Convoy battles


Sierra Leone (Freetown) - UK (North Atlantic, Central Atlantic)

27 Oct 1942 - 31 Oct 1942

The Convoy37 ships
First sightingOn 27 Oct 1942 by U-409

The British corvettes Petunia (Lt-Cdr Rayner), Cowslip, Crocus and Woodruff.


The wolfpack Streitaxt of 8 boats U-134 (Kptlt. Schendel), U-203 (Kptlt. Kottmann) *, U-409 (Oblt. Massmann) *, U-509 (Kptlt. Witte) *, U-510 (Fregkpt. Neitzel) *, U-572 (Kptlt. Hirsacker), U-604 (Kptlt. Höltring) *, U-659 (Kptlt. Stock) *

U-103 (Kptlt. Janssen) *, U-440 (Oblt. Geissler)

* U-boats that fired torpedo or used the deck gun

The battle

On the end of October, the Germans become aware of an Allied build-up of forces around Gibraltar. As a reaction, the BdU forms a patrol line in the region. Several ships, merchants and escorts are detected on the 25th and 26th. On the 27th U-604 sinks an escorted tanker and U-409 sights the convoy.

U-409 brings up U-203, U-509 and U-659 and they attack at night. Only U-509 has success, sinking 2 ships. U-203 keeps contact with the convoy on the 28th and brings up U-409, U-509, U-510, U-604 and U-659. U-103 and U-440 arrive as reinforcement.

U-509 is after a successful night still in touch with the convoy. In the morning she has a miss, and in the evening she sinks and damages one ship. The damaged ship explodes but remains afloat until it is finished off by U-203 the next day. During night, none of the boats in contact manages to make an attack.

U-134 is the contact keeper on the 29th and leads U-103, U-509, U-510 and U-604 to the convoy. The boats attack at night. U-409 damages one ship but again U-509 is very successful and sinks and damages 1 ship. Both damaged ships are later again torpedoed by U-659. One sinks and the other one is finally sunk with torpedo and gunfire by U-203.

During next day, most of the boats are brought up by U-509 and U-604 and in the night U-604 sinks 2 ships, U-409 sinks one and U-659 and U-510 damage one each. U-659 is damaged by depth charges in an counterattack from the escorts. U-103 finishes off one damaged ship.

On the 31th the air escort arrives and manages to drive off all U-boats. Two destroyers arrive from Gibraltar but are too late to see any action.

The battle had lasted for 5 days and was very successful for the Germans. However this success had a bitter aftertaste as at the same time many more important convoys on their way for Operation Torch, the landings in North-Africa, were routed around the U-boat concentration and reached their destination unmolested. In this perspective the words of the SL-125 convoy commodore must be understood when he told after the war that 'This is the only time I have been congratulated for losing ships...'

Article compiled by Tom Linclau

Ships hit from convoy SL-125

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat.Map
26 Oct 1942U-509Werner Witte Anglo Mærsk (d.)7,705brA
27 Oct 1942U-604Horst Höltring Anglo Mærsk7,705brB
27 Oct 1942U-509Werner Witte Pacific Star7,951brC
27 Oct 1942U-509Werner Witte Stentor6,148brD
28 Oct 1942U-509Werner Witte Nagpore5,283brE
28 Oct 1942U-509Werner Witte Hopecastle (d.)5,178brF
29 Oct 1942U-203Hermann Kottmann Hopecastle5,178brG
29 Oct 1942U-509Werner Witte Corinaldo (d.)7,131brH
30 Oct 1942U-509Werner Witte Brittany4,772brI
30 Oct 1942U-409Hanns-Ferdinand Massmann Bullmouth (d.)7,519brJ
30 Oct 1942U-659Hans Stock Bullmouth7,519brK
30 Oct 1942U-659Hans Stock Corinaldo (d.)7,131brL
30 Oct 1942U-203Hermann Kottmann Corinaldo7,131brM
30 Oct 1942U-604Horst Höltring Président Doumer11,898brN
30 Oct 1942U-659Hans Stock Tasmania (d.)6,405brO
30 Oct 1942U-604Horst Höltring Baron Vernon3,642brP
30 Oct 1942U-409Hanns-Ferdinand Massmann Silverwillow6,373brQ
31 Oct 1942U-510Karl Neitzel Alaska (d.)5,681nwR
31 Oct 1942U-103Gustav-Adolf Janssen Tasmania6,405brS

12 ships sunk (80,005 tons) and 7 ships damaged (46,750 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.
(d.) means the ship was damaged.

28 convoys on route SL were hit by U-boats in the war. Read more about them.

Media links

The Fighting Commodores

Burn, Alan

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