German submarine U-125 (1940)

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For other ships of the same name, see German submarine U-125.
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-125
Ordered: 7 August 1939
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen
Yard number: 988
Laid down: 10 May 1940
Launched: 10 December 1940
Commissioned: 3 March 1941
Fate: Sunk, 6 May 1943
General characteristics
Type: Type IXC submarine
Displacement: 1,120 t (1,100 long tons) surfaced
1,232 t (1,213 long tons) submerged
Length: 76.8 m (252 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: 9.4 m (30 ft 10 in)
Draft: 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)
Propulsion: 2 × MAN M9V40/46 supercharged 9-cylinder diesel engines, 4,000 hp (2,983 kW)
2 × SSW GU345/34 double-acting electric motors, 1,000 hp (746 kW)
Speed: 18.2 knots (33.7 km/h) surfaced
7.3 knots (13.5 km/h) submerged
Range: 24,880 nmi (46,080 km; 28,630 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
117 nautical miles (217 km; 135 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 48 to 56
Armament: 6 × torpedo tubes (four bow, two stern)
22 × 55 cm (22 in) torpedoes
1 × 10.5 cm SK C/32 naval gun[1] (110 rounds)
Service record
Part of: 2nd U-boat Flotilla
(3 March 1941–6 May 1943)
Commanders: Kptlt. Günter Kuhnke
(3 March–15 December 1941)
Kptlt. Ulrich Folkers
(15 December 1941–6 May 1943)
Operations: 1st patrol:
15–28 July 1941
2nd patrol:
12 August–5 November 1941
3rd patrol:
18 December 1941–23 February 1942
4th patrol:
4 April–13 June 1942
5th patrol:
27 July–6 November 1942
6th patrol:
9 December 1942–19 February 1943
7th patrol:
13 April–6 May 1943
Victories: 17 commercial ships sunk - 82,873 GRT

German submarine U-125 was a Type IXC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. She was laid down at the AG Weser as 'werk' 988 on 10 May 1940, launched on 10 December and commissioned on 3 March 1941. In seven patrols, she sank 17 ships for a total of 82,873 gross register tons (GRT). The boat was a member of three wolfpacks. She was sunk on 6 May 1943. All 54 men on board died.

Service history[edit]

1st and 2nd patrols[edit]

U-125 departed Kiel on 15 July 1941 on her first patrol, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Günter Kuhnke, arriving in the recently captured French Atlantic port of Lorient fourteen days later.[2] Her route took her along the Norwegian coast, through the gap separating the Faroe and Shetland Islands and into the Atlantic Ocean.

Her second patrol took her down the coast of West Africa, then through the Atlantic and back to her homeport without making any attacks. She ranged far and wide, heading for Brazil and back to Africa, toward Sierra Leone and Liberia.[3]

3rd patrol[edit]

U-125 had her first success on her third patrol, under her new commander Kptlt. Ulrich Folkers, sinking the American merchant ship West Ivis off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina on 26 January 1942. The ship broke in two and went down after 14 minutes. The crew of 36 and the nine Armed Guards (the ship was armed with a 4-inch (100mm) gun, four .50 cal. and four .30 cal. machine guns) were lost.[4]

4th patrol[edit]

U-125 sailed on her fourth and most successful patrol from Lorient on 4 April 1942. She made her first attack on the 23rd, sinking the American merchant ship Lammot Du Pont, about 500 nautical miles (930 km; 580 mi) southeast of Bermuda.[5] Between 3–18 May, she sank a further eight merchant ships, in the Caribbean, south of Cuba, returning to her home port on 13 June. One victim, the Calgarolite, was hit by two torpedos but despite settling, did not sink. The boat's AA guns were used to shoot holes in the hull. Following the demise of the Camayagua, a US Navy aircraft unsuccessfully searched for the U-boat; then flew to Georgetown where it dropped a note in the Commissioner's garden with information on the survivors.[6]

5th and 6th patrols[edit]

U-125's next patrol, the fifth, beginning on 27 July 1942, took her to the coast of West Africa, where she sank six merchant ships between 1 September and 8 October, returning to Lorient on 6 November 1942. Following the sinking of the Baron Ogilvy on 29 September, the survivors sighted a small convoy on 1 October and succeeded in attracting their attention with flares. Unfortunately, one of them ignited in the Chief Officer's hand, causing severe burns.
The Glendene went to the bottom 90 seconds after being hit. Despite this rapidity, 38 of the 43-man crew survived the sinking.[7]

U-125 sailed on her sixth patrol on 9 December 1942, out into the central Atlantic, southwest of the Azores, but she made no attacks before returning to Lorient on 19 February 1943.[8]

7th patrol and loss[edit]

U-125 left Lorient for the last time on her seventh patrol on 13 April 1943.[9] She joined the "wolfpack" "Fink" (English: Finch) of 28 U-boats[10] which were attacking the convoy ONS-5 between 26 April and 6 May 1943. This was during a period when the British code-breakers were unable to read German U-boat signals while they could read British convoy signals, and ONS-5 was intercepted by a strong U-boat force during an Atlantic storm. Nevertheless, the boat only sank one ship, on 4 May south of Cape Farewell (Greenland), she was perhaps ironically called the Lorient, a straggler from ONS-5; there were no survivors.[11]

ONS-5 was a 43-ship convoy, nine miles wide by two long, with one destroyer, one frigate, three corvettes and two rescue tugs to defend it. It was attacked by around thirty U-boats, and lost thirteen ships in total, while seven U-boats were sunk by the escorts and supporting aircraft. It was a particularly bloody battle which marked the turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic, showing that while determined mass attack by U-boats could break through convoy defences, this would prove too expensive a tactic to make U-boat warfare a winning strategy for Germany. Admiral Karl Dönitz lost his son in this battle.

Fate[edit]

At 0300 on 6 May 1943 U-125 was located by radar in thick fog, rammed by HMS Oribi and disabled, she was unable to dive. At 0354 the U-boat was sighted by the Flower-class corvettes Snowflake and Sunflower, and as Snowflake manoeveured to attack, closing to 100 yards, the crew of U-125, realising their indefensible position, scuttled the boat. The captain of Snowflake signalled the Senior Officer Escort, Lieutenant Commander Robert Sherwood, proposing to pick them up, and received the response: "Not approved to pick up survivors." Snowflake and Sunflower thereupon resumed their positions around the convoy, while the crew of U-125 died in the Atlantic over the next few hours.[12]

Summary of Raiding History[edit]

Date[13] Name Nationality Tons Fate
26 January 1942 West Ivis  United States 5,666 Sunk
23 April 1942 Lammot Du Pont  United States 5,102 Sunk
3 May 1942 San Rafael  Dominican Republic 1,973 Sunk
4 May 1942 Tuscaloosa City  United States 5,687 Sunk
6 May 1942 Empire Buffalo  United Kingdom 6,404 Sunk
6 May 1942 Green Island  United States 1,946 Sunk
9 May 1942 Calgarolite  Canada 11,941 Sunk
14 May 1942 Comayagua  Honduras 2,493 Sunk
18 May 1942 Mercury Sun  United States 8,893 Sunk
18 May 1942 William J. Salman  United States 2,616 Sunk
1 September 1942 Ilorin  United Kingdom 815 Sunk
23 September 1942 Bruyère  United Kingdom 5,335 Sunk
29 September 1942 Baron Ogilvy  United Kingdom 3,391 Sunk
30 September 1942 Empire Avocet  United Kingdom 6,015 Sunk
30 September 1942 Kumsang  United Kingdom 5,447 Sunk
8 October 1942 Glendene  United Kingdom 4,412 Sunk
4 May 1943 Lorient  United Kingdom 4,737 Sunk

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Coordinates: 52°30′N 45°20′W / 52.500°N 45.333°W / 52.500; -45.333