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GEORG HÖGEL (24-LIFE-1987) joined the Kriegsmarine in 1937 when he was a short, slightly built young man of eighteen. He was qualified as a telegraphist and opted for just two years in the service. His parents told him;
"Make the two years and then come back. We will start a business."
On 15 August 1939, GEORG came home on leave, travelling from the U-Boat base at Wilhelmshaven to his family's home in München (Munich). On the following Saturday, the evening meal was interrupted by the doorbell and Frau Högel answered it. A young boy was at the door and he held a telegram from the U-Boat base in Wilhelmshaven. It told GEORG;
"You must go back tomorrow evening, the 24th. You must stay in Wilhelmshaven."
The young seaman turned to his parents and said;
"I think this is the time the war will begin now."
Privately he told his father;
"In the First World War, they (the German Navy) had 350 U-Boats. Now they have
only 57 boats in the Kriegsmarine including schulboots. They have only 16 boats
that can go into the Atlantic."
His mind drifted back to when he was a young boy, visiting his grandfather who had some books about the First World War. Even before he could read, little GEORG would look at the photographs of the ships and the battles. Once he learned to read, he read everything he could get his hands on about the Navy and in particular, the U-Boats. But this took place at a time when Germany had no U-Boats and only 100,000 men in uniform as mandated by the Versailles Treaty.
By 1936 however, a quiet build-up had begun and in the Bremen shipyards of Deschimag A. G. Weser, a sleek shape was being formed into GEORG's future in the Kriegsmarine. Three other ocean going boats were built before the shining 211 foot long hull of U-30 slid down the ways on 4 August 1936. In all, only ten of these newest (in 1936) Type VII-A U-Boats would be built before modifications in length, bunker size and torpedo reload capacity occurred to make the Type VII-B and ultimately the Type VII-C which made up fully 75% of the U-Boats built in Germany's underwater fleet in World War II.
She displaced a little ore than 700 tons, mounted an 88mm deck gun and a single 20mm automatic anti-aircraft gun on the wintergarten (the rear platform on the conning tower). Four twenty-one inch torpedo tubes nestled in the bows while a single tune was built in the after torpedo room. This was the basic configuration for all Type VII Frontboots with but slight modifications as the war went onward. Inside her 160 foot long pressure hull lived her crew of forty-four men and officers. There were no showers aboard although the crews of some boats later in the war rigged up some rudimentary shower heads in their boats using the warm salt water as it emerged from cooling the diesels. With so little fresh water aboard, shaving and bathing were luxuries the men couldn't afford. Most of the water that came from the desalinator went into the boat's batteries leaving perhaps one gallon per man per day and that was for cooking and drinking.
When a U-Boat left on a war patrol the men’s bunks in both torpedo rooms were folded up against the bulkheads in order to hang more torpedoes for reloads. Only after they fired some torpedoes and reloaded the tubes could they fold down their cots. Until that time the men slept on the steel floor plates. Even with the cots folded down, two men were assigned to each bunk. While one was on duty, the other slept. With the change of the watch, one rolled out and the other rolled in - still wet with salty spray or with oily sweat, depending on that particular sailor’s duty on board the U-Boat. The lack of fresh water meant that the sheets were not washed, and there were no fresh sheets to be changed on a routine basis. In fact, the sheets a crewman slept on at the day of departure were the same sheets he slept on at the end of a patrol, six weeks or six months later.
There was no wardroom; no crew’s mess. The men either ate at their stations or at their bunks in the torpedo rooms. Not even the Captain enjoyed the privacy of a compartment or a room, although he did have his own bunk. His only attempt at privacy came with the drawing of a heavy green curtain around his bunk, situated across from both the Funkshop (radio room) and the sound room; right next to the Zentrale (central control room). It took only a few days at sea during a patrol to give food on board the familiar U-Boat flavor of green mold and diesel oil.
U-30 carried 67 tons of diesel fuel and at her maximum speed of sixteen knots, she had a radius of action of some 4,300 miles. When she used up the fuel in her external bunkers her twin 2,100 horsepower diesels could push the boat to 17 knots on the surface. With her twin 750 HP electric motors while submerged she could make only 4 knots - and at 90 miles, her batteries would give out.
It was now 1937. U-30 had undergone her trials and was put into commission by Kapitänleutnant (Lt. Commander) Fritz-Julius Lemp.
As U-30 spent her days at the U-Boat Flotilla in Wilhelmshaven, GEORG HÖGEL, now a young man of eighteen, sat in his family home in Munich and gazed at the mountaintops nearby. His friends had suggested that he enlist with the mountain troops, but Georg leaned toward the Kriegsmarine. It ran in the family. His uncle was in the Navy; and so was a cousin until 1936. Still, he did not wish to opt for the standard 4 or 5 year hitch. Then he learned if he went in as a Funkmaat (radio-telegraphist) he could have his two-year hitch. Upon completion of Funkmaat school, Georg was assigned to U-30, based at Wilhelmshaven.
Ever since the Wehrmacht had invaded Czechoslovakia, the military had been on a heightened state of alert and towards the end of August, 1939 the U-Bootwaffe was on what amounted to a wartime status. After diving drills on the bay one night, the married men were allowed one hour ashore with their wives, then they were to report back on board U-30. In the middle of the night, Georg could see only two men on their flotilla ship. Early the next morning, they cast off - and from that moment on, U-30 would have to dive and hide from every ship; every plane they saw. And so they went out into the Atlantic, all the while the young Funkmaat wondered what would lie in the days ahead. And still U-30 dived before any passing ship could detect her.
On September 3, 1939 at 1100 hours, his Unteroffizier (petty officer) yelled to the young Funkmaat in his bunk,
“Georg. England has declared war on Germany!”
Hearing this, GEORG went into his Funkshop (radio room) to listen to the radio messages from their base. He didn’t have long to wait, and at 1300 hours that same day, Germany declared war on England. Only three more hours passed and at 1600 hours, they spotted another ship. Looking the situation over, Lemp said,
“We will wait until things look better. Tonight we go nearer.”
The ship was zigzagging and showing no lights, and at half-past seven, U-30 submerged. Lemp looked again, and based on the target making a zigzag course and showing no lights, he determined that she was a military target and he made the decision to attack. Two torpedoes were fired at the huge ship. Eager hands held the stopwatch as the seconds ticked on - then the entire crew heard the roar of the first explosion of a torpedo fired by the U-Bootwaffe in World War II as it blew a gaping hole in the side of the ship. Lemp had no time to savor this first success of the infant war because the second torpedo had only partially left the tube; then jammed half in and half out.
Before leaving port, U-30 received the newest magnetic exploders for the torpedoes. All hands knew that when the arming propeller on this jammed eel made its final revolution, U-30 would be blown up by her own torpedo. The War was only seven hours old for Germany - the first U-Boat into combat had torpedoed the first victim of the War; and was now about to blow herself to bits and become the first casualty of the Reich. It was not a good start to this war. In Georg’s own words,
“This was a very confused situation!”
Lemp ordered U-30 stopped dead in the water so that the arming propeller on the torpedo would also stop. That gave the men in the bowroom (forward torpedo room) enough time to free the jammed eel and let it slide out; never to head for an enemy target - but not to take U-30 down either. Lemp took U-30 into the moon’s shadow to have a look at the stricken ship. She was already listing, ready to capsize at any moment and there was no doubt, she was going down - and soon.
“Big trouble on board.” reported Georg.
Lemp quickly thumbed through the Lloyd’s Register of Ships for the silhouette - and it was then that he realized that this prize, this first success for the U-Bootwaffe in World War II was not an acceptable target. She was not a military ship but in fact was the 13,581 ton British liner ATHENIA and was loaded with tourists on holiday.
the radio message from U-Boat Headquarters;
“Do not attack passenger ships. Strictly adhere to the Rules of Prize Regulations.”
According to the Prize Regulations, a submarine was to first alert the intended target ship that they were going to board her and check the ship’s papers and the cargo list to verify whether the ship was an acceptable target. The submarine then had to allow the ship’s crew to take to the lifeboats and move to safety before the submarine could sink her. A rather cumbersome procedure but since the ATHENIA was zigzagging and showing no lights, Lemp probably would have attacked even if he had received this transmission earlier as he felt he really had a military ship in his sights.
It didn’t take long to give these Prize Regulations a test on board U-30. At 0322 the morning of September 11, they stopped the 4,425 ton British ship SS BLAIRLOGIE at 54’58”N x 15’14”W. One hour and two minutes after stopping BLAIRLOGIE, a combined torpedo and gunnery attack sent the ship down.
There was another problem on board U-30; they were out of bread. After ten days, the fresh bread had gotten too moldy to eat and was tasting like diesel fuel. They had ample canned stores, but when they opened the first container marked ‘BREAD’ they found milk. The same held true for the next container - and the next after that. All the containers stored in the conning tower marked ‘BREAD’ actually contained milk. The Kriegsmarine expected forty-four officers and men of U-30 to remain on station for six weeks - with no bread.
|SS BLAIRLOGIE||SS FANAD HEAD|
On the 14th
of September, they saw their next ship. It was nearly half-past noon when the
5,200 ton British ship SS FANAD HEAD steamed into the area
patrolled by U-30. Lemp stopped the ship in accordance with the
Prize Regulations, but decided to check if there was any bread on board before
sinking her. That’s the way they did it in the First World War............
SS FANAD HEAD was stopped dead in the water; U-30 also dead in the water but her bow aimed directly at the side of the steamer in a perfect torpedo attack position. Lemp sent the First Watch Officer and an Unteroffizier to the British ship in the rubber dinghy. As the two U-Bootmen looked for bread and other provisions, the crew of the doomed ship were allowed to take to the lifeboats and get away from their ship. A line was passed from U-30 to make the transfer of supplies easier for the men in the dinghy.
Immediately upon being stopped, the radio operator on SS FANAD HEAD sent out an emergency message:
“We are stopped by a German submarine.”
The message was intercepted by Georg in his Funkshop. He quickly switched to the 500 meter band, and some time later heard an American coast station call the ship back. The message was never received by the radio operator on SS FANAD HEAD because he and the rest of the crew were already in the lifeboats and about 1,000 meters behind U-30.
The transfer of supplies all but finished, Lemp sent some men over with demolition charges to finish the ship off. A petty officer stuck his head into Georg’s Funkshop and asked if he would like to come up on deck and look at the ship. As Georg reached the bridge, he noticed that the U-Boat crew were all looking at the British ship. But one of the Germans on the FANAD HEAD and the man in the dinghy were both pointing excitedly behind them, beyond the U-Boat. Georg saw Lemp turn toward where they were pointing, and Lemp’s face went pale. Georg looked in the same direction and saw an airplane. At first he thought it was just a passenger plane - but only for a second. Then he told himself;
“You have nothing to do up here - you must go inside!”
and down the hatch he scurried. There were still about 15 men on deck assisting the man in the dinghy. They all must get inside and fast.
Not all made it, but Lemp could wait no longer and he ordered ALARM! (crash dive). There were still four of his crew on the FANAD HEAD and another on the deck of U-30 who couldn’t reach the hatch in time. As U-30 was crash diving, Lemp suddenly realized that his U-Boat was pointing directly at the side of the British ship. There was no room for the U-Boat to dive fast enough to slide beneath the ship - they would hit.
Lemp ordered an order for full speed ASTERN - and at the same moment the first bombs fell. The German crewmen left on the freighter thought that U-30 had taken a hit and gone down. However, the U-Boat completed her dive successfully and made a slow turn, underwater, around SS FANAD HEAD.
The boat was settled smoothly at 20 meters when a bomb hit right above them.
“Down to thirty meters.” ordered Lemp.
Another bomb hit right above them. Puzzled, Lemp ordered his submarine to 40 meters - again a bomb dropped directly overhead. Was U-30 losing fuel, telling the British aircrew their every move?
“Come to periscope depth” Lemp ordered.
He grabbed the handles while the instrument was still rising in its shears. The normally unexcitable Lemp cursed, then yelled;
“Boatsman! How many meters of line have you from the boat to the dinghy?”
“Eighty meters, Sir.” came the reply.
The last man on the deck had the line in his hand, but U-30 was diving out from under him. Seeing no help nearby and hostile aircraft beginning a bombing attack, he dropped the line and leaped for the rubber dinghy as the U-Boat submerged. The line became entangled in the net-deflector and every turn the U-Boat made was mirrored by the movements of the dinghy above! It didn’t take the British pilot long to figure out where U-30 could be found.
“What would we do if we encountered a destroyer?” Georg mused.
“They would make a catch and pull us out like a fish!”
Lemp ordered the boat to periscope depth. Through the scope, he saw the line running directly over the conning tower. Lemp ordered full rise and as the tower broke the surface, a seaman, looking like a pirate with a knife clenched in his teeth, threw the hatch cover open, dashed out onto the tower and slashed the line. Just as quickly, he dropped back into the boat, slamming the hatch behind him.
Lemp took a quick look and U-30 again dived. He could see three planes, not just one. They were machine-gunning the SS FANAD HEAD with the German U-boaters still aboard. When would Lemp get his men back? There were still four of his crew on the freighter and another in the dinghy.
U-30 remained submerged from 1600 hours until 1800 hours that evening, waiting for the planes to leave. Now was the time. Lemp ordered the boat to the surface. The seas were running higher now than when U-30 first stopped the freighter, and as U-30 raced toward FANAD HEAD, a large wave lifted the freighter. It slammed down on the bows of U-30, knocking the forward tubes out of alignment.
By the time they were able to recover their men, four of the five were wounded - one badly. They had strung a line to each other when they hit the water so they would not drift apart. To the amazement of the crew, more planes appeared. Where could they be coming from? U-30 was 700 miles out to sea, far beyond the range of shore-based fighters. Then they learned that the aircraft carrier HMS ARK ROYAL was nearby, and the planes that had helped the Royal Navy destroyers HMS FAULKNOR and HMS FIREDRAKE send U-39 to the bottom a few hours earlier were trying to do the same to U-30. The planes returned to their carrier almost immediately, leaving U-30 and her would-be victim alone on the churning sea.
|HMS ARK ROYAL||HMS FAULKNOR||HMS FIREDRAKE|
He had his men back on board and was preparing to finish off the freighter, when Lemp saw two more men on the deck of FANAD HEAD. They were two British aircrew members. When Lemp told them he was preparing to fire torpedoes into the ship, they jumped into the water and swam to U-30 where the crew took them aboard.
Of the three planes seen by Lemp earlier, two splashed themselves by attacking too low. The concussion from their own bombs got them. When the first plane hit the water, neither of the other planes knew what had happened to him. Soon the second made the same error in approach and he too went down. When the crew of the third plane saw the debris of the planes on the water they assumed it to be from the sinking of the U-Boat, and dropped more bombs into the wreckage - and onto his buddies.
One man from each of the downed planes was killed, while the other man from each had managed to reach the British freighter. GEORG was in his Funkshop when a sailor fell on the deck next to him, shirt open and blood over him. Even though the radioman on a German U-Boat was usually the medic as well, GEORG had no time to help the wounded man right now. He was manning the listening equipment and following the torpedo on its way to finally finish off SS FANAD HEAD. When the men in the Zentralle (Central Control Room) heard the explosion, they all heard Lemp yell that the ship had broken in the middle and was going down fast.
Then they saw his face press even harder against the rubber eyepiece; “ALARM!” he yelled; “ALARM DIVE!”
U-30 lurched forward in a steep nose-down crash dive.
“Prepare for depth-charge attack.” Lemp ordered.
Hidden from Lemp’s view by the freighter was a pair of Royal Navy destroyers, racing at high speed to rescue FANAD HEAD from the U-Boat. When the freighter sank so suddenly, the two tin-cans racing in from the opposite side immediately filled Lemp’s eyepiece. For the next six hours, U-30 took one depth-charge pattern after another. Her batteries were running low. They would have to come up soon to recharge them; but the destroyers continued to pound U-30 every time they got a bearing on her.
2300 hours; there was no further sound above from the destroyers, and Lemp decided to take U-30 up. There was little choice, as the pounding from the many depth-charges had sprung the packing around the propeller shafts, and U-30 was taking on water aft. For five hours, the men were standing in line to bucket the water from the after compartment to the midships bilge where the pumps tried to push it out. The stern of U-30 was six meters further down than the bow. Lemp decided to surface at midnight.
“Be careful, Commander.” cautioned GEORG HÖGEL.
“I think they are still there, waiting for us to come up.”
They rose slowly. U-30 passed 150 meters. Then 110 meters. And 100 meters. They rose even more slowly then - only 10 meters at a time. Lemp was standing beside GEORG at the Funkshop; .......listening...listening. Nothing is heard from the surface above.
At a quarter to one in the morning, conning tower of U-30 gently broke the surface. The Commander and the bridge watch scrambled up into the conning tower to take a look. Everything was dark and the seas were even heavier now. Slowly, on one diesel only, U-30 began to creep away from the area.
Suddenly a brilliant floodlight flashes on and stabs the darkness from a nearby destroyer, sweeping the sea, searching for the U-Boat. Lemp kept the stern of U-30 pointing at the tin can, showing the lowest, thinnest possible silhouette. Luck was on the side of U-30 this night. The light failed to spot her in the heavy seas, and U-30 escaped into the darkness.
|The crew of U-30 now needed time to repair the gyrocompass which had been knocked out during the attack. The magnetic compass was of little use in this area due to extreme magnetic deviation. GEORG quickly tapped out Lemp’s message to Karl Dönitz, Chief of the U-Bootwaffe, advising his headquarters of their situation and asking further orders.|
“Precede to Reykjavik on Iceland.”
came the reply.
U-30 set out for Iceland, but upon plotting their position two days later, found themselves right back in the same area where they had sunk SS FANAD HEAD. Their magnetic compass had led them in a giant circle.
It was September 19, 1939 when U-30 finally entered the harbor at Reykjavik and by now, the wounded British pilot was in bad shape. He was burned so badly that his body was blackened in places. He had two shrapnel wounds going through his underarms and one hand had turned black from blood poisoning.
The German Consul of Iceland was a military man, and he came out with a patrol boat to U-30 and immediately took the wounded British pilot and the U-Boater with the most serious wounds to the hospital. A short while later, he returned to take off the three remaining wounded U-boaters and the last British airman.
On the voyage home to Wilhelmshaven, GEORG thought of his books telling of the First World War; of the U-Boat crewmen swimming in calm seas around their U-Boats in times of relaxation. Sadly, he thought this war is not going to be that way for him.
|Docking at Wilhelmshaven, U-30 received two distinguished visitors. First was the Führer himself - Adolf Hitler. He discussed aloud what could be done to bring the four wounded crewmen home from Iceland. An agreement was quickly reached with the Danish government. Since the Danes had no P.O.W. facilities on Iceland, the men of U-30 were allowed to remain on the island and work at the Consulate if they gave their word not to attempt to escape from the island. This was acceptable and on the surface, seemed a good solution. But with 1940 came the Norway action, and the US and England took over control of Iceland - and Georg never saw his shipmates again.|
distinguished visitor that day was Karl Dönitz. This was NOT entirely the
hero’s welcome that Lemp and his crew had anticipated. Since the sinking of
ATHENIA, a heated propaganda war was in progress between the British
press and that controlled by Nazi Propaganda Minister, Dr. Josef Goebels with
entire world as witness.
The British press hotly condemned the German government for allowing one of their U-Boats to sink an unarmed passenger ship filled with civilians on holiday. The Goebels press responded by accusing the Churchill government of planting a time bomb in the hold of ATHENIA, deliberately sinking their own ship, just to make the Germans look bad in the eyes of the world. This ploy had the same effect as pouring gasoline on an already raging fire. Nobody believed the concocted German story.
Dönitz ordered Lemp to expunge all mention of the ATHENIA action from his KTB (logbook). Thus the first U-Boat victory of the infant War turned out to be a political embarrassment rather than a heroic beginning.
By now, Georg’s hitch in the Kriegsmarine had been extended, and there wasn’t much hope of getting discharged to start the family business he had discussed with his father earlier. While U-30 was undergoing repairs and refit for the next mission, the crew were released on leave.
It was all too short a time however, and mid-December saw U-30 again putting to sea, this time with a load of mines nestled in her tubes rather than the usual torpedoes. In fact, U-30 carried only a couple torpedoes on this patrol, since she was not expected to see combat.
At 0230 hours on December 28, a tiny 325 ton armed anti-submarine trawler proved too easy a target to pass up, and at 0400 hours, the deck gun of U-30 sent the BARBARA ROBERTSON down. Not much of a prize, but U-30 was on her way to ‘lay eggs’ in Liverpool Bay and she would not see any target worthwhile.....or so it was planned. Just before 1500 hours that same afternoon Lemp had reason to hate this mission that forced his boat to be filled with mines rather than a normal load of torpedoes. They were at 58.47’N x 08.05’W when Lemp’s periscope filled with the sight of His Majesty’s behemoth - the battleship HMS BARHAM.
The 31,000 ton giant lumbered directly into a perfect torpedo firing position for U-30, unaware of this tiny 211 foot long sliver of steel that was waiting just beneath the surface.....waiting with but a single torpedo! Still, Lemp could not allow this golden opportunity to pass without doing something. At 1545 hours on December 28, 1939 the lone ‘eel’ shot from its tube and sped for the King’s battleship that it couldn’t miss. The seconds ticked by in the control room as the crew held their breath, then they heard the roar of the torpedo exploding against the thick steel hull of HMS BARHAM. Cheers! Excitement! Then the big battleship just continued on its way, hardly damaged.
U-30 resumed course for Liverpool Bay with Lemp still wishing that he carried a full load of torpedoes rather than these damned eggs.
On January 6, 1940 the U-Boat crept silently into Liverpool Bay, deposited her mines, and left for Germany. The mines were to claim the 7,267 ton tanker EL OSO on January 11; the 5,494 ton freighter CAIRNROSE on the 17th; the 4,305 ton freighter MUNSTER on February 7; and the 5,406 ton freighter CHARGRES on February 9, 1940. The 5,642 ton freighter GRACIA suffered heavy damage on January 15, 1940. While U-30 missed sinking a battleship, they did account for the loss of four ships that would hurt the British more than the loss of a battleship. It had long been the plan of the U-Bootwaffe to sink merchant ships, thereby depriving the British all the necessities of life that had to be imported.
U-30 continued her patrols through that spring and early summer, with a total of nine more ships being sent to the bottom.
In late June of 1940, U-30 logged another first as she entered the recently fallen French port of Lorient. U-30 was the first German sub into a French port after the collapse of France.
On August 14, 1940 Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp was awarded the RITTERKREUZ (the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross) for his contribution to the efforts of the Kriegsmarine. The War was still going favorably for Germany and for the men of U-30.
By the end of that August however, the Type VII-A boats were made obsolete by advancing German technology as well as by the British anti-submarine warfare tactics. The War was just one year old, and six of the original ten Type VII-A boats had fallen victim to the Royal Navy. Germany had newer and more technologically advanced U-Boats sliding down the ways daily now and there was no reason to send her best Captains and crews back into combat with boats that were certain to be the victim rather than the victor.
At 1932 hours on the 16th of August, 1940 - torpedoes from U-30 sent the 6,626 ton freighter CLAN MacPHEE to the bottom, the 18th victim of U-30. She was the last victim of the first U-Boat.
U-30 returned to her base for the last time as a Frontboot (combat boat). She was turned over to the 24th U-BootFlotille at Flensburg on January 8, 1941 to be used as a schulboot (training boat). U-30 would live through the rest of the War - Lemp would live only four more months.
Half the crew remained with U-30 becoming instructors with the 24th U-BootFlotille. The other half went with their Commander when he took over U-110. Funkmaat GEORG HÖGEL went to U-110.
Built in the very same yard that produced U-30, Lemp’s new boat was a big ocean going, long-range Type IX-B. She was 251 feet long and her twin diesels put out 4,400 horsepower, giving her a surface speed in excess of 18 knots. Underwater speed was more than 7 knots, nearly double that of his earlier U-30. Twin tubes were located in the after torpedo room rather than single ‘stinger’ in the Type VII boats. Lemp and his crew were pleased; this would be a good boat. There would be successes aplenty for them and U-110.
But on her first patrol, U-110 tasted the bitter fruit of failure. A few minutes past midnight on March 16,1941 Lemp attacked a 6,000 ton freighter and an 8,000 ton tanker in Convoy HX.112. Lemp claimed he damaged the freighter, but there was no confirmation. The British tanker ERODONA of 6,207 tons (not 8,000 as Lemp claimed) did sustain damages, but was not sunk as reported by Lemp. Doggedly hanging onto Convoy HX.112, Lemp fired torpedoes at 1636 hours and claimed the sinking of an 8,000 ton tanker. It was wishful thinking, as torpedoes from U-110 hit nothing. Any explosions would have been end-of-run detonations, not hits. A bit before dawn on March 23, 1941 Lemp claimed the sinking of a 4,000 ton steamer. Actually the 2,468 ton Norwegian SS SIREMALM was merely damaged by the eels from U-110.
As the second patrol of U-110 got underway, Lemp was certain of a much better showing. After all, he was an experienced U-Boat Commander and most of his crew were battle-tested veterans who had been with the U-Bootwaffe from the first day of the War. On April 26, 1941 Lemp’s torpedoes claimed the 2,471 ton French freighter ANDRE MOYRANT. Not much to celebrate here, but it was start.
Convoy OB.318 rounding the south-west tip of Ireland in the broad daylight, May 9 offered the kind of targets more to Lemp’s liking. Here were ships aplenty; even a simple shot could not miss. And at 1158 hours, he fired a spread of three torpedoes into the convoy. Just one minute later, the British freighter SS ESMOND of 4,976 tons blew up and sank immediately. And only two minutes after that, another British freighter, SS BANGOR HEAD of 2,609 tons received fatal blows from Lemp’s eels.
“This was more like it;” thought Lemp. “It was like before when there were targets for the taking.”
But it wasn’t like ‘before’. In the early days, the Royal Navy lacked the destroyers and the know-how to handle the U-Boat threat. That was ‘before’....this was ‘now’......and Convoy OB.318 had a ring of destroyers with highly trained crews, just waiting to pounce on any U-Boat that dared to attack their charges.
Memories of the ‘Happy Time’ were still in Lemp’s head, and he was overconfident. Rather than diving and escaping this well escorted convoy he remained at periscope depth to watch the two ships sink. It took only a moment for a sharp-eyed lookout on the bridge of HMS AUBRIETTA to spot Lemp’s extended periscope, and the little corvette raced at the U-Boat. Lemp dived, but almost immediately, the splashing of ten depth charges was heard in HÖGEL’s headset.
“Deep dive !” yelled Lemp. “Turn 90º to starboard.”
But the ASDIC operator on HMS AUBRIETTA knew his job, and kept pin-pointing the U-Boat in the depths. Some twenty minutes after the initial depth charge attack, HMS AUBRIETTA launched another. Heavy-fisted blows rained on U-110, springing a multitude of leaks throughout the boat. Out of control, U-110 was plunging stern first past 300 feet. She was dying.
“Press air on all tanks!” Lemp shouted. “Surface!”
By now, a pair of destroyers, HMS BULLDOG (photo below right) and HMS BROADWAY had rushed over to help HMS AUBRIETTA stamp ‘PAID’ on the U-Boat. As U-110 broke the surface, the three Royal Navy escorts opened fire with every gun they could bring to bear on the crippled U-Boat. Lemp ordered his men to abandon ship - 14 were cut down by gunfire as they tried to reach the safety of the sea.
|Commander A. J. Baker-Cresswell was
heading HMS BROADWAY (the former USS
HUNT) in fast to ram U-110, when he realized that
the U-Boat was abandoned and dead in the water. He could capture the
U-Boat. He ordered full speed astern in an effort to halt the tin
can. Published reports of the day tell that he was successful in
stopping short of U-110, but according to GEORG HÖGEL,
who was swimming not far from the scene of action.
Here are the memories of this action from GEORG:
“.....in the last second he got order from destroyer
BULLDOG not to do this.
BROADWAY could not
stop and bumped
U-110. The consequences to the destroyer’s flimsy plating were serious,
for the U-boat’s hydroplane (diving plane) tore a big gash in her port bow,
holed her badly below the waterline amidships, and knocked off her port
British Sub-lieutenant David Balme and a boarding party of eight armed men were dispatched from HMS BULLDOG to the U-Boat. Lemp and his 32 surviving crewmen were swimming in the water nearby U-110, watched as the little boat came alongside their U-Boat. They were safe now, awaiting rescue by the British. But U-110 was supposed to sink. They had pulled the plug to send her down, yet she stubbornly remained afloat. And in HÖGEL’s radioroom nestled all of Lemp’s marked battle charts, code books, the ciphers and the super secret ENIGMA machine. He simply could not allow such priceless thing to fall into the hands of the enemy.
Although the First Watch Officer of U-110, Lemp’s own cousin, tried to stop him, Lemp swam madly back to U-110.
Some published reports of the time stated that Sublieutenant Balme saw Lemp swimming up to the U-Boat and realizing that he was a threat, shot Lemp dead as he tried to stop the British from gaining access to the interior of the U-Boat. Other reports claim that Balme just shot Lemp in the water as he was trying to get back on board U-110. But according to GEORG HÖGEL, the true story will probably never be known because the German survivors were not in a position to witness what happened at that moment. He felt that Lemp, no longer in good health by this time in the War, and after struggling with his First Watch Officer, then swimming to the U-Boat, suffered a heart attack.
The FIRST U-Boat into the War lasted only a year as a combat boat, then spent the rest of the War in training duties until the fall of the Reich in May of 1945. She was scuttled by her own crew at that time in the harbor at Flensburg. The first U-Boat victory of the War was a huge error. The first combat commander of the War was dead just a little more than a year and a half after the first torpedo of the War claimed the ATHENIA, the first victim of the War. And he allowed his code books and ENIGMA to machine fall into the hands of the enemy. The first funkmat into combat, Georg Högel, was unable to realize his parent’s dream of a business back in Munich in two years - Georg was to spend the rest of the War in P.O.W. camps in England and Canada. When the War ended in 1945, Georg and thousands of other German P.O.W.s were to spend two more years confined in a place called DACHAU.
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