German submarine U-51 (1938)

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For other ships of the same name, see German submarine U-51.
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-51
Ordered: 21 November 1936[1]
Builder: Germaniawerft AG, Kiel[1]
Cost: 4,439,000 Reichsmark
Yard number: 586[1]
Laid down: 26 February 1936[1]
Launched: 11 June 1938[1]
Commissioned: 6 August 1938[1]
Fate: Sunk in the Bay of Biscay in August 1940 by a British submarine
General characteristics
Class and type: Type VIIB U-boat
Displacement: 753 t (741 long tons) surfaced
857 t (843 long tons) submerged
Length: 66.5 m (218 ft 2 in) o/a
48.8 m (160 ft 1 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.2 m (20 ft 4 in) overall
4.7 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draught: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)
Propulsion: 2 × supercharged MAN 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V diesel engines totalling 2,800–3,200 bhp (2,100–2,400 kW) Max rpm 470-490 surfaced
2 × BBC GG UB 720/8 electric motors totalling 750 shp (560 kW) submerged
Speed: 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph)
8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)
Range: 9,700 nmi (17,964 km; 11,163 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)surfaced
90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph)
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft). Calculated crush depth: 250–295 m (820–968 ft)
Complement: 44 to 48 officers and ratings
Service record
Part of: 7th U-boat Flotilla
(6 August 1938–31 August 1939)
7th U-boat Flotilla
(1 September–31 December 1939)
7th U-boat Flotilla
(1 January–20 August 1940)
Commanders: Kptlt. Ernst-Günther Heinicke
(6 August 1938–August 1939)
Kptlt. Dietrich Knorr
(15 January–20 August 1940)
Operations: Four
1st patrol:
17 January–8 February 1940
2nd patrol:
11 March–22 April 1940
3rd patrol:
6 June–5 July 1940
4th patrol:
9–20 August 1940
Victories: Five ships sunk, total 26,296 gross register tons (GRT);
one auxiliary warship (Q-ship) sunk, 4,724 gross register tons (GRT) 

German submarine U-51 was a Type VIIB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated during World War II.[2] She was ordered in November 1936 and laid down in February 1937 in Kiel. She was launched in August 1939 and commissioned in November.[2]

During her service in the Kriegsmarine, U-51 conducted four war patrols and sank five enemy vessels for a loss of 26,296 gross register tons (GRT) and one auxiliary warship of 4,724 GRT. She was a member of one wolfpack.

She was sunk in August 1940 in the Bay of Biscay by a torpedo from a British submarine.


U-51 was ordered by the Kriegsmarine on 21 November 1936 (as part of Plan Z and in violation of the Treaty of Versailles). She was laid down on 15 September 1938 by Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft AG, in Kiel as yard number 586. U-51 was launched on 11 June 1938 and commissioned on 6 August of that same year under the command of Kapitänleutnant (Kptlt.) Ernst-Günther Heinicke.[2]

On the surface the boat was powered by two supercharged MAN, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesels giving a total of 2,800 to 3,200 bhp (2,400 kW) at 470 to 490 rpm. When submerged, she was powered by two BBC GG 460/8-276 electric motors giving a total of 750 shp (560 kW) at 295 rpm. U-51 had five torpedo tubes (four in the bow, one in the stern). She carried a total of 14 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedoes or 26 TMA mines and had an 8.8 cm SK C/35 deck gun with 110 rounds. She was also equipped with the standard 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun. U-51 had a crew of up to forty-eight men.

After being commissioned and deployed, U-51 was stationed in the German port of Kiel. This city was to be her home for the rest of her brief career.

Operational history[edit]

U-51 had a very short operational life. During her service with the Kriegsmarine, she took part in four combat patrols. She joined the 7th U-boat Flotilla on 6 August 1938. She was to remain a part of this flotilla until her loss.

1st patrol[edit]

The first of U-51‍ '​s four patrols began on 17 January 1940 when she left Kiel and crossed the North Sea. She negotiated the 'gap' between the Orkney and Shetland Islands and claimed her first success 45 nautical miles (83 km; 52 mi) west of Rockall when she sank the Gothia on 22 January. Moving south down the west coast of Ireland, she encountered the Eika west of the Scilly Isles on the 29th and sent her to the bottom. After sailing between the Scottish islands once more, but in the opposite direction, the boat docked at Wilhelmshaven on 8 February after 23 days at sea.[2]

2nd patrol[edit]

The main incident of note on the submarine's second sortie was when the French submarine Orphée launched two torpedoes at her in the North Sea on 21 April 1940. They missed. The rest of the patrol was carried out parallel to the Norwegian coast.

3rd patrol[edit]

For her third foray, the boat entered the Atlantic after passing between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. Having left Kiel on 6 June 1940, she sank the Saranc on the 26th about 270 nautical miles (500 km; 310 mi) west southwest of Lands End. U-51 went on to sink the Q-ship HMS Edgehill on the 29th. This ship, used as a decoy, was formidably armed with nine 4-inch guns and four torpedo tubes. Her ballast was given extra buoyancy which meant three 'eels' (U-boat slang for torpedoes), were needed to dispose of the vessel, which still took over an hour to sink.

4th patrol[edit]

The boat departed Kiel on 9 August 1940. She sank the Sylviafield about 190 nautical miles (350 km; 220 mi) west northwest of Rockall. There were 36 survivors, of which 20 were picked up by the Belgian trawler Rubens and landed at Fleetwood on the English west coast. The remainder were recovered by another trawler which was under British Admiralty control and named HMS Newland. Her human cargo was discharged at Tobermory, Isle of Mull.


U-51 was sunk by a torpedo from the British submarine HMS Cachalot in the Bay of Biscay on 28 August 1940. Forty-three men died; there were no survivors.


U-51 took part in one wolfpack, namely,

  • Prien (12–17 June 1940)

Summary of raiding career[edit]

During her service, U-51 sank five commercial ships for a loss of 26,296 GRT and one auxiliary warship of 4,724 GRT.

Date[3] Ship[3] Nationality[3] Tonnage[3] Fate[3]
22 January 1940 Gothia  Sweden 1,654 Sunk
29 January 1940 Eika  Norway 1,503 Sunk
25 June 1940 Saranac  United Kingdom 12,049 Sunk
25 June 1940 Windsorwood  United Kingdom 5,395 Sunk
29 June 1940 HMS Edgehill  Royal Navy 4,724 Sunk
15 August 1940 Sylviafield  United Kingdom 5,709 Sunk

In fiction[edit]

The fourth U-boat in the film The Navy Comes Through has the number U-51.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "U-81 Type VIIB". Retrieved 5 November 2012. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-51 (First patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-51". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 5 November 2012. 


  • 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. 

External links[edit]

  • Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIB boat U-51". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  • Hofmann, Markus. "U 51". Deutsche U-Boote 1935-1945 - (in German). Retrieved 1 February 2015.