German submarine U-103 (1940)
U-103 in 1939. Looking backwards from the conning tower. Note the width of casing of the Type IX compared to the Type VII U-boat
|Career (Nazi Germany)|
|Ordered:||24 May 1938|
|Builder:||AG Weser, Bremen|
|Laid down:||6 September 1939|
|Launched:||12 April 1940|
|Commissioned:||5 July 1940|
|Fate:||Sunk 15 April 1945 at Kiel by bombs. One dead|
|Class & type:||Type IXB U-boat|
|Length:||76.5 m (251 ft 0 in) overall
58.7 m (192 ft 7 in) pressure hull
|Beam:||6.8 m (22 ft 4 in) overall
4.4 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
|Height:||9.6 m (31 ft 6 in)|
|Draft:||4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)|
|Speed:||18.3 knots (33.9 km/h) surfaced
7.3 knots (13.5 km/h) submerged
|Range:||22,200 nmi (41,100 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
118 nmi (219 km) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
2nd U-boat Flotilla
24th U-boat Flotilla
|Identification codes:||M 05 635|
21 September–19 October 1940
23 September–19 December 1940
21 January–24 February 1941
1 April–12 July 1941
10 September–9 November 1941
3 January–19 March 1942
15 April–22 June 1942
21 October–29 December 1942
7 February–26 March 1943
24 April–26 May 1943
a. 18–19 September 1943
b. 23 September 1943–1 January 1944
|Victories:||45 ships sunk for a total of 237,596 gross register tons (GRT)
Three ships damaged for a total of 28,158 GRT
German submarine U-103 was a Type IXB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated during World War II. She was one of the most successful boats in the entire war, sinking over 237,000 tons of Allied shipping in 11 patrols, in a career lasting more than four years.
U-103 was laid down on 6 September 1939 at AG Weser in Bremen as 'werk' 966. She was launched on 12 April 1940 and commissioned on 5 July under the command of Korvettenkapitän Victor Schütze. After her warm-up, (designed to give her an opportunity to train and repair minor faults), she was deployed into the Atlantic Ocean in September, 1940 and saw overwhelming success, sinking 45 ships and damaging three other vessels.
The boat entered the Atlantic via the 'gap' between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. Her first victory was sinking the Nina Borthen in mid-ocean on 6 October. After being hit by a torpedo, the ship developed a list, which the crew corrected. The ship was hit by two more projectiles, which also caused a list. Another torpedo hit broke the vessel in two and she sank. There were no survivors.
A steady stream of victories followed; the Zanes Gounaris on 9 October, the Graigwen (damaged) also on the 9th, as was the Delphin, although she did not sink until the next day. The Nora went down on 13 October; the Thistlegarth was the last victim - sinking 45 nmi (83 km; 52 mi) west northwest of Rockall on 15 October.
U-103 docked at her new base - Lorient on the French Atlantic coast, on 19 October.
She then added to her score: the Daydawn on the 21st, the Victoria on the same day; the Glenmoor on the 27th, the Mount Athos on the 28th and the St. Elwyn, also on the 28th. There was a slight pause before the attacks continued: the Calabria on 8 December and the Empire Jaguar the next day.
The submarine returned to Lorient on 19 December.
The list of sunk and damaged ships grew. The Arthur F. Corwin was damaged by U-103 13 February 1941 and sunk by U-96 later that same day. U-96 went on to sink Edwy R. Brown (17 October), the Seaforth (18th) and the Benjamin Franklin (19th).
A change of operational area saw U-103 conduct her fourth sortie off the coast of West Africa. This patrol was also notable, because at 103 days, it was her longest. She sank the Polyana 41 nmi (76 km; 47 mi) southwest of the Cape Verde Islands on 24 April 1941. The ship went down in one minute, there were no survivors.
The tally increased: the Samsø, the Wray Castle, the Surat and the Dunkwa were all sent to the bottom in the first week of May. When the Dunkwa met her end, it was noticed that there were 39 survivors in one lifeboat; the U-boat-men righted another and provided water.
U-103 sank another eight ships in the vicinity of the 'dark continent' before returning to Lorient on 12 July.
Patrol number five was relatively modest in terms of ships sunk. 'Only' two vessels went under; (the Niceto de Larrinaga and the Edward Blyden), west of the Canary Islands on 22 September 1941.
The boat's sixth patrol centred around the eastern US coast. She sank the W. L. Stead about 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) off the Delaware river on 2 February 1942. The torpedo hit set the ship on fire but wave action soon extinguished it. Using her deck gun, U-103 fired 83 rounds, scoring 17 hits and reigniting the fire. She fired a further two torpedoes, the second missed, but the third caused the tanker's cargo to explode, sending flames 500 ft (150 m) into the air.
U-103 also sank the San Gil on 4 February, the India Arrow on the 5th and the China Arrow on the same date.
Her seventh patrol began with her departure from Lorient on 15 April 1942. She sank the Stanbank northeast of Bermuda on 5 May. Moving into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, she caused more mayhem amongst the unprotected merchant ships in May. In all, she destroyed nine vessels on this voyage.
U-103 returned to Lorient on 22 June.
Two more ships went to watery graves - the Tasmania north of Madeira on 31 October 1942 and the Henry Stanley in mid-Atlantic northwest of the Azores on 6 December. The Henry Stanley's master was taken prisoner and was eventually sent to the POW camp for mechant seamen at Milag Nord.
U-103 also damaged the Horata north of the Azores on 13 December.
9th and 10th patrols
The boat experienced something that was relatively novel on her ninth sally - she sank no ships. Despite scouring the Atlantic off Spain as far west as the Azores and as far south as Morocco, she came across no convoys. Having departed Lorient on 7 February 1943, she returned there on 26 March.
U-103 was attacked by a Leigh Light equipped Vickers Wellington of No. 172 Squadron RAF on 27 April, during her tenth patrol. The aircraft had found the U-boat with its radar; six depth charges were dropped, but no damage inflicted. The boat was also attacked by a Whitley bomber of No. 10 OTU (Operational Training Unit) on 22 May. A hit from the boat's AA fire prevented the aircraft from dropping its depth charges. Plane and submarine both returned safely to their bases.
U-103's last operational patrol was officially divided into two parts; the first of which saw her arrive in Brest in France only two days after her departure from 'Lorient. She then returned to the west African coast but could not repeat her earlier success. She sailed to Bergen in Norway via a reverse in the course of her first patrol and arrived at the Nordic port on 1 January 1944.
The boat moved from Bergen on 3 January 1944 and arrived in Kiel on the 7th. In March U-103 was taken out of service and used as a Schulboot (training boat). She went from Gotenhafen to Hamburg in January 1945 and in April from Hamburg back to Kiel. On 15 April 1945 she was sunk by Canadian bombers; one man died and there were an unknown number of survivors.
Summary of raiding history
|6 October 1940||Nina Borthen||Norway||6,123||Sunk|
|9 October 1940||Delphin||Greece||3,816||Sunk|
|9 October 1940||Graigwen||UK||3,697||Damaged|
|9 October 1940||Zannes Gounaris||Greece||4,407||Sunk|
|13 October 1940||Nora||Estonia||1,186||Sunk|
|15 October 1940||Thislegarth||UK||4,747||Sunk|
|21 November 1940||Daydawn||UK||4,768||Sunk|
|21 November 1940||Victoria||Greece||6,085||Sunk|
|27 November 1940||Glenmoor||UK||4,393||Sunk|
|28 November 1940||Mount Athos||Greece||3,578||Sunk|
|28 November 1940||St. Elwyn||UK||4,940||Sunk|
|8 December 1940||Calabria||UK||5,186||Sunk|
|13 February 1941||Arthur F. Corwin||UK||10,516||Damaged|
|17 February 1941||Edwy R. Brown||UK||10,455||Sunk|
|18 February 1941||Seaforth||UK||5,459||Sunk|
|19 February 1941||Benjamin Franklin||Norway||7,034||Sunk|
|25 April 1941||Polyana||Norway||2,267||Sunk|
|1 May 1941||Samsø||UK||1,494||Sunk|
|3 May 1941||Wray Castle||UK||4,253||Sunk|
|6 May 1941||Dunkwa||UK||4,752||Sunk|
|9 May 1941||City of Winchester||UK||7,120||Sunk|
|6 May 1941||Surat||UK||5,529||Sunk|
|11 May 1941||City of Shanghai||UK||5,828||Sunk|
|22 May 1941||British Grenadier||UK||6,857||Sunk|
|25 May 1941||Radames||Egypt||3,575||Sunk|
|25 May 1941||Wangi Wangi||Netherlands||7,789||Sunk|
|8 June 1941||Elmdene||UK||4,853||Sunk|
|29 June 1941||Erani||Italy||6,619||Sunk|
|22 September 1941||Edward Blyden||UK||5,003||Sunk|
|22 September 1941||Niceto de Larringa||UK||5,591||Sunk|
|2 February 1942||W. L. Steed||USA||6,182||Sunk|
|4 February 1942||San Gil||USA||3,627||Sunk|
|5 February 1942||China Arrow||USA||8,403||Sunk|
|5 February 1942||India Arrow||USA||8,327||Sunk|
|5 February 1942||Stanbank||USA||5,966||Sunk|
|17 May 1942||Ruth Lykes||USA||2,612||Sunk|
|19 May 1942||Ogontz||USA||5,037||Sunk|
|21 May 1942||Clare||USA||3,372||Sunk|
|21 May 1942||Elizabeth||USA||4,727||Sunk|
|23 May 1942||Samuel Q. Brown||USA||6,625||Sunk|
|24 May 1942||Hector||Netherlands||1,828||Sunk|
|26 May 1942||Alcoa Carrier||USA||5,588||Sunk|
|28 May 1942||New Jersey||USA||6,414||Sunk|
|31 October 1942||Tasmania||UK||6,405||Sunk|
|6 December 1942||Henry Stanley||UK||5,025||Sunk|
|13 October 1942||Horata||UK||3,945||Damaged|
- uboat.net webpage for U-103
- ubootwaffe.net webpage for U-103
- uboataces.com webpage with insignia for U-103