The Pocket U-boat Seehund Part II

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 January 1945.

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 Prussia.

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 explosives.

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 a Seehund.

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 of Amsterdam.

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 operational zone.

U-5311 Wagner + Wegner ran aground about 10 sea miles north of Ijmuiden.

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 mission.

At 0830 on 16 February four Seehund left Ijmuiden to attack shipping in the western Scheldt, supported at night by 15 Linse explosive boats.

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 Dumpton Buoy.

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 destroyed.

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 184-man crew.

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 Scheveningen.

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 tons.

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 prisoner.

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 death.

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.


The Pocket U-boat Seehund Part III

On 12 March off West Schouwen a fighter-bomber gunned Lt Böhme’s boat. It burned and both crew perished.

On their return to base in U-5064, Kugler + Alois Schmidt reported having sunk a steamer of 3,000 to 4,000 tons.

On 10 March SKL had decided to use Seehund submarines to supply the starving German garrison at Dunkirk. K-Verband Command received orders to fit out three boats to carry transport cylinders of provisions, batteries, limpet mines and mail. The boats were to be ready at Ijmuiden on 15 March.

On their return to base on 13 March, Fröhnert + Beltrami reported having sunk a steamer in the Thames estuary. They had also survived a depth-charging.

The same day U-5377 was lost, von Neefe und Obischau + Pollmann were saved: U-5339 (Kempf + unknown) was depth-charged and sunk off Buoy NF5: off Harwich on the same day a Seehund ran into five boats of 165th Minesweeping Flotilla and after being forced to dive in a hail of 2-cm and 7.5-cm followed by depth-charges, the boat was lost at position 52°01′24″N and 01°53′24″E.

None of the three Seehund known to have been off Margate on 16 March returned. On 18 March B-Dienst reported a British signal describing large quantities of oil and wreckage found near the Margate coast, and four empty lifeboats. What ship this was and its cause of loss remains a mystery.

On 21 March in light fog, U-5366 (Hauschel + Hesel) discovered a convoy assembling in grid square AN 7663 between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. At 0330 Hauschel torpedoed a Liberty freighter which exploded three minutes later. The whole sea was lit bright as day, the victim must have been carrying munitions. U-5366 touched bottom at Egmond aan Zee during the night of 24 March but reached Ijmuiden undamaged.

Gaffron + Köster got caught up in a battle between German S-boats and British MTBs and MGBs on 22 March. The Seehund was fired on and the tower was damaged, making the boat undiveable. The crew abandoned and were picked up by the British. The same day Göhler + Kässler were attacked and sunk by a fighter-bomber shortly after leaving Ijmuiden.

At 0452 on 22 March, MTB 394, while lying stopped on listening watch about 23 sea miles south-east of Great Yarmouth, was rammed by a Seehund. The British opened fire into the mist, heard cries for help and picked up two German submariners.

At 1920 on 24 March U-5264 fired two torpedoes at a destroyer near the South Falls sandbanks and missed.

On 25 March the British motor launch ML 466 was torpedoed by a Seehund and exploded. There were no survivors. The attacker may have been the boat of Meyer + Schauerte which had left Ijmuiden two days previously and failed to return, although Wagner + Wegner or Plottnik + Mayer who were in the area on 24 March are also possibles.

At 1200 the same day Warnest + Nöubeling came under attack from motor launch ML 1471 near Tamarisk Buoy. Warnest decided that attack was the best form of defence and responded with two torpedoes which missed. He escaped, however, and returned to base.

On 26 March in grid square AN 7956, Küllmeyer + Raschke torpedoed the steamer Newlands, 1,556 tons, which sank at once. The boat returned to Ijmuiden on 27 March.

On 25 March at 1440 Beaufighter Q of RAF 254 Squadron sank a Seehund about 17 sea miles north-west of the Elbow Buoy.

At 0231 on 26 March the escort destroyer HMS Puffin pinpointed a Seehund by Asdic about seven sea miles off Buoy 4. The submarine surfaced, rammed the stern of the destroyer, slid along the hull and exploded, tearing a great hole in the destroyer’s forecastle, damaging the keel. Puffin remained afloat and picked up the two Germans from the water. After an inspection ashore, the destroyer was declared a constructive total loss.

On 27 March ML 586 sank a Seehund west of Walcheren.

On 30 March a Seehund sank the coaster Jim, 833 gross tons southeast of Orfordness. Twelve of her crew of twenty survived. Another Seehund was sunk by the harbour defence vessel HDML 1471.

On 27 March three Seehund left Ijmuiden to supply the German garrison at Dunkirk. The boat of Fröhnert + Beltrami began to food and being undiveable returned to base. They sailed again the following midday. Weather was extremely bad with enormous seas. The storm lasted seven days: Fröhnert’s boat reached Dunkirk on the last day of the tempest and was guided through the coastal minefield by the stern light of a naval trawler. Both crewmen were admitted to the military hospital with exhaustion. After their recovery they were received by Admiral Frisius. On 9 April they sailed, and reached Ijmuiden despite air attacks and a flooded diesel.

In summary it may be said that the fighting between hunters and hunted became particularly bitter and resolute in March 1945. Seehund boats sank or damaged five steamers of about 15,000 tons. A patrol boat was torpedoed and a destroyer written off as a total loss after being rammed. On the debit side, 5 K-Division lost at least 15 Seehund and 30 men dead or prisoner.

Before the beginning of April 1945, Anglo-American forces reached north-west Germany and were virtually surrounding Festung Holland. Additional Seehund at readiness in Wilhelmshaven naval base and U-boat bunkers on Heligoland island prepared to sail for Holland, transport by road or rail being no longer possible. Heavy air attacks on K-Verband bases caused damage to buildings but the midget submarine force escaped unscathed. After the weather improved sorties were sailed from 4 April with great determination. By the end of the month 36 individual missions had been been sailed to the English east coast, the Scheldt Esturary and to Dungeness near Dover.

On 8 April, 5 K-Division had 29 boats at Ijmuiden, only half of them operational. Four others arrived on 20 April, 14 on 1 May from Wilhelmshaven, and another two from Heligoland.

Two boats sailed, one each on 5 and 6 April respectively, for the Thames-Scheldt route. U-5366 (Hauschel + Hesel) returned on 8 April with no successes to report, the other boat was sunk, probably on the 6th. Nine Seehund sailed at 2130 on 7 April to attack convoys between Dungeness and Boulogne. Bischoff + Hellwig failed to return and were presumed killed in action on 19 April. U-5332 (Wolter + Minetzke) ran aground at Calais. After destroying the boat, they surrendered. Rosenlöcher + Musch remain missing. The boats of von Pander + Vogel, Ross + Vennemann and U-5074 Schöne + Sass returned to base, the latter boat being undivable after a Martin Marauder bombed it at 0630 on 8 April.

The operations of these and a number of other boats can only be assembled in fragmentary form:

9 April, 0531. A Seehund torpedoed the tanker Y17 from convoy TAC 90 eight cables off North Foreland Buoy NF5. The tanker burst into fl            ames after an explosion and sank. There were no survivors.

9 April: Near Dungeness, Buttmann + Arno Schmidt attacked convoy TBC 123. Buttmann sank the freighter Samida, 7,219 gross tons with one torpedo, and seriously damaged the US freighter Solomon Juneau, 7,116 gross tons, with the other. The Seehund was subsequently sunk by ML 102 east of Dover. The body of Schmidt drifted across the North Sea and washed up on the island of Föhr, to be interred at Wyk cemetery.

Another Seehund was sunk this day by Beaufighter W of 252 Squadron RAF.

Off Orfordness, a Seehund sank the British cable-layer Monarch, 1,150 gross tons.

10 April: Pander + Vogel reported having sunk a tanker of about 1,000 tons. Penzhofer + Schulz attacked a destroyer in the South Falls area. The torpedo failed to release and dragged the submarine to the target, where a collision ensued. The destroyer stood off and machine-gunned the Seehund. The submarine escaped and made Ijmuiden on 12 April.

11 April: East of Dungeness a Seehund attacked convoy UC63B, damaging the freighter Pat Wyndham, 8,580 gross tons. The same day the attacker was sunk by ML 632.

U-5071 (Hullmann + Schiffer) was heading for home when attacked from the air. Splinters damaged the torpedo warhead, which did not explode, and the boat made Ijmuiden on 12 April.

U-5070 (Markworth + Spalleck) discovered a destroyer escorting a refrigerator ship of about 3,000–4,000 gross tons off Dungeness near buoy C6. Markworth fired both torpedoes and dived immediately to 15 metres. After 50 seconds there was a deafening explosion. The Seehund settled on the bottom at 26 metres, screw noises overhead. A four-hour long depth-charge inferno began. U-5070 survived.

At 0828 a Seehund was seen by escort vessel HMS Guillemot three miles off North Foreland Buoy 1. ML 586 gave chase and sank the submarine at 1330 hrs. Later, at 1945, ML 585 sank another Seehund near the South Falls.

12 April: Two Seehund including U-5366 (Hauschel + Hesel) headed for the Thames-Northbound and Thames-Scheldt crossing point. In U-5366 the bilge pump failed, but Hesel carried out repairs under difficult circumstances. On 13 April Hauschel sighted a convoy. Both torpedoes were fired and missed. The boat put into Ijmuiden at 1700 on 18 April.

Between 0758 and 1020, aircraft attacked several Seehund at position 52°N 02°E and claimed one sunk.

At 1630 Mosquito H of 254 Squadron RAF, Wellington V of 524 Squadron and Beaufighters M and U of 236 Squadron attacked and sank a Seehund 25 sea miles west of the Hook of Holland.

13 April: Barracuda L of 810 French Squadron sank a Seehund.

U-5090 (Kunau + Jäger) arrived at Ijmuiden after finding no targets around Dungeness and surviving a day-long depth-charge attack. During the delivery voyages from Wilhelmshaven to Ijmuiden, the boat of Schäfer + Wurster was sunk. The boats had sailed after being informed that 500 RAF bombers had attacked Heligoland in waves.

14 April: Four Seehund including U-5074 (Schöne + Sass) and U-5364 returned to Ijmuiden from unsuccessful sorties.

The losses continued. The destroyer HMS Garth sank a Seehund off Orfordness: on 18 April a land battery at Blankenberghe sank another. A third boat was found beached and abandoned on the 19th. The Konrad + Kaldenberg Seehund which had sailed on 10 April began to founder after being attacked by a fighter-bomber. Konrad was killed. Kaldenberg threw the body of his commander into the sea intending to use it as a float in an attempt to swim for shore. On the way he was found by a British patrol boat and rescued.

At midday on 16 April the tanker Goldshell, part of convoy TAM 40, sank north of Ostend after a violent explosion: it could not be attributed definitely to a Seehund.

While running for Ijmuiden a Seehund ran out of fuel and battery power. After drifting for days the rations came to an end. The current took the boat towards the minefields off Katwijk. On 24 April the crew, having written their farewell messages and put the bottle into the sea, abandoned the submarine. Wehrmacht shore personnel spotted them. Their voyage lasted ten days and is the longest Seehund patrol on record.

On 29 April off Walcheren the steamer Benjamin H Bristow was sunk either by a mine or Seehund torpedo. The last definite torpedoing of a ship by a Seehund occurred on 23 April 1945 near the South Falls. This was the Svere Helmersen. The last Seehund to be lost to enemy action was sunk in a depth-charge attack south-east of Lowestoft on 29 April by the corvette HMS Sheldrake.

Because of the war situation, K-Verband Command cancelled the Seehund training programme on 27 April. Under the protection of the two auxiliaries Frida Horn (Kptlt Hugo Holm), and Meteor, the VP boat VS 517 (Kptlt Paul Masch), the naval trawlers KFK 203 (Lt Otto Klähn) and KFK 204 (Lt Alfired Laon) and a few air-sea rescue boats, the training Seehund were escorted from Neustadt to Eckernföurde and then to Grafensteen in Denmark. The Danes refused to admit them and referred the German convoy back to Neustadt. The training division eventually surrendered at Surendorf.

On 28 April 1945 the Dutch operations terminated, although several Seehund continued to act as blockade breakers into Dunkirk. On 2 May 1945 four boats undertook the dangerous journey and reached the port before the capitulation. On 6 May 1945 the German units in Holland struck their flag. The Royal Canadian Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment of 1st Canadian Division took over Ijmuiden. About 5,000 Wehrmacht personnel went into captivity.

The Balance

The Seehund pocket U-boats sailed 142 missions from Holland and accounted for about 93,000 gross tons of shipping (British sources estimate 120,000 tons). They were therefore the most successful German midget submarines. These results could not affect the outcome of the war, but if the Seehund had been developed and operational as little as six months earlier, it could have caused Allied shipping grave problems, particularly at the time of the invasion of Normandy. In any case they forced the continuing use of hundreds of escort vessels to protect convoys. The operations led to high losses in personnel and materials. The greatest respect is due to the brave men who accepted the challenge to fight an overwhelmingly superior enemy dominating the sea and air.

The “Marshals” – Careers

Marshal Ney with her turret trained on the broadside, probably on gunnery trials. Blast bags are fitted to each gun to prevent the blast entering the turret through the gun ports.

A close-up of Marshal Soult’s turret, showing the raised axis of the 15in guns permitting 30 degrees elevation. Ammunitioning is in progress at Dunkirk, with cordite cases lying on deck, each holding two 107lb quarter charges. The two 4in visible and the two 2pdr on platforms aft date the photograph as the spring of 1918. The conning tower has ceased to be used, the original searchlight platform being expanded instead. The chequer pattern was intended to confuse German rangefinders ashore and to blend into the ML’s protective smokescreens.

The protection of the Marshals was basically similar to that of the 14in monitors, except for the turret and the hump necessitated by the height of the diesel engines. The sloping main deck forward, visible in the photograph on the previous spread, saved a little weight compared with a closing vertical bulkhead.

Marshal Soult as completed; the ugliest of all the monitors with a disproportioned profile. The later 14ft increase in Soult’s funnel height worsened an already bizarre appearance. The tall barbette was necessary owing to the minimum length of the turret ammunition trunk. Marshal Ney was almost indistinguishable from her sister as completed, although after removal of the 15in turret her later armaments of 9.2in and then 6in guns readily distinguished the two vessels.

As with the first of the 12in monitors, the original plan for sending Marshal Ney out to the Dardanelles had been cancelled and she had been allocated to the Dover Squadron. Her maiden voyage from the Tyne was an exciting one, as engine trouble continued to plague her. More often than not one or other of her engines was out of action. Her difficulties were accentuated by underpowered steering gear and poor response to the helm, so that, despite tug assistance, she was continually sheering off course, at times even making a complete 360-degree turn before control was regained. She eventually arrived at Sheerness on 3 September, going straight on to calibrate her guns on the Shoeburyness range, to adjust the sights so that both guns fired to the required distance. It had been discovered by this time that the 12in monitors were outranged by the Tirpitz battery. Bacon was therefore anxious to get Ney into service as soon as possible to use her longer-range guns, so she was prepared for her first operation. She was to steam inshore between Dunkirk and Nieuport, where it was thought that the Tirpitz guns could not bear. After waddling across to Dunkirk she joined the other monitors on 19 September in attempting to smother the fire of the coastal batteries. About midday Ney opened fire on Westende from 15,000yd, but she received no spotting reports as the only spotting station ashore could not obtain proper bearings from its acute angle to the line of fire. Tirpitz’s guns soon showed that Ney was still within their arc of fire, so she was forced to withdraw out of range after only seven rounds. She returned later in the afternoon even closer off the beaches of La Panne and obtained rather better results, one hit being signalled out of sixteen rounds and the Germans being forced to evacuate temporarily the Aachen battery of four 150mm guns. Unfortunately the heavy blast from her guns blew the securing slip off the port anchor and the cable ran out while the ship was under way, bringing her to a complete halt. It proved impossible to heave the cable back in; neither could the starboard engine be started. Under power of the port engine she grounded lightly while, to add to her discomfort, Tirpitz had now found her range and proceeded to surround her with uncomfortably close shell bursts. She soon got off the sandbank, only to find that her rudders had jammed and that the only motion possible was slow circling. Tweedie dared not stop his one remaining engine, so the destroyer Viking was ordered to tow her out of danger. This was successfully achieved under cover of a smokescreen, the passage back to Dunkirk being made at twice her normal speed.

She was back in action again on 25 September, supporting the big Army offensive. This time the Westende batteries were her target, receiving seventeen rounds before Viking again had to tow her away. A week later both engines again broke down before another bombardment. It was now abundantly clear that, if her great firepower was to be properly exploited, considerable modifications would be needed to her engines and steering gear to obtain reliable performance. So on 20 October she was drydocked at Southampton, where her rudders were modified and new steering gear was fitted. She then went across to Cowes to give her engine builders a chance to improve the starting and reversing characteristics of her diesels; of course no advice was available from the German designers.

Meanwhile, Marshal Soult had arrived at Dover on 6 November but had been despatched immediately to Portsmouth for a new set of propellers and to have her mine-wires removed. On her new trials she managed 6½kts without any trouble from her Vickers engines. She joined the Dover Squadron as an effective unit on 28 November and saw her first action on 23 December, when she bombarded the area around Westende Casino with six rounds. Two more similar sorties were made in late December, while on 15 and 26 January she again bombarded Westende, on the latter occasion in company with four of the 12in monitors.

Ney had arrived back at Dover on 13 December, as Bacon wanted her for supporting his planned attacks on Zeebrugge and Ostende. But the next few weeks showed that her troubles had not really been cured. She remained as unmanageable as ever and her engines could never be relied upon, either to start or, once started, to continue running. Finally the ever-optimistic Swan had to admit defeat when a cylinder exploded, blowing parts of the engine through the deckhead. As Soult had shown herself a much more satisfactory performer, the Admiralty decided to cut their losses with Ney. By transferring her turret to one of the new fast monitors then building, they hoped to get her powerful armament back into service quickly. Accordingly Ney was despatched to the Tyne under tow, arriving at Elswick on 29 January 1916, where her turret was removed for transfer to Terror, under construction at Belfast. In April she returned to Portsmouth, where she was fitted with a reduced armament consisting of a single 9.2in and four single 6in. She was back in commission on 16 June, and new trials were undertaken with a moderate degree of success, so she returned hopefully to Dover. But her performance in service proved as bad as ever; her engines and steering prevented her from becoming an effective unit of the Squadron. She was sent back to Portsmouth, paying off for the second time on 15 August.

General patrol work occupied most of Soults time during 1916, involving occasional brushes with enemy aircraft and destroyers. It was September before she again used her 15in guns in earnest, supporting Haig’s Somme offensive. Between 8 and 13 September she fired thirty-seven rounds of CPC, mostly at enemy 150mm coastal batteries. By firing from behind a smokescreen the safe firing range could be brought down to about 22,000yd. Shortly afterwards she was hit by a bomb while alongside at Dunkirk. By this time both Erebus and Terror had entered service, so Soult could be spared to have her gun mounting altered to give 10 degrees extra elevation up to 30 degrees, similar to the two new ships. She left for Elswick, arriving on 6 November, and returned to Dover on 12 March 1917 with her guns now capable of about 30,000yd range.

Meanwhile, further modifications had been made to Ney at Portsmouth. White’s had another go at her engines, which performed quite well in basin trials at Portsmouth in December. But these were too late to save her from being relegated to a stationary role as a guardship. Merchant traffic along the south and east coast of England all passed through the special anchorage at the Downs off Ramsgate, where examination of vessels for blockade-running cargoes took place. Vessels also used the anchorage to lay up overnight or when enemy sorties or unswept minefields presented temporary dangers. Such a collection of ships formed a tempting target, which had to be well protected by destroyers and drifters, backed up by a 12in monitor when necessary. The need for strong protection was borne out when German destroyers raided the Downs in February and March 1917. Rather than employ one of his more active monitors, Bacon decided to convert Ney to a full-time guardship at the Downs, fitting her with six 6in guns. Her good underwater protection made her almost immune from U-boat attack, while her armament was still strong enough to drive off destroyers. She took up her station at the north end of the Downs on 5 April 1917, and was soon in action. On the morning of the 19th six German seaplanes appeared over the Goodwin Sands and two, which were carrying torpedoes, calmly circled Ney amidst a barrage of AA fire. One torpedo was dropped from low level but fortunately missed Ney, passed under a nearby dredger and embedded itself in the mud of Ramsgate Harbour. Ney’s chance came on 27 April, when she returned the fire of several destroyers shelling Ramsgate, who retired in the face of this strong opposition. Thereafter things became rather quieter as German destroyer raids virtually ceased, but she often used her HA guns against the night-time aircraft and Zeppelin raids. Not until after the Armistice did she leave her anchorage, where she had performed a dull but important service, being towed round to Sheerness on 12 December 1918.

In contrast, Soult saw considerable action over the next 18 months, as Bacon was determined to make full use of his three 15in monitors. From early February 1917 he had been making detailed plans to bombard the lock gates of the Bruges Canal, which if damaged would seriously restrict the use of the important naval base at Bruges. It is worth describing the operation in some detail, as it well illustrates the difficulties the monitors faced in bombarding small targets on strongly defended coastlines. First the target: to put the lock out of action both gates needed to be hit, as otherwise passage could be made using only one gate, which could be opened for about two hours around high water. Each gate was only about 90ft x 30ft in size and invisible from the sea. Bacon calculated the chances of hitting such a target from 13 miles as one in sixty-three, but he halved the chances to allow for the difficulty of accurately laying a gun subject to all the motions of a ship. About 250 rounds would thus be required to hit both main lock gates, even before any consideration could be given to the spare gate kept nearby. Second the opportunity: to fire 250 rounds would take about 1½hr with three monitors each firing one round per minute. Such a rate was not difficult for the ships, but would be quite a strain on the spotters. But conditions had to be just right; a calm sea to prevent excessive rolling, no cloud or mist over the target so that the spotting aircraft would have a clear view, and the tide running along the coast to allow the ships to anchor broadside-on to the target. Third and most important of all, opposition: the monitors would have to fire from within the 41,000yd range of the Kaiser Wilhelm battery. This meant that an onshore wind was required so that the ML’s smokescreen would continue to shield the monitors from view; that a dawn operation was desirable to achieve surprise before the enemy could retaliate seriously, jam the spotting wireless or cover the target with defensive smokescreens; that strong air patrols would be needed to prevent enemy aircraft or observation balloons spotting for their return fire, and to guard the British spotters. All in all, the chances of getting exactly the right conditions and then actually hitting the targets were slight, but Bacon judged the risks worthwhile to curb the U-boats by sealing one of their bases, despite the shortage of reliable 15in ammunition and spare guns post-Jutland. His plan was to anchor the three 15in monitors near to a predetermined position off Zeebrugge and for them to use a 12in monitor as a back-aiming mark. To keep their approach within the hours of darkness, a speed of at least 9kts was required of the fleet, so each fast monitor would have to tow one of the slow ones.

All was ready by 25 March, but mist came down, forcing a postponement of the operation. A fortnight elapsed before the tides were once more suitable, but again on 8 April the weather proved too bad. On 18 April the start was delayed by Erebus fouling her propeller at Dunkirk and then, after the flotilla had got under way, Soult sheered off while being towed by Terror, breaking her towline. Further attempts during April were frustrated by the weather or other factors. Not until 11 May did everything again appear promising, when the 41-ship flotilla set off from Dover at about 18.00; Terror flying Bacon’s flag and towing Soult at 10kts, Erebus towing Sir John Moore, followed by M.24 and M.26, ten destroyers, six paddle minesweepers and nineteen MLs. They anchored in the firing position at about 04.20 on the 12th, but poor visibility forced Moore to anchor only 4,200yd off instead of the planned 12,000yd, thus seriously multiplying any errors of bearing. Of the three spotting aircraft, two had reported mechanical trouble and had been forced to land again, while the third had arrived as early as 03.00 and was running short of fuel by the time the monitors were in position.

Fire was opened at 04.45 from about 26,000yd, Soult and Terror taking the south gate as their target while Erebus took the north. The first ranging shots fell short but were soon corrected, and shooting settled down to a steady 20sec rhythm. Not all of the rounds could be spotted after their 54sec flight, as several did not burst, but the spotter reported hits with Soult’s twelfth round and Erebus’s twenty-sixth. The Germans put up smoke to screen the locks, but fortunately it was wrongly placed and did not hamper the British fire. By now Kaiser Wilhelm had begun to open fire, but the British smokescreen and strong air patrols prevented any worthwhile spotting, so after four rounds the Germans gave up. The thick white screen completely covered the ships from the shore, even hiding the red-brown cordite puffs and the occasional black smoke from their funnels. The spotting aircraft stayed as long as possible, but had to leave at 05.30, having run seriously short of fuel. There-after the monitors estimated their own corrections and ceased fire at 06.00, when the wind changed direction, but before a relief spotter could take over. The flotilla then retired to Dover, feeling that a good morning’s work had been done: 175 rounds fired of which Soult had contributed fifty-one. Decorations awarded included five DSOs and ten DSMs. Subsequent reports and aerial photographs were disappointing as they showed that, although several shells had fallen very close, twenty-one of them within 50yd, no damage had been inflicted on the actual gates or pumphouses. The only results of this major effort were three enemy killed, four wounded, temporary damage to the lock pumphouse and some churned-up roads and railways, plus confirmation that the chances of hitting such small targets from long range in the face of a host of practical difficulties were slim indeed.

The summer months of 1917 were spent on patrol, particularly from July while the 12in monitors were preparing for the Great Landing. This ‘BO Patrol’ consisted of one of the 15in monitors, two small monitors, a light cruiser and about nine destroyers. Arrangements were made for MLs and spotting aircraft to be on hand if conditions were favourable for bombardment. Soult ’s first opportunity came on 4 September, when she put twenty-eight rounds into Ostende Dockyard, firing at maximum range while under way. She had another go at Ostende on 21 October, firing nineteen rounds and damaging some ships and exploding the magazine of a nearby AA battery, before the thickness of the enemy smokescreen prevented further shooting. For a short period at the end of October she was the only large monitor available for service, the other eight all being in dockyard hands. Favourable conditions for bombardment had largely disappeared with the onset of winter, so with the return of the other monitors Soult could be spared for a long refit at Portsmouth, which lasted from January to April 1918.

Soult’s role in the forthcoming Zeebrugge raid was a relatively minor one of diversionary bombardment with three of the 12in monitors. While waiting for the operation to take place she went out on the night of 17/18 April to fire on coastal batteries west of Ostende with Erebus, Terror and Prince Eugene, using M.26 as an aiming mark. Following up the Zeebrugge raid, a bombardment was made on 9 June by Soult and Terror with M.21 to harass enemy dredgers and salvage craft attempting to remove the blockships. The monitors opened fire from 27,000yd at 13.08 but, as the wind direction was unfavourable, no smokescreen could shield them. The enemy return fire soon became uncomfortably accurate, so after twenty-five rounds each the monitors retired to Dunkirk. Soult’s last bombardment of the war came on 29 July, when she and Gorgon, again with M.21 as aiming mark, took on the Tirpitz battery in cooperation with Allied artillery ashore. Although the target was only 28,500yd off, her guns had fired 210efc (equivalent full charges) each and could only reach this distance by heeling the ship. Flooding the bulges increased the effective gun elevation to 33 degrees, and she was able to fire ten rounds before a combination of inadequate stern anchor, faulty firing mechanisms and about thirty retaliatory rounds from Tirpitz forced her to retire.

The next few weeks were mainly spent on the Dover Barrage patrol, guarding the deep anti-submarine minefields. She was back at Portsmouth for docking on 13 September, and thus missed the heaviest bombardment of the war. By the time she was back at Dunkirk the Germans had evacuated the Belgian Coast, so she was sent round to Chatham to await a decision on her future, where she arrived on 25 October 1918.

Performance and Modifications

The news of Marshal Ney’s trials had come as a great disappointment to the Admiralty. Here was a ship, carrying two of the most powerful guns afloat, which was not only even slower than the earlier 7kt monitors, with machinery incapable of continuous running, but which was not even able to steer a defined course. As early as September 1915, Tudor, a gunnery specialist, had suggested removing her turret and installing it in a new monitor. Admiral H.B. Jackson, the new First Sea Lord, was in agreement about removing Ney’s turret, but suggested rearming both Ney and Soult with the 12in twin mountings from the pre-dreadnoughts Caesar or Illustrious. The alternative solution of re-engining Ney with steam reciprocating machinery was also considered. The existing engine and boiler rooms could accommodate a twin-screw installation of about 3,600ihp, but even this roughly doubled power would give at most 8kts.

However, Bacon’s urgent need for ships with guns of longer range than the existing 12in overrode these plans for modifying the Marshals. Ney was temporarily reprieved, while it was appreciated that Soult’s different engines might turn out to be more satisfactory. In service, however, Ney’s performance was quite as bad as her trials had foreshadowed. She could neither steam nor steer with any degree of certainty. The steering problems arose largely from the bluff lines aft, which produced a deadness of flow around the rudders and propellers. As a result she possessed neither directional stability nor any ability to correct a swing once it had been induced by excessive use of the helm. She excelled herself on 15 October, when entering Dunkirk harbour. Her steering gear failed, her engines refused to go astern and even dropping both anchors failed to stop her. She punched a neat semicircular hole 90ft across in the wooden pier, although she herself rebounded undamaged.

Despite their unsatisfactory performance in service, her MAN engines had run faultlessly on their 96hr testbed trials at Cowes in December 1914. The starboard engine had developed 752bhp at 190.5rpm, burning 0.487lb of oil per horsepower per hour, with a mechanical efficiency of 62 per cent. This was a good specific fuel consumption compared with steam reciprocators, but slightly higher than some other designs of diesel, partly owing to the power absorption of the shaft-driven air compressors and the large scavenge pumps below the pistons needed to work the four-stroke cycle efficiently. In service there was found to be a fault in the design of the reversing gear, which partly accounted for the engines’ erratic performance. Various modifications were tried, but the engines never proved sufficiently reliable for regular service.

Tweedie remained cheerful in the face of all these difficulties, but his crew were bitterly disappointed. They had had such high hopes of achievement and were disgusted at the failure of the ship due to no fault of their own. Their Lordships were not prepared to recognise that any of the blame was theirs in insisting on diesels and in not permitting any changes to an unsatisfactory hull form. Thus, even though the two primarily responsible, Churchill and Fisher, were no longer in office, it was ruled that none of Ney’s officers or men would receive any official recognition of their time of service in her; ‘a damnable injustice’, as Lt Morgan later wrote.

Tweedie proved a popular commanding officer. On occasion he himself would take the helm under tricky conditions, such was his feel for the ship. Life aboard Ney during her brief offensive career was certainly hectic, but there was time to entertain visiting French officers while based at Dunkirk. On spotting the framed wardroom picture of Marshal Ney they would leap to their feet, don their kepis and stand to attention in front of the portrait, saluting and solemnly intoning ‘Le Maréchal Ney, le brave des braves’. On the first occasion the British officers were somewhat disconcerted, but scrambled to their feet, hunted for their own caps and sheepishly mumbled ‘Le brave des braves’ in their best French accents. Thereafter the picture was usually removed temporarily while French officers were aboard.

The modifications that were eventually made to Ney in 1916 were not as extensive as originally envisaged. Although her turret was transferred to Terror, her diesel machinery was retained. In place of the 15in twin mounting a much lighter mounting was fitted; one of the two single 9.2in Mk VIII 40cal guns recently removed from the old first-class cruiser Terrible, the other being earmarked for Soult, although never fitted. Four single 6in QF were also transferred from Terrible and sited two on either side abreast the funnel. The director and topmast were removed, but a modest bridge structure was added to improve navigational facilities. She did not remain long in this state, and another extensive refit took place during 1916-17. The 9.2in was removed and mounted ashore in France, and Ney was given a uniform armament of six single 6in BL XI removed from the pre-dreadnought Hibernia. Two were sited on the centreline, one forward and one aft, while the other four were placed abreast the mast; each gun had one hundred rounds of ammunition. A fully enclosed bridge structure was provided, no doubt much appreciated by the cold and bored watchkeepers during the long months she lay at the Downs. The 12pdrs were removed and two new 3in HA fitted aft to augment her existing 2pdr. The only other noticeable change was the emergence of the bulge above the waterline, as the removal of some 1,100 tons net reduced her displacement to about 5,780 tons deep and her drafts to 7ft forward and 10ft aft.

Soult’s service performance was an improvement on Ney’s, though hardly spectacular. A cruising speed of only 5½kts, in waters where tidal currents reached 3kts and gales were frequent, meant that sometimes the quickest progress could be made by anchoring and waiting for better conditions, as otherwise she was inclined to be driven astern, or at least sideways. The two Marshals were often bracketed together when maligning diesel propulsion, but in fact Soult’s Vickers engines proved extremely reliable, quiet and free from vibration. Indeed, the replacements fitted in Trefoil in 1917 likewise gave excellent service, confirming the suitability of solid injection in four-stroke engines. The engines were usually supplied with either shale oil or Texas fuel oil, as used in submarine diesels. Endurance under ideal conditions was about 2,000 miles, but making allowance for oil for her boilers, weather, hull fouling and unusable fuel, the official figure was reduced to 1,490 miles. In practice, Soult never made a voyage of more than 200 miles without tug assistance, so this figure was never put to the test.

Soult’s visible modifications during 1916-17 were relatively few: two 6in QF II (one from Ney) and a 3in HA added on the forecastle deck, and the topmast struck. A better navigational position was built on the tripod mast above the turret level, painted in distinctive grey-and-white chequers. The main modification was not readily apparent; the raising of the axis of the 15in guns about 2ft to permit them to elevate to 30 degrees. 1918 saw further modifications; first, four single 4in BL IX replaced the 6in. The 4in not only had a longer range than the 6in, but a much faster rate of fire. Then later in the year came the really startling changes which transformed her from being merely bizarre in appearance into what must surely have been the RN’s ugliest ship. The most offending feature was a funnel doubled in height yet of the original diameter. Its proportions were thus those of a 30ft-long cigarette, totally disproportionate to the size of ship. Two 36in searchlights were added on tall lattice platforms abaft the funnel to replace the two 24in on the tripod mast. A control position was fitted aft and the conning tower removed. The latter was replaced by a platform carrying the two 12pdr, now converted to HA. The secondary armament was increased to eight single 4in distributed along the sides of the forecastle deck. Two single 2pdrs were retained on their platform aft, as well as two 3in HA at the break of the forecastle.

The problems of Marshal Ney formed one of the elements of the Churchill-Balfour controversy in the House of Commons in March 1916. Returning from France to make a speech in the Navy Estimates debate, Churchill attacked Balfour and the new Board of the Admiralty for the slowing down in the rate of construction. He compared the rapidity with which the monitor fleet had been completed with the subsequent delays in battleship construction. While he stretched a point when he claimed that the monitors had been finished in six months (the average time was eight months), there was some substance in his accusation. None of the five Royal Sovereigns had been completed, although contract completion dates had all been at the end of 1915. Balfour was stung to reply at length the next day, 8 March. He ridiculed Churchill for claiming credit for the speedy construction of the monitors while in the same breath criticising the delay with the battleships, pointing out that the former had only been achieved by using guns and mountings ordered for the latter. Balfour’s excuse about diversions of gun mountings was a bit thin, as it only applied to two out of the fourteen big-gun monitors, the Marshals, and he was quickly taken up on this point by Sir A. Markham, Liberal MP for Mansfield, who pointed out that the monitor guns had come from America. Yes, conceded Balfour, but not all of them. No mention was made of the fact that only one shipbuilder had a battleship in hand at the same time as monitors, namely Palmer. It is of course quite possible that Churchill had forgotten, or indeed had never been informed, that it had been two of Ramillies’ turrets which had been used, rather than those from Renown and Repulse, because in The World Crisis he describes the turrets as coming from the ‘furthest off battleships (now converted into battlecruisers)’. Ramillies’ completion was delayed for a year, but this was partly due to the fitting of bulges.

Although his case was scarcely any stronger than Churchill’s, Balfour proceeded to wade in with further criticism of the monitor fleet. Although they were doing good service, they added nothing to the strength of the Grand Fleet and, furthermore, they had design faults.

So hastily was the design of some of these vessels and so ill were they contrived to carry out their purpose that even now it has not been found possible to use some of them for the purpose for which they were originally designed. They are in process of being remodelled or remodelled so as to make them suitable for this amphibious warfare. The design was hasty, the execution was hasty and the result is therefore as might easily be expected not always satisfactory.’

To speak of ‘some’ of the monitors having to be remodelled was quite unfair, as such a description could only be applied with any accuracy to but one vessel, Marshal Ney. Markham again came to Churchill’s rescue, saying that although alterations had been made, they were not due in any way to the latter’s ‘hasty action’ but rather to ‘another cause’, which he did not specify. Presumably he meant that it would be unfair to blame Churchill for not foreseeing the failure of Ney’s diesels. However, it could reasonably be argued that it was rather foolhardy of Churchill and Fisher to authorise such an untried form of prime mover for a combatant ship in wartime, especially a design with no previous operational experience. There was no overriding necessity to have taken engines already under construction, as steam reciprocators could easily have been built in the time available, as witnessed by McKie & Baxter’s completion of Prince Rupert’s machinery in three months.

Of course, few of the MPs present could follow the significance of the allusions and vague accusations in the speeches, as the details of the construction programme of the battleships and monitors had not been made public and no ships’ names were mentioned during the debate. The outcome of this particular aspect of the debate was inconclusive, but at least 1916 did see the completion of six more capital ships.

The “Marshals”

The picture clearly shows the astonishing layout of the first generation of 15-inch monitors. The conning tower just forward of the great gun turret must have given the officer of the watch a very poor view of what was going on. The navigator was located in the lower “bird’s nest” on the tripod mast. His compass faithfully followed the alignment of the guns when they traversed, making his job extremely difficult. Soult had two Vickers four stroke 750 horsepower diesels, which proved economical and reliable but were totally insufficient for a ship of her size and bulk. She could barely manage 6 knots. The windage of her upper-works and her underpowered engines made her extremely difficult to steer, causing many minor bumps when going into harbour and often resulting in the ship spinning round without warning when steaming in a strong wind. She was, however a very useful bombardment ship and did some excellent work on the Belgian coast. Her 15-inch turret was reliable and some of her firing was commendably accurate.

After the Battle of the Falkland Islands (7 December 1914) the Admiralty decided that very high speed was an essential requirement for battle cruisers, and so the two new ships being built at that time, Renown and Repulse, were redesigned leaving out two of their 15-inch turrets to reduce weight and increase speed to 32 knots. Eight turrets, four for each ship, however had already been ordered and so two of them from each ship, became redundant. Fisher immediately snapped these up for two new especially powerful monitors. (In the event they were not the actual guns fitted, changing priorities in the Grand Fleet meant that it was more convenient to fit the almost identical 15-inch turrets intended for Royal Sovereign class battleships to the monitors and use those from the battle cruisers elsewhere). The 15-inch Mark 1 gun had been developed by the Elswick Ordinance Company of Newcastle for the Queen Elizabeth class fast battleships. It was an excellent weapon which gave good service through two world wars. Indeed the last British battleship ever built, Vanguard which entered service in 1946, was fitted with a slightly modified version of this same turret. The two new 15-inch monitors were named Marshal Ney and Marshal Soult after the celebrated Napoleonic generals. This time the names, chosen to honour Britain’s Allies, were a source of delight, French officers visiting Ney exclaimed cried out, enraptured “Ah, le plus brave des braves.”

Once again the rush to build these two new ships meant that they were designed before the first 14-inch monitors had been tested and their weaknesses uncovered. To make matters even worse the Admiralty actually found two sets of diesel engines with which to power them. Before the war two fleet oilers had been ordered and it had been decided to fit them each with two 750 horsepower diesels to test the technology. These engines Fisher snaffeled for his two 15-inch monitors. One pair of engines, fitted to Marshal Ney were six-cylinder two strokes designed by a German company, MAN. They were actually assembled by Samuel White of Cowes. The other pair, fitted to Marshal Soult, were eight-cylinder four strokes designed and built by Vickers. Once again the hull design followed the unsatisfactory lines of the first monitors and the ships were pitifully underpowered, making only about 6 knots flat out in still water. The engines did deliver much better fuel economy than steam engines fitted to previous monitors (about 0.6 tons/hour). Diesels, however, brought with them a new set of problems which did not occur with steam engines, reliability. From the start the Vickers engines worked quite well, but the MAN’s fitted to Ney were a nightmare. They stopped for no apparent reason whenever load or speed was changed. They refused to run astern when required to do so. (Like most marine diesels they had no reversing gears, the engine was stopped and re-started backwards). Once stopped, they would be impossible to re-start, the supply of air bottles used to crank the engines becoming rapidly exhausted. On one occasion a fleet bombarding the Belgian coast witnessed the extraordinary sight of this 6,900 ton monitor being towed out of the action with her two 750 horsepower engines both broken down, by the 900 ton destroyer Viking going slow ahead with her 15,000 horsepower steam turbines. While thus being towed she made a good 10 knots – almost twice her normal full speed. Soult’s engines worked well, but unfortunately her propellers were the wrong size for the 150 RPM of the engines. This made her even slower than Ney, but at least she was reliable. The correct propellers were eventually fitted and increased her speed by a little less than half a knot, to about 6.6 knots in still water.

Once again speed of construction was impressive. The ships were ordered in January 1915 and the first, Ney, launched in August. When launched the new ships displaced 6,900 tons and cost £270,000 each excluding the turrets.

The “Marshals” as these ungainly ships were called had other shortcomings. The very high turret was too close to the compass platform, so the compass needle would invariably swing round, following the gun. The steering was appalling, the steering engines being too small and the rudders insufficient, probably the windage of the turret on top of its 20-foot-high column was partly responsible for the bad handling characteristics. Ships berthed near them in harbour mostly showed the scars resulting from their clumsy manoeuvres. In strong winds the ships could not be controlled at all, skidding sideways and sometimes making a complete circle, regardless of the rudder. In practice they needed a tow for any long voyage.

Soult was in action from her launch date for the duration of the war, but underwent some extensive modification. The conning tower was removed and a bridge built aft of the funnel. The funnel itself was lengthened and the mast modified to take two huge searchlights and a revised navigator’s station. The main armament was modified to give 30 degrees of elevation in place of the original 20, thus increasing the range from 26,000 yards to about 32,000 yards (18.2 miles). At the same time extra defensive armament in the form of eight 4-inch guns and anti-aircraft armament was added. The result was to make an already ugly ship certainly the most ill-looking vessel in the navy. She remained slow and ungainly but was a good gun platform, and rendered, as we shall see, some useful service. She was still afloat in 1939 and consideration was given to bringing her back into service, but the plan was abandoned. Ney was so clumsy and unreliable that her main armament was removed and she was relegated to guard ship duties for which she was given a complement of 6-inch guns.

The next batch of large monitors was to be an altogether different proposition. By mid-1915 it was obvious that the performance of all the fourteen large ships already ordered was going to be well short of requirements especially as regards speed and handling at sea. In May 1915 four new monitors with 15-inch guns were provisionally ordered, only to be cancelled when it became clear that guns and turrets could not be supplied without an unacceptable delay in the completion of the Royal Oak class of battleships. It then became apparent that the Marshalls (Ney and Soult) were going to perform even worse than their predecessors, and it was determined that entirely new hulls should be designed, giving a much slimmer more easily driven form, with the screws able to operate efficiently, unobstructed by the bulges in the hull. These new monitors would be equipped with much more powerful engines and the turrets of the disgraced Marshals would be mounted on them. So began the story of Erebus and Terror, which were both to prove very formidable warships.

To achieve better hydrodynamic shape the hulls were lengthened and the anti-torpedo bulges made slimmer. This was achieved by replacing the inner chamber of the bulge, which on previous ships had been open to the sea, by a narrower space filled with sealed steel tubes, the crushing of which would absorb much of the energy of any explosion. Unlike the earlier monitors in which the bulges had been awash, the new ships had theirs projecting 15-inches above the waterline. This made them even more stable and greatly eased the handling of the ship’s boats. The resulting hulls were 405 feet long by 88 foot 2 inches broad as against 355 feet 8 inches and 90 foot 3 inches for the Marshals. Critically the stern sections were much finer giving far better water flow to the propellers. There was a single large rudder. A secondary bow rudder for manoeuvring and for going astern was proposed but not fitted, this bow rudder was proposed at the suggestion of the Dover Patrol, whose experience in bombarding the Belgian coast suggested that it would be useful to be able to deploy the full weight of the ship’s firepower while backing away from the enemy coast. Most important of all, the inadequate engines of previous monitors were replaced by two four-cylinder triple expansion oil-fired steam engines of 3,000 horsepower each, four times the power of the Marshal’s diesels. Armament was similar to their predecessors, with two 15-inch, two 6 inch and two 12-pounder guns plus the usual complement of anti-aircraft weapons. The turrets themselves were not in the end taken from Soult as she was proving too useful to take out of service, so Terror used Ney’s 15-inch main armament whilst Erebus received a brand new reserve turret originally allocated to the battle cruiser Furious. (Furious was designed to have 18-inch guns but a back-up set of 15-inch had been built in case the 18-inch weapons proved unsatisfactory. She was eventually completed as an aircraft carrier with no heavy armament at all). Both sets of guns were modified before fitting to the monitors to have a maximum elevation of 30 degrees which gave them an extra 6,000 yards range (bringing it up to 32,000 yards or 18.2 miles). Armour protection was similar to that in the previous ships. There was a proper bridge in place of the inadequate conning tower arrangement and a tall funnel aft of it, so the ships at last looked like proper warships. The extra machinery weight meant that draft was increased by a little over 1 foot to 11 foot 8 inches.

Astonishingly 1918 did not see the end of British monitor building. Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty in 1939 immediately tried to re-activate the monitor fleet, with the idea of repeating the harassment of German armies moving along the Belgian coast, using the same tactic that was deployed in 1914-18. Erebus and Terror were still in service, although they needed improved deck armour and anti-aircraft armament before they could be risked in combat close to enemy coasts. They were therefore not available until after the blitzkrieg had swept away the French and Belgian armies but, as we shall see, played an important role in other theatres. Soult was still afloat but in such a condition that she would be uneconomic to bring into active service. Her gun turret however was still in good order. The decision was taken to use this and another redundant 15-inch turret in two new monitors, Roberts and Abercrombie. They were supposed to follow the same general design and layout as Erebus and Terror but with enhanced deck armour, a modern radar fit and formidable anti-aircraft capability.

The Imperial Russian Navy Submarine Program

The DELFIN was a product of the Bubnov committee at the tum of the century and was considered by many as the first true combat submarine in the Russian Navy. Following the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 the DELFIN was employed as a training ship in the St. Petersburg area for officers and men assigned to new construction submarines.

Russian submarine Kasatka.

British journalist Fred T. Jane, writing in 1899 after an extensive tour of naval installations in Russia, observed, “I may, however, mention that the Russians believe very much in underwater craft, and do not regard the submarine battleship as an idle dream.”

This statement, although an exaggeration of the situation in Russia at the time, was indicative of the high degree of interest in submarines among Russian naval authorities at the beginning of the 20th century. The modern Russian submarine fleet in many respects dates from the establishment, on 19 December 1900, of a special submarine committee of the Naval Technical Committee (MTK-Morskoy Technicheskiy Komitet). Its purpose was to evaluate foreign submarine designs and prepare proposals for one that could be constructed for the Russian Navy. The chairman of the submarine committee was the noted engineer Ivan Grigor’evich Bubnov, who would be responsible for most Russian submarine designs until the collapse of the tsarist government in 1917. The other committee members were Lieutenant Mikhail Nikolaevich Beklemishev, a graduate of the Naval Academy in the constructor branch, and mechanical engineer Ivan Semenovich Goryunov. The committee studied projects submitted to the 1898 competition held in Paris, and proposals by the Russian submarine pioneer Dzhevetskiy and the Frenchman Maxime Laubeuf. In 1901 Beklemishev visited the United States, where he became acquainted with the submarine designs of John P. Holland and Simon Lake. He also visited Great Britain, France, and Italy to look at contemporary submarine efforts in those countries.

While the Bubnov committee did its work, Russia’s first submarine of the 20th century was constructed in 1901 at Kronshtadt to the design of engineer Nikolai Nikolaevich Kuteinikov and Lieutenant (later Captain) Evgeniy Viktorovich Kolbas’yev. Their submarine was intended to be carried on deck of surface warships and to be launched when within attack range of enemy ships.

This submersible displaced 20 tons, was 50 feet (15.25 m) long, and had a beam of about 4 feet (1.2 m). Propulsion was provided by electric motors driving six propulsors (screws) with power supplied by six Bary accumulators, which were evenly divided be- tween three forward and three after compartments, as were the ballast tanks. (The hull was divided into nine watertight compartments, a precursor to the arrangement of later undersea craft) The interior of the boat was accessible through a hatch in the conning tower. Both a bow and a stern rudder were fitted. The armament for this craft consisted of two torpedoes mounted in external Dzhevetskiy drop collars. These could be trained and fired from within the boat.

Kuteinikov was responsible for the submarine’s hull and Kolbas’yev for the electrical installations. Upon completion in 1902 this craft was baptized PETR KOSHKA, after a Russian sailor who had distinguished himself during the defense of Sevastopol in the Crimean War. The craft was to be transferred to Sevastopol for trials.

Although it was apparent that the Russian Navy was proceeding with caution with regard to submarine construction and clearly did not intend to invest large sums of money, a number of projects were under some form of official consideration at the beginning of the century. One of these was designed by Dzhevetskiy, who had lived in Paris since 1893. The design had been reviewed at the New Admiralty yard in St. Petersburg for its practicability in 1901, but had been discarded.

In May 1901 the Bubnov committee completed its work and proposed to the Naval Technical Committee the development of a submarine based on the Holland design, with some major design changes coming from Bubnov. These changes principally consisted of situating the main ballast tanks aft and incorporating the Dzhevetskiy drop-collar launching system rather than internally (tube) launched torpedoes. These features would be standard on most submarine designs pre- pared in Russia up to 1915.

Detail design work on the undersea craft recommended by the Bubnov committee began forthwith, and on 5 July 1901 the prototype boat, ultimately named DELFIN, was ordered from the Baltic Works in St. Petersburg. Construction proceeded under great secrecy under the direction of Bubnov and now-Captain Beklernishev. The installation of the DELFIN’S machinery and other equipment was completed by the spring of 1903, and sea trials began on 20 June 1903. They were evidently quite successful.

The DELFIN was considered by the Russians to have been the first true combat submarine in their Navy. After the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 the DELFIN was employed as a training ship in the St. Petersburg area for officers and men assigned to new construction submarines.

By mid-1903 a Dzhevetskiy submarine design of some 800 tons appears to have been under consideration or possibly under construction, also at the Baltic Works in St. Petersburg. There is no record that the 800-ton Dzhevetskiy boat was completed, if indeed she was actually begun. This particular unit was stilI listed in the 1909 edition of the German yearbook Nauticus, although by that time it had certainly ceased to exist.

In commenting on the Russian Navy’s attitude toward submarines at this time, the German naval attaché in St. Petersburg noted, “Although perhaps at the moment there are only limited funds available, I would like to bring to your attention that perhaps with the exception of some problems still to be resolved there will be no further delays in ordering submarines. There is a highly favorable attitude towards this new weapon in the officer corps as well as among the engineers, reinforced by the belief that both types are truly Russian inventions.

In this vein, encouraged by the success of the DELFIN, the Naval Ministry on 13 August 1903 ordered the development of a design for a larger submarine. On 20 December 1903, the Naval Technical Committee approved the design of the KASATKA class of 140 tons prepared by the team of Bubnov and Beklemishev. It was at the same time also agreed to construct ten sub- marines of this design through 1914. The lead unit, named KASATKA (swallow), was ordered from the Baltic Works on 2 January 1904, further establishing that shipyard as the premier Russian submarine builder.

The next four units were ordered from the Baltic Works on 24 February 1904, with a sixth, funded by public subscription, ordered on 26 March 1904. These submarines were:

SKAT (ray)

NALIM (burbot)

MAKREL (mackerel)

OKUN’ (perch)


Thus, the first five submarines of the class were named for fish, while the sixth remembered a Commander in Chief of Peter the Great’s forces in victories in the Baltic area. The construction of these six submarines was accelerated with the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in February 1904, and all six units were launched between July and August 1904. Under the pressure of war, the KASATKA was the only unit to be assembled for trials in the Baltic. The other were prepared for transfer in sections by railroad to the Far East.

The initial trials of the KASATKA were not very successful and steering difficulty was noted during the first dive. This was caused by a design fault that had placed the conning tower-and hence the center of buoyancy-too far forward. This stability problem was temporarily solved by adding a second conning tower aft. (Permanent new conning towers were not installed until 1906-1907.) Another defect was that the paraffin engines ordered from Germany had not been ready in time to be installed (and in fact were never delivered). The trouble was that these engines were to have been capable of burning either lamp paraffin or heavy oil. The German Koerting firm was to have provided these engines for the KASATKA as well as the subsequent KARP class. These engines were supposed to be safer than petrol or gasoline engines. However, Koerting had only built small, eight-horsepower engines of this type and had encountered delays in producing the larger engines. A makeshift solution was found for the Russian submarines by instead mounting a small dynamo for charging the storage batteries. Another problem occurred with the KASATKA on 2 October 1904, when it was found that a hatch was not watertight.

In general, however, the trials were sufficiently successful that the KASATKA, SKAT, NALIM. and FELDMARSHAL GRAF SHEREMETEV were loaded for transport by train to Vladivostok on 17 November 1904. Completion of the two remaining submarines was delayed until 1907.

During 1905 the small experimental submarine KETA was constructed by the engineering works of G. A. Lessner in St. Petersburg. This was a modified and lengthened Dzhevetskiy Type III craft, designed by a Lieutenant S. Yanovich. The craft was propelled by a gasoline engine driving one propeller shaft, and could be armed with two torpedoes. The KETA was also transferred to the Far East during the Russo-Japanese War. She was apparently not successful and was stricken from the Navy list on 19 June 1908.


The Marinefährprähme (MFP, naval ferry barges) had been developed as a direct result of the aborted Operation Sealion. Preparations for the invasion of Great Britain had starkly highlighted the lack of suitable landing craft, forcing a reliance on hastily- converted civilian barges. All branches of the Wehrmacht were invited to submit proposals for landing craft designs, the Luftwaffe developing the Siebel Fähre (Siebel ferry, named after its creator, aircraft designer Luftwaffe Oberst Fritz Siebel) constructed of two bridgebuilding pontoons connected by a platform with BMW aircraft engines mounted astern for propulsion. The remainder of the platform carried the payload; vehicles were able to embark and disembark via a bow ramp. Constructed in moderate quantities, variants were built that carried artillery, headquarters facilities and field hospitals.

A Siebel ferry on the Black Sea, July 1941

Meanwhile, Kriegsmarine experimentation had resulted in a list of requirements for a vessel capable of being used either a landing craft or supply vessel. It needed to be cheap to construct, have a retractable bow ramp, a large carrying capacity and the ability to operate in sea state 5 (wave height of 3m). The resultant 155-ton design incorporated all of these features, constructed of riveted steel with a raised stern and bow complete with ramp. The aft portion of the cargo area was enclosed by a steel roof giving a maximum clearance of 2.74m, the forward section featuring removable corrugated iron shutters. Three six-cylinder deutz diesel truck engines were placed in a stern engine room above which the wheelhouse was mounted, both protected by 20mm-25mm armour plating. The craft could make 10.5 knots but were found to be only able to manage sea state 2 at full load. Marinefährprähme were equipped with MES mine defence which interfered with magnetic compass navigation, requiring pilot boats to guide them in operation. At first they were equipped with two 20mm flak but, like most Kriegsmarine security vessels, they would be considerably up-gunned as the war progressed. The original crew complement was two officers and ten men.

Highly successful, MFPs were built in over a dozen different shipyards in both Germany and occupied territories, resulting in a wide range of modifications to the general design. The initial model became known as `Type A’, three variants following:

Type B, where the load floor was lowered to provide a cargo area clearance of 3.19m;

Type C, with an additional 10cm added to the height odf the cargo area;

Type D, with the fully-riveted construction changed to partially welded. The hull was lengthened and widened and the carrying capacity increased to 140 tons, capable of accommodating a Tiger I heavy tank. The wheelhouse and engine room were moved slightly forward with reinforced armour and weaponry added, particularly for defence against aircraft. By this stage, the crew had also increased to a standard twenty-five men.

Additionally, like its Luftwaffe counterpart, different requirements resulted in specific variants as the war progressed and their employment frequently became more akin to that of the Vorpostenboote. Three MFPs were converted into hospital vessels, four into tankers, four into repair ships, forty into dedicated minesweepers or Sperrbrecher and one into a U-Jäger; UJ118. The dedicated Minenfährprähm were used primarily in the Adriatic and the Black Sea, carrying anywhere between thirty-six and fifty-four mines depending on the variant; the mines were loaded via the front ramp on installed rails and dropped over the stern. Alternatively, if the situation required retasking, the rails could carry sixteen Sturmboot for infantry amphibious landings.

Additionally, 141 were permanently converted into gunboats (Artilleriefährprähme). This was achieved by fitting armament consisting of two 88mm and one 75mm gun and two 20mm Vierling. The cargo hold was converted into a magazine protected by armour 100mm thick, bolstered by 10cm of concrete filling the adjacent bulwarks. The overall increase in weight reduced the Artilleriefährprähme’s maximum speed to 8 knots. The crew quarters were also enlarged to accommodate the extra gunners. Of shallow draught, they became extremely effective in inshore waters, operating in Northern Europe, the Black Sea (all such vessels had their pennant numbers prefixed `AF’), within the Mediterranean (`KF’) and on the Danube (`AT’).

In December 1941, it had become apparent that many MFPs would be required for transport and supply operations in the Black Sea and the Aegean; the Allied submarine menace was guaranteed to increase rather than decrease while there would be little opportunity to bolster German ASW defences. For this reason, barges were considered the safest and most suitable means of transport, requiring no escort and the risk of loss of materiel and personnel in each case being relatively small. Schuster proposed that Von Stotsch at once order the construction of fifty MFPs, the best building facility being found in Palermo. As SKL recorded, it was likely that `the Seelöwe will be asleep for quite a while’ and the barges were not needed in France. By the end of 1941 three more Küstenschutzflottillen had been established in the Aegean; the 11th at Mudros, the 12th at Piraeus and the 13th at Suda in Crete. All three flotillas comprised the same basic sub-division of vessel types as Peters’ flotilla in Thessaloniki. Apart from these auxiliary units, the first unit of the Kriegsmarine Security Forces to serve in the Mediterranean was the 21st UJ-Flotilla, patrolling the waters between the Dardanelles and Crete. Based in Piraeus, the flotilla was commanded by FK Günther von Selchow who had successfully led the 11th UJ-Flotilla since the outbreak of war. Coupled with the, requisitioned U-Jäger, von Selchow would also control the minelayers Bulgaria, Drache and Zeus as well as the auxiliary minelayers Otranto, Alula and Gallipoli.

USN Surface Warships

Baltimore (Oct. 13, 2016) The future Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) is pierside at Canton Port Services in preparation for its upcoming commissioning on Oct. 15, 2016.(DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse A. Hyatt)
160421-N-YE579-005 ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 21, 2016) The future guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials April 21, 2016 with the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of DDG 1000, the future guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) May 20, 2016. Following a crew certification period and October commissioning ceremony in Baltimore, Zumwalt will transit to its homeport in San Diego for a Post Delivery Availability and Mission Systems Activation. DDG 1000 is the lead ship of the Zumwalt-class destroyers, next-generation, multi-mission surface combatants, tailored for land attack and littoral dominance. (U.S. Navy/Released)

The new Zumwalt (DDG-1000) class destroyers feature full electric propulsion and a radical stealth design. A product of the US Navy’s post-Cold War focus on littoral operations, their cost priced them out of the future construction programme and previous plans for an extensive series have been reduced to just three ships. Instead, production has resumed of the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class, the current Flight IIA version being represented here by Chung Hoon (DDG-93). Construction of a further improved Flight III version will start shortly. Meanwhile, second line surface warships are now concentrated on the Freedom (LCS-1) and Independence (LCS-2) Littoral Combat Ship designs; a controversial programme that looks set to be truncated to forty ships.

The twenty-two remaining Ticonderoga (CG-47) class guided- missile cruisers provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities and can operate either independently or as part of aircraft carrier strike groups and surface action groups. They tend to have better command and control facilities than the smaller destroyers; one is typically assigned to each carrier strike group under the command of the group’s air warfare commander. Like other major US Navy surface combatants, they have a combat system centred on the Aegis Weapon System and the SPY-1 series multi- function phased-array radar. Armament includes the Mk 41 vertical launching system (VLS) equipped with Standard Missile surface-to-air missiles and Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles; advanced undersea and surface warfare systems; and embarked helicopters. These capabilities are supplemented by extensive command, control and communications systems. The class have been extensively modernised over the past ten years and the navy would like to withdraw half the class from operational service for further upgrades that would extend their lives into the mid-2030s and beyond. However, this plan sparked Congressional opposition, largely over concerns that the no-operational ships would never be returned to service; a modified scheme is now being implemented.

The Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class guided-missile destroyers’ combat system likewise is centred on the Aegis Weapon System and the SPY-1 radar. Like the cruisers, they provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capability, operating independently or as part of an aircraft carrier strike group or surface action group. Twenty-eight Flight I/II and thirty-four Flight IIA variants are currently in service; the latter support two embarked helicopters, significantly enhancing their sea-control capability. The DDG-51 upgrade plan includes an improved multimission signal processor, which integrates air and ballistic missile defence capabilities, and enhancements to radar performance in the littorals. The VLS will be able to support the latest SM-3 and SM-6 variants of the Standard Missile currently entering service. A Flight III variant is also in development and will incorporate the advanced air and missile defence radar (AMDR) and other technology insertions. It would seem that eighty or more DDG-51 series destroyers will ultimately be built.

The Zumwalt (DDG-1000)-class guided-missile destroyer is a 15,000-ton optimally- manned (142 crew), multi-mission surface warship tailored for land attack and littoral dominance. The original acquisition strategy identified thirty-two DDG-1000s. This was reduced to three in favour of restarted production of the cheaper DDG-51 design. The lead ship began sea trials in December 2015. With twenty Mk 57 peripheral VLS modules (each with four cells suitable for several missiles) and two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, the navy’s first `all-electric’ warship will provide long-range precision fire in support of forces ashore, operating independently or as part of naval, joint or combined strike forces. To ensure effective operations in the contested littoral, it incorporates signature reduction, active and passive self-defence systems, and enhanced survivability features. It fields an undersea warfare suite capable of mine avoidance, as well as self-defence systems to defeat threats ranging from submarines and cruise missiles to small boats.

Turning to smaller surface combatants, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a modular, reconfigurable ship that addresses warfighting capability gaps against asymmetric anti- access threats and will eventually comprise a significant portion of the US Navy’s future surface combatant fleet. Through its modular design, LCS can be reconfigured for mine- countermeasures, surface warfare, and anti-submarine warfare missions. This versatility enables the Navy to provide warfighters with a capable, cost-effective solution to expeditionary operations in the littoral. There are two variants of LCS, the Freedom ((LCS-1) design (odd-numbered ships) and Independence (LCS-2) design (even- numbered ships). The Freedom variant is a steel semi-planing mono-hull with an aluminium superstructure, whilst the Independence variant is an all-aluminium trimaran. As of late 2015, six Littoral Combat Ships had been commissioned and another eighteen were under construction of contract. There has been much debate over the level of capability the LCS offers compared with its cost; this has resulted in a decision to progress to an upgraded light frigate variant from LCS-33 onwards. Whether the recent reduction in the targeted number of small surface combatants to just forty will result in further changes remains to be seen.

The Littoral Combat Ships Fort Worth (LCS-3) – foreground – and Freedom (LCS-1) pass each other off the coast of San Diego. The US Navy’s increased interest in littoral operations following the end of the Cold War eventually spawned the Littoral Combat Ship concept.


With the Soviets gone the United States no longer faced a peer rival able to challenge global sea control, but it was clear that there would still be conflicts and crises that would likely involve the United States in some form or another. The US Navy responded to this new era in a series of `capstone’ policy documents that articulated a shift in emphasis away from `blue water’ operations towards a focus on responding to the challenge of what the US Marine Corps described as `chaos in the littorals’. The first of these documents, entitled The Way Ahead, was published in April 1991, shortly after the conclusion of the Gulf conflict. This was followed in 1992 by… From the Sea, in 1994 by Forward From the Sea, and in 1997 by Anytime, Anywhere: A Navy for the 21st Century.

Despite some notable differences in emphasis between these documents they all shared a common focus on a littoral approach and on the kind of capabilities that would enable the navy to influence events on land from the sea in a context where regional crises could occur in unexpected places. Blue-water concerns were never entirely forgotten, and received enhanced prominence in Forward From the Sea, but the US Navy had clearly repositioned itself from being one designed primarily to fight for control of the sea against a major peer rival to a force able to exploit its near-monopolistic control in order to influence events ashore in a broad range of contingencies. US Navy interest was matched by that of the US Marine Corps whose concept for Operational Maneuver from the Sea, published in 1996, articulated a way for amphibious forces to be employed to decisive effect in the post-Cold War era.

The need to project power ashore was evident in a series of crises including Operations `Deny Flight’ (1994) and `Deliberate Force’ (1995) in Bosnia, where US Navy and US Marine Corps aircraft and sea-launched cruise missiles made an important impact. This was also the case with respect to Operation `Allied Force’ in Kosovo (1999), where sea-launched missiles and carrier aviation made another significant contribution to success ashore. Sea-based missiles and aircraft also contributed to the constant sorties and occasional strikes in the Persian Gulf that marked the interval between the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In all three cases the US Navy also undertook embargo operations in support of international sanctions. The growing range of sea-based strikes was illustrated in 1998 when seventy-five sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at targets in Sudan and land-locked Afghanistan in retaliation for the terrorist attacks on United States’ embassies in East Africa in August that year. That the US Navy could also fulfil more traditional forward presence and deterrence missions was illustrated during the Taiwan Straits crisis in 1996 when two US Navy carriers were deployed to the straits in response to provocative Chinese missile tests; a rather traditional employment of naval forces to demonstrate United States’ capacity and resolve to protect its friends from potential aggression.

By 1999, ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US Navy had contracted significantly, from almost 600 (actually 566) ships and submarines in commission to `just’ 317. The four old battleships were retired and the navy cut the number of carriers in commission from fifteen to twelve. Particularly heavy cuts were experienced by those forces whose primary rationale related to Cold War missions. Thus, the number of strategic missile submarines was halved from thirty-six to eighteen boats over the course of the decade, nuclear-powered attack submarine numbers were similarly cut from ninety-six to fifty-seven and conventional attack submarines were phased out entirely. The number of frigates, intended primarily for anti-submarine work, was cut by nearly two-thirds, from 100 to just thirty-seven. It should be noted that over the same time period the number of amphibious ships was reduced from sixty-five to forty-one hulls, although the replacement of older ships with newer, more capable vessels mitigated the loss in expeditionary capability. As Amund Lundesgaard has noted, the increase in the number of mine countermeasure vessels, from five to sixteen, reflected the new emphasis on littoral warfare.

Gato Class

USS Perch (SS 313) of the Balao class. The Balaos were virtually identical to the Gatos, but design changes to facilitate rapid building resulted in greater structural strength and an increase in diving depth from 300ft (91m) to 400ft (122m). This photograph shows clearly the many protrusions on a typical World War II submarine. As well as creating considerable under- water drag, leading to low speed and limited endurance, they were a source of considerable noise, making them readily detectable.

Geography dictates that virtually all US Navy warships must operate at considerable distances from the continental USA. Apart from purely coastal vessels, therefore, the majority of its warships, and particularly the submarines, need long range and a good cruising speed to reach their operational areas in a reasonable time. During World War I the enemy was Imperial Germany and Japan was an ally, but the possibility of a confrontation with the ever more powerful Japanese was increasingly important to US Navy planners from the early 1920s onwards. The ranges of operations involved in such a conflict were beyond anything then being considered by other leading navies, and in the major strategic plan – Plan Orange – it was expected that the principal operational base in a war against Japan would be the US west coast, the Philippines and the mid-Pacific islands being presumed lost in the early stages.


The US Navy had long followed a policy of gradual improvement, producing submarines which without excelling in any single aspect of their performance were, nevertheless, extremely reliable, with long range, good habitability and large numbers of reload torpedoes, all essential attributes in boats operating for protracted periods at great distances from base. Particular emphasis was placed on propulsion, and the US Navy was so determined to have a guaranteed source of really reliable and economical diesel engines that it even assisted in the dieselisalion of the US railroads, a policy which resulted in the perfection of four types of high-speed diesel. In addition, it had also experimented in the inter-war years with a composite drive on the S class and direct drive on the Ts and Gs. but for the Gato class it returned to the proven diesel-electric drive.

There had been constant debate in the US Navy about the gun armament for submarines, and so strongly did the naval staff feel about preventing submarine captains from becoming involved in surface actions that they deliberately restricted the armament to one Mk 21 Mod 1 3in/50 anti-aircraft gun. This weapon’s inadequacy was proved beyond doubt in the early war years, and US submarines underwent constant up-gunning throughout the war. as did those of most other navies, until the revolution in submarine design led to the elimination of all gun armament. There placement for the 3in/50 on the Gato class was the Mk 17 5in/25 a ‘wet’ gun produced from non-corrosive materials, which enabled the muzzle and breech covers to be eliminated. In design terms the Gato class was a progressive development of the Porpoise class, and the Gatos’ high surface speed of just over 20 knots proved invaluable in reaching patrol areas and achieving good firing positions for torpedoes.

The all-welded construction facilitated production, which was confined to four yards, the most unusual being that at Manitowoc on Lake Michigan, some 1,000 miles (1,610km) inland. Not only did the boats have to be launched side! ways into the river, but they then had to travel down the Mississippi to reach the sea.

This highly successful class show the soundness of the American policy of developing reliable hull and engine designs over a long period. The US Navy’s task was. however, somewhat simplified by having no real requirement for smaller, more manoeuvrable and shorter ranged submarines.

During World War II US submarines, normally operating at considerable distances from their bases, sank over nine-tenths of Japan’s major vessels, an achievement in which code-breaking played a considerable part, but to which successful submarine design also contributed. Most of the later fighting was done by the 73-strong Gato class, and by the 132 Balaos and 31 Tenches that were developed from them. Eighteen of the Gato class were sunk by enemy action and one was a constructive total loss.

The Gato class is one of those which bridged the gap between the last of the submersibles and the first of the true submarines. In its original form the Gato epitomised the US Navy’s long-range attack submarine and operated with great success and distinction against the Japanese, and with the other similar classes, the Gatos played a significant part in bringing Imperial Japan to the verge of surrender by devastating its merchant fleet. However, the Gato class boats were slow under water: their maximum submerged speed was 8.75 knots, and even this could not be sustained for any great period without draining the batteries. Also, as with virtually all their contemporaries, the designed operating depth of 300ft (91m) was a trifle less than the overall length of 311.75ft (95.2m), which imposed considerable constraints on manoeuvrability.

The next class of US submarine – the 132-strong Balao class – was virtually identical with the Gato, but had a strengthened hull, enabling the members of the class to dive to 400ft (122m), and earning them the name ‘thick-skinned Gatos’. The Tench class was also based on the Gato, but only 31 had been built when the war ended and production ceased.


The Gato class boats were among the first to have a comprehensive electronics fit, eventually comprising a full range of radar, sonar, communications and electronic warfare equipment. The actual fit was in a constant state of change as new equipment became available and as boats could be spared to have it installed, and masts and antennas proliferated with little effort at reducing drag until by the war’s end there was a veritable forest atop every submarine’s fin.

The first air search radar small enough to install in a submarine, the SD, became available at the end of 1941, and its small bar antenna was usually mounted at the head of the HF communications rod antenna. The SD gave no directional information, had a maximum range of only 10 miles (16km) and was easily detected by enemy RDF; nevertheless, it met the submariners’ urgent need for early warning of the approach of an aircraft, and by mid-1942 all US submarines were fitted with SD, while the SJ, which gave both range and bearing, was starting to enter service. Although difficult to calibrate and somewhat unreliable, the SJ gave submariners a totally new capability, and when the circular plan position indicator display replaced the earlier horizontal line display great confidence was placed in the system. The SJ antenna was ovoid, originally solid but later a lattice, and unlike the SD it had a mast of its own. The last wartime set was the SS.

Sonars, too, were being constantly improved, and by 1945 most US submarines had the active WFA system, which combined echo-ranging, listening and sounding using a retractable keel-mounted dome. The latter feature prevented the sonar from being used when the submarine was lying on the bottom, and a passive listening device was therefore mounted topside. Initially the JP, a converted surface patrol craft set, was used; like the later JT it enabled the submarine to detect surface ship propeller noise at ranges of up to 20.000 yards (18.288m] and was also used to detect self-noise. The JP was manually rotated but the later it was powered and consisted of a 5ft (1.53m) line hydrophone with a 22° beam scanning at 4rpm. It covered the sonic (100Hz-12kHz) and, with a converter supersonic (up to 65kHz) frequencies. A new and highly specialised type of sonar came into use late in the war: the FM, later redesignated QLA-1, was a precision mine-evasion sonar which was so effective that US submarines were able to work in Japanese home waters with relative confidence.

Other sensors included the usual two periscopes. Number 1 for search and Number 2 for attack, and there was a variety of radio masts, whip antennas and stubs, the actual fit changing with bewildering rapidity. Electronic warfare equipment also began to be fitted, one external indication being a large direction-finding loop. Finally, for surface actions with the gun, there were two target bearing transmitters mounted on the bridge.


As built, the Gatos were armed with one 3in/50gun in line with the prewar policy of ensuring that a submarine captain would not be given a gun which might encourage him to fight it out on the surface. However, weapons were progressively added throughout the war and by 1945 armament normally comprised one 5in/25gun and two 40mmand two twin 20mm cannon. By 1950. however, the Guppy conversion programme (described below) had eliminated the guns.

There were ten 21 in torpedo tubes, six forward and four aft. with 24 reloads, and while the boats themselves were very reliable the torpedoes were far less so. Certainly, the Mk 14 torpedo with its Mk Vl magnetic exploder used from 1941 to 1943 was notoriously unreliable; the torpedo ran much deeper than designed and left a prominent wake, while the exploder frequently failed to detonate and the back-up contact exploder only seemed to work when hitting the target a glancing blow. Later in the war the Mk 18 torpedo, a direct copy of a captured German G7e, was widely used, and was credited with sinking a million tons of Japanese shipping.


The 73 boats of the Gato class were launched between 1941 and 1943, construction being shared between Electric Boat, Groton (41), Portsmouth Navy Yard (14), Mare Island Navy Yard (4) and Manitowoc, Wisconsin 14. Of the 54 that survived the war. most were converted to Guppy 1 (Greater Underwater Propulsive Power) standard: all guns and other external protuberances were removed, the sail was streamlined, a schnorkel was fitted and new, lighter and much more powerful batteries were fitted. This conversion based on the lessons of the German Type XXI, had a dramatic effect on performance, with considerable increases in underwater speed and range. Of the remaining boats six were transferred abroad and seven converted to hunter-killer submarines with more powerful batteries for a higher underwater speed. Another six were converted to radar pickets in 1951-52. with an extra 31ft (8.3m) portion added to their hulls. Tunny (SS-282) was converted into a Regulus 1 missile launching submarine and was then again altered to a troop-carrying submarine in 1964.