U-103 in 1939. Looking backwards from the conning tower. Note the width of casing of the Type IX compared to the Type VII U-boat
|Ordered:||24 May 1938|
|Builder:||AG Weser, Bremen|
|Laid down:||6 September 1939|
|Launched:||12 April 1940|
|Commissioned:||5 July 1940|
|Fate:||Sunk 15 April 1945, Kiel by bombs. Only one man was killed.|
|Class and type:||German Type IXB submarine|
|Height:||9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)|
|Draught:||4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)|
|Test depth:||230 m (750 ft)|
|Identification codes:||M 05 635|
German submarine U-103 was a Type IXB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated during World War II. She was one of the most successful boats in the entire war, sinking over 237,000 gross register tons (GRT) of Allied shipping in 11 patrols, in a career lasting more than four years.
U-103 was laid down on 6 September 1939 at DeSchiMAG AG Weser in Bremen as yard number 966. She was launched on 12 April 1940 and commissioned on 5 July under the command of Korvettenkapitän Victor Schütze. After her warm-up, (designed to give her an opportunity to train and repair minor faults), she was deployed into the North Atlantic in September 1940 and saw overwhelming success, sinking 45 ships and damaging three other vessels.
German Type IXB submarines were slightly larger than the original German Type IX submarines, later designated IXA. U-103 had a displacement of 1,051 tonnes (1,034 long tons) when at the surface and 1,178 tonnes (1,159 long tons) while submerged. The U-boat had a total length of 76.50 m (251 ft), a pressure hull length of 58.75 m (192 ft 9 in), a beam of 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged four-stroke, nine-cylinder diesel engines producing a total of 4,400 metric horsepower (3,240 kW; 4,340 shp) for use while surfaced, two Siemens-Schuckert 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 1,000 metric horsepower (740 kW; 990 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.92 m (6 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).
The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 18.2 knots (33.7 km/h; 20.9 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph). When submerged, the boat could operate for 64 nautical miles (119 km; 74 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-103 was fitted with six 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 22 torpedoes, one 10.5 cm (4.13 in) SK C/32 naval gun, 180 rounds, and a 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 as well as a 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of forty-eight.
The boat entered the Atlantic via the gap between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. Her first victory was sinking Nina Borthen in mid-ocean on 6 October. After being hit by a torpedo, the ship developed a list, which the crew corrected. The ship was hit by two more projectiles, which also caused a list. Another torpedo hit broke the vessel in two and she sank. There were no survivors.
A steady stream of victories followed; Zanes Gounaris on 9 October, Graigwen (damaged) also on the 9th, as was Delphin, although she did not sink until the next day. The Nora went down on 13 October; Thistlegarth was the last victim - sinking 45 nmi (83 km; 52 mi) west northwest of Rockall on 15 October.
U-103 docked at her new base - Lorient on the French Atlantic coast, on 19 October.
She then added to her score: Daydawn on the 21st, Victoria on the same day; Glenmoor on the 27th, Mount Athos on the 28th and St. Elwyn, also on the 28th. There was a slight pause before the attacks continued: the Calabria on 8 December and Empire Jaguar the next day.
The submarine returned to Lorient on 19 December.
The list of sunk and damaged ships grew. The Arthur F. Corwin was damaged by U-103 13 February 1941 and sunk by U-96 later that same day. U-96 went on to sink Edwy R. Brown (17 October), Seaforth (18th) and Benjamin Franklin (19th).
A change of operational area saw U-103 conduct her fourth sortie off the coast of West Africa. This patrol was also notable, because at 103 days, it was her longest. She sank Polyana 41 nmi (76 km; 47 mi) southwest of the Cape Verde Islands on 24 April 1941. The ship went down in one minute, there were no survivors.
The tally increased: Samsø, Wray Castle, Surat and Dunkwa were all sent to the bottom in the first week of May. When Dunkwa met her end, it was noticed that there were 39 survivors in one lifeboat; the U-boat-men righted another and provided water.
U-103 sank another eight ships in the vicinity of the 'dark continent' before returning to Lorient on 12 July.
Patrol number five was relatively modest in terms of ships sunk. 'Only' two vessels went under; (Niceto de Larrinaga and Edward Blyden), west of the Canary Islands on 22 September 1941.
The boat's sixth patrol centred around the eastern US coast. She sank W. L. Stead about 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) off the Delaware River on 2 February 1942. The torpedo hit set the ship on fire but wave action soon extinguished it. Using her deck gun, U-103 fired 83 rounds, scoring 17 hits and reigniting the fire. She fired a further two torpedoes, the second missed, but the third caused the tanker's cargo to explode, sending flames 500 ft (150 m) into the air.
U-103 also sank San Gil on 4 February, India Arrow on the 5th and China Arrow on the same date.
Her seventh patrol began with her departure from Lorient on 15 April 1942. She sank Stanbank northeast of Bermuda on 5 May. Moving into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, she caused more mayhem among the unprotected merchant ships in May. In all, she destroyed nine vessels on this voyage.
U-103 returned to Lorient on 22 June.
Two more ships went to watery graves - Tasmania north of Madeira on 31 October 1942 and Henry Stanley in mid-Atlantic northwest of the Azores on 6 December. The Henry Stanley's master was taken prisoner and was eventually sent to the POW camp for merchant seamen at Milag Nord.
U-103 also damaged Horata north of the Azores on 13 December.
9th and 10th patrols
The boat experienced something that was relatively novel on her ninth sally - she sank no ships. Despite scouring the Atlantic off Spain as far west as the Azores and as far south as Morocco, she came across no convoys. Having departed Lorient on 7 February 1943, she returned there on 26 March.
U-103 was attacked by a Leigh Light equipped Vickers Wellington of No. 172 Squadron RAF on 27 April, during her tenth patrol. The aircraft had found the U-boat with its radar; six depth charges were dropped, but no damage inflicted. The boat was also attacked by a Whitley bomber of No. 10 OTU (Operational Training Unit) on 22 May. A hit from the boat's AA fire prevented the aircraft from dropping its depth charges. Plane and submarine both returned safely to their bases.
U-103's last operational patrol was officially divided into two parts; the first of which saw her arrive in Brest in France only two days after her departure from 'Lorient. She then returned to the west African coast but could not repeat her earlier success. She sailed to Bergen in Norway via a reverse in the course of her first patrol and arrived at the Nordic port on 1 January 1944.
The boat moved from Bergen on 3 January 1944 and arrived in Kiel on the 7th. In March U-103 was taken out of service and used as a Schulboot (training boat). She went from Gotenhafen to Hamburg in January 1945 and in April from Hamburg back to Kiel. On 15 April 1945 she was sunk by Canadian bombers; one man died and there were an unknown number of survivors.
U-103 took part in nine wolfpacks, namely.
- Störtebecker (5–7 November 1941)
- Streitaxt (29 October – 2 November 1942)
- Schlagetot (9–21 November 1942)
- Westwall (21 November – 16 December 1942)
- Robbe (16 February – 12 March 1943)
- Wohlgemut (12–19 March 1943)
- Amsel 4 (4–6 May 1943)
- Rhein (7–10 May 1943)
- Elbe 2 (10–14 May 1943)
Summary of raiding history
|6 October 1940||Nina Borthen||Norway||6,123||Sunk|
|9 October 1940||Delphin||Greece||3,816||Sunk|
|9 October 1940||Graigwen||United Kingdom||3,697||Damaged|
|9 October 1940||Zannes Gounaris||Greece||4,407||Sunk|
|13 October 1940||Nora||Estonia||1,186||Sunk|
|15 October 1940||Thislegarth||United Kingdom||4,747||Sunk|
|21 November 1940||Daydawn||United Kingdom||4,768||Sunk|
|21 November 1940||Victoria||Greece||6,085||Sunk|
|27 November 1940||Glenmoor||United Kingdom||4,393||Sunk|
|28 November 1940||Mount Athos||Greece||3,578||Sunk|
|28 November 1940||St. Elwyn||United Kingdom||4,940||Sunk|
|8 December 1940||Calabria||United Kingdom||5,186||Sunk|
|9 December 1940||Empire Jaguar||United Kingdom||5,186||Sunk|
|13 February 1941||Arthur F. Corwin||United Kingdom||10,516||Damaged|
|17 February 1941||Edwy R. Brown||United Kingdom||10,455||Sunk|
|18 February 1941||Seaforth||United Kingdom||5,459||Sunk|
|19 February 1941||Benjamin Franklin||Norway||7,034||Sunk|
|25 April 1941||Polyana||Norway||2,267||Sunk|
|1 May 1941||Samsø||United Kingdom||1,494||Sunk|
|3 May 1941||Wray Castle||United Kingdom||4,253||Sunk|
|6 May 1941||Dunkwa||United Kingdom||4,752||Sunk|
|6 May 1941||Surat||United Kingdom||5,529||Sunk|
|9 May 1941||City of Winchester||United Kingdom||7,120||Sunk|
|11 May 1941||City of Shanghai||United Kingdom||5,828||Sunk|
|22 May 1941||British Grenadier||United Kingdom||6,857||Sunk|
|25 May 1941||Radames||Egypt||3,575||Sunk|
|25 May 1941||Wangi Wangi||Netherlands||7,789||Sunk|
|8 June 1941||Elmdene||United Kingdom||4,853||Sunk|
|29 June 1941||Erani||Italy||6,619||Sunk|
|22 September 1941||Edward Blyden||United Kingdom||5,003||Sunk|
|22 September 1941||Niceto de Larringa||United Kingdom||5,591||Sunk|
|2 February 1942||W. L. Steed||United States||6,182||Sunk|
|4 February 1942||India Arrow||United States||8,327||Sunk|
|4 February 1942||San Gil||United States||3,627||Sunk|
|5 February 1942||China Arrow||United States||8,403||Sunk|
|5 February 1942||Stanbank||United States||5,966||Sunk|
|17 May 1942||Ruth Lykes||United States||2,612||Sunk|
|19 May 1942||Ogontz||United States||5,037||Sunk|
|21 May 1942||Clare||United States||3,372||Sunk|
|21 May 1942||Elizabeth||United States||4,727||Sunk|
|23 May 1942||Samuel Q. Brown||United States||6,625||Sunk|
|24 May 1942||Hector||Netherlands||1,828||Sunk|
|26 May 1942||Alcoa Carrier||United States||5,588||Sunk|
|28 May 1942||New Jersey||United States||6,414||Sunk|
|31 October 1942||Tasmania||United Kingdom||6,405||Sunk|
|6 December 1942||Henry Stanley||United Kingdom||5,025||Sunk|
|13 December 1942||Horata||United Kingdom||3,945||Damaged|
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "German U-boats of WWII: U-103". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-boat patrols: War Patrols by U-64". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
- Gröner 1991, p. 68.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-103". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
- Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). German U-boat commanders of World War II : a biographical dictionary. Translated by Brooks, Geoffrey. London, Annapolis, Md: Greenhill Books, Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-186-6.
- Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [German U-boat losses from September 1939 to May 1945]. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German). IV. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler. ISBN 3-8132-0514-2.
- Edwards, Bernard (1996). Dönitz and the Wolfpacks - The U-boats at War. Cassell Military Classics. pp. 119, 125. ISBN 0-304-35203-9.
- Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IXB boat U-103". German U-boats of WWII - uboat.net. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
- Hofmann, Markus. "U 103". Deutsche U-Boote 1935-1945 - u-boot-archiv.de (in German). Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- uboataces.com webpage with insignia for U-103