the ship could not be
established as Kiep turned away at once in compliance with his orders. The
sinking was confirmed by the B-Dienst which had been monitoring British radio
traffic. The boat returned safely to Ijmuiden on 13 January.
Krüger + Bahlmann stranded at 1330 on 14 January off
Zandvoort and had to destroy the boat with explosives.
In better weather on 17 January ten Seehund set out. Nothing
was achieved and all boats returned safely. By 20 January the number of operational
boats at Ijmuiden had risen to 26, these reinforcements arriving despite the
closure of Schichau Werft at Elbing in the face of the Russian advance in
Between 1400 and 1600 on 21 January ten Seehund left
Ijmuiden in three groups for the Dumpton and Elbow Buoys, South Falls,
Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. This operation reported no successes, nearly all
boats had technical problems. U-5033 Bischoff + Hellwig had a defective diesel
vent, U-5339 Kempf + unknown had both compasses fail. U-5368 Drescher + Bauditz
had a faulty diesel, another boat was losing lubricant, another collided with a
buoy. Von Dettmer’s boat had to break off the mission when the engineer said he
could not go on because of seasickness. This boat then stranded about 7 sea miles
south of Ijmuiden and had to be blown up. Aboard U-5334 Ulrich Müller + Niemann
the bilge-pump, light-image compass and trimming switches all failed. The boat
was pursued by an aircraft working with British search groups and had to be run
aground in a sinking condition on 23 January off the Hook of Holland after the
torpedoes had been discharged to aid buoyancy. The boat was destroyed by
Another Seehund crew had tragic bad luck. The boat reached
the operational area but entered the Thames estuary as the result of a
defective compass. A torpedo was fired at a ship and missed. On 22 January the
boat regained the North Sea. After two days voyaging blind the Seehund arrived
south of Lowestoft where the launch ML 153 tracked her and attacked with depth
charges. The boat waited on the bottom and eventually escaped. When night fell
the commander decided to surface. He was not aware that the current had drifted
the boat northwards to Great Yarmouth, and on 25 January, heading in the wrong
direction, he ran the boat aground on Soroby Sands. After nearly three days
attempting to refloat her and living in the stinking interior the crew gave up
and fired their distress flares. The Trinity House lighthouse tender Beacon
came out to assist.
On 19 January SKL reported on the current state of
preparations for further Seehund operations which were presently being made
extremely difficult by north-westerly storms preventing sailings. A deluge at
Petten in Noord Holland breached dykes and displaced sand dunes.
The last Seehund operation of January 1945 began on the 19th
at 1500 when ten of the dwarf fleet left the small lock at Ijmuiden in two
groups. Operational zones were the crossing points for Allied convoys near the
Dumpton Buoy and the sea area of the South Falls sandbanks. The orders were to
return to base if the weather worsened, especially if the wind backed to the
south-west. The wind soon strengthened to gale force with a sea state varying
from 5 to 10. It was overcast with very poor visibility – not good weather for
The area of operations was naval grid square AN 8744. Only
two boats got there. On 30 January U-5335 Stürzenberger + Herold discovered a
convoy of three steamers and escorts. Before they could fire the escorts forced
the boat to dive. Later heavy seas caused the boat’s return. The other Seehund,
Ross + Vennemann, put back on 30 January and reported having torpedoed a
collier between the Dumpton Buoy and the Margate roadstead. There was no
official confirmation for the claim.
None of the other eight boats found the enemy. U-5342 Böcher
+ Fröbel abandoned the voyage after only three hours with damage to couplings.
Schulze + Macy put back on 30 January with a leak astern. Weber + Knupe were
losing lubricating oil and feared that the diesel would seize up. U-5338
Wachsmuth + Feine were unable to find the operational area through navigational
difficulties. Seiffert + Stiller searched the Goodwin Sands without reward,
U-5332 Wolter + Minetzke broke off because of the rough seas in the Margate
road-stead: Kruuger + Bahlmann returned for the same reason, in U-5041,
Kretschmer + unknown found his engineer so totally incapacitated by seasickness
in the sea conditions that he could no longer assist in running the boat.
In January 1945, 44 Seehund voyages were sailed and ten
boats were lost. At the beginning of February three boats operated off
Ramsgate. On 3 February Wolter + Minetzke in U-5332 claimed sinking a ship of
3,000 gross tons off Great Yarmouth, but B-Dienst was unable to confirm.
On 3 February 1945 Kptlt Rasch was relieved of command as
Flotilla Chief and appointed head of Lehrkommando 300 at Neustadt. Presumably
his wolf-pack tactics had let him down and led to unacceptably high losses. The
new chief of K-Flotilla 312, and later 5 K-Division, was FKpt Albrecht Brandi,
an experienced U-boat officer who, on 23 November 1944 as the second
Kreigsmarine recipient (Wolfgang Lüth was the first, 9 August 1943) received
the Diamonds to his Knight’s Cross with Oak-leaves and Swords. At the outbreak
of war Brandi had been 1WO aboard the minesweeper M1 (commander, KKpt Bartels).
Subsequently he went to the U-boat Arm and as commander of U-617, U-380 and
U-967 had sunk 25,879 gross tons of merchant shipping, two destroyers, the fast
minelayer HMS Welshman, a Fleet tug and a naval trawler. After leaving the
U-boat Arm, Brandi was appointed Admiralty Staff Officer to Commanding Admiral
Eastern Baltic, and had been a Staff Officer with K-Verband Command since 1944.
His assistants were KKpt Heinrich Stiege and Kptlt Karl Born.
On that same 3 February 1945 an operation previously
prepared by Kptlt Rasch was due to begin. As if to usher in the change in
command, Ijmuiden was bombed. No Seehund was damaged. The Allies did not target
the locks to avoid flooding Velsen. This resulted from a secret agreement
between the Allies and Dutch to prevent unforseeable consequences for the city
At 2330 eight Seehund left for the Thames estuary, the
crossing and assembly point for Allied convoys. This operation had no success.
U-5368 Wilken + Bauditz had navigation problems after being
tracked by radar and attacked by aircraft.
U-5033 Bischoff + Hellwig and U-5326 Knobloch + Leidige were
forced to return with technical problems.
U-5339 Kempf + unknown stranded north of the Hook of Holland
on 7 February. The boat had to be destroyed, the crew was rescued. The same day
U-5329 Ulrich Müller + Niemann returned to Ijmuiden having failed to reach the
U-5311 Wagner + Wegner ran aground about 10 sea miles north
U-5348 Dietrich Meyer + Schauerte reached the operational
area despite the weather and scouted the Thames-Scheldt route for ships in
vain. This shipping lane was well lit by night by a string of light-buoys every
two miles. On the way home Meyer surfaced alongside the hull of a patrol boat.
The commanders of both vessels were so taken aback that neither reacted in
time. No action ensued. U-5348 escaped and reached Scheveningen on 8 February.
U-5344 Livonius + Pawelcik also returned to base on 8
February after having been depth-charged in the operational zone by MGBs.
A new operation against the Thames-Scheldt route began on 10
February when eight Seehund sailed: by nightfall U-5363 (Buttmann + Arno
Schmidt), U-5337 (Horstmann + Nitschke) and Lt Polakowski’s boat were all back
at Ijmuiden with technical problems. They were joined on the morning of 12
February by U-5335 (Kunau + Jäger), and 13 February by U-5347 (Sparbrodt +
Jahnke) because of thick fog.
Schöne + Sass in U-5347 were attacked by aircraft at 2330 on
10 February off the Hook of Holland. Six bombs exploded close to the boat
putting out both compasses. Nevertheless they reached the operational area but
were foiled by thick fog. The boat was losing fuel and trailing lubricant.
Early on 13 February the bunkers and batteries were drained. Schöne put his
command aground on the island of Texel, about 30 sea miles north of Ijmuiden,
and destroyed it with explosives.
U-5349 (Kähler + Harte) was discovered beached at Castricum
north of Ijmuiden by Wehrmacht forces at 1500 on 16 February. There was no sign
of the crew.
U-5345 failed to return, nothing further is known.
These failures must have prompted a rethink at K-Verband
Command. The so-called wolf-pack tactics practised by the large U-boats in
their heyday and to a limited extent by the Seehund were no longer viable, not
least because the boats had no radio. This ruled out centralized direction or
even agreement between the respective captains. Moreover the problem of radar
had been grossly underestimated, and the plethora of technical defects which
was causing many boats to put back prematurely pointed to the need for a better
standard of maintenance and preparation for operations.
FKpt Albrecht, a willing listener, sent his boats out only
in small groups. What he could not influence however were the strong defences
protecting even the smallest convoys, and the enemy’s immense aerial presence
day and night.
On 12 February five Seehund sailed to attack the convoy
traffic heading for Antwerp. U-5332 (Wolter + Minetzke) and U-5342 (Börchert +
Fröbel) put back with technical problems the same day.
U-5354 (Streck + Niehaus) was depth-charged in the operational
area, counting 259 explosions. The boat was badly damaged but got back to
Ijmuiden on 16 February, finally running aground inside the harbour mole.
U-5361 (Ziepult + Reck) attacked convoy TAM 80 off North
Foreland on 15 February, torpedoing and seriously damaging the Dutch tanker
Liseta, 2,628 gross tons. Reck was found unconscious on the beach at Voorne
island on 23 February, eight days later. There was no sign of the boat, the
remains of Lt Ziepult washed up at Ijmuiden in April 1945.
U-5356 (Preusker + unknown) failed to return from this
At 0830 on 16 February four Seehund left Ijmuiden to attack
shipping in the western Scheldt, supported at night by 15 Linse explosive
U-5363 (Buttmann + Arno Schmidt) and U-5332 (Wolter
Minetzke) returned on 18 February: Wolter had attacked a convoy of landing
ships but the escorts had driven him off.
U-5041 (Kretschmer + Radel) was sunk. The circumstances are
not recorded. Kretschmer was captured, Radel did not survive.
U-5337 (Horstmann + Nitschke) disappeared without trace. The
crew was declared dead on 23 February.
Since the Seehund was no more successful than the Biber in
the Scheldt, K-Verband returned to the concept of operations on more open
waters. On the afternoon of 19 February 1945 three Seehund set off for the
Wachsmuth + Feine in U-5097 lost their bearings in adverse
weather. The boat was so severely damaged by a bomb near-miss that it could not
longer submerge, and eventually drifted ashore at Egmond aan Zee, ten sea miles
north of Ijmuiden. The crew was rescued by a flak detachment, the boat
U-5342 (Böchert + Fröbel) failed to return. The crew was
declared dead on 1 March 1945.
The last operations of February remain confused but there
were successes. The crews had become hardened by their earlier experiences and
now they had some luck. The various accounts as to the number of Seehund at sea
between 21 and 26 February differ, but was probably eight.
Gaffron + Köster fired both torpedoes at a destroyer at 2300
on 22 February. A hit was observed, B-Dienst reporting a probable sinking which
the British side disputes.
U-5367 (Ragnow + Vogel) fought their way through heavy seas
in the Channel, breakers restricting visibility. At about 0600 on 23 February
they heard Asdic. East of the Goodwin Sands visibility deteriorated. Towards
evening a flashing buoy appeared on the starboard hand. Then a Hunt-Class
destroyer was seen approaching bowon. Dive, torpedo ready! The destroyer
pounded overhead and kept going. Lucky! The sea state was now 6 to 7. The
bunkers had emptied, the batteries were drained. U-5367 drifted towards the
enemy coast. The crew abandoned the boat and swam through thin ice to shore
where gunners took them prisoner.
Habel + Rettinghausen were lurking near the Dumpton Buoy.
Their compasses were malfunctioning, Habel was navigating by the occasional V-1
which passed over and the stars. Suddenly the destroyer Mecki appeared. Both
torpedoes were fired – missed. MGBs dropped patterns of depth charges near them
for twelve hours. Having escaped, off the Hook of Holland they hit a mine.
Though waterlogged the boat stayed afloat. On 24 February they made Ijmuiden.
Sparbrodt + Jahnke in U-5330 had returned because of a
blocked fuel line. They sailed again next day and on 23 February, five sea
miles north-east of South Falls near the East Dungeon Buoy, found the French
destroyer, La Combattante. At 1028 a single torpedo was fired at 600 metres
range. Eighty seconds wait with bated breath then – a hit between bridge and
funnel! The destroyer went down swiftly. MGBs rescued 118 members of the
U-5365 (Hermann + Holst) returning from the operational area
ran aground near the German artillery battery at Katwijk. Holst remained with
the Seehund while Hermann paddled ashore in the inflatable dinghy. A Dutch
lifeboat came out with a salvage crew and the Seehund was towed into
The numbers of the other boats cannot be determined. The
following enemy ships were sunk:
22 February, 17 sea miles east of North Foreland, a Seehund
attacked convoy TAM 87 and sank the armed landing ship LST 364, 2,750 gross
24 February, 0930, 3 sea miles off North Foreland, the
British cablelayer Alert, 941 tons, was torpedoed by a Seehund and sank
immediately with all hands.
26 February 0530. The steamer Rampant from convoy TAC sank
following an explosion near buoy NF8. Ships of the convoy saved 46 crew.
26 February 0955. The steamer Nashaba was sunk near buoy
NF7. 24 survivors were picked up.
In February, there were 33 Seehund voyages sailed and only
four boats were lost. For the first time, midget submarines had inflicted
important losses. At Ijmuiden it rained decorations. On 27 February in a
reshuffle at Staff Operations, Lt Hullmann relinquished the chart room to Oblt
Seiffert who held the post until 20 April, when Lt Sparbrodt took over.
In March K-Verband Command began to feel the pinch. Fuel was
becoming scarce. The number of Seehund operations declined and were only sailed
in small groups or singly as rolling operations. SKL could not, or would not,
recognize the disastrous war situation. On 27 February the Chief of Torpedo
Production addressed Dönitz on the subject of equipping the Seehund with the
so-called Spinne torpedoes. Tactical trials had been carried out with this
weapon at Neustadt and had been assessed as promising. The main difficulty was
the inadequacy of torpedo production.
SKL demonstrated the extent to which it had become a
stranger to reality by proposing Seehund operations in the Mediterranean.
Following a request by C-in-C South West on 1 March 1945, OKM thought it should
set up a base on the coast of the Ligurian Sea by the beginning of April from
which 80 Seehund would operate. Immediate steps would have to be taken to
install heavy duty bilge pumps because of the different specific gravity of
seawater in the Mediterranean. Nothing came of this idea.
The successes at the end of February must have encouraged
FKpt Brandi to continue the struggle with much greater numbers. In favourable
weather on 6 March a number of Seehund sailed in a joint operation with seven
Biber to attack shipping in or bound for the Scheldt. The Seehund were to find
their targets off Great Yarmouth near the Elbow Buoy and off Margate where the
Thames-Scheldt traffic assembled into convoys.
The boats of Ross, Gaffron, Göhler, Drexel and Markworth
returned shortly after sailing with the usual variety of technical problems.
A Seehund was sunk on 7 March 26 sea miles east of Ramsgate
by MTB 675, another fell victim on 10 March to a Beaufighter off Goerre. The
same day the frigate HMS Torrington and MTB 621 sank two Seehund off the South
Goodwin lightship, one of these being U-5374, Siegert + Keilhues being taken
At 0951 on 11 March a British escort vessel sank Lt
Neubauer’s boat half a mile off the Kellet Buoy, the crew being rescued. The
same day two other Seehund were lost, one off Ramsgate, the other 17 sea miles
north of Dunkirk.
On their first voyage, on 11 March Huber + Eckloff damaged
or sank the freighter Taber Park, 2,878 tons, during an attack on convoy FS
1753 off Southwold (naval grid square AN 7668).
At 1125 on 12 March John + Teichmüller were surprised in fog
by the coastal patrol vessel HMML 466. John was captured, Teichmüller gunned to
U-5336 (Hauschel + Hesel) was surfaced in a strong gale, the
hatch continually swept by high seas. The Seehund crashed from wave to wave and
icy cold reigned in the boat. They dived. Suddenly Asdic and screw noises were
heard. Down came the depth-charges. Hauschel came to periscope depth, sighted a
warship and fired a torpedo. It stuck fast in the retaining grabs, its
propellor speeding the Seehund towards the enemy ship. Sweating with the effort
and panic, they finally managed to steer the boat away and ran for it to the
north-east. After being at sea seven days their oxygen was very low. Land came
into sight. Soldiers with foreign steel helmets were seen. Artillery rounds greeted
their arrival – the boat was off the Canadian-held island of Walcheren. With
their last reserves of strength Hauschel and Hesel steered away from the
hostile coast and made Ijmuiden on 12 March. The engineer had to be lifted out
and stretchered ashore.