German submarine U-415

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Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-415
Builder: Danziger Werft AG, Danzig[1]
Laid down: 12 July 1941[1]
Commissioned: 5 August 1942[1][2]
Fate: Sunk by a mine[3][4]
General characteristics
Type: Type VIIC submarine
Displacement: 769 tonnes (757 long tons) surfaced
871 t (857 long tons) submerged
Length: 67.1 m (220 ft 2 in) o/a
50.5 m (165 ft 8 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.2 m (20 ft 4 in) o/a
4.7 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draft: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)
Propulsion: 2 × supercharged Germaniawerft 6-cylinder 4-stroke F46 diesel engines, totalling 2,800–3,200 bhp (2,100–2,400 kW). Max rpm: 470-490
2 × electric motors, totalling 750 shp (560 kW) and max rpm: 296
Speed: 17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph) surfaced
7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph) submerged
Range: 15,170 km (8,190 nmi) at 10 kn (19 km/h) surfaced
150 km (81 nmi) at 4 kn (7.4 km/h) submerged
Endurance: 9,000 nm (9.0×10−9 km)[5]
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Crush depth: 250–295 m (820–968 ft)
Complement: 44–52 officers and ratings
Armament: 5 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four bow, one stern)
14 × torpedoes or 26 TMA mines
1 × 8.8 cm SK C/35 naval gun (220 rounds)
Various AA guns
Service record[6]
Part of: 8th U-boat Flotilla
(5 August 1942–28 February 1943)
1st U-boat Flotilla
(1 March 1943–14 July 1944)
Commanders: Kptlt. Kurt Neide
(5 August 1942–16 April 1944)
Operations: 1st patrol:
7 March–5 May 1943
2nd patrol:
12 June–8 September 1943
3rd patrol:
27 October–2 November 1943
4th patrol:
21 November 1943–6 January 1944
5th patrol:
2–31 March 1944
6th patrol;
6–8 June 1944
7th patrol:
11–13 July 1944
Victories: One ship sunk, 4,917 GRT; one warship sunk, of 1,340 tons; one ship damaged, 5,846 GRT

German submarine U-415 was a Type VIIC U-boat built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine for service during World War II. She was laid down on 12 July 1941 at the Danziger Werft in Danzig (now Gdansk), as 'werk' 116. She was launched on 9 May 1942 and commissioned on 5 August. She completed seven patrols before being sunk by a mine on 14 July 1944.

Her first Commanding Officer was Kapitänleutnant Kurt Neide. He took her on five patrols between March 1943 and March 1944. Her second and last CO was Oberleutnant zur See Herbert Werner, who completed two patrols in her between April and July 1944.

Beginning[edit]

These patrols were preceded by a trip to Bergen in Norway in February and March, 1943.

First, second and third patrols[edit]

Her first patrol saw her leave Bergen on 7 March 1943 and took her to an area south of Greenland where she torpedoed, but did not sink, the British ship Wanstead on 21 April. The ship was sailing in ballast, (the coup de grace was administered by U-413). U-415 then sailed for Brest in France, but was attacked west of the Bay of Biscay on 1 May; first by a Handley Page Halifax of No. 502 Squadron RAF and later that the same day by a Whitley from 612 squadron, also RAF. She was damaged, but managed to reach her destination on 5 May.

Her second sortie began in the company of U-159 and U-634. The small flotilla was detected by a RAF Whitley on 14 June 1943 off the northwest coast of Spain, but the aircraft only attacked when the trio dived. No damage was sustained. The boat was also attacked by a corvette off the coast of Trinidad on 24 July, while hunting a convoy[7]

Her third patrol, beginning on 27 October 1943, was marred by the attack of a Vickers Wellington equipped with a Leigh Light off Cape Ortegal in the Bay of Biscay on 30 October. The aircraft dropped four depth charges which caused enough damage to ensure that the submarine was compelled to return to base. The Wellington was shot down during the action, all six crew members were killed.

Fourth and fifth patrols[edit]

Her fourth operational effort was rewarded by the sinking of the "H"-class destroyer HMS Hurricane. U-415 encountered the warship on Christmas Eve (24 December) 1943 northeast of the Azores. Hurricane was crippled by a GNAT acoustic torpedo and had to be finished off the following day. On her return journey U-415 was attacked by a Halifax of 58 squadron, on 5 January 1944. The aircraft dropped six depth charges on the U-boat which returned fire before diving. The submarine reached her home port the following day.

U-415's fifth patrol came to a sudden halt in mid-Atlantic when she was attacked on 16 March 1944 by aircraft and ships escorting convoy CU 17. The boat was severely damaged and returned to Brest on 31 March.

Sixth and seventh patrols[edit]

U-415's sixth patrol was even shorter. By now under the command of Oberleutnant Herbert Werner, the boat moved into the relatively shallow water of the Western Approaches as (according to Werner's flotilla commander): "we have temporarily suspended our long patrols into the Atlantic in favor of shorter operations into areas where the convoy routes converge".[8] She had left Brest on 11 April 1944 and endured a series of aerial assaults; the non - schnorkel equipped boat establishing a grim routine of diving and surfacing (to charge batteries) until the third day of her patrol when she began stalking a convoy. Having manœuvred into position, she fired a total of five torpedoes and scored three hits. The response was swift; over the next 37 hours a succession of some 300 depth charges were dropped, all to no avail. An hour after the last escort withdrew, U-415 surfaced. Not long afterwards, she dived again, to the relatively shallow depth of 25 m (82 ft) where among the mass of radio messages she received was one ordering her to return to base.[9]

U-415's next outing was not really a patrol at all. Werner had been recalled to help counter the long expected Allied invasion of France.The boat had been put in dry dock for an overhaul while the skipper tried to arrange the fitting of a schnorkel (he was unsuccessful).[10] U-415 received two messages from BdU (U-boat headquarters); the first, which instructed all boats to:

ATTACK AND SINK [the] INVASION FLEET WITH THE FINAL OBJECTIVE OF DESTROYING ENEMY SHIPS BY RAMMING.[11]

It was received before the landings.
The second was just as dramatic for U-415 and the other non-schnorkel equipped boats:

...PROCEED ON SURFACE AT TOP SPEED TO [southwestern] ENGLISH COAST...ATTACK AND DESTROY ALLIED SHIPPING.[12]

It was received after the invasion.

The submarine was then part of an eight-boat procession out of Brest harbour. Almost immediately they came under attack from the air. U-413 and U-256 were crippled; nor did U-415 escape damage, her starboard engine was knocked off its mounting and a fuel tank was ruptured, although she shot a Liberator down. The damage was serious enough to warrant an immediate return to Brest. But it was not that easy. U-415, which had cautiously dived, was blind, both periscopes were out of action; she ran into rocks off the Brittany coast. Extricating herself with difficulty, she surfaced and headed for home. An aircraft sighting, closer than most, forced the vessel to dive once more. The boat, with all power lost, hit the bottom at 42 m (138 ft). Werner decided to surface once more, in the hope of meeting a friendly escort. In an effort to free the submarine from the ocean floor, he ordered all men forward, then aft. After several attempts and all tanks being blown with their diminishing supply of compressed air, U-415 reluctantly came free and broke the surface. She then limped into port.
U-415's Chief Engineer had a list of nearly 500 repairs which was reduced to 55 due to the lack of spares and time. It was also decided to cannibalize U-256 for the benefit of U-413 and U-415, leaving just two U-boats in Brest.

U-415s loss was preceded by a sally into the waters 80 nautical miles (150 km; 92 mi) west of her home port. No ships of any description were sighted, but the air threat was ever present. Following an exchange of radio messages, U-415 was directed to return to Brest where she was given just three days to prepare for her next patrol. Werner, who had "not slept for ten days", was woken on 14 July by a steward; as he was moving from his accommodation to the harbour and preparing to reprimand his Executive Officer for moving U-415 without his authorization, a tremendous explosion rocked the area. The boat had activated a mine and sank soon afterwards.[13] Two men died and 14 were wounded.[14]

Aftermath[edit]

Werner and some of the crew members from U-415 were moved to U-953. Werner survived the war and wrote the best-selling Iron Coffins.[15]

Summary of Raiding Career[edit]

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
(GRT)
Fate
21 April 1943 Ashantian  United Kingdom 4,917 Sunk
21 April 1943 Wanstead  United Kingdom 5,486 Damaged
24 December 1943 HMS Hurricane  Royal Navy 1,340 Sunk

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c U-boat.net
  2. ^ Herbert A. Werner (1969). Iron Coffins. Holt Rinehart Winston. 
  3. ^ Werner p. 232
  4. ^ Kemp, Paul: U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars, 1997, Arms & Armour, ISBN 1-85409-515-3, p. 203
  5. ^ Werner p. xii
  6. ^ "The Type VIIC boat U-415 - German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net". www.uboat.net. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  7. ^ uboat.net/boats/u415.htm
  8. ^ Werner p. 203
  9. ^ Werner pp.203 - 208
  10. ^ Werner pp.210 - 211
  11. ^ Werner p. 213
  12. ^ Werner p. 218
  13. ^ Werner pp.231 - 235
  14. ^ Werner pp.237 and 234
  15. ^ Kemp, p. 203

Coordinates: 48°24′N 4°30′W / 48.400°N 4.500°W / 48.400; -4.500