U-33 in 1937. Note that the boat's number is still visible on the conning tower. It was painted out at the beginning of the war
|Ordered:||25 March 1935|
|Laid down:||1 September 1935|
|Launched:||11 June 1936|
|Commissioned:||25 July 1936|
|Fate:||Sunk, 12 February 1940|
|Class and type:||Type VIIA submarine|
|Height:||9.50 m (31 ft 2 in)|
|Draught:||4.37 m (14 ft 4 in)|
|Complement:||4 officers, 40–56 enlisted|
|Sensors and |
Her keel was laid down on 1 September 1935 at the Germaniawerft in Kiel. She was launched on 11 June 1936 and commissioned on 25 July with Ottoheinrich Junker in command. He was relieved by Kurt Freiwald on 22 November. Kapitänleutnant (Kptlt.) Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky took over on 29 October 1938 and commanded the boat until her loss.
As one of the first ten German Type VII submarines later designated as Type VIIA submarines, U-33 had a displacement of 626 tonnes (616 long tons) when at the surface and 745 tonnes (733 long tons) while submerged. She had a total length of 64.51 m (211 ft 8 in), a pressure hull length of 45.50 m (149 ft 3 in), a beam of 5.85 m (19 ft 2 in), a height of 9.50 m (31 ft 2 in), and a draught of 4.37 m (14 ft 4 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 6 V 40/46 four-stroke, six-cylinder diesel engines producing a total of 2,100 to 2,310 metric horsepower (1,540 to 1,700 kW; 2,070 to 2,280 shp) for use while surfaced, two BBC GG UB 720/8 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 750 metric horsepower (550 kW; 740 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.23 m (4 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 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph). When submerged, the boat could operate for 73–94 nautical miles (135–174 km; 84–108 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 6,200 nautical miles (11,500 km; 7,100 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-33 was fitted with five 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and one at the stern), eleven torpedoes, one 8.8 cm (3.46 in) SK C/35 naval gun, 220 rounds, and an anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.
On Monday, 20 November 1939 she sank three British steam trawlers. At 10:30 am, Thomas Hankins 14 miles north-west of Tory Island; at 4:00 pm, Delphine 18 miles north-northeast of Tory and at 5:05 pm Sea Sweeper 25 miles west-northwest of Tory. The crew of Thomas Hankins, under the master, M. Hankins, was rescued by another trawler ten hours later and landed in Northern Ireland. They reported that they had been shelled without warning. The second shell went through the bows and the fifth through the boiler, causing the trawler to sink in about 25 minutes.
On Tuesday, 21 November 1939 at 08:30 in rough seas, the trawler FD87 Sulby (from Fleetwood), was sunk by gunfire from U-33 75–80 miles north-west of Rathlin Island. The crew had just managed to launch and push off the two lifeboats as the submarine fired two shells into the trawler amidships and she sank within two minutes. The U-boat commander pointed at the crew as they rowed from their ship and laughed. One of the lifeboats, whose occupants were Harold Blackburn, James Hay, James William Geddes (of Buckie, Banffshire,Scotland), Fred Brunt, Augustus Lewis, Sydney Mellish and Jack Threlfall were picked up the following day by the Tobermory lifeboat. The other lifeboat was lost with five men including the Skipper, Clarence Hudson; Mate John Michael (Jack) Dawson; and deck hands Raymond Randles, James Wood and R.A. Lister.
An hour or so later at the same location, U-33 sank another trawler, William Humphries. The entire crew of 13 men were lost. Two of them were buried in the graveyard of Cill Chriosd on the Isle of Skye.
In February 1940, U-33, then captained by Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky, had been ordered to lay mines in the Firth of Clyde, in Scotland. However, the minesweeper HMS Gleaner, captained by Lieutenant-Commander Hugh Price, detected the U-boat on the 12th and dropped depth charges over a period of several hours. Eventually, the damaged U-33 was forced to surface and the crew abandoned the boat, which sank soon afterward. 25 men died while 17 survived. Before the boat was abandoned, the U-boat's secret Enigma rotors were distributed amongst a few of the crew, who were instructed to release them into the sea to avoid capture. This was not done, however, and as a result the British captured three rotors, including two (VI and VII), that were only used by Kriegsmarine and for which the wiring was previously unknown.
Summary of raiding history
|Date||Name of ship||Nationality||Tonnage (GRT)||Fate|
|7 September 1939||Olivegrove||United Kingdom||4,060||Sunk|
|16 September 1939||Arkelside||United Kingdom||1,567||Sunk|
|24 September 1939||Caldew||United Kingdom||287||Sunk|
|20 November 1939||Delphine||United Kingdom||250||Sunk|
|20 November 1939||Sea Sweeper||United Kingdom||329||Sunk|
|20 November 1939||Thomas Hankins||United Kingdom||276||Sunk|
|21 November 1939||Sulby||United Kingdom||1,575||Sunk|
|21 November 1939||William Humphries||United Kingdom||276||Sunk|
|23 November 1939||Borkum||United Kingdom||3,670||Total loss|
|25 December 1939||Stanholme||United Kingdom||2,473||Sunk (mine)|
|16 January 1940||Inverdangle||United Kingdom||9,456||Sunk (mine)|
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- Kemp 1999, pp. 63-4.
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- Sulby sinking information from Statements to the Secretary of the Fleetwood Steam Trawlers Association Limited and a newspaper cutting from the time.
- The sinking of U-33
- The Bosun's Watch - Sulby
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