Operation Westwall (ii)

west wall

'Westwall' (ii) was a U-boat wolfpack operation in the Atlantic, Bay of Biscay and western Mediterranean against the convoys involved in 'Torch' (8 November/16 December 1942).

The wolfpack comprised U-86, U-91, U-92, U-98, U-103, U-106, U-118, U-130, U-155, U-185, U-218, U-263, U-411, U-413, U-515, U-519, U-564, U-566, U-613 and U-653, and for the loss of Oberleutnant Kurt Eichmann’s U-98 to the British destroyer Wrestler on 15 November sank 11 ships (113,689 tons including four and three ships of the MKF.1 and ON.149 convoys respectively), including the British escort carrier Avenger and destroyer tender Hecla, and damaged three other ships (22,601 tons including the British destroyer Marne and US military transport Almaack).

After making several approaches, Kapitänleutnant Werner Henke’s U-515 sank the 10,850-ton British submarine depot ship Hecla and damaged the escorting destroyer Marne on 12 November.

Two days later the returning MKF.1 transport convoy, whose British escort included the old carrier Argus, new escort carrier Avenger, and destroyers Wrestler, Amazon and Free Norwegian Glaisdale, as well as a close escort group led by the frigate Exe, was attacked and suffered the loss of 20,107-ton troop transport Warwick Castle to Oberleutnant Gustav Poel’s U-413.

On 15 November Kapitänleutnant Adolf Cornelius Piening’s U-155 sank Avenger and the 11,279-ton British troop transport Ettrick, and damaged the 6,737-ton Almaack.

On 16 November Oberleutnant Adolf Oelrich’s U-92 sank the 7,662-ton British Clan Mctaggart. U-515 missed a carrier and U-218 was damaged when trying to attack a carrier force, probably by depth charges from the destroyer Wrestler, which was part of the MKF.1Y convoy’s escort.

On 17 November U-566 was depth-charged and damaged.

On 18 November U-155 missed a convoy, and U-613 and U-91 were damaged by bombs and depth charges from a Lockheed Hudson medium-range patrol bomber of the RAF’s No. 608 Squadron.

On 19 November U-413 missed the KRS.2 convoy, was damaged by a Hudson of No. 608 Squadron and then damaged by another Hudson of the same squadron. Kapitänleutnant Kurt Nölke’s U-263 sank the 5,132-ton British Grangepark and 7,244-ton Norwegian Prins Harald of the KMS.3 convoy, but was damaged on 24 November by a Hudson of the RAF’s No. 233 Squadron which was escorting the MKS.3 convoy, and then again on 27 November while entering the Bay of Biscay by a Hudson of the RAF’s No. 405 Squadron. Even so, the boat was able to reach La Pallice on 29 November.

On 24 November U-510 was damaged, and from 26 November the boats had either to leave to the west or head to a rendezvous with U-118 to refuel.

The boats resumed their attack on the 'Torch' convoys to the west of Gibraltar and Morocco on 3 December, the boats of the 'Westwall' (ii) wolfpack now being U-103, U-130, U-155, U1-85 and U-515 as well as the replenished U-86, U-92, U-106, U-519, U-564 and U-653, and U-432 and U-618 deployed off Moroccan harbours. On 6 December U-106 missed an auxiliary, and Piening’s U-155 and Oberleutnant Gustav-Adolf Janssen’s U-103 sank the 8,456-ton Dutch Serooskerk and 5,026-ton British Henry Stanley respectively. On 7 December Henke’s U-515 sank the 18,713-ton British troop transport Ceramic, and Kapitänleutnant August Maus’s U-185 the 5,476-ton British Peter Maersk. On 13 December U-103 damaged the 13,945-ton British Hororata. Attacks by U-519 and U-185 on 19 and 20 December led to no success. Off Fédala, Kapitänleutnant Heinz-Otto Schultze’s U-432 sank a 310-ton guard boat but missed two transports.