Midget submarine operations

K-Flotille 261 consisting of 20 Biber one-man submarines, commanded by Korvettenkapitän Hans Bartels arrived eventually at Fecamp (Belgium) 28 August 1944.

29/30: August 18 Biber sailed, all eighteen returned safely. Claims of a landing ship and a Liberty ship sunk were not substantiated by Allied records and no official reference of the attack.

August 31: K-Flotille 261 forced to abandon Fecamp. Most of the Biber were destroyed and abandoned and those which were taken away were subsequently destroyed in a night action with an Allied armoured column. This marked the end of K-Verband operations in Normandy.

An advanced base was prepared at Poortershavn and Hellevoetsluis at the head of the Waal/Maas estuary. The main base being Rotterdam. 30 Biber and 30 Molch were sent here. A further 60 Molch and 30 Biber were sent to Assens from Heligoland and Groningen respectively. 60 more Biber would arrive in the area in January 1945.

22/23 December 1944 - 18 Biber sailed from Poortershavn and Hellevoetsluis. This operation ended in failure. British MTBs surprised the Biber whilst still being towed and instantly sank four. One was mined and one returned damaged. The remaining 12 disappeared. One success - Alan a Dale 4,700 ton - sunk.

23/24 December 1944 - 11 Biber sailed - none returned.

24/25 December 1944 - 3 Biber sailed - none returned.

By the end of 1944 - 31 (thirty-one) Biber lost in return for one merchant ship sunk. Only 8 (eight) of the Biber lost were claimed by the Allies.

27 December 1944: - 14 Biber preparing to sail. Two torpedoes accidentally fired into the lock, 11 (eleven) Biber destroyed. Remaining 3 (three) sailed - none returned but Biber 90 found drifting off the North Foreland on 29 December by HMS Ready with the operator dead at the controls. It was attempted to tow this Biber to Dover but due to deteriorating weather the Biber sank . On its recovery 10 (ten) days later a post mortem on the operator established that he had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

At the end of 1944 only 20 (twenty) Biber remained at Rotterdam

29/30 January 1945 - 15 (fifteen) Biber sailed from Hellevoetsluis
   One sunk following collision with floating ice.
   Five forced to return with ice damage.
   One found beached downstream from Hellevoetsluis after spending
      64 (sixty-four) hours at sea looking for a target.
   Five failed to return.

3 February 1945 Both the Molch and Biber depots attacked by air - no Biber losses. Damage to installations prevented anymore operations in February.

Summary of K-Verband operations in January and February shows that during the former month there were 15 (fifteen) sorties and 10 (ten) losses and during the latter month 14 (fourteen) sorties and 6 (six) losses - no successes in terms of Allied ships lost or damaged were achieved in either month.

6 March 1945 - Hellevoetsluis, another torpedo accident - 14 (fourteen) Biber sunk and 9 (nine) damaged. 6 March 1945 - 11 (eleven) Biber sailed - none returned.
   One captured by an ML off Breskens.
   Four found abandoned along the coast at North Beveland, Knocke
      Domberg and Zeebrugge.
   One sunk by gunfire off Westkapelle on 8 March.
   Five vanished.

11/12 March 1945 - 15 (fifteen) Biber and 14 Molch, S-Boote and Linsen.
   13 (thirteen) Biber failed to return and 9 Molch.
   2 sank by RAF Swordfish off Schouwen on 11 March.
   4 sank by Mls off Westkapelle.
   4 sank by shore batteries of Flushing and Breskens on 12 March.
   1 sank by Spitfire off Walcheren on 12 March.
   1 sank by HMS Retalick at 0325 on 13 March.

23/24 March 1945 - 16 (sixteen) Biber left Hellevoetsluis for the Scheldt.
   7 (seven) returned.
   4 sank by HMS Retalick.
   1 abandoned on Schouwen.
   1 sank by Beaufighter of 254 Squadron off Goree.
   Fates of the remainder unknown.

Summary of March 1945
56 (fifty six) sorties by Biber/Molch 42 (forty two) craft lost for no result.

April 1945 - Only 24 (twenty-four) Biber remaining at Rotterdam. 60 (sixty) Molch held in reserve at Ammersfoort. Four more operation took place in April involving 24 (twenty-four) Biber - 19 (nineteen) lost - no Allied vessels sunk or damaged in these operations.

Biber and Molch units were also deployed to Denmark and Norway. Kapitän zur See Fritz Boehm assumed command of units in Denmark and Norway but this command later divided between Kapitän zur See Duwel(later to be replaced by Kapitän zur See Brandi) in Denmark and Kapitän zur See Beck in Norway.

Disposition of K-Verband units, Norway and Denmark November 1944

K-Flotilla 265 dispatched to Harstad in Norway - November 1944.

Seehund (Type XXVII)

First Seehund dispatched to Ijmuiden in the Nehterlands DecNetherlands 6 (six) on 24 December 1944 followed by 18 (eighteen) by the end of the month.

Operation Debut - New Years Day 1945.
17 (seventeen) sailed to attack a convoy off the Kwinte Bank.
   7 (seven) found beached.
   2 returned.
   1 sank by HMS Cowdray
   1 sank by HMS Ekins.
   1 abandoned at Domberg
   1 found drifting by an MTB.
   4 disappeared. Probably bad weather.
1 vessel sunk - the trawler Hayburn Wyke.

10 January 1945 - 5 (five) dispatched to Kentish coast off Margate. Only one reached the operational area. This returned with torpedoes intact.

20 January 1945 - Seehunde strength back to 26 (twentysix).

twenty sixry 1945 - 10 (ten) dispatched to Ramsgate, North Foreland and the channel off Lowestoft.
   7 (seven) returned with defects.
   2 returned having sighted nothing.
The remaining one is a story in itself. This boat suffered a compass failure, and after attacking a ship in the Thames Estuary on 22 January it was driven Northwards by the tides until by the 24th it was off Lowestoft, where it was attacked by ML153 but managed to escape. However in so doing the craft ha drifted even further to the North and was now off Great Yarmouth - unknown to the crew. When they tried to set course to the east and home, the Seehund went aground on Scroby Sands, where it remained for two and a half days. Eventually the exhausted crew fired distress flares and were taken off by the Trinity House tender Beacon.

29 January 1945 - 10 (ten) dispatched from Ijmuiden, 5 (five) for the area off Margate and the rest for the South Falls.
   2 reached their operational area.
   The remainder returned with mechanical problems.

12 February 1945 - 5 (five) dispatched to the North Foreland.

15 February Dutch tanker Liseta damaged off the North Foreland while in convoy TAM.80. At least two boats were lost in these sorties and several beached but recovered.

16 February 1945 - 4 (four) sailed for the Scheldt.    2 vanished without trace.    1 beached - no attack.    1 beached after an abortive attack on a small convoy of landing craft.

20 February 1945 - 3 (three) sailed for Ramsgate.

21 February 1945 - 4 (four) sailed for the South Falls.

23 February 1945 - 1 (one) sailed for the South Falls.

24 February 1945 - In the morning, U-5330 (Lt.z.S. Klaus Sparbrodt/MaschMt. G?nter Jahnke) claims the sinking of a corvette northeast of South Falls. Initially it was assumed by the Kriegsmarine that they had sunk the French destroyer La Combattante (1,050 tons), but this ship had been mined off the Humber estuary in the night of 23/24 February. The victim of U-5330 was the British cable layer Alert (941 tons).

Results: 22 February 1945 LST364 sunk while in convoy TAM.87. 24 February 1945 cable ships Alert sunk off Ramsgate. All 8 (eight) returned, one surviving an attack by Beaufighter ‘J’ of 254 Squadron east of Orfordness.

Summary of operation for January/February 1945
33 (thirtythree) sorties. - results: 2 (two) ships totalling 3,691 tons sunk and one 2,628 tons damaged.

Summary of operation for March 1945.
29 (twentynine) sorties. - results:3 (three) ships totalling 5,267 tons sunk - these were 2,878 ton Taber Park on 13 March off Southwold, 833 ton Jim on 30 March south-east of Orfordness and the 1,556 ton Nelands on 26 March off the North Foreland.
   2 (two) sank by MTBs
   1 (one) sank by HMS Torrington
   3 claimed by aircraft.
   1 sank by HMS Puffin
   2 unknown.
HMS Puffin rammed the Seehund which caused the torpedoes to explode and Puffin was so badly damaged that she was not repaired.

Number of Seehunde at Ijmuiden on 8 April 1945 was 29 (twentynine), half of these were operational. Four more arrived from Wilhelmshaven on 20 April and fourteen more by 1 May 1945 together with two from Heligoland.

Summary of operations April 1945.
36 (thirtysix) sorties. 3 (three) - results: Cable ship Monarch on 16 April. 9 (nine) Seehunde operated in the Scheldt where they sank an 800 ton US Navy oiler - Y17 on X for the loss of 3 (three) Seehunde.

9 April 1945 sunk Samida 7,219 ton, damaged Solomon Juneau 7,176 ton both in convoy TBC.123. ML102 accounted for one Seehund and Beaufighter ‘W’ of 254 Squadron another, a third ran ashore east of Calais.

11 April 1945 UC.63B attacked east of Dungeness by a Seehund damaging Port Wyndham (8,580 ton). This Seehund possibly sunk by MTB632 later the same day.

12 April 1945 1 (one) Seehund sunk off the Hook of Holland.

13 April 1945 1 (one) sank by a Barracuda of 810 Naval Air Squadron in the same area as above.

Seehund operations ceased on 28 April 1945.

Summary of Seehund operations:
In total 142 sorties - this resulted in the loss of nine ships totalling 18,451 tons sunk and three ships of 18,354 tons damages. 35 Seehund were lost. It is considered that the majority of this figure were lost due to bad weather.

Article compiled by Dave Hallas