WWI U-boat commanders

Hans Joachim Emsmann

Oberleutnant zur See (Crew 4/10)

26 ships sunk with a total of 11,624 GRT
3 ships damaged with a total of 3,323 GRT

Born:20 Jun 1892  
Died:28 Oct 1918 Scapa Flow 

Hans Joachim Emsmann
Photo. Deutsches U-Boot Museum


1 Apr 1910 Seekadett
15 Apr 1911 Fähnrich zur See
31 Jan 1914 Leutnant zur See
22 Mar 1916 Oberleutnant zur See


 Iron Cross 2nd class
 Hanseatic Cross

U-boat Commands

UB 1028 Feb 1918 - 17 May 1918
UB 4018 May 1918 - 31 Jul 1918
UB 1165 Oct 1918 - 28 Oct 1918 (+)


Apart from a brief sortie forth, during the Battle of Jutland in 1916, the German High Seas Fleet had spent the war bottled up in port. Towards the end of October 1918, as peace negotiations were taking place, the higher echelons of the Imperial German Navy, in what they saw they saw as an attempt to restore their honour, planned an all-out attack on the British Grand Fleet. The plan called for twenty-four U-boats to carry out certain tasks before the High Seas Fleet put to sea.

On 25 October 1918 submarine UB-116 left Heliogoland under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Joachim Emsmann, friend and classmate of Robert Ramm at the German Naval Academy and brother of Ramm’s wife Gerda. Emsmann’s task was to enter the British Naval Base at Scapa Flow, Scotland, off the north coast of Scotland, and attack larger ships, so as to weaken the British fleet prior to the attack by the German High Seas Fleet.

On 28 October Emsmann’s submarine entered Hoxa Sound, Scapa Flow. The British had laid a minefield in Hoxa Sound. The minefield had underwater microphones called hydrophones, allowing shore-based operators to pick up the sound of an approaching submarine. UB-116 was picked up by hydrophone at 2121. At 2332 an electrical cable laid in loops on the seabed sent a signal to a device called a galvanometer, indicating the UB-116 was in the minefield. The operator flipped a switch and a row of mines exploded. The next morning the surface was covered with oil and air bubbles were rising steadily. Patrol boats dropped depth charges that brought debris to the surface, including a jacket. British divers visited the wreck on 29 October and on 4 November they returned and recovered UB-116’s logbook.

Hans Joachim Emsmann and all of his crew were killed. Within the space of nine days Gerda Ramm had lost her husband and her brother. Due to mutinies on board the ships of the High Seas Fleet the German surface ships were unable to put to sea.

Text written by Mr. Philip Lecane, taken from his book Torpedoed!

Media links

Kaiserliche Marine U-Boote 1914-1918

Dufeil, Yves


Philip Lecane

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