This was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Arctic Ocean against the ‘Scottish’ passages of the JW.65 and RA.65 outbound and inbound Arctic convoys (13/21 March 1945).
The wolfpack comprised U-307, U-310, U-312, U-313, U-318, U-363, U-668, U-711, U-716, U-968, U-992, U-995 and U-997, and for the loss of none of its own number sank three ships (15,736 tons and including the British sloop Lapwing) of the JW.65 convoy.
This convoy departed the Clyde river on 11 March with 26 laden ships and the close escort, up to 21 March, of the destroyers Myngs and Norwegian Stord, sloop Lapwing and corvettes Allington Castle, Alnwick Castle, Bamborough Castle, Lancaster Castle, Camellia, Honeysuckle and Oxlip, supplemented from 12 March by Vice Admiral Sir Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton’s force comprising the escort carrier Campania, light anti-aircraft cruiser Diadem, destroyers Onslaught, Opportune, Orwell, Scorpion, Zambesi and Canadian Sioux, and corvette Farnham Castle. From 15 March the escort carrier Trumpeter and destroyers Savage and Scourge joined the convoy.
On 13 March the B-Dienst radio intercept and decrypt branch of the German navy had learned of the convoy’s departure, and as a result U-307, U-312, U-363, U-968, U-716 and U-997 were stationed in the Bjørnøya Passage as the ‘Hagen’ (ii) pack, and U-995 was deployed off the Kola inlet. U-711 later joined the ‘Hagen’ (ii) wolfpack and U-313 and U-992 moved to the Kola inlet.
German air reconnaissance between 14 and 17 March failed to locate the convoy. From 17 March all of the U-boats were grouped in the entrance to the Kola inlet, where they were stationed in two lines of six and seven boats. At 09.00 on 20 March the convoy passed through the outer line in a snowstorm. During the course of the same day Oberleutnant Hans-Georg Hess’s U-995, having sunk the Soviet submarine chaser BO-224 on 3 March, torpedoed the 7,176-ton US Horace Bushmell, which had to be run aground and became a total loss. When the convoy passed the inner line at about mid-day, U-716 missed one of the escorts and, in attacks by U-313 and Oberleutnant Otto Westphalen’s U-968, the latter sank the sloop Lapwing and 7,217-ton US Thomas Donaldson.
On 21 March there departed the 23 unladen ships and three tankers constituting the RA.65 return convoy, which was initially escorted by the Soviet destroyers Karl Libknekht, Zhivuchyi, Zhostkyi, Derzky and Uritsky, patrol ship Smerch and three submarine chasers from Arkhangyel’sk to the Barents Sea, which they reached on 24 March.
In the meantime, on 22 March, Kapitänleutnant Hans-Günther Lange’s U-711 sank the motor boat BPS-5 off the Kola inlet. A German effort, after the convoy had come in, to deploy U-boats against the aircraft carriers suspected to be in the Barents Sea, failed.