Technology and Operations  
This forum is for discussing technological & operational matters pertaining to U-boats. 
Re: Life Rafts
Posted by: Ken Dunn ()
Date: February 02, 2014 02:46PM

Hi Gdos,

As usual your question probably cannot be answered with a simple answer. Most things changed over the course of the U-boat War and the life rafts were likely no exception. For example at the beginning of the war U-boats carried wooden skiffs which were replaced by inflatable life rafts later in the war.

The life rafts were different sizes, some being for groups of men or for provisions during a transfer at sea and others for each individual crew member (these would hold two in a pinch but were only intended for one). It is likely the larger ones were of a different construction (perhaps multi cells and/or heavier material etc.) than the smaller ones but of course I don’t know for sure. Those in the milk cows eventually had reinforced bottoms as they were frequently used for transferring supplies to the U-boats they were resupplying. Some were also used for transferring torpedoes which of course were extremely heavy and may have eventually been of a unique construction just for this purpose.

I do know for a fact that every U-boat man on U-859 had a one-man inflatable life raft under his bunk on 23 Sept, 1944 when she was sunk as that information came to me from a survivor.

The larger inflatable life rafts on ordinary U-boats were stored in pressure proof containers in the upper deck and could be automatically deployed and inflated from the conning tower. Perhaps they also had manual inflators or additional Co2 bottles but again I don’t know. I don’t know about the larger inflatables on the milk cows either and it is possible that they were unique to the milk cows.

The smaller ones came with a Co2 bottle as well and again I don’t know if provisions were made for manual inflation (blowing it up by mouth) on these either but I would guess they were.

I do know where they have one of the original one-man U-boat life rafts that still holds air though. It is in the Chicago Museum of Industry and Science in their U-505 exhibit. You might try contacting them to see if they can help you in any way. They might even have a document or manual that goes into the detail you seek.

I would also be very interested to know if they had repair kits to deal with leaks and also exactly how they were provisioned, especially the one-man ones.

Lastly, please post your findings here on the forum when you complete your research.

Oh yes, you have a PM.

Regards,

Ken Dunn

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Subject Written By Posted
Life Rafts gdos 02/01/2014 04:23PM
Re: Life Rafts SnakeDoc 02/02/2014 11:04AM
Re: Life Rafts Ken Dunn 02/02/2014 02:46PM
Re: Life Rafts gdos 02/03/2014 05:21AM


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