Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky

Kapitänleutnant (Crew 29)

10 ships sunk, total tonnage 19,261 GRT
1 ship a total loss, total tonnage 3,670 GRT

Born  27 Jan 1908 Halle an der Saale
Died  12 Feb 1940(32)Firth of Clyde

© Deutsches U-Boot Museum


1 Apr 1929 Offiziersanwärter
10 Oct 1929 Seekadett
1 Jan 1931 Fähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1933 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Oct 1933 Leutnant zur See
1 Jun 1935 Oberleutnant zur See
1 Aug 1938 Kapitänleutnant


30 Sep 1939 Iron Cross 2nd Class
27 Nov 1939 U-boat War Badge 1939
1939 Iron Cross 1st Class

U-boat Commands

U-4 30 Sep 1937 28 Oct 1938   No war patrols 
U-33 29 Oct 1938 12 Feb 1940  (+)  3 patrols (78 days) 

Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky joined the Kriegsmarine in 1929. He served as a Watch Officer (WO) on U-20 Feb 1936 - Sept 1937, when he took command of the small type IIA U-boat U-4 on 30 Sept 1937.

Von Dresky left U-4 on 28 Oct 1938, and the following day took command of the larger type VIIA U-boat U-33. On his first two patrols he sank ten small ships (19,261 tons) and destroyed another of 3,670 tons.

For his third patrol he was sent to the Firth of Clyde lay eight TMC mines close to the British naval base there - a highly dangerous task. When he nosed his boat into the Firth she was detected by the British minesweeper HMS Gleaner, but von Dresky mistook her for a cruiser and thought she would pass him and head for open waters. He thus dived, and after Gleaner dropped six depth charges on the boat, surprising the Germans, and causing severe damage and several leaks, the boat bottomed at only 36m (119 ft). Over the next hour, two more batches of depth charges followed, which caused further damage. Von Dresky ordered the boat to surface and then scuttle, distributing the Enigma cipher machine wheels to three of his men to throw into the sea away from the boat.

The freezing cold water temperatures meant only 17 men survived the sinking, and 25 died from the shock of immersion and hypothermia, including Kptlt. von Dresky (Blair, 1996, Sebag-Montefiore, 2001). One of the survivors had failed to dispose of his cipher wheels, and they were discovered by the British. They played a crucial part in the British breaking of the German navy Enigma codes (Sebag-Montefiore, 2001).


Blair, C. (1996). Hitler’s U-boat War. The Hunters, 1939-1942.
Busch, R. and Röll, H-J. (1998). German U-boat commanders of World War II.
Sebag-Montefiore, H. (2001). Enigma, The Battle for the Code.

Patrol info for Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky

 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-33 19 Aug 1939  Wilhelmshaven  28 Sep 1939  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 1,41 days
2. U-33 29 Oct 1939  Wilhelmshaven  26 Nov 1939  Wilhelmshaven  Patrol 2,29 days
3. U-33 5 Feb 1940  Wilhelmshaven  12 Feb 1940  Sunk  Patrol 3,8 days
3 patrols, 78 days at sea

Ships hit by Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky

Date U-boat Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
7 Sep 1939U-33 Olivegrove4,060br
16 Sep 1939U-33 Arkleside1,567br
24 Sep 1939U-33 Caldew287br
20 Nov 1939U-33 Thomas Hankins276br
20 Nov 1939U-33 Delphine250br
20 Nov 1939U-33 Sea Sweeper329br
21 Nov 1939U-33 Sulby287br
21 Nov 1939U-33 William Humphries276br
23 Nov 1939U-33 Borkum (t.)3,670dt
25 Dec 1939U-33 Stanholme [Mine]2,473br
16 Jan 1940U-33 Inverdargle [Mine]9,456br

11 ships sunk (22,931 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.
(t.) means the ship was a total loss (included in ships & tonnage lost).
[Mine] indicates the vessel was hit by a mine laid by said U-boat.

About ranks and decorations
Special thanks to Fernando Almeida for data on ranks and decorations.

Media links


Sebag-Montefiore, Hugh

German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim

Hitler's U-boat War

Blair, Clay

Listing of all U-boat commanders

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