U 862 and the Shore Leave to Replenish Provisions
On 03 June 1944 the Snorkel equipped Kriegsmarine Type IXD2 (displacement 1,804 t submerged, length 87.6 m, width 7.5 m, range at 12 kn = 23,700 nmi, crew btw. 55 and 63 men, 4 bow and 2 stern torpedo tubes) U-boat U 862 left the Naval Base at Narvik in German occupied Norway to reach the South East Asian Naval Base at Penang in Japanese occupied Malaysia after a 99 days voyage.
Commanding Officer was Commander Heinrich Timm, an experienced former Merchant Navy Officer. Being part of the German 33rd U-boat Flottilla, the famous “Monsoon” U-boats, it relocated between 05 and 07 November 1944 from Penang to the Naval Base at Batavia (today: Djakarta in Indonesia) at Java. On 18 November 1944 it left Batavia for a 90-days combat patrol, which was to head the U-boat around Australia´s Southern Coast as far as New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean. Apart from the transits of German U-boats for maintenance and other purposes to the mainland of Japan, such as U 511 (1943), U 510 and U 532 (1944), U 813 (1945) plus the transport U-boats seized from Italy in 1943, UIT 24 and UIT 25 (1944), this voyage by U 862 was the only combat mission ever executed by a German U-boat in the Pacific in World War II.
During its outbound leg U 862 on 24 December 1944 sank some 165 nmi southwest of Sydney the US freighter Robert J. Walker and during its return leg on 06 February 1945 some 900 nmi west of Perth at Australia´s West coast the US freighter Peter Silvester.
Outbound and homebound U 862 passed the southern part of the continent of Australia, including Tasmania, sighted inter alia Kangaroo Island southwest of Adelaide on 06 December 1944 and Tasmania on 14 December 1944. However, the Northern Island of New Zealand was reconnaited much closer in January 1945, temporarily from nearest distances, On 07 January 1945 Cape Reinga at the northern tip of New Zealand was reached, after operating off Cape Brett at the northeastern coast on 10 January 1945, off Auckland on 12 January 1945 and East Cape on 13 January 1945 the U-boat entered Poverty Bay on 15 January 1945 to patrol close to the port of Gisborne allowing to observe detailed the nightly life ashore through binoculars. On 16 January 1945 a similar night excursion was executed at Hawks Bay nearby Napier.
On 17 January 1945 order was received by the German U-boat Command at Singapore to immediately return to base due to the developing overall military situation in South East Asia. Eventually, U 862 returned to Batavia Base on 15 February 1945, after having circumnavigated again the southern part of Australia to the Indian Ocean. After relocating to Singapore on 17 February 1945 the U-boat was seized on 06 May 1945 by the Japanese Navy following the German surrender and re-commissioned as I-502. The German crew was interned initially by Japan and taken PoW for several years by the British Forces in August 1945 following Japan´s defeat.
The temporary operations by U 862 close the coast of New Zealand has repeatedly given reasons for wild stories around the voyage of that U-boat, best of all certainly that of the clandestine milking of New Zealand cattle during the night by members of the crew detached ashore to improve the food supply on board. On 18 January 1994 even the newspaper “The Times” published an article about that reporting from a certain New Zealand farmer Frank Steiner who was seeking for some answers to the fact that some of his cattle were being milked clandestinely during a night in January 1945.
The orign of these myths around the adventure of U 862 and her crew going ashore in New Zealand seems being a rather accidental meeting at the end of 1959 bet-ween the Station Commander of the then RAF Airfield of Jever nearby Wilhelmshaven, Germany (between 1951 and 1961 Jever airfield was a RAF Air Station before being handed over to the German Luftwaffe), the New Zealand born Group Captain Sidney Rochford Hughes, and Commander Heinrich Timm, having re-joined the Federal German Navy in 1956. GrpCapt Hughes was a highly decorated officer born and grown up in New Zealand, who joined the RAF in 1938, being
appointed Station Commander RAF Jever between 1955 and 1961, to later act as Air Officer Commanding Far East Force (1966-1969) even holding the rank of Air Marshal and receiving honors as KCB. Ex CO of U 862 and now Federal German Navy Commander Heinrich Timm was the first Commanding Officer of the training frigate Scharnhorst (F-213) in 1959 and 1960. At this social gathering, most probably at the officers mess at RAF Jever, both officers exchanged war stories, when Timm countered the stories of the New Zealander Hughes by inventing the own story of having sent some of his U-boat crew ashore in New Zealand in January 1945 to improve the food situation on board by fresh milk taken from New Zealand cows during the night. Years later Hughes spread the story, inter alia through an article in the veteran´s magazine “Review”. Eventually, this clearly cock-and-bull story started to make an own life as a factual event, causing repeatedly some excitement among first time listeners.
The best researched book about this voyage has been written in 1997 by the Australian author David Stevens: “U-boat Far From Home – The Epic Voyage of the U-862 to Australia and New Zea-land”, published by Allen & Unwin, Sydney, March 1997.
The well known German author Jochen Brennecke also mentions this voyage in his book “Haie im Paradies” (= “Sharks in Paradise”), published as paper back by Heyne, Munich 1993. Lesson learned: As unique and bold the mission by U 862 to Australia and New Zealand might be, a “liberty” or “run ashore” in New Zealand by
German Naval soldiers to improve the food situation on board has never occurred. Any story telling differently goes back for sure to the nice and apparently very successful fib of the Commanding Officer of U 862, Commander Heinrich Timm.