U-671 & U-413

4/5th August 1944 - U-671

On the night 4/5th of August 1944, Wensleydale was part of Force G.D, and was carrying out a GAMMA Patrol, Off Brighton. Also in Force G.D. were HMS Offa and HMS Rowley. Meanwhile,  HMS Stayner was on an anti E-boat patrol  with Coastal Forces (American PT boats 510, 512, 514, 516, 517 and some British Motor Torpedo Boats); for whom she was acting as control ship. Stayner obtained an asdic contact on the starboard bow. Coastal Forces were ordered to clear the area as she went in to attack at 2031. The first three attacks were made with depth charges. After the second attack it became clear to the Captain of Stayner that the object was a submarine. Stayner then attacked with Hedgehog and after the second attack at 2158, an explosion was heard 15 seconds after firing. This attack was repeated, and a further explosion was again heard 15 seconds after firing. Separate explosions were heard, and reactions to them seen on the surface. The submarine showed a very marked (and smelly) oiled track after the hedgehog attack. Pending the arrival of Offa, Wensleydale and Rowley further attacks were made. Two more with depth charges, were followed by a further attack with hedgehog. Again an explosion was heard 15 seconds after firing. Wensleydale gained contact on being given range and bearings by Stayner. Offa also gained contact, but had difficulty in holding it, so cleared the area whilst Wensleydale carried out three five charge attacks. The first of these attacks was at 2355. Wensleydale, then directed Stayner in two more hedgehog attacks. At about 0050 Wensleydale was running over the target to obtain an echo sounding trace, when survivors began to surface in the middle of an oil patch. Wensleydale picked up one officer and three ratings. Stayner picked up one officer and one rating. After picking up survivors, Wensleydale was ordered to drop another pattern on the wreck, after which Stayner also attacked. All ships returned to their patrols at 0430. From survivors, it transpired that the u-boat was U-671.

The decision of The U-boat Assessment Committee was that the major credit for this successful action was undoubtedly due to HMS Stayner. It was considered that the U-boat was hit and damaged by Stayner's hedgehog attack at 2158, but it managed to continue underway until shortly after Wensleydale's attack at 2355, when it bottomed. The recorder traces from both ships suggest that most of the attacks were accurate and caused cumulative damage to the U-boat. It was noted that the U-boat would probably never have recovered from Stayner's Hedgehog attack. The hunt was assessed as "U-671 known sunk".

One of the ratings picked up by Wensleydale died. The others were named as Ober Leutnant Hans Schafer, Petty Officer Bruno Ehlers and Stoker Petty Officer Ernst Meyer. The survivors mentioned that before the last three attacks they had been underway at slow speed or drifting just clear of the bottom on the tide and they had taken avoiding action. After the first of these attacks all lights were extinguished and water began to come it to the boat. The second attack lifted the boat and after it she remained heavy and on the bottom. The third attack apparently turned her on her side. Neither of the ratings picked up by Wensleydale had any clear recollections of anything except water rushing into the boat. The officer refused to discuss the matter. The morale of the prisoners was good, but neither rating had any enthusiasm for service in submarines. Schafer, whilst having faith in the cause for which he was fighting, was pessimistic regarding the outcome of the war.

Jack Rodway Judd remembers that dead from U-671 were also picked-up, and laid out on the upper deck. The survivors were taken to the tiller flat (a small area aft) "I was stationed at the hatchway with a loaded .303 rifle to stand on guard, although they were obviously too fatigued to offer any resistance. We were ordered to return to Portsmouth with the prisoners. As caterer of the mess I told my mates to make up some extra meals for the Germans. On that particular night we were having "straight cake". i.e. straight from Jack Dusty (slang for Navy stores rating), straight in the oven and straight out again. The extra meals duly arrived and were placed in the middle of the floor. One or Two toyed with the food but seemed disinterested. One of them who spoke a little English and had shown me a photograph of his wife and small children; told me that the food was not what they were used to. I passed the word to my mess mates to bring a few loaves of bread, and the Germans fell on them devouring them like hungry wolves"

LEFT: The Kapitanleutnant Wolfgang Hegewald. Born Chemnitz 05.07.17. Died 05.08.44. Commander 0f U-671

The following letter was translated from a letter obtained from the U-boat Archive, Cuxhaven, Germany. It was written by the survivor, Hans Schafer (date unknown):

"On 1 August we left again to occupy a position even closer to the English coast. Here fate struck on the 4 August 1944. After a depth charge hunt by two destroyers lasting 3 1/2 hours the boat received a direct hit in the foreship at about 0200 in the morning of the following day, causing the boat to bottom at once and fill with water, which resulted in the instant death of one third of the crew. The rest of the crew from the aft and central sections of the boat gathered at once in the control room and prepared for escape. The boat rested at a depth of 45 metres. Because of the extremely bad air all except 8 men fall asleep from carbon dioxide poisoning. When after a certain time following decompression the conning tower hatch could be opened, this 8 men including me were able to escape. I lost consciousness and woke up again only when I reached the surface. I saw a few of my comrades around me, all swimming, but lost sight of them soon afterwards when we drifted apart in the strong current. After about half an hour I was picked up by one of the two destroyers, where I rejoined two of my comrades during late afternoon on 5 August. By the evening of the same day the three of us were transferred into a tent camp on land, where two more crew members of our boat, which had been picked up by the other destroyer, were waiting for us. In total we were therefore only 5 survivors, as were"
 
Engineer officer     Leutnant (Ing) Robert Schröter, Wachtmeister boatswain Ehlers, Central room mate Maschinenmaat Ernst Meyer, Helmsmen Matr. Ob. Gfr. Heinz Pieperand I.

Click here for list of those who died in U-671. Document obtained from U-boat Archive, Cuxhaven.

 

20th August 1944 - U-413

On the morning of 19th of August, S.S. Saint Enogat, a 2360 ton steam merchant was torpedoed. The ship was part of convoy ETC - 70. HMS Forester gained contact and counter-attacked, remaining in the vicinity, patrolling down tide from the scene of attack, until reinforced. At 0607 on the 20th of August Forester gained asdic contact at 2,100 yards. Contact was firm, and showed movement; it was held until Wensleydale and Vidette arrived at 0650. Forester directed Wensleydale over the target, and an echo sounding trace showed the U-boat at 15 fathoms, in a depth of water of 32 fathoms. The plot showed the target on a Northerly course at 4 knots.

At 0715 Forester attacked with a five pattern set of depth charges, without result. At 0736 Vidette attacked with Hedgehog. Two explosions were heard 8/9 seconds after firing. These explosions were heard before the rest of the pattern detonated on the bottom. Slight oil streaks began to appear, and at 0752 a five charge pattern from Wensleydale resulted in diesel oil and air bubbles. At 0808 a survivor surfaced and was picked up by Wensleydale, while Forester and Vidette held contact. The oil increases, but the target still showed movement not attributable to tide. As tank blowing sounds were heard, the attack was resumed in spite of the prisoner's assertion that serious damage had been done. Several attacks were made, until a five charge pattern from Wensleydale at 0955 produced wreckage which was considered to indicate the destruction of the U-boat. A large quantity of oil, together with confidential books and papers, officers clothing and effects, lemons and wood wreckage all surfaced.

The decision of The U-boat Assessment Committee was that the submarine was hit, probably by two projectiles, in Vidette's attack at 0736, while proceeding at a depth of about 40 feet. Forester's plot, which was extremely clear, shows that the sub managed to continue until about 0815 when it bottomed. The hunt is assessed as "U-413 known sunk"

ABOVE: ObLt Dietrich Sachse. Commander of U-413 at the time of her sinking.

                                                                                                  RIGHT: HMS Vidette

Exactly 6 months earlier U-413 had sunk HMS Warwick. Now Wensleydale and U-413 once again met. The result was that only one member of the crew of U-413 survived. His name was Karl Hutterer, the engineering officer of U-413. His statement as a POW  is detailed below. This was obtained from The Public Records Office:

The following statement was volunteered by the engineer officer of U-413, Karl Hutterer who was taken prisoner on the afternoon of Sun 20.8.44. This officer was on the active list and joined the navy soon after the ANSCHLUSS. Most of his time had been spent in U-boats, and he had seen service in Baltic, N-sea, Norway and Atlantic. He was a confirmed Nazi, and his morale appeared to be good. His attitude was very correct, but friendly.

He decided that the first attack on U-413 was poor and caused them no concern. The second attack with hedgehog was perfect and decisive. The boat was holed forward and went down by the bows. They were unable to trim the boat and had to bottom. The 3rd attack was good, but by that time they were up to their waists in water and decided to abandon ship. He accounted for the fact that he was the only survivor by saying "it is the duty of the engineer officer to open the escape hatch, and the others were behind me, but I do not know what happened to them"

They had been attacked every day for the last 5 days and on previous days were attacked to the westward of where they were sunk from about 11am-8pm. They expected a search and were not surprised when detected again. U-boat war in the Channel was lousy, under way for half-hours then attacked and lying on bottom. He claimed sunk 60,000 in Channel since D-Day. U-boats defiantly there for offensive purposes and hunted singly, (every man for himself). When told that 6 U-boats had been sunk in The Channel since D-Day, he replied, "that is none too many, I can tell you".

 

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(C) David Allen Nov, 2006