Saturday, June 13, 2015

Consim Press: The Hunters. The Operational History of "U-46"

Set-up: Sept 1939, Kapitan-leutnant Herbet Sohler takes command of the U-46 a type VIIB U-boat as she prepares for her first patrol. 

First Patrol Sept-39: Ordered to the British Isles Sohler's transit is uneventful. Hoping for a couple of easy kills he orders the U-46 to scout the coast. A few days later while prowling quietly at night some escorts come into view. Moving in closer Sohler realizes the boat has not been detected and scans the horizon for their charge. Incredulous of his luck he identifies the bulk of a British Aircraft Carrier, it is the Ark Royal! The U-46 closes in for the kill.


Attack on the Ark Royal: Night attack, close range and undetected (a detection roll of 6). Sohler fires a full spread of 4 forward torpedoes, 3 strike home but one is a dud, the other two do a combined 5 points of damage the Ark Royal is burning and sinking. The now alerted escorts try in vain to make contact with U-46 but she slips away (just) into the night.

The Patrol Continues: Following the sinking of the Ark Royal Sohler's patrol continues with a night sinking of a 1500 Ton freighter using the 8.8cm deck gun to conserve torpedoes. Later a convoy is contacted at night. U-46 puts 2 fish in a 5200 ton tanker sinking it and a third fish in a 6800 ton freighter causing heavy damage but not enough to sink. The convoy escorts put in a brief but vicious counter attack damaging her Diesel Engine #1 but then loose contact. Time to limp home for repairs and celebrations. 

ALARM! Her slow transit running on one engine allows coastal command to find her and in the subsequent attack seriously wound the Doctor and damage the aft torpedo doors.  In the Bay of Biscay the RAF find her again but a successful crash dive evades any damage. 

Finally and slowly she returns to port and hands over Herr Doctor to the medics.  U-46's first patrol is over, to her credit 6400 tons and the Ark Royal. 

Oct-39: U-46 is in for refit and during the time in port receive news that Kapitan Sohler is to receive the  Knights Cross for his action against the Ark Royal. Celebrations are somewhat dampened by the news that the Doctor is seriously injured and will not be returned to duty for 6 months he is replaced but this is not happy news. 
Second Patrol Nov-39: Sohler is ordered to the Spanish Coast. An uneventful patrol during which U-46 attacks 1 small and 2 large un-escorted freighters on the surface and sinks all three. Returning home safely with no damage, flying 3 victory pennants totaling 17,000 tons as she enters port.
Total Tonnage from 2 patrols 23,400 and the Ark Royal.

Dec-39: An uneventful month in port for refit.

Third Patrol Jan-40: Sohler and U-46 are ordered to patrol the waters around Great Britain. Sohler managed to engage 2 small un-escorted freighters on the surface and sink both with decks gun attacks for a total of 9,400 tons. 

Feb-40: Refit and resupply. The 2nd Warrant Officer is now considered Expert.

Fourth Patrol Mar-40: U-46 is ordered to lay mines in the coastal waters of the British Isles before being released to hunt for shipping. She loads 5 mines into her forward and aft torpedo tubes and sets out. 
                                                               
U-46 is attacked on the surface by Coastal Command outbound from Germany. The attack causes some minor flooding before she can crash dive. The wounded aircraft retreats as the submarine disappears below the waves.
Short Sunderland
The mines are laid without further incident although lookouts reported a patrolling aircraft on the horizon, this time she was not spotted and headed for deep water and hunting.
The patrol continues with the sinking of a 4100 ton small freighter using her deck gun. Radio reports are picked up from a patrolling Fw200 Condor and Sohler is vectored in on the 10,000 ton Bretagne
 Fw-200 Condor

Three G7a Steam torpedoes launched two strike home one fails to detonate, a dud! Sohler orders the deck gun broken out to finish off the crippled Freighter. Finally she heads for home after finishing off a third (4700 ton) freighter. 
Patrol Total: 18,800 tons.
Career Total: 51,600 tons

April-40: Refit in port, rumors abound that Sohler is one of the commanders currently being considered for the addition of Oak Leaves to his Knights Cross.

Fifth Patrol May-40: Why mess with success, to sea heading for the British Isles once more. 
On her way to hunting zone U-46 is spotted by a patrolling RAF aircraft but she crash dives successfully. Her first target is an escorted 5000 ton freighter, Sohler moves in close avoiding the escort, puts two fish into the target and slips away. 
She encounters a convoy a few days later during the day, Sohler decides to try and follow until nightfall but loses the contact. This turns out to be U-46's last contact, disappointed but short on fuel Sohler heads for home.

Jun-40: Refit and resupply.

Sixth Patrol Jul-40: Back to the British Isles in hopes of a more lucrative hunting this patrol. First contact a Large (8900 ton) freighter. Three fish, one miss, dud and one poor hit mean that the deck gun is called into action to finish her off. The crew is beginning to talk about poor luck! Their predictions appear to be true no more contacts for the patrol. 

Total Tonnage to date: 65,500 

Aug-40: The news from home is not encouraging, despite Herr Goering's claims the outnumbered RAF continues to hold out against the "overwhelming"  might of the Luftwaffe. Rumors that some flotillas from the Baltic may be moved to new bases under construction in France.

Seventh Patrol Sept-40: Kohler sets sail for the Spanish Coast hoping to catch convoys coming up from Africa or heading to Gibraltar. There is a sense of hopeful anticipation in the crew. 
Her first victim the 5000 ton Kinross Using the deck gun heavily damages but does not sink her. The Kinross gets off a distress signal and the RAF respond U-46 is strafed before she can dive wounding (but not badly) one of the tower lookouts. The damaged Kinross slips away. 

The uneasiness of the crew is confirmed with their next encounter a 3400 ton Freighter. Kohler looses two torpedoes both strike home and fail to detonate .... two duds! He closes to loose the final two when a radio call from a Recon Condor redirects him to the 8400 ton Port Nicholson. Day breaks as he closes on the Nicholson three torpedoes, hit, dud, miss. She is hurt but afloat. Kohler opens up with the deck gun and despite trying to run she is sunk.  
Maybe her luck has changed her next target is a 6600 Tanker, two more duds. Deciding to continue the attack draws an air attack forcing U-46 to crash dive. Out of fuel and G7a torpedoes Kohler heads for home. 
Oct-40: Despite his claims Goring has failed to deliver, the invasion of England is cancelled. The English have a new leader Winston Churchill who immediately goes on the offensive rhetorically.

Eighth Patrol Nov-40: U-46 is tasked to deliver a secret agent to Great Britain. While heading from the Baltic she is attacked by coastal command light wounding the Doctor (again). 
Sohler rounds the north of Scotland and heads for the Irish coast. The agent is successfully delivered and U-46 heads out to sea and begins her true patrol. Encountering a small escorted freighter Kapitan Sohler errs on the side of caution and makes a surface attack at night. The freighter is damaged but the U-Boat is spotted and the escort closes. 
All hands forward!
The escort does one depth charge run and looses contact, U-46 is slightly damaged but operational. The damaged freighter escapes. This is the last of the action for Sohler this patrol and he returns to port. 

Dec-40 to Jan-41: Extended refit time due to damage to the hull needing more dock time. During the extended shore leave Kohler is promoted to Korvetten Kapitan and U-46 is transferred to the 7th Flotilla based at St-Nazaire France.


Ninth Patrol Feb-41: From her new base U-46 has a greater range and is ordered to the Atlantic to hunt for convoys in the Western approaches. 
12 days into the patrol she encounters an escorted convoy and tries to slip past the Escorts. Her luck runs out and she is detected the escorts close to attack. 
The initial run damages the periscope, diesel engine #2 and causes some minor flooding. She tries to escape but they now have asdic. The escorts close for another run. 
 
The second run damages the aft doors but allows her to escape. Repairs to the damaged systems are not possible at sea. Kohler orders the U-46 to head back to France. Her first unsuccessful patrol!

Mar-41 to Apr-41: A two month refit to repair the damage from the ninth patrol. Kohler takes leave to head home. While in Germany he keeps hearing rumors that the Army are building their forces in the east. Surely not an attack on Russia?    

Tenth Patrol May-41: Heading for the Irish coast the crew of U-46 are hopeful of a more successful hunt this patrol.   The first victim of a night attack using the deck gun is the 4100 ton Olinda. A few days later the Battleship Barham is attacked. A spread of four torpedoes result is three duds and some slight damage. The escorts detect the boat and make a depth charge run. First attack generates some minor flooding and hull damage. The tenacious escorts make a second pass more flooding. They are on target now and continue their attack. The flooding is becoming dangerous and there are casualties among the crew. Sohler heads deeper to try and shake the escorts the hull creaks but holds. The escorts have him and attack again. More crew injuries and the flooding is critical now, with the engineer hurt it is getting more difficult to control the water. Deeper!! the hull valves start popping the attack continues. The periscope and radio are damaged. Still the escorts attack. The aft torpedo doors are hit. Finally after what seems like days the escorts loose contact. The U-46 is heavily damaged with crew casualties and systems smashed she retreats for France. 
Jun-41 to Sept-41: The heavy damage requires 5 months to repair. Some cause for celebration Sohler is awarded Oak Leaves for his Knights Cross after reaching a total of 78,000 tons of enemy shipping. This is somewhat mitigated by the news from home, his worse fears were realized Russia and Germany are now at war. 
Image result for knight's cross with oak leaves

Eleventh Patrol Oct-41: With the return of her crew from sick leave and the newly trained Doctor the crew prepare for sea, they are heading for the Atlantic. She encounters a convoy or two large and two small merchantmen. Two torpedoes in each ship leave them both damaged. The escorts get a firm contact and close to depth charge. Damage to her forward torpedo doors, radio and minor flooding. The second run is off target and causes no damage, the escorts loose contact. With repairs to the forward doors ineffective she heads heads home for repairs. 

Nov-41: Refit and Repair. News from the Russian front is all glorious. Suspiciously so!

Twelfth Patrol Dec-41:  The crews morale is still acceptable but they are nervous. The Royal Navy is getting too good at hunting the boats. Five boats were lost last month alone compared to only two in 1940. U-46 heads for the Atlantic convoy routes once more. A convoy is engaged all four torpedoes fired at a large 10,000 ton Freighter from medium range submerged. She is damaged but not sunk. The escorts cannot contact the lurking submarine. The escorts abandon the damaged freighter as the convoy moves off. Kohler surfaces and finishes the ship off with the deck gun. Maybe their luck has changed. 
Jan-42: Refit and resupply, news from Africa is encouraging Rommel recaptures Benghazi. But this is tempered by the failure of the armies in the east to take Moscow before the Russian winter sets 
in.  


Current Career: 98,000 tons sunk.
Thirteenth Patrol Feb-42: U-46 is assigned to a Wolfpack hunting in the Atlantic sea lanes. 


With the escorts busy Kohler decides to risk getting in as close as possible for the attack. He targets a 12,000 ton Tanker and sends four fish her way. Three strike home, no duds the Tanker is set aflame but though badly hurt does not sink. Kohler dives deep in hopes of avoiding the escorts and being able to finish the cripple off. They dive too fast and the hull begins to buckle before they can level off. The maneuver works the escorts are distracted enough to loose them. Rising to periscope depth Kohler sees that the tanker is being covered by a corvette. He looses two more torpedoes from medium range the tanker is hit and breaks up. The corvette fails to make contact and U-46 slips away. 
The pack reforms and attacks a second convoy. The escorts are focused across Kohler's approach and he chooses not to risk the 13th patrol being the unlucky one, time to return to base.

Mar-42 to April-42: Port and Refit. News from home is not encouraging the RAF have bombed Essen and other targets in Germany despite Herr Goring's assurances.

Fourteenth Patrol May-42: Operation Paukenschlag, U-46 is to supplement the Type IX boats heading for the East coast of the United States. This means a long sea voyage through some of the most heavily patrolled regions of the Atlantic. She sinks small freighters before being detected and attacked by a USN destroyer taking some hull damage and loosing her radio. Low on torpedoes and damaged Kohler heads home. 

Jun-42 to July-42: The crew of the U-46 are one of the U-Boat services most experienced crews. The hull damaged prolongs the refit before they are fit for sea again.

 Fifteenth Patrol: Aug-42: Back to the East Coast of the US, it's almost like the days of the early war. The hunting is good! Most ships are still travelling alone or in pairs. A total of 11,200 tons go to the bottom before Kohler is out of fuel. It is the new "Happy Time".
Sept-42: Kohler is informed of his promotion to Fregatten-Kapitan. Although proud he is aware of the fact that 20 boats have been lost in the last 60 days. The Royal Navy is getting too good at hunting the Grey Wolves. With a growing sense of dread he prepares his crew for the next patrol. 
Sixteenth Patrol Nov-42: The Atlantic Wolfpack. It's back to the Atlantic in November, hopefully the weather will cooperate. 
The Pack engages a convoy, although the escorts are attacking elsewhere Kohler attacks from medium range targeting the 10,000 ton Regent Tiger. Four fish, two duds but the third strike amidships and cracks the tankers back. Kohler dives but the escorts have him.  The first pass badly wounding one of the crew and causing flooding in the compartment. He dives deep to try and shake them it works she slips away. 
Dec-42 to Jan-43: Refit and repair. Bad news from the Russian font, The 6th army surrenders to the Soviet forces, the first time a German Field Marshall has been taken prisoner.  More bad news Berlin has been bombed for two consecutive days. We can now call Herr Goring "Meier"
 
U-46's Career Total is now 132,900 Tons.
Seventeenth Patrol Feb-43: Back to the Atlantic on a solo patrol. Attacked by the RAF in the Bay of Biscay and U-46 has her first death. The Second WO is wounded but not badly. Hunting is difficult and no contacts are made, she heads home. 
Mar-43: In port for refit. 

Eighteenth Patrol April-43: Assigned once again to the Atlantic Wolfpack. U-46 targets a Tanker. Three fish miss and one strikes home causing minimal damage. Kohler dives as the escorts close. They brace themselves for the depth charges. The first pass damages the periscope, dive planes and fuel tank. She is trailing oil and unable to manoever. The escorts have her following the the oil trail. They close and release a devastating hedgehog barrage.

The second pass causes hull damage, flooding which is quickly put under control, smashes the deck gun and badly injures the Doctor. The third pass ends any chance of repairing the periscope. Continuing the attack the hull is beginning to crack and the flooding becoming a concern. More escorts join the attack and lay down five hits on the struggling boat. The escorts are relentless the crew are battered and the hull is in serious trouble. More water pours in as the remaining crew brace for more charges. Kohlers premonition is proven out, the hull cannot take the final attack it cracks under increased depth charge pressure. U-46 is lost with all hands two months before the Battle of the Atlantic is declared a Allied victory. 



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