Captain Franz must have dozed off for two hours when he was rudely awaken by a loud knocking sound. Just then, a sailor came to his quarters with a message.
“Captain, you are needed at the bridge”
Captain Franz rushed to the bridge where Ernst was on the periscope.
“Captain, have a look at this” Ernst said as he moved over for the Captain to use the periscope.
From the horizon, a fade shape of a merchant ship can be seen.
“It is still far ahead and we are unable to determine the nationality of the ship. It is not escorted and is not sailing in a flotilla – very unlike for an Allied merchant ship to be doing that. Gathering from the speed of the ship, it will miss us completely by the time we reach its point. No point for us to chase the ship for now.”
“Keep scanning the horizon for any more ships. We may be crossing a major shipping line”
Ernst took over the periscope and noticed that the merchant ship was fading in the horizon. It must be sailing away from our path.
Captain Franz looked at his watch, another two hours before he can relieve Ernst at the bridge.
“Ernst, since I am awake and it is not possible for me to go back to sleep, why don’t you take a break. I will start my shift now. Besides I was getting bored in my quarters”
The next shift started two hours later – the new crew took over from the weary looking crew.
The journey went without much event for the next several hours. Then the sonar operator detected something.
“Captain, I am detecting some large 5 nautical miles away”
The Captain ordered the U Boat to rise to periscope level and had a look at the periscope. In the front was a flotilla of Allied merchant ships escorted by two large destroyers.
“Sound the battle station!”
Immediately the whole of U Boat was full of action – the men running about, getting into their place, the weapon crew readying the torpedoes whilst the engine room crew brazing for action.
“We are going to attack and sink as many ships as possible. Alert the Wolf Pack. U 521 will take on the first merchant ship, U 520 will take on the second merchant ship, U 302 will take on the third merchant ship whilst U 331 will take on the first destroyer. We will take the last and the bigger destroyer right at the rear of the flotilla”
Information was passed on the captains in the Wolf Pack who lined up their U Boats for a medium range torpedo strike whilst readied the men for the battle. Thus far, the Allied ships have not detected the Wolf Pack. The outer layer of sonar absorbing material is working well.
The Allied ships formed a convoy with the destroyers escorting at the front and the rear of the fleet. Little the suspect that about five nautical miles away, five “hungry” U Boats lined up for a torpedo shot.
“Fire!” was the order from Captain Franz and immediately Type R torpedoes left the torpedoes tubes of the U Boat and streaking fast towards its target – the Allied ships. The Type R torpedoes have locking radar built in so when there are changes to the position of the Allied ships, the torpedoes makes minute changes to the direction and maintain the course.
There was anxious moment of waiting before the U Boat was rocked by huge tremors. All five torpedoes had met its mark and the Allied ships were on fire. Two of the merchant ships sank immediately but the two destroyers were still in good ship despite a large hole on its side. The destroyers were moving towards the position of the U Boats but due to the fire on board, the turning were extremely slow. Captain Franz order U 331 to launch another torpedo whilst U 133 launched another towards another destroyer. There was a big explosion and the destroyers had stopped turning.
“Surface” ordered Captain Franz but instructing the rest of the Wolf Pack to remain submerged. There were some survivors on the water but Captain Franz is unable to rescue any of them. Many were dead. Captain Franz wished times were different for him and the Allied sailors but this is war and this has been expected.
There were shouts from the men in the water for help, some were badly injured. Captain Franz told them that he is unable to help – there is no space in the U Boat to help them. U 133 continued with its journey. Little Captain Franz would have realised that much later when the Bismarck task force arrived at this place, they managed to rescue most of the men in the water and sent them as prisoners of war when the task force sailed to the next occupied port.
The news of the two destroyed Allied naval ships by the Wolf Pack reached Admiral Gunther and immediate congratulatory words was messaged back to the Wolf Pack leader.
“It is a good start” messaged Admiral Gunther
The days thereafter saw no major action by the Wolf Pack and on the fifth day, they were nearing the waters where HMS Hood and HMS Walter were reported to be seen. There was still no new intelligence updates on this wanted Allied ships. Remembering how the Allied set trap for the U Boats, Captain Franz was noticeably cautious this time around. Will there be traps set out for the U Boats or worse for the entire Bismarck task force?
Captain Franz was certainly getting worried and thinking on what need to be done. He needs to consult Admiral Gunther as well. He does not want to forsake the safety of the men under his care – not again, ever.
With no new intelligence report coming in, there was an urgent need for the Bismarck task force to know the position of HMS Hood and HMS Walter. After several hours contemplating his next move, Captain Franz decided that U 133 will go ahead to the area where the Allied was last reported to be seen. The remaining U Boats from the X Wolf Pack to maintain the current position. Admiral Gunther was briefed and was given the go ahead.
Captain Franz ordered the U 133 to be reduced and moved silently in the deeper waters towards the port entrance. He was aware that anti-U Boats mines may be set up at the entrance to catch unsuspecting U Boats trying to sneak in to the port. That’s what happened the last time around and he was ready for it this time around.
He ordered two of his best swimmers to get ready in diving suits and exit out and check whether there are any anti U Boat mines laid out. U 133 has a diving hatch specially built for this purpose and Captain had done the same way in the past. The divers got ready and armed with special device to disable the mines, swam out to the open using the diving hatch.
It was almost an hour before they returned tired. Yes, there was anti U Boat mines laid out but they managed to disable all of it. U 133 is now safe to sail into the port waters. But they did something extra – they swam to the edge of the port and check on the ships was moored on the port. There was the two battle cruisers moored – it does look like the HMS Hood and HMS Walters. They also found out why these ships have not left the port – both were damaged and were undergoing repairs.
“Ha, damaged battle cruisers – that would be advantage for the task force” smiled the Captain.
The divers informed that there are other naval boats in the port and one looked like fuel supply ship and it looked like it was ready to leave the port with full load of fuel. This ship need to be destroyed – Captain Franz sent an urgent message to the Admiral Gunther on the reports by his divers. Captain also sent message to his Wolf Pack to lay a trap for the fuel supply ship.
“But Captain, what if the fuel ship leaves before the task force arrives? Wouldn’t an attack on it blow our position and the surprise element?”
“You are right, Ernst. Alright ask the U Boats to stand down and if the fuel ship leaves before the task force arrives, U 520 and U 521 were to follow it and attack out side the port surveillance zone. That way the port will not be alerted of our presence”
“That makes more sense, Captain. I will send out the message right away”
“Captain, we just got the word from Bismarck. They have arrived and are taking firing position. They asked us to retreat to a safer range of 2 nautical miles. They asked us to attack for any ships that might try to escape the bombardment. Two destroyers under the task force is taking position on the outer zone as another layer to attack any ships that slip pass the U Boats”
“Good – Ernst, we need to arrange the Wolf Pack as well. I want to arrange the U Boats in two – two – one position, each firing torpedoes within its sight. We don’t want to let any ships slips pass us, at least undamaged”
“Pass the message to Bismarck. The X Wolf Pack is now in position and waiting for the bombardment to start”
It was less than 10 minutes before there were loud bangs echoed in the deep water. U 133 shook and the men braced themselves as the impact of bombardment starts to impact the waters around the Wolf Pack. Battleship Bismarck started firing its 4 main guns. Soon the task force started raining the port with huge powerful bombardments. The first two shots landed right next to HMS Hood but the next two found its mark. One hit the bridge of HMS Hood whilst another hit its main guns. There was panic and chaos at the port. The fuel laden supply ship was the first to try to make a run to the open ocean, not realising that a Wolf Pack is waiting for it with a trap.
“Captain, the fuel ship is moving!” shouted the sonar operator
The captain had a quick look in his periscope and orders two torpedoes to be readied for immediate launch.
“Wait, wait, wait, fire!”
It took two torpedoes from U 133 to sink the fuel supply ship at the entrance of the port. The sight of a fuel supply ship exploding was a sight to behold. This in effect blocked smaller ships from escaping from the port, thus exposing them to the massive bombardments. Most of these ships are either sank or crippled by the bombardments.
Both HMS Hood and HMS Walter continued to be pounded by Bismarck’s main guns. Suddenly HMS Hood exploded and broke into two. HMS Walter on the other hand suffered from a massive fire on board and had to be abandoned. The Allied sailors made their way out from the port area to avoid being killed by the non stop bombardments from the German naval task force.
The Allied had called in for aerial defence but the expected air cover did not come. The bombardment lasted for almost one hour – both HMS Hood and HMS Walter completely destroyed together with smaller naval ships. Death and injury was high.
“Captain, message from Bismarck” the communication officer handed over the message to Captain Franz.
“Admiral Gunther wants us to assess the damage and the state of condition of HMS Hood and HMS Walter. The bombardment will commence in 15 minutes”
“Ernst, order our divers to swim to the port and report back the status. With all the debris and ships on fire, we can’t afford to take the U Boats in. We may get ourselves trapped”
Anxious moments passed before the divers returned to U 133 and reported on what they have seen.
“HMS Hood and HMS Walter have been completely destroyed. The port is in a chaos and heavily damaged. It is unlikely that the Allied could use the port in future. The water surrounding the port is blackish with spilled fuel from the fuel ship that we attacked.
By the time, the Allied’s air defence was scrambled to the port’s rescue; the Bismarck was already making its retreat to safer waters and on its way to occupied port for resupply. The X Wolf Pack once again led the way – they were almost out of supplies as well. And the men needed a break – they have been in the U Boat longer than any mission before.
“Captain, message from Bismarck”
The Captain took the printed message and read out to the crew
“The Fuhrer congratulates the Bismarck task force for the high success in destroying the Allied battle cruisers, HMS Hood and HMS Walter along with destruction of a heavily laden fuel supply ship”
“Captain, another message from Bismarck”
“Admiral Gunther hereby expresses satisfaction on the conduct of the X Wolf Pack in providing the necessary protection to the task force. A special mention must be made on the attack and destruction of the fuel supply ship. The supply was destined to the Allied Armoury divisions in North Africa. Now with the supply disrupted, Rommel will have an advantage over the Allied tanks”
“Ernst, convey both messages to all U Boats in the X Wolf Pack. They deserve the praise as well. Also let them know that once we reach the resupply port, drinks will be on me”
Immediately the U 133 crew cheered for the captain.
The task force reached the port at night and resupply tasks started almost immediately. The crew was not allowed to leave the base but the Base Commander provided accommodation and recreation place for the crew members to wait until the resupply is done. The U Boat crew were enjoying their drinks, thanks to the generosity of Captain Franz.
The Bismarck captain, Captain Lindemann and Admiral Gunther held a separate drinking session for Captain Franz.
“Mission is done. The task force will break from here. Bismarck has been ordered to join up with the northern fleet and patrol the Swedish waters and you captain has been ordered back to your base in Saint-Nazaire – another mission awaits you. The remaining X Wolf Pack will be here until U 454 joins them and take lead. They have been given another task nearer to the British coastal waters. The Kriegsmarine is confident of inflicting more damage.”
“Swedish waters?” asked Captain Franz looked surprised.
“You are aware now that Bismarck will be the prime target for the Allied forces after the sinking of their HMS Hood and HMS Walter. The British Prime Minister is furious on the lost of their two largest battle cruisers and has directed the Royal Navy to form a task force to hunt Bismarck. As such the Kriegsmarine High Command is of the opinion that Bismarck should make the journey to Swedish waters. A fleet of naval ships will be joining Bismarck to form a larger fleet. Details of this is now given only on a need to know basis”
“Understood” Captain Franz nodded.
“Oh the way, you have been awarded the Iron Cross for the job well done under the Bismarck task force. The captains of the U Boats in the Wolf Pack will receive their medals too. You may recommend anyone under the Wolf Pack for medal and acknowledgement from the Kriegsmarine High Command”
Captain Franz remained quiet and continued to finish his drink. The success of the mission belongs to the all men in the Wolf Pack and not him alone. The resupplying will be ending soon and he has to move on – the journey to Saint-Nazaire will take U 133 several days to reach.
It was late at night; Captain Franz excused himself and wandered around the port docks. Five U Boats was lined up side by side and resupply was almost completed.
“Captain, we are off to another mission? Some men were talking about it at the dock” U 133’s second in command, Ernst said as he stood next to Captain Franz looking at the resupplying of U 133.
“Are we leaving now, Captain?”
“Not yet, the Base Commander has asked the U Boats to be stationed here until he gets the details of deployment from Berlin. Besides the new leader of the Wolf Pack has not arrived yet – U 454 is still two days away. I have requested to brief the U 454 captain as well”
Captain Franz and Ernst stood quietly and watch their U Boat U 133.No tags for this post.