SM U-55

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For other ships of the same name, see German submarine U-55.
Japanese submarine Maru-3 in 1919.jpg
SM U-55 in Yokosuka
Career (German Empire)
Name: U 55
Ordered: 23 August 1914
Builder: Germaniawerft, Kiel
Laid down: 28 December 1914
Launched: 18 March 1916
Commissioned: 8 June 1916
Renamed: O3 in 1920
Auxiliary Vessel No. 2538 in 1923
Fate: Surrendered to Japan on 26 November 1918
Served with them as O3 between 1920 and 1921
Dismantled by June 1921
Briefly recommissioned in 1923 as Auxiliary Vessel No. 2538
General characteristics
Class & type: German Type U 51 submarine
Displacement: 715 tons surfaced
902 tons submerged
Length: Overall 62.2 m (204 ft 1 in)
pressure hull 52.51 m (172 ft 3 in)
Beam: Overall 6.44 m (21 ft 2 in)
pressure hull 4.05 m (13 ft 3 in)
Draught: 3.64 m (11 ft 11 in)
Propulsion: 2400 hp surfaced
1200 hp submerged
Speed: 17.1 knots (31.7 km/h; 19.7 mph) surfaced
9.1 knots (16.9 km/h; 10.5 mph) submerged
Range: 9,400 nmi (17,400 km; 10,800 mi) at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) surfaced
55 nmi (102 km; 63 mi) at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) submerged
Test depth: 50 m (164 ft)
Complement: 36
Armament: 6 torpedoes (2/2 in bow/stern tubes)
88mm deck gun with 276 rounds
Service record
Part of: Imperial German Navy
II Flotilla
29 Jul 1916 – 11 Nov 1918
Commanders: Kptlt Wilhelm Werner[1]
9 Jun 1916 - 9 Aug 1918

Kptlt Alexander Weiß[2]
10 Aug 1918 - 14 Sep 1918

Oblt Hans Friedrich[3]
15 Sep 1918 - 11 Nov 1918
Operations: 14 patrols
Victories: 64 merchant ships sunk (133,742 GRT)
7 merchant ships damaged (26,161 GRT)
2 merchant ships taken as prizes (4,616 GRT)[4]

SM U-55 was one of the six Type U 51 U-boats of the Imperial German Navy during the First World War, .

Construction and commissioning[edit]

U 55 was ordered from Germaniawerft, Kiel on 23 August 1914, was laid down on 28 December 1914 and launched on 18 March 1916. She was commissioned under her first commander Wilhelm Werner on 8 June 1916.

Service with the Kaiserliche Marine[edit]

Werner commanded her for most of her wartime career, during which she undertook 14 patrols with II Flotilla, sinking 64 ships for a total of 130,387 GRT. She also damaged another five for a total of 25,568 GRT, and took another two as prizes for a total of 4,616 GRT. Her most famous act was the sinking of the British passenger liner RMS Carpathia with three torpedoes, on 17 July 1918, off the east coast of Ireland. The Carpathia herself had become famous for her actions in coming to the rescue of the sinking RMS Titanic in 1912. The U-55 also sank the hospital ship HMHS Rewa on 4 January 1918.

Werner was replaced by Alexander Weiss on 10 August 1918, Weiss being succeeded by Hans Friedrich on 15 September and commanding U 55 until the armistice on 11 November.

With the Japanese[edit]

U 55 was surrendered to Japan on 26 November 1918. She entered service with the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1920 as O3, serving as such until 1921. She was dismantled at the Sasebo Navy Yard between March and June 1921, briefly recommissioning in 1923 as Auxiliary Vessel No. 2538.

Summary of Raiding Career[edit]

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
(GRT)
Fate[5]
28 September 1916 Orsino  United Kingdom 172 Sunk
30 September 1916 Atle  Sweden 1,725 Captured as a prize
30 September 1916 Talavera  Sweden 1,741 Captured as a prize
24 October 1916 Clearfield  United Kingdom 4,229 Sunk
28 October 1916 Marina  United Kingdom 5,204 Sunk
22 January 1917 Ethel  United Kingdom 23 Sunk
23 January 1917 Eden  Russian Empire 142 Sunk
23 January 1917 Salland  Netherlands 3,657 Sunk
27 January 1917 Artist  United Kingdom 3,570 Sunk
30 January 1917 Euonymus  United Kingdom 60 Sunk
30 January 1917 Helena And Samuel  United Kingdom 59 Sunk
30 January 1917 Marcelle  Belgium 219 Sunk
30 January 1917 Merit  United Kingdom 39 Sunk
30 January 1917 Trevone  United Kingdom 46 Sunk
30 January 1917 W.A.H.  United Kingdom 47 Sunk
30 January 1917 Wetherill  United Kingdom 46 Sunk
31 January 1917 Dundee  Canada 2,290 Sunk
31 January 1917 Saint Leon  France 230 Sunk
31 January 1917 Yvonne  France 87 Sunk
1 February 1917 Ada  United Kingdom 24 Sunk
1 February 1917 Essonite  United Kingdom 589 Sunk
1 February 1917 Inverlyon  United Kingdom 59 Sunk
2 February 1917 Pomoschnick  Russian Empire 167 Sunk
6 February 1917 Saxon Briton  United Kingdom 1,337 Sunk
7 February 1917 Yola  United Kingdom 3,504 Sunk
4 April 1917 H. B. Linnemann  Denmark 444 Damaged
5 April 1917 Vilja  Norway 1,049 Sunk
6 April 1917 Vine Branch  United Kingdom 3,442 Sunk
8 April 1917 Petridge  United Kingdom 1,712 Sunk
8 April 1917 Torrington  United Kingdom 5,597 Sunk
8 April 1917 Umvoti  United Kingdom 2,616 Sunk
12 April 1917 Toro  United Kingdom 3,066 Sunk
15 April 1917 Astræa  Denmark 260 Sunk
17 April 1917 Cairnhill  United Kingdom 4,981 Sunk
8 June 1917 Russian Prince  United Kingdom 4,158 Damaged
9 June 1917 Achilles  United Kingdom 641 Sunk
11 June 1917 Ausonia  United Kingdom 8,153 Damaged
12 June 1917 Coronado  United Kingdom 6,539 Damaged
23 June 1917 Sophie  Denmark 89 Sunk
23 June 1917 Star  Denmark 120 Sunk
31 July 1917 Belgian Prince  United Kingdom 4,765 Sunk
6 August 1917 Eugenia  Kingdom of Italy 4,835 Sunk
9 August 1917 Oakfield  United Kingdom 3,618 Damaged
12 August 1917 Falkland  Norway 4,877 Sunk
17 August 1917 Edina  United Kingdom 455 Sunk
18 August 1917 Benjamin Stevenson  United Kingdom 255 Sunk
4 January 1918 HMHS Rewa  Royal Navy 7,305 Sunk
5 January 1918 War Baron  United Kingdom 6,240 Sunk
9 January 1918 Ula  Norway 839 Sunk
16 January 1918 Genevieve  France 1,598 Sunk
20 January 1918 Hirondelle  France 28 Sunk
21 January 1918 Maria Caterina  Netherlands 71 Sunk
26 February 1918 Eumaeus  United Kingdom 6,696 Sunk
26 February 1918 Mouche  France 65 Sunk
1 March 1918 Borga  United Kingdom 1,046 Sunk
7 March 1918 Brise  France 160 Sunk
7 March 1918 Saint Georges  France 102 Sunk
7 March 1918 Saint Joseph  France 434 Sunk
8 March 1918 Madeline  United Kingdom 2,890 Sunk
10 March 1918 Cristina  Spain 2,083 Sunk
15 May 1918 War Grange  United Kingdom 3,100 Damaged
16 May 1918 Tagona  Canada 2,004 Sunk
17 May 1918 Motricine  France 4,047 Sunk
18 May 1918 Denbigh Hall  United Kingdom 4,943 Sunk
18 May 1918 Scholar  United Kingdom 1,635 Sunk
16 July 1918 Miefield  Norway 1,368 Sunk
17 July 1918 Carpathia  United Kingdom 13,603 Sunk
23 July 1918 Anna Sofie  United Kingdom 2,577 Sunk
31 July 1918 Zwaantje Cornelia  Netherlands 149 Damaged
1 October 1918 Montfort  United Kingdom 6,578 Sunk
2 October 1918 Keltier  Belgium 2,360 Sunk
4 October 1918 Uranus  Russian Empire 350 Sunk
10 October 1918 Andre  France 160 Sunk

Original documents from Room 40[edit]

The following is a verbatim transcription of the recorded activities of SM U-55 known to British Naval Intelligence, Room 40 O.B.:[6]


"SM U-55.

Kaptlt. Wilhelm Werner. Was completed at Kiel about the beginning of June 1916, did trials at the Kiel School until about 28th July 1916 and then entered the North Sea, joining the 2nd Half Flotilla.

  • 30th July - 4th August 1916. ? Trial cruises in North Sea.
  • 19th August - 21st August 1916. Bight patrol.
  • 20th September - 1st October 1916. To west of Orkney Islands. Sank 1 armed trawler. Took 2 prizes.
  • 14th October - 9th November 1916. Northabout to S.W. of Ireland. Sank ? 3 S.S.
  • 20th January - 11th February 1917. Atlantic via Channel. Claims 7 S.S., 13 sailing vessels (23,000 tons).
  • 4th March - 9th March 1917. To the west through the Channel. Returned damaged through touching ground in fog.
  • 30th March - ? 23rd April 1917. To S.W. of Ireland and Channel approaches, uncertain whether northabout or through the Channel. Back northabout. Claims sinkings 7 S.S., 2 sailing vessels (24,300 tons.) Prisoners, 5 English captains, 3 gunners. Booty, 1 gun. Amongst ships sunk was S.S. TORRINGTON (8th April). Crew was taken on board submarine. Master sent below. Submarine then dived leaving crew to drown.
  • 31st May - 26th June 1917. To S.W. of Ireland, northabout both ways. Sank 3 S.S., 1 sailing vessel.
  • 26th July - 21st August 1917. To S.W. of Ireland, possibly passing S.W. of Faroes on the way home. Claims 5 S.S. (19,200 tons).
  • 26th September - 23rd October 1917. Apparently patrolling S. of Faroes. At Klaksvig (Faroes) October 17th/18th. Returned by Sound.
  • 29th December 1917 - 23rd January 1918. To south of Ireland, Channel both ways. Possibly attacked by H.M. submarine E51 in 54°47'N., 6°18'E. Sank British hospital ship REWA by torpedo in 50°48'N., 4°48'W. Claims 5 S.S., 2 sailing vessels (18,000 tons).
  • 18th February - 17th March 1918. Through Channel to western approaches. Back northabout. Hit by torpedo, which did not explode hospital ship GUILDFORD CASTLE. Was chased and fired at by H.M. submarine K7 on March 15th. Returned with machinery out of order. Claims 8 ships (14,000 tons).
  • 8th May - 30th May 1918. To Channel approaches. Route - Bight, Fair Island both ways, Sound. She may have been depth-charged on 18th, 20th, 21st May, and attacked by H.M. submarine E38 on 25th May in 57°52'N., 8°13'W. Sank 5 S.S. (25,000 tons). ? 8th July - ? 2nd August 1918. Northabout to S.W. of Ireland. Back northabout and Little Belt. Sank S.S. CARPATHIA, 1 S.S., 1 sailing vessel.
  • 1st September - 19th October 1918. Atlantic, northabout both ways. Possibly sank 3 S.S., 2 sailing vessels. (Claims 2 S.S., 2 sailing vessels plus 8,900 tons). Attacked by U.S.S. SAVAGE on October 1st in 48°5'N., 10°5'W. Returned owing to damage to deck.
  • 27th November 1918. Surrendered at Harwich."

Note: S.S. = Steam Ship; S.V. = Sailing Vessel; northabout, Muckle Flugga, Fair I. = around Scotland; Sound, Belts, Kattegat = via North of Denmark to/from German Baltic ports; Bight = to/from German North Sea ports; success = sinking of ships

Koerver, Hans Joachim (2009). Room 40: German Naval Warfare 1914-1918. Vol II., The Fleet in Being. Steinbach: LIS Reinisch. ISBN 978-3-902433-77-0. 

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Wilhelm Werner (Pour le Mérite)". Uboat.net. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "Alexander Weiß". Uboat.net. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "Hans Friedrich". Uboat.net. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "SM U-55". Uboat.net. 
  5. ^ "SM U-55 successes". UBoat.net. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  6. ^ National Archives, Kew: HW 7/3, Room 40, History of German Naval Warfare 1914-1918 (Published below - Room 40: German Naval Warfare 1914-1918)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Spindler, Arno (1932,1933,1934,1941/1964,1966). Der Handelskrieg mit U-Booten. 5 Vols. Berlin: Mittler & Sohn. Vols. 4+5, dealing with 1917+18, are very hard to find: Guildhall Library, London, has them all, also Vol. 1-3 in an English translation: The submarine war against commerce.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  • Beesly, Patrick (1982). Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918. London: H Hamilton. ISBN 978-0-241-10864-2. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-85728-498-0. 
  • Roessler, Eberhard (1997). Die Unterseeboote der Kaiserlichen Marine. Bonn: Bernard & Graefe. ISBN 978-3-7637-5963-7. 
  • Schroeder, Joachim (2002). Die U-Boote des Kaisers. Bonn: Bernard & Graefe. ISBN 978-3-7637-6235-4. 
  • Koerver, Hans Joachim (2008). Room 40: German Naval Warfare 1914-1918. Vol I., The Fleet in Action. Steinbach: LIS Reinisch. ISBN 978-3-902433-76-3. 
  • Koerver, Hans Joachim (2009). Room 40: German Naval Warfare 1914-1918. Vol II., The Fleet in Being. Steinbach: LIS Reinisch. ISBN 978-3-902433-77-0. 

External links[edit]