Robert Bartels
Born(1911-04-28)28 April 1911
Kiel-Pries, Schleswig-Holstein, German Empire
Died20 August 1943(1943-08-20) (aged 32)
Indian Ocean
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branch Kriegsmarine
Years of service1935–43
Commands heldU-139
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsU-boat War Badge 1939, German Cross in Gold, Bronze Medal of Military Valor

Robert Bartels (28 April 1911 – 20 August 1943) was a German U-boat commander in World War II.[1]

Naval career

Robert Bartels joined the Reichsmarine in 1935. From 1937 to June 1940, he served as a watch officer on U-21. He went through U-boat familiarisation in July 1940 in preparation for his own command. On 24 July 1940 Bartels commissioned the new Type IID U-139. He left the boat on 20 December 1940. From there he went to the 1st U-boat Flotilla and another U-boat familiarisation, this time in order to prepare for his command of the larger Type VIIC boat, U-561 on 13 March 1941.[2] With this vessel Bartels went out on his first war patrol on 25 May 1941, a 69-day patrol where he sank one small ship. When he left the boat on 5 September 1942 after eight patrols he had sunk or destroyed five ships for over 21,000 tons and damaged another - the last three ships fell to mines laid by U-561. Bartels went through his third U-boat familiarisation in September and October 1942 in order to prepare for the much larger Type IXD2 boats. These vessels were very long range and were later converted for transport use. Bartels commissioned the new U-197 on 10 October 1942.[2]


The day before its loss, U-197 had met with Wolfgang Lüth's U-181 where Bartels told Lüth he intended to stay in this area and hunt the traffic Lüth had told him about. Their radio chatter had allowed the Allies to pinpoint the location, finding Bartels' boat the next day.[3] On 20 August 1943 U-197 was attacked south of Madagascar, in position 28°40′S 42°36′E / 28.667°S 42.600°E / -28.667; 42.600Coordinates: 28°40′S 42°36′E / 28.667°S 42.600°E / -28.667; 42.600, by a British PBY Catalina aircraft, C of No. 259 Squadron RAF, with six depth charges and slightly damaged. As the aircraft had no more bombs, it attempted to strafe with her machine guns, but the U-boat responded with AA fire. The aircraft then circled the U-boat at a safe distance and radioed for assistance. The U-boat remained on the surface, perhaps assuming that any support was unlikely, and that the aircraft would eventually have to abandon her vigil. Unfortunately for the German submarine, another Catalina, FP 313 of 265 Squadron, arrived. U-197 promptly crash-dived, and the aircraft dropped three depth charges, two of which detonated to port of the U-boat, but the third hit her squarely, killing all 67 hands.[4] The pilot, captain Ernest Robin, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for the sinking of the vessel.

Eitel-Friedrich Kentrat, commander of U-196, was severely criticised by the Befehlshaber der U-Boote (BdU) [U-boat headquarters] for his lack of support for U-197. Bartels of U-197 had radioed a distress signal. The correct response by any boat in the vicinity, according to orders, would have been to assist at top speed. The BdU twice ordered U-196 to aid U-197 before Kentrat responded, and by that time U-197 and the entire crew were lost.[5]

Ships attacked

Date U-boat Name of ship Nationality Tonnage Fate
28 July 1941 U-561 Wrotham  United Kingdom 1,884 Sunk
11 November 1941 U-561 Meridian  Panama 5,592 Sunk
14 November 1941 U-561 Crusader  Panama 2,939 Sunk
14 May 1942 U-561 Fred  Greece 4,043 Damaged
14 May 1942 U-561 Hav  Norway 5,062 Sunk
14 May 1942 U-561 Mount Olympus  Greece 6,692 Sunk
20 May 1943 U-197 Benakat  Netherlands 4,763 Sunk
24 July 1943 U-197 Pegasus  Sweden 9,583 Sunk
30 July 1943 U-197 William Ellery  United States 7,181 Damaged
17 August 1943 U-197 Empire Stanley  United Kingdom 6,921 Sunk




  1. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Korvettenkapitän Robert Bartels". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b Busch & Röll 1999a, p. 26.
  3. ^ "Deutsche U-Boote 1935–1945 : U 197". Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  4. ^ Busch & Röll 1999b, p. 140.
  5. ^ Busch & Röll 2003, p. 181.
  6. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 25.


  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999a). 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 (1999b). 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.
  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (2003). Der U-Boot-Krieg 1939–1945 — Die Ritterkreuzträger der U-Boot-Waffe von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [The U-Boat War 1939–1945 — The Knight's Cross Bearers of the U-Boat Force from September 1939 to May 1945] (in German). Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 978-3-8132-0515-2.
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.