Operation Puma (ii)

This was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Atlantic against the ONS.138, ON.139 and HX.212 convoys (16/20 October 1942).

The wolfpack comprised U-224, U-301, U-383, U-436, U-441, U-443, U-563, U-575, U-602, U-606, U-621, U-624 and U-753, and for the loss of none of its own number sank 12 ships (76,222 tons including four landing craft tank) and damaged two ships of the ONS.139 and HX.212 convoys.

The ‘Puma’ (ii) wolfpack was established with boats which had not been instructed to attack the ONS.135 convoy, and was sent to the south against the 61-ship ONS.138 convoy, whose progress was being tracked by the B-Dienst and which was itself supported by Commander D. G. F. W. MacIntyre’s British Escort Group B2 (destroyers Hesperus, Whitehall and Vanessa, and corvettes Gentian, Clematis and Heather).

Then on 22 October, Oberleutnant Konstantin von Puttkammer’s U-443, which was the most southerly of the wolfpack’s boats, sighted the ON.139 convoy of 44 merchant vessels supported by Lieutenant Commander E. H. Chavasse’s Canadian Escort Group C2 (British destroyers Broadway, Sherwood and Winchelsea, Canadian corvettes Drumheller, Morden and Pictou, and British corvettes Polyanthus and Primrose).

Since it was impossible for the other boats to come up from astern and attack, U-443 was given permission to engage on its own, and sank the 8,036-ton British Donax and 9,807-ton British Winnipeg II. With U-301, U-443 then tried to maintain contact and bring up U-260, U-620, U-662 and U-706, which were moving forward after refuelling from U-463, but on 25 October the two boats lost contact after they had followed the OS.42 rather than ON.139 convoy from 23 October.

After U-441 and Kapitänleutnant Horst Schünemann’s U-621 had sighted independent sailers and stragglers on 22 October, the latter boat sinking the 6,113-ton British Empire Turnstone straggling from the ONS.136 convoy, the ‘Puma’ (ii) wolfpack, reinforced in the period up to 26 October by U-224, U-383, U-436, U-606 and U-624, continued to the west.

On 26 October the HX.212 convoy of 45 ships supported by Captain Fitz’s US Escort Group A3 (US Coast Guard cutter Campbell, US destroyer Badger, Canadian corvettes Rosthern and Trillium, and British corvette Dianthus), together with the Canadian corvettes Alberni, Summerside and Ville de Québec on transfer for service in ‘Torch’, sailed into the German patrol line. The sighting was reported by U-436, which maintained contact until the following day even though several other of the wolfpack’s boats were driven off.

During the night of 26/27 October Kapitänleutnant Günther Seibicke’s U-436 achieved hits with five torpedoes: the 10,107-ton British whale factory ship Sourabaya was sunk together with the 291-ton British tank landing craft LCT-2281 she was carrying as deck cargo, and the 7,350-ton Norwegian Frontenac and 8,225-ton US Gurney E. Newlin were damaged, the latter being sunk later by Oberleutnant Hans-Heinrich Döhler’s U-606. This boat had earlier torpedoed and damaged the 16,966-ton Norwegian whale factory ship Kosmos II, which it later sank with the aid of Oberleutnant Ulrich Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen’s U-624. The attacks of U-563 and U-621 were unsuccessful.

During 28 October U-436, U-441, U-443, U-606 and U-624 approached the area, but were repeatedly forced to submerge by the escorting aircraft provided by the RAF’s No. 120 Squadron operating from Iceland.

During the night of 28/29 October Oberleutnant Hans-Karl Kosbadt’s U-224 sank the straggling 3,921-ton Canadian Bic Island, and U-624 sank the 7,701-ton US Pan-New York.

On 29 October the boats were once more driven off by the air escort. En route to a new position, Seibicke’s U-436 sank the 4,998-ton British Barrwhin and Kapitänleutnant Günther Heydemann’s U-575 sank the unescorted 11,330-ton British passenger ship Abosso.

On 27 October Kapitänleutnant Robert Kindelbacher’s outbound U-627 had been depth-charged and sunk by a Boeing Fortress long-range patrol bomber of the RAF’s No. 206 Squadron in the area to the south of Iceland near the SC.105 convoy, which was supported by Commander E. C. Bayldon’s British Escort Group B1 (destroyers Hurricane, Rockingham and Watchman, and corvettes Dahlia, Wallflower, Meadowsweet and Monkshood). The outbound U-664 was damaged by a Consolidated Catalina flying boat of the US VP-84 squadron, which was escorting the HX.212 convoy on 1 November.

Meanwhile the ONS.140 convoy of 32 ships supported by Commander E. C. L. Day’s British Escort Group B4 (destroyers Highlander and Beverley, and corvettes Anemone, Clover, Abelia, Pennywort and Borage) passed to the north of the HX.212 convoy without being spotted.

Following the HX.212 convoy was the SC.106 convoy of 22 ships supported by Commander A. A. Tait’s British Escort Group B3 (destroyers Harvester and Free Polish Garland, British corvettes Orchis and Narcissus and Free French corvettes Lobélia, Aconit and Roselys) supported by the Canadian corvettes Camrose, Calgary and Kitchener on transfer for service in ‘Torch’, and this convoy was routed farther to the north in order to evade the U-boats following the HX.212 convoy.

The ON.141 convoy of 59 ships supported by Lieutenant Commander D. C. Wallace’s Canadian Escort Group C3 (destroyers Saguenay, Skeena and British Witherington, and corvettes Sackville, Agassiz, Galt and Wetaskiwin) passed to the south of the HX.212 convoy.

The ONS.142 convoy of 51 ships supported by Commander E. H. Tilden’s British Escort Group B7 (destroyers Firedrake and Ripley, and corvettes Sunflower, Loosestrife, Alisma and Pink) was routed to the north of the HX.212 convoy.