U 100 – Convoy attacks by Kapitänleutnant Schepke in the Atlantic Ocean (Part 1)
On the 09 August 1940 U 100 under the command of Kapitänleutnant (= Lieutenant Commander) Joachim Schepke left Kiel, Germany, for its first combat patrol. Seven days later it patrolled northwest off Ireland, when it sighted a merchant vessel at midnight of the 16th of August 1940. Soon, Joachim Schepke decided to pursue the vessel. At 09.27 hrs U 100 fired a two-torpedo-fan from tubes No. I and No. II, both detonated at the target after 85, respectively 95 seconds. Being hit the vessel listed towards its port side and begun sinking slowly. Also, the stern started sinking, then the freighter turned over at its back and was floating bottom up. Eventually the vessel rised to upside down position, to then go down into the Atlantic Ocean. Time between being torpedoed and sinking was about 26 minutes. The vessel was the British 4.864 GRT Empire Merchant, which had sailed in convoy OA.198 and lost contact for unknown reasons. The vessel carried about 200 tons of piece goods plus mail bound for Kingston, Jamaica. Seven of the 55strong crew did not survive.
On the 25 August 1940 at 19.08 hrs U 100 fired a further torpedo at a vessel sailing independently, which luckily passed the ship before its bow. But the next torpedo fired at 19.12 hr hit the vessel at its forward cargo bay after running 101 seconds. When the vessel gave no indication of sinking Schepke fired a third torpedo. Shortly after the torpedo was launched from tube No. II the vessel resumed speed, causing the torpedo to pass behind the ship.
At 19.34 hrs the fourth torpedo was fired, this time from tube No. III, and hit the vessel eventually under the bridge. But the vessel refused to sink. There was no chance to sink the vessel by means of gunfire, since the swell was so heavy that reliable aiming be-came impossible. Therefore, Schepke fired a fifth torpedo against the vessel from tube No. IV, which hit under the funnel. Now, a detonation occurred and the freighter started sinking, it was the British 5.471 GRT Jamaica Pionieer. The vessel had a cargo of 1.900 tons of Bananas on board , bound for Avonmouth in the UK. Two sailors from a crew of 54 did not survive. In addition, there were 12 passenger embarked, which were rescued all together with the crew.
In the forenoon of the 28 August 1940 U 56 reported the position of convoy OA.204, which U 100 sighted herself at 22.35 hrs. Shortly after midnight of the 29th of August the German U-Boat was steaming into attack position. At 00.23 hrs U 100 launched two torpedoes at two targets in the convoy aimed at, hitting after 183 seconds the British 4.608 GRT Dalblair and after 198 seconds the British 5.498 GRT Hartismere. While the Hartismere still managed to return to the Clyde in Scotland, the Dalblair enroute to Philadephia, USA, sunk.
24 of the 43strong crew were rescued by the Swedish vessel Alida Gorthon. Meanwhile, U 100 prepared for the second attack. At 01.40 hrs a torpedo was launched from tube No. V, and hit the British 2.393 GRT vessel Astra II after 58 seconds. Soon, the Astra II sank over it´s stern, it´s port of destination had been Rimouski, Canada. 21 sailors were rescued, but 4 did not survive.
Meanwhile, another shadow came closer from the east, immediately U 100 headed towards it. However, a torpedo fired at 03.16 hrs on the 29th of August 1940 did miss. At 03.36 hrs the U-Boat launched another torpedo from tube No. III, it hit the engine room of the Swedish vessel Alida Gorthon after a running time of 43 seconds. A high blast flame did rise along the hull of the vessel, to be followed by another severe explosion, most probably caused by the detonating boiler. The ship sank fast over its stern. The 2.373 GRT Alida Gorthon was enroute to St. Johns, New Foundland. 11 members of the 24strong crew did not survive, and another 20 of the 24 sailors just being rescued from the Dalblair did not survive either. U 100 had another target in sight, but the torpedo launched at 03.57 hrs missed. A minute later the last torpedo remaining on board was launched from the rear torpedo tube No. V. 113 seconds later the torpedo hit the after ship of the British 6.103 GRT Empire Moose.
While U 100 was leaving convoy OA.204 with no torpedo left, the Empire Moose was sinking over its stern. Its port of destination has been Port Sulphur in Lousiana, USA. The complement was 36, and all could be rescued. U 100 started its homebound leg and arrived at Lorient on 01 September 1940.
Only 10 days later U 100 sailed again, this time assigned to an area of operation more to the western Atlantic Ocean. On 20th of September 1940 U 47 reported convoy HX.72, with U 100 being not too far away. At once Schepke set course for the convoy. About 23.00 hrs on the 21st Of September 1940 the outlooks in the conning tower spotted the convoy. Without hesitation Schepke steered his U 100 through a gap in the escort screen directly at the columns of convoy ships. It was 23.10 hrs exactly when U 100 launched one torpedo each from three of the bow torpedo tubes against targets selected. While turning away from the convoy the U-Boat fired a fourth torpedo from its rear torpedo tube No. V at the outer most vessel of the convoy. After 130 seconds the torpedo from tube No. I hit the British 8.286 GRT vessel Canoneas. Ten seconds later the torpedo from tube No.II hit the British oiler Torinia. 40 seconds after the first detonation another detonation cloud was rising from a 5.000 GRT vessel, however, there was no Allied confirmation for the hit later. The torpedo launched at 23.15 hrs from the rear tube hit the British 4.608 GRT vessel Dalcairn after 54 seconds.
The Canonesa being hit first sunk within a few hours early on the 22 September 1940. Her load was composed of 7.265 tons of frozen meat and piece goods, plus 2.258 tons of bacon, 995 tons of cheese, 250 tons of ham and 379 tons of fish. The port of destination was Liverpool. One sailor of the 63 men strong crew did not survive. The 10.364 BRT oiler Torinia bound for the Clyde carried 13.815 cbm of fuel for the Royal Navy. 5 sailors of its 55 men strong crew died. The Dalcairn, being hit last and bound for Hull, transported 8.000 tons of wheat. The entire crew of 42 men survived.
While the torpedo crew of U 100 reloaded the torpedo tubes the Commanding Officer set course for the second column of convoy ships. At 00.20 hrs on the 22 September 1940 U 100 re-attacked convoy HX.72. Two minutes later a torpedo was laun-ched hitting the British 6.586 GRT vessel Empire Airman after 105 seconds running time. The Empire Airman bound for Cardiff and carrying iron ore sank so fast that just 4 sailors of the 35strong crew survived. At 00.50 hrs U 100 fired a torpedo from rear tube No. V, which hit after the British 3.940 GRT vessel Scholar after 53 seconds. However, the freighter continued staying afloat, sup-ported by its cargo for Manchester composed of 5.484 cotton bales, 2.023 tons of steel, 242 tons of grinded wood, 965 tons of timber and 54 tons of arsenic and some piece goods.
The fleet tug Marauder was called in to salvage the vessel, to eventually take the Scholar in tow on the 23rd of September 1940. But the vessel dropped deeper and deeper and threatened to sink. Therefore, the tow line was cut the next day, with “Scholar” drifting to the South, slowly sinking. All 41 members of the crew were rescued. During that time U 100 was pursuing the next ship of the convoy, an oiler of about 15.000 GRT as guessed by Schepke.
At 01.53 hrs torpedoes from tubes No. II and No. IV were fired. 65 seconds later the first torpedo detonated at the oiler´s bow, seconds after that the other torpedo hit the oiler´s stern. Two strong explosions followed and two mighty blast flames came out of the oiler, ripping its upper deck almost apart. Some time later the stern of the oiler began to sink over its stern. In the end, just the bow was rising above the surface, until it came up for a moment before going down into the deep sea. U 100 had sunk the British 10.525 GRT oiler Frederick S. Fales. The ship had a load of 13.849 cbm of fuel for the Royal Navy, destination was the Clyde. The inferno of torpe-does detonating and flames raging all over caused the death of 12 sailors of the 20strong crew, just 8 were rescued.
Meanwhile Schepke maneuvered into attack position at the port side of another vessel. At 02.14 hrs a torpedo was launched from tube No. III, hitting the vessel´s bow after 50 seconds of running time. After the explosion cloud collapsed, the vessel was seen heavy nose diving despite its size, to vanish from the surface of the ocean seconds later. This time it was the Norwegian 6.031 GRT vessel Simla U 100 had sunk. The Simla was going down fast, most probably because of its cargo of 4.129 ton of iron ore and 3.970 tons of steel. Five sailors could be rescued, the rest of the crew did not survive. With that Kapitänleutnant Joachim Schepke had sunk a total of seven vessels from convoy HX.72. Now, U 100 started its return leg to Lorient, where it arrived on the 25th of September 1940.
Written by: Hans-Joachim Röll, pictures by German U-Boat Museum