U 100 – Convoy attacks by Kapitänleutnant Schepke in the Atlantic Ocean (Part 2)
In part 1 the author described the first two combat patrols of U 100 between 09 August 1940 and 29 September 1940.
U 100 left its homebase on 12 October 1940 for its 3rd combat patrol, again deployed to the sea areas northwest of Ireland. In the course of the 18 October U 100 was guided towards convoy SC.7 by the bearing signals of U 48. At about 23.00 hrs the U-boat was able itself to establish contact to the convoy. At 23.17 hrs a torpedo was launched from tube No. III and hit the British freighter Shekatia after 51 seconds in its aft loading section. The Shekatia had been hit already at 20.12 hrs, 20.28 hrs and 20.46 hrs by torpedoes from U 123. Also the torpedo from U 100 did not sink the freighter, who was kept above water by its load of wood. Eventually, the 5.458 GRT Shekatia sank on 19 October at 03.11 hrs only after a coup de grâce torpedo from U 123.
Meanwhile U 100 closed in to another target. At 23.37 hrs a torpedo from tube No. I was fired hitting the aft section of a vessel aimed at after 65 seconds. Although the vessel started to drop slightly over its stern, it did not sink after all. U 100 was not able to launch a coup de grâce torpedo as it was harassed by an escorting warship. The vessel torpedoed was the Dutch 2.118 GRT freighter Boekolo, who had dropped behind the convoy to pick up survivors from the Beatus that previously had been sunk by U 46. The Boekolo was finally sunk by U 123 on 19 October at 01.31 hrs.
In the early hours of the 19 October U 100 re-established contact to convoy SC.7, which was in the process of dissolving. At 02.50 hrs the U-boat fired a torpedo at the British 4.155 GRT vessel Blairspey. This vessel had been torpedoed already by U 101, but had managed to stay above water. U 100 launched a coup de grâce torpedo that hit the bow of the vessel after 52 seconds. The Commanding Officer and the officers of U 100 were convinced that the vessel would sink soon, however, the Blairspey continued to float. The crew left the vessel escaping to the life boats.
Although the Blairspey received two more coup de grâce torpe-does from U 101. The vessel eventually stranded at Kames Bay, where its bow section broke off. The vessel´s stern section was towed to Greenock, where it got a new bow, to then be recommis-sioned as Empire Spey. Soon, U 47 reported another convoy. It was HX.79, which was reached by U 100 in the evening of the 19 October. Shortly after midnight next day the U-boat was running in for attack. At 00.15 hrs Schepke launched torpedoes from tubes no. I and IV at two oilers detected. After 28 seconds the first torpedo hit the first oiler, and two seconds later the second oiler was hit as well. Two large smoke mushrooms rose from the oilers covering both in thick fumes.
U 100 had hit the British 8.230 GRT oiler Caprella and the British 6.218 GRT oiler Sitala. The Caprella had 11.300 tons of fuel on board, the Sitala carried 8.444 GRT of crude oil. It was almost a miracle that only one sailor from each oiler was missing afterwards, as 52 seamen from the Caprella and 44 sailors from the Sitala were rescued. The wreckage of the Caprella was still sighted on the 22 October when the bow of the oiler raised about 15 meters above water.
In the meantime U 100 pursued another vessel. About seven hours later the U-boat had an attacking opportunity. At 07.20 hrs a torpedo was launched from tube No. IV and hit a vessel´s aft section after 85 seconds. After the Loch Lomond was hit she remained dead in the water almost unchanged. Schepke decided to leave the area to the South when an escort vessel appeared, but reversed course to the vessel hit at about 12.00 hrs. The Loch Lomond came in sight again at 13.15 hrs and no escort was nearby. When the U-boat closed in to the oiler the lookouts discovered that the vessel had been evacuated, but still being afloat due to its load of wood. Schepke ordered to sink the vessel by means of the U-boat´s 8,8 cm gun. Throughout, the vessel was making water, with the upper deck soon under water level. A total of 79 rounds were fired by U 100 at the vessel, but it continued to stay afloat carried by its cargo of wood. Schepke then decided to leave the wreckage and to return to base. As it turned out, the British 5.452 GRT Loch Lomond eventually sank within the next few hours. Its cargo was composed of 6.000 tons of lumber and 1.858 tons of steel. One sailor did not survive, the remaining crew of 40 was rescued by an escort vessel. On 23rd of October 1940 U 100 returned to its homebase at Lorient.
In the forenoon of the 07 November 1940 U 100 departed Lorient for its 4th combat patrol. The assigned area of operations was again northwest of Ireland. Following thirteen days of patrolling under atrocious weather conditions without sighting a single ship the U-boat High Command (B.d.U.) ordered U 100 to operate against a convoy reported by U 137. On 22nd of November 1940 the U-boat reached a position south of the Rockall Bank when it surfaced – and was surprisingly right in the main body of convoy SC.11. Shortly after midnight of 23 November at 00.18 hrs U 100 fired a first torpedo from tube No. I at the British 4.562 GRT vessel Justitia. After 29 seconds the torpedo hit midships, the vessel stopped and blew off steam. The crew entered the life boats. The Justitia carried 5.161 tons of lumber and 2.248 tons of steel for London. 26 sailors from the crew could be rescued, but 13 other did not survive the torpedo hit.
At 01.01 hrs the next torpedo, launched from tube No. III found its target after 25 seconds of running time. The Dutch 3.628 GRT vessel Ootmarsum sank over its bow right after being hit, none of the 25strong crew survived. Only 16 minutes later a torpedo from tube No. IV hit the British 4.740 GRT vessel Bradfyne after 34 seconds of running time. Initially the vessel gained list but started to sink soon afterwards. Just 4 sailors from the 43string crews could be rescued. The Bradfyne had a cargo of 7.900 tons of grain for Belfast.
Another torpedo launch from rear torpedo tube No. V missed. Now, although being in the middle of the convoy, U 100 had to reload its torpedo tubes. At 04.14 hrs the U-boat was able to start its next attack. A torpedo fired from tube No. I hit the engine room of a vessel targeted after 32 seconds of running time. Immediately, the forward mast and the funnel collapsed and the entire stern of the vessel broke off in the rough sea. The U-boat left the wreckage and initiated its next attack at another merchant vessel.
The ship torpedoed was the Norwegian 2.205 GRT vessel Bruse. While the stern of the vessel sank the British managed to salvage the rest of the ship until the 28 November through towing it to the Clyde by means of a tug. After that, the vessel was transferred to Troon, where it was scuttled in June 1941. The Bruse had a load of 1.550 tons of lumber for Ipswich. Only 6 sailors of the 22 men strong crew could be rescued.
At 04.36 hrs the next torpedo was fired, this time from tube No. II at a vessel estimated size to be 5.000 GRT. After 44 seconds of running time the torpedo hit midships. It was the Norwegian 2.694 GRT vessel Salonica. The ship had loaded some 3.400 tons of timber for coal mines. Thereafter, U 100 had to submerge due to an approaching escort vessel and did not return to the convoy before 07.20 hrs. Soon the next target was in sight. At 08.02 hrs a torpedo was launched from tube No. III. A hefty detonation was heard after 42 seconds when the torpedo hit the vessel right under the funnel. The freighter gained some list and fired emergency flares. The vessel hit was the British 3.136 GRT vessel Leise Maersk. Its load was 4.500 tons of grain and piece goods. The Leise Maersk sank within minutes after being hit. Only 7 sailors could be rescued, 17 did not survive.
The contact to the convoy broke off. Not before the evening of the 23 November U 100 managed to close in again to SC.11. At 21.05 hrs a torpedo was fired from tube No. IV and hit the bow of a freighter after 37 seconds of running time. The ship hit was the Dutch 3.636 GRT vessel Bussum. The ship carried a cargo of 5.200 tons of grain for Belfast. However, the vessel managed to stay afloat until the next day and all of the 29strong crew was rescued.
Kapitänleutnant Schepke had achieved another time to sink some seven vessels from a single convoy. U 100 then commenced its return leg, to arrive at Lorient on 27 November 1941. As early as 02nd of December 1940 U 100 was back at sea, the 5th combat patrol was to start. Soon after leaving port the weather deteriorated considerably. The U-boat faced cruel weather with heavy storms coming in from the West. The severe, frosty Winter of 1940/41 was creeping in. Two weeks passed, when the U-boat sighted on 14 December the British 3.670 GRT vessel Kyleglen. At 09.06 hrs a torpedo was launched from rear tube No. V, which detonated at the vessel´s stern after 42 seconds. The ship vanished from the surface of the ocean very fast. The Kyleglen was underway to Sydney carrying a load of dross. All of the 37strong crew lost their lives in the raging Atlantic Ocean.
In the late afternoon another ship was sighted sailing independently. At 19.50 hrs the U-boat had reached a favorable attack position and Schepke ordered a torpedo to be fired from tube No. IV. The “eel” detonated after 36 seconds of running time at the target. Fire started to develop at the forward section of the vessel, but it did not go down yet. Schepke launched another torpedo, which hit after 45 seconds at the aft section of the ship. Now, the vessel started to sink and it was identified as the British 3.380 GRT vessel Euphorbia, with 3.837 tons of coal on board. Although all 34 sailors managed to get off board, no one survived the heavy seas of the Atlantic Ocean.
On 18 December U 100 sighted a big vessel, presumably a straggler of a convoy. At 20.20 hrs torpedoes from tubes No. III and No. IV were launched simultaneously. 60 seconds later a huge detonation cloud rose from the bridge section of the vessel. The vessel started to list and stopped, while sinking slowly. U 100 could observe how the crew evacuated from the ship. At 20.49 hrs a coup de grâce torpedo was launched from tube No. V and detonated after 24 seconds at the vessel´s stern. U 100 had sunk the British 10.116 GRT vessel Napier Star. The ship had a cargo of 8.200 tons of piece goods bound for New Zealand.
Apart from the 69strong crew there were 16 passengers on board, 50 crew and 12 passengers lost their lives at the sinking. The Napier Star was the last vessel to be sunk by U 100. A few days later the U-boat commenced its return leg, this time to Germany, where it was to receive maintenance. On 01st of January 1941 U 100 berthed at the Tirpitz Quay of the Kiel Naval Base. Two months of overhaul were to follow.
On 09 March 1941 U 100 left Kiel for its 6th combat patrol. This time the area of operation assigned was the far West of the North Atlantic Ocean. On 16 March 1941 U 100 established contact to convoy HX.112 which was reported first by U 110. But this time, Schepke and his U-boat ran out of luck. While attempting to sneak into the middle of the convoy, depth charges from the British destroyers Walker and Vanoc forced U 100 to surface.
At 03.18 hrs on 17 March 1941 the Vanoc then rammed U 100 and sank it, just 6 survivors could be rescued by the Vanoc, but 38 went down. With that, the life of Joachim Schepke came to an end, who probably was the boldest anti-convoy warrior of the German U-boat force.
Just with U 100 Joachim Schepke managed to sink some 26 ships with a total tonnage of 137.819 GRT, among those 22 vessels sailing within convoys. In addition to that, U 100 torpedoed four more vessels with a total tonnage of 17.229 GRT, all sailing with convoys as well. During his 6 combat patrols U 100 was fighting the convoys OA.198, OA.204, HX.72, SC.7, HX.79, SC.11 and HX.112
Written by Hans-Joachim Röll, pictures from German U-boat Museum.