German submarine U-110 (1940)

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U-110 and HMS Bulldog
U-110 and HMS Bulldog
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-110
Ordered: 24 May 1938
Builder: DeSchiMAG AG Weser, Bremen
Yard number: 973
Laid down: 1 February 1940
Launched: 25 August 1940
Commissioned: 21 November 1940
Homeport: Lorient, France
Fate: Captured, 9 May 1941, sunk the following day
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: German Type IXB submarine
Displacement: 1,051 t (1,034 long tons) surfaced
1,178 t (1,159 long tons) submerged
Length: 76.5 m (251 ft) o/a
58.75 m (192 ft 9 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in) overall
4.4 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draught: 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)
Propulsion: Diesel/Electric, 2 × MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged 9 cylinder diesel engines, 4,400 hp (3,300kW), 2 × SSW 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors, 1000 hp (740kW)
Speed: 18.2 kn (33.7 km/h; 20.9 mph) surfaced
7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph) submerged
Range: 12,000 nmi (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
64 nmi (119 km; 74 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 48 to 56 officers and ratings
Service record
Part of: Kriegsmarine:
2nd U-boat Flotilla
Commanders: Kptlt. Fritz-Julius Lemp
(21 November 1940–9 May 1941)
Operations: Two
1st patrol:
9–29 March 1941
2nd patrol:
15 April–9 May 1941
Victories: Three ships sunk for a total of 10,149 gross register tons (GRT)
Two ships damaged for a total of 8,675 GRT

German submarine U-110 was a Type IXB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated during World War II. She was captured by the Royal Navy on 9 May 1941 and provided a number of secret cipher documents to the British. U-110‍ '​s capture, later given the code name "Operation Primrose", was one of the biggest secrets of the war, remaining so for seven months. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was only told of the capture by Winston Churchill in January 1942.

Service history[edit]

U-110‍ '​s keel was laid down 1 February 1940 by DeSchiMAG AG Weser, of Bremen, Germany as yard number 973. She was launched on 25 August 1940 and commissioned on 21 November with Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp in command.

The boat was part of the 2nd U-boat Flotilla from her commissioning date until her loss. Lemp commanded U-110 for her entire career. In an earlier boat (U-30), he was responsible for the sinking of the passenger liner SS Athenia on the first day of the war. The circumstances were such that he was considered for court-martial. He continued, however, to be one of the most successful and rebellious commanders of his day.[2]

Operational career[edit]

1st patrol[edit]

U-110 set out on her first patrol from Kiel on 9 March 1941. Her route to the Atlantic Ocean took her through the gap between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. Her first victim was Erdona which she damaged south of Iceland on 16 March. She also damaged Siremalm on the 23rd. This ship only escaped after she was hit by a torpedo which failed to detonate, (although it left a large dent) and the U-boat's 105mm deck gun crew forgot to remove the tampion or plug in the muzzle before engaging their target. The resulting explosion on firing the first round wounded three men and compelled the boat to fire on the merchantman with the smaller 37 and 20 mm armament. Despite being hit, Siremalm successfully fled the scene, zig-zagging as she went.

U-110 arrived in Lorient on the French Atlantic coast on 29 March, having cut the patrol short due to damage from the exploding gun.

2nd patrol and capture[edit]

The boat departed Lorient on 15 April 1941. On the 27th she sank Henri Mory about 330 nautical miles (610 km; 380 mi) west northwest of Blasket Islands, Ireland.

Her next quarry were the ships of convoy OB 318 east of Cape Farewell (Greenland). She successfully attacked and sank Esmond and Bengore Head, but the escort vessels responded. The British corvette, HMS Aubretia, located the U-boat with ASDIC (sonar). HMS Aubretia and British destroyer Broadway then proceeded to drop depth charges, forcing U-110 to surface.[3]

Operation Primrose[edit]

U-110 survived the attack, but was seriously damaged. HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway remained in contact after HMS Aubretia's last attack. HMS Broadway shaped course to ram, but fired two depth charges beneath the U-boat instead, in an endeavour to make the crew abandon ship before scuttling her.[4] Lemp announced "Last stop, everybody out", meaning "Abandon ship". As the crew turned out onto the U-boat's deck they came under fire from two attacking destroyers Bulldog and Broadway with casualties from gunfire and drowning. The British had believed that the German deck gun was to be used and ceased fire when they realised that the U-boat was being abandoned and the crew wanted to surrender.

Lemp realised that U-110 was not sinking and attempted to swim back to it to destroy the secret material, but was never seen again. A German eyewitness testified that he was shot in the water by a British sailor, but his fate is not confirmed. Including Lemp, 15 men were killed in the action, 32 were captured.

Bulldog‍ '​s boarding party, led by sub-lieutenant David Balme,[5] got onto U-110 and stripped it of everything portable, including her Kurzsignale code book and Enigma machine. William Stewart Pollock, a former radio operator in the Royal Navy and on loan to Bulldog, was on the second boat to board U-110. He retrieved the Enigma machine and books as they looked out of place in the radio room. U-110 was taken in tow back toward Britain, but sank en route to Scapa Flow.

The documents captured from U-110 helped Bletchley Park codebreakers solve Reservehandverfahren, a reserve German hand cipher.

Modern-day connections[edit]

The 2000 film U-571 was partially inspired by the capture of U-110.

In 2007, the submarine's chronometer was featured on the BBC programme Antiques Roadshow, from Alnwick Castle, in the possession of the grandson of the captain of the ship which captured her.


U-110 took part in one wolfpack, namely.

Summary of raiding career[edit]

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate[6]
16 March 1941 Erodana  United Kingdom 6,207 Damaged
23 March 1941 Siremalm  Norway 2,468 Damaged
27 April 1941 Henri Mory  United Kingdom 2,564 Sunk
9 May 1941 Bengore Head  United Kingdom 2,609 Sunk
9 May 1941 Esmond  United Kingdom 4,976 Sunk

See also[edit]

Other captured U-boats[edit]


  1. ^ Gröner 1985, pp. 105-7.
  2. ^ Sebag-Montefiore, Hugh (2011). "13 - Operation Primrose". Enigma: The Battle For The Code. Hachette UK. ISBN 9781780221236. 
  3. ^ "U-boat Archive - U-110 - Greenock Report - Attacks on U-110". Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "U-boat Archive - U-110 - Greenock Report - Attacks on U-110". Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "Capturing the real U-571, BBC". Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  6. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IXB boat U-110". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 12 August 2013. 


  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German) IV (Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler). ISBN 3-8132-0514-2. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1985). U-Boote, Hilfskreuzer, Minenschiffe, Netzleger, Sperrbrecher. Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815-1945 (in German) III (Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe). ISBN 3-7637-4802-4. 
  • Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, Enigma: The Battle for the Code, 2000, ISBN 0-7538-1130-8.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 60°22′N 33°12′W / 60.367°N 33.200°W / 60.367; -33.200