Operation Raubritter

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This was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Atlantic off Newfoundland against the SC.52 convoy (1/17 November 1941).

The wolfpack comprised U-38, U-74, U-82, U-84, U-85, U-93, U-106, U-123, U-133, U-202, U-203, U-569, U-571 and U-577, and for the loss of none of its own number sank four ships (17,064 tons).

On 1 November, near the Allies’ Western Ocean Meeting Point, U-374 spotted and reported the SC.52 convoy. After sinking a 5,720-ton straggler off the Belle Isle Strait, Kapitänleutnant Reinhard Hardegan’s U-123, the boats of the ‘Schlagetot’ wolfpack, and U-74 and U-106 from the attack on the ON.28 convoy were concentrated as the new ‘Raubritter’ wolfpack for an attack on the SC.52 convoy. U-374 maintained contact and brought up first U-123 and then U-38, U-569, U-82 and U-202, During the night of 3/4 November, Oberleutnant Hans-Peter Hinch’s U-569 and then Kapitänleutnant Hans-Heinz Linder’s U-202 made a pair of attacks resulting in the sinking of the 2,022-ton British Flynderborg and 4,586-ton British Gretavale. During the evening of the next day, Kapitänleutnant Rolf Mützelburg’s U-203 sank the 5,626-ton British Empire Gemsbuck and 4,830-ton British Everoja.

The German operation was much hindered by radio interference and poor visibility, however, and the wolfpack lost contact during the night of 4/5 November, and then did not regain it as the convoy had meanwhile been instructed to shelter in the Belle Isle Strait.

The outbound ONS.29 convoy of 24 ships supported by Lieutenant Commander T. Taylor’s Canadian Escort Group 4.1.12 (British destroyer Broadway, and corvettes Eyebright, Kenogami, Lethbridge, Mayflower and Prescott) was routed close to the coast of Labrador and evaded the ‘Raubritter’ wolfpack, of which U-38, U-82, U-85, U-106, U-123, U-133, U-571 and U-577 were ordered to form a new patrol line to the south-east of Cape Farewell from 8 November after fruitless searches for the SC.52 convoy.

While the ON.30 convoy of 42 ships supported by Lieutenant Commander A. E. T. Christie’s British 8th Escort Group (destroyers Malcolm, Sardonyx and Watchman, corvettes Arabis, Dahlia and Monkshood, and two anti-submarine trawlers) was re-routed to the south-east to evade the submarine-patrolled waters between Newfoundland and Greenland, the escorts of the 33-ship ON.31 convoy (British 3rd Escort Group with the destroyers Amazon and Georgetown, corvettes Heartsease and Free French Renoncule and Roselys, and three anti-submarine trawlers) and of the 49-ship ONS.32 convoy (British 2nd Escort Group with the destroyers Douglas, Leamington and Skate, corvettes Abelia and Anemone, and three anti-submarine trawlers) were relieved at the Mid-Ocean Meeting Point on 4 and 6 November respectively by the US Task Unit 4.1.7 (destroyers Roe, Bainbridge, Overton, Sturtevant and Truxtun) and the Canadian Escort Group 4.1.13 (destroyers St Croix and Restigouche, and corvettes Agassiz, Alberni, Amherst, Bittersweet and Free French Alysse). The two convoys were then sent on a southerly route toward the Western Ocean Meeting Point.

On 8 November U-38, U-82, U-85, U-106, U-123, U-133, U-571 and U-577 arrived in position to establish the ‘Raubritter’ wolfpack’s new patrol line to the south-east of Greenland, but the convoys were routed to the south of this patrol line and thus there were now, in addition to the SC.53 and HX.158 convoys, the ONS.33 convoy of 33 ships supported by the British 4th Escort Group (destroyer Roxborough, corvettes Heather, Narcissus and Free French Lobélia and Commandant Détroyat, and five anti-submarine trawlers) relieved at the Mid-Ocean Meeting Point on 9 November by the Canadian Escort Group 4.1.11 (destroyer St Laurent and corvettes Arrowhead, Chilliwack, Snowberry, Trail and British Polyanthus and Primrose), and the ON.34 convoy of 46 ships supported by the British 5th Escort Group (destroyers Vanoc, Volunteer and Caldwell, and corvettes Gentian, Honeysuckle, Hibiscus, Myosotis, Periwinkle, Sweetbriar and attached Canadian Chicoutimi and Sherbrooke) relieved on 12 November by the US TU4.1.3 (destroyers Benson, Niblack, Hilary P. Jones, Tarbell and Edison).

As soon as the B-Dienst had fixed the location of the ONS.33 convoy, the ‘Raubritter’ wolfpack was deployed against it between 12 and 15 November. However, the boats did not find the convoy and began to return. U-85, U-133, U-571 and U-577 operated fruitlessly against the OS.11 convoy on 16 November, but on their return passages Kapitänleutnant Eitel-Friedrich Kentrat’s U-74 sank the 8,532-ton British Nottingham, which was sailing independently, and Oberleutnant Robert Bartels’s U-561 sank the 5,592-ton Panamanian Meridian and 2,939-ton Panamanian Crusader, both stragglers from the SC.53 convoy.