|Ordered||17 June 1937|
|Builder||Deutsche Werke, Kiel|
|Laid down||21 September 1937|
|Launched||3 September 1938|
|Commissioned||26 November 1938|
|Decommissioned||3 April 1945|
|Fate||Scuttled on 3 May 1945|
|Status||Damaged by US aircraft 3 April 1945|
|Class and type||IIC|
|Height||8.40 m (27 ft 7 in)|
|Draught||3.82 m (12 ft 6 in)|
|Test depth||80 m (260 ft)|
|Complement||3 officers, 22 men|
German submarine U-56 was a Type IIC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that served in the Second World War. She was built by Deutsche Werke, Kiel as yard number 255. Ordered on 17 June 1937, she was laid down on 21 September, launched on 3 September 1938 and commissioned on 26 November under the command of Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Zahn.
U-56 was initially assigned to the 5th U-boat Flotilla during her training period, until 31 December 1939, when she was re-assigned to the 1st U-boat Flotilla for operations. She carried out twelve war patrols, sinking three ships for a total 8,860 gross register tons (GRT) and one auxiliary warship of 16,923 GRT; she also damaged one vessel of 3,829 GRT.
German Type IIC submarines were enlarged versions of the original Type IIs. U-56 had a displacement of 291 tonnes (286 long tons) when at the surface and 341 tonnes (336 long tons) while submerged. Officially, the standard tonnage was 250 long tons (250 t), however. The U-boat had a total length of 43.90 m (144 ft 0 in), a pressure hull length of 29.60 m (97 ft 1 in), a beam of 4.08 m (13 ft 5 in), a height of 8.40 m (27 ft 7 in), and a draught of 3.82 m (12 ft 6 in). The submarine was powered by two MWM RS 127 S four-stroke, six-cylinder diesel engines of 700 metric horsepower (510 kW; 690 shp) for cruising, two Siemens-Schuckert PG VV 322/36 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 410 metric horsepower (300 kW; 400 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 0.85 m (3 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 80–150 metres (260–490 ft).
The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7 knots (13 km/h; 8.1 mph). When submerged, the boat could operate for 35–42 nautical miles (65–78 km; 40–48 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 3,800 nautical miles (7,000 km; 4,400 mi) at 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph). U-56 was fitted with three 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes at the bow, five torpedoes or up to twelve Type A torpedo mines, and a 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of 25.
U-56's first three patrols, completed during her workup and training period, were relatively uneventful cruises in the North Sea. No ships were attacked during this period; even though on her third sortie, she circumnavigated the Shetland Islands.
The submarine's luck changed for the better on her fourth foray. She damaged Eskdene on 2 December 1939, 70 nautical miles (130 km; 81 mi) northeast of the Tyne. The following day, she sank Rudolf 40 nautical miles (74 km; 46 mi) east of May Island (in the mouth of the Firth of Forth).
The fifth patrol was also uneventful and took the boat into the southern North Sea.
Patrol numbers six and seven were both more of the same.
The boat's eighth sortie ranged far and wide; across the North Sea to the Scottish west coast, north of Shetland, then the other side of the North Sea to the coast of Norway, but further success continued to elude her.
Her ninth effort was to the north of the Hebrides and again round the Shetland Islands.
U-56's tenth patrol took her to the newly captured port of Lorient on the French Atlantic coast. She departed Wilhelmshaven on 29 June 1940; her route was to the west of Ireland, culminating in her arrival on 21 July.
In a similar location, she sank the armed merchant cruiser HMS Transylvania 40 nautical miles (74 km; 46 mi) northwest of Malin Head on 10 August.
U-56 was attacked by the British submarine HMS Tribune about 15 nautical miles (28 km; 17 mi) northeast of St Kilda on 6 September. All the torpedoes missed; the Germans were unaware of the situation. The boat was on her way, via the gap between the Faroe and Shetland Islands, back to Germany. She arrived in Kiel on 15 September.
Whilst in Kiel on 3 April 1945, U-56 was badly damaged in a US air raid and subsequently decommissioned. She was then scuttled by her crew on 3 May 1945 in position . Soon after the war ended the wreck was raised and broken up.
|2 December 1939||Eskdene||United Kingdom||3,829||Damaged|
|3 December 1939||Rudolf||Sweden||2,119||Sunk|
|23 January 1940||Onto||Finland||1,333||Sunk (mine)|
|5 August 1940||Boma||United Kingdom||5,408||Sunk|
|10 August 1940||HMS Transylvania||Royal Navy||16,923||Sunk|