Operation Haudegen (i)

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This was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Atlantic against the HX.223, SG.19, HX.225, SC.119 and ON.165 convoys (19 January/15 February 1943).

On 2 February five of the boats left to form the ‘Nordstürm’ pack for an attack on the SG.19 convoy, and some of the boats later joined the ‘Haudegen’ (i) pack. On 9 February the pack was re-formed as some boats left for port and others departed for the ‘Pfeil’ (ii) attack on the SC.118 convoy.

The wolfpack was established in the area to the south-east of Greenland from the ‘Falke’ (ii) pack’s boats still possessing adequate fuel, and at this stage comprised U-69, U-186, U-201, U-223, U-226, U-268, U-303, U-358, U-383, U-403, U-414, U-438, U-466, U-525, U-606, U-607, U-613, U-624, U-704, U-707 and U-752. On 22 January, while on passage to the rendezvous, Kapitänleutnant Rolf Manke’s U-358 attacked the UR.59 convoy, proceeding to Reykjavik, and sank the 1,456-ton Swedish Neva. On 26 January U-266 and U-383 sighted the escorts of the HX.223 convoy, which had been slightly scattered in a storm. U-466 listened to the convoy, which comprised 24 ships supported by Commander Paul A. Heineman’s US Escort Group A3 with the US Coast Guard cutters Spencer and Campbell, British corvette Dianthus and Canadian corvettes Dauphin, Rosthern and Trillium. Manke’s U-358 sank the straggling 8,221-ton Norwegian Nortind and Oberleutnant Wolf Jeschonnek’s U-607 torpedoed the wreck of the 8,257-ton Norwegian tanker Kjollbørg, whose back had been broken in the storm and which now sank just before U-594 sought to finish her off.

On 2 February the most northerly boat of the ‘Haudegen’ (i) wolfpack sighted the SG.19 Greenland supply convoy, consisting of three merchant vessels escorted by the US Coast Guard cutters Tampa, Escabana and Comanche. U-186, U-268, U-358, U-707 and U-223 were directed onto this target, and Oberleutnant Karl-Jürg Wächter’s U-223 sank the 5,649-ton US Army transport Dorchester.

These boats then formed the ‘Nordstürm’ wolfpack.

The remaining ‘Haudegen’ (i) boats headed in loose formation toward the area to the north-east of Newfoundland and the expected interception of the SC.118 convoy, but were unsuccessful as the convoy had been rerouted as a result of ‘Ultra’ intercepts and decrypts of German naval radio traffic.

On 2 February Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz, commander-in-chief of the German navy but still in practical control of the U-boat arm via Kapitän Eberhard Godt, ordered the establishment of the ‘Pfeil’ (ii) wolfpack (U-89, U-135, U-187, U-262, U-266, U-267, U-402, U-413, U-454, U-465, U-594, U-608 and U-609) to operate against the SC.118 convoy, which was expected in accordance with B-Dienst reports and prisoner-of-war statements.

On 4 February the convoy was reported by U-187, according to plan in the middle of the patrol line. Apart from the ‘Pfeil’ (ii) boats, U-438, U-613, U-624, U-704 and U-752 of the ‘Haudegen’ (i) pack, as well as U-456 and U-614 from the operation against the HX.224 convoy, were directed to the scene.

The SC.118 convoy comprised 61 ships supported by Lieutenant Commander F. B. Proudfoot’s British Escort Group B2 with the destroyers Vanessa, Vimy and Beverley, corvettes Campanula, Mignonette, Abelia and Free French Lobélia, and US Coast Guard cutter Bibb. This last, together with the rescue ship Toward, located the contact report of Kapitänleutnant Ralph Münnich’s U-187 with HF/DF, and the U-boat was sunk by Vimy and Beverley. The escorts also located U-402, U-608 (twice), U-267 and U-609 on 4 February, and during the following night of 4/5 February, and were driven off by Vimy, Beverley, Campanula, Bibb, Lobélia and Mignonette.

After a change of course, U-609 established contact with a detached pack but was depth-charged by Lobélia, while Oberleutnant Heinz Franke’s U-262 sank the 2,864-ton Polish Zagloba on the unprotected side, but soon after this was depth-charged heavily by Vimy and Beverley. Vimy forced the contact-keeper U-609, which had closed up, to submerge again. From astern, Kapitänleutnant Gustav Poel’s U-413 sank the straggling 5,376-ton US West Portal. In the evening of 5 February U-609, which had come up once again, was driven off by the escort, reinforced in the meantime by the US destroyers Babbitt and Schenck and the US Coast Guard cutter Ingham from Iceland.

During the morning of 6 February U-465 radioed a contact report, and was then bombed by a Consolidated Liberator long-range maritime patrol bomber of the RAF’s No. 120 Squadron, which had been directed to the D/F beam; the wolfpack’s other boats were driven off.

By the evening of 6 February U-609 again brought up U-438, U-262, U-456 and U-267, the last of which was severely damaged by Vimy. Attempted attacks by U-454, U-438 and U-135 were prevented by Lobélia, Abelia and Babbitt: only U-262 was able to fire, but its torpedoes failed and the boat was then damaged by Lobélia in a depth-charge attack. After midnight Kapitänleutnant Siegfried Freiherr von Forstner’s U-402 managed to pass through a gap in the convoy, during two approaches, sank the 8,597-ton British Afrika, 9,272-ton Norwegian Daghild, 6,063-ton US Henry R. Mallory, 4,965-ton Greek Kalliopi, 6,625-ton US Robert E. Hopkins, and 1,571-ton British rescue ship Toward (37,093 tons in all). The straggling 5,740-ton British Harmala was sunk by Kapitänleutnant Wolfgang Sträter’s U-614, and Lobélia sank Kapitänleutnant Klaus Rudloff’s U-609.

On 7 February most of the U-boats were forced to the rear by the defence: only U-402 maintained contact, and then merely to mid-day before being driven off by Bibb before returning later with U-456. Shortly after this both U-boats were forced to dive by Bibb and a Boeing Fortress long-range patrol bomber of the RAF’s No. 220 Squadron, which also sank Kapitänleutnant Ulrich Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen’s U-624. Another attempted attack by U-456 was detected by HF/DF and frustrated by Beverley. Only von Forstner’s U-402 had any further success, sinking the 4,625-ton British Newton Ash during the night of 7/8 February. An attack by U-608 on a disabled ship and the destroyer Schenck failed.

In the morning, aircraft drove off the last U-boats and U-135 was damaged by a Liberator of the RAF’s No. 120 Squadron. On 9 February U-614 tried to attack Vimy, which was attempting to tow the damaged Lobélia, but was badly damaged by a Fortress of the RAF’s No. 206 Squadron.

Kapitänleutnant Max-Martin Teichert’s U-456 sank the 700-ton Irish Kyleclare on 23 February on the return journey west of the Bay of Biscay. Between 9 and 15 February the boats of the ‘Haudegen’ (i) wolfpack, now comprising U-69, U-186, U-201, U-223, U-226, U-303, U-358, U-383, U-403, U-525, U-606, U-607 and U-707, established themselves in a semi-circle to the north-east of Newfoundland as they waited fruitlessly for the HX.225 convoy supported by the Escort Group C2 (British destroyers Broadway and Sherwood, British corvettes Polyanthus and Primrose, and Canadian corvettes Morden, Orillia and Pictou) and the SC.119 convoy supported by the British Escort Group B1 (destroyers Hurricane, Watchman and Rockingham, frigate Kale and corvettes Dahlia, Meadowsweet, Monkshood and Wallflower).

The HX.226 convoy, supported by the Canadian Escort Group C3 (British destroyer Burnham, British frigate Jed, British corvettes Bittersweet and Eyebright, and Canadian corvette La Malbaie), was routed west of the U-boats on 15 February. On that day the boats, with the exception of U-186, U-223, U-358 and U-707 detached as the ‘Taifun’ wolfpack, started to move to a rendezvous with the supply boat U-460. In the process, on 17 February U-69 spotted the ONS.165 convoy of 32 ships supported by Commander R. Heathcote’s British Escort Group B6 (destroyers Fame and Viscount, corvettes Vervain, Kingcup and Norwegian Acanthus and Eglantine).

Directed to the contact signal located by HF/DF, Viscount rammed and sank Kapitänleutnant Günther Rosenberg’s U-201, which was the second boat to come up, and Fame sank Kapitänleutnant Ulrich Gräf’s U-69. Of the boats of the former ‘Haudegen’ (i) and ‘Taifun’ (ii) wolfpacks ordered to the scene, U-403 did not sight the convoy before the afternoon of 18 February but in two approaches sank the 5,961-ton Greek Zeus during the night of 18/19 February. In the morning U-226 missed the convoy. During the evening of 19 February Kapitänleutnant Han-Joachim Drewitz’s U-525 came up for a short attack and sank the straggling 3,454-ton British Radhurst.

The operation was then broken off because the U-boats were approaching land.