Operation Tirpitz

(creator of the German navy in the 19th century)

This was a U-boat five-part wolfpack operation in the Atlantic against the HX.264 convoy (2/8 November 1943).

For the loss of two of its own number, the wolfpack sank no ship.

On the basis of comparatively scanty intelligence about the ONS.21 convoy, supported by Commander P. W. Burnett’s Canadian Escort Group C2 (destroyers Gatineau and British Icarus, and corvettes Drumheller, Fennel and Kamloops), on 31 October Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz, the commander-in-chief of the German navy but still in day-to-day command of the U-boat arm via Konteradmiral Eberhard Godt, the service’s operations chief, ordered the establishment of the ‘Körner’ wolfpack (U-212, U-231, U-267, U-280, U-281, U-413, U-586, U-714, U-843, U-963 and U-969) and the ‘Jahn’ wolfpack (U-226, U-379, U-426, U-437, U-552, U-575, U-608, U-709 and U-842) in the area to the east of Newfoundland. The only contact gained by the two wolfpacks, however, was an aeroplane sighting by U-714 on 1 November, and then well off to the north.

After it had become clear that the ONS.21 convoy had evaded the two wolfpacks, the boats were divided into five sections as ‘Tirpitz I’ (U-212, U-267, U-714 and U-843), ‘Tirpitz II’ (U-413, U-608, U-963, U-967 and U-969), ‘Tirpitz III’ (U-280, U-281, U-552, U-575 and U-586), ‘Tirpitz IV’ (U-226, U-426, U-592 and U-709) and ‘Tirpitz V’ (U-373, U-648 and U-842) to find and attack the HX.264 convoy, which was supported by Commander J. H. Adams’s Canadian Escort Group C1 (destroyers Assiniboine and British Forester, frigate Ettrick, and corvettes Agassiz, Galt and British Celandine) and expected on or soon after 5 November. The convoy’s escort was itself bolstered by Captain F. J. Walker’s British 2nd Support Group (sloops Starling, Kite, Magpie, Wild Goose and Woodcock as well as the escort carrier Tracker).

Aircraft from Tracker compelled U-967 to dive on 5 November. In the evening Kite sighted Oberleutnant Albrecht Gänge’s U-226 and Walker sank the boat during the next morning with Woodcock and Starling. In the afternoon Wild Goose located Korvettenkapitän Wolfgang Heller’s U-842 and, in company with Starling, sank it.

The convoy passed undetected, and on 7 November Dönitz terminated the operation once he had realised that it was no longer possible for his U-boats to proceed by day on the surface in the face of the strong air escorts that the Allies were now able to operate. During the evening of 8 November the 2nd Support Group, returning to Argentia to refuel, passed the ‘Tirpitz V’ wolfpack’s patrol line, and U-648 just missed Tracker and a sloop.