Operation Kleiner Bär (ii)

Ursa Minor

'Kleiner Bär' (ii) was a German series of 99 convoys to deliver reinforcements, equipment and supplies from Feodosiya on the south-east coast of Crimea to Anapa on the south coast of the Taman peninsula to support Generaloberst Richard Ruoff’s 17th Army (23 February/30 May 1943).

The undertaking began with at first two to three but then five to six Marinefährprahm (naval ferry barge) craft of Fregattenkapitän Gustav Strempel’s 3rd Landungsflottille and from April on occasion also Korvettenkapitän Carl Mehler’s 5th Landungsflottille. The torpedoes fired by Soviet submarines, which included M-117, M-111 and L-4 against the eighth convoy 8 (22 March), 41st convoy (22 April), 88th convoy (18 May) and 92nd convoy (21 May) proved ineffective as they ran under the flat-bottomed MFPs. However, in air attacks on the 89th convoy (19 May), Soviet warplanes sank F 308 and F 367, and on the 99th convoy (30 May) sank F 332. Soviet motor torpedo boats did not seek to attack the convoys, and attempts by Soviet submarines to attack convoys off the Crimean coast were unsuccessful.

As an adjunct to their efforts against the 'Kleiner Bär' (ii) convoys, the Soviets also used submarines and torpedo bombers, although without success, in the Black Sea to the west of Crimea against German and Romanian convoys plying between Constanța in Romania and Sevastopol in Crimea. From April the Soviets established patrol lines with the submarines S-33, Shch-209, M-35 and M-112 in the Black Sea, and on 20 April S-33 sank the largest Romanian transport, the 6,876-ton Suceava, which was being escorted by the Romanian destroyer Regina Maria and three German motor minesweepers. The Romanian minelayer Amiral Murgescu and the German Romania laid several flanking mine barrages off Sulina and in the Bay of Odessa.