Robert Bartels

Korvettenkapitän (Crew 34)

7 ships sunk, total tonnage 38,374 GRT
2 ships damaged, total tonnage 11,224 GRT
1 ship a total loss, total tonnage 5,062 GRT

Born  28 Apr 1911 Kiel-Pries
Died  20 Aug 1943(32)Indian Ocean off Madagascar

© Deutsches U-Boot Museum


3 Apr 1935 Offiziersanwärter
1 Jul 1935 Fähnrich zur See
1 Jan 1937 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Apr 1937 Leutnant zur See
1 Apr 1939 Oberleutnant zur See
1 Feb 1942 Kapitänleutnant
1 Aug 1943 Korvettenkapitän


2 Oct 1939 Iron Cross 2nd Class
27 Nov 1939 U-boat War Badge 1939
1941 Iron Cross 1st Class
28 Aug 1942 German Cross in Gold
17 Sep 1942 Italienische Tapferkeitsmedaille in Bronze Im Felde "Medaglia di Bronzo al Valore Militare sul campo"

U-boat Commands

U-139 24 Jul 1940 20 Dec 1940   No war patrols 
U-561 13 Mar 1941 5 Sep 1942   8 patrols (243 days) 
U-197 10 Oct 1942 20 Aug 1943  (+)  1 patrol (140 days) 

Robert Bartels joined the German Navy (Reichsmarine) in 1934. From 1937 to June 1940 he served as a Watch Officer on the U-21. He went through U-boat familiarization (Baubelehrung) in July 1940 in preparation for his own command.

On 24 July 1940 Oblt. Robert Bartels commissioned the new type IID "duck" U-139. he left the boat on 20 Dec 1940. From there he went to the 1st Flotilla and another U-boat familiarization, this time in order to prepare for his command of the larger type VIIC boat, the U-561 on 13 march 1941.

With his U-561 Oblt. Bartels went out on his first war patrol on 25 May 1941, a 69-day long patrol where he sank one small ship. When he left the boat on 5 Sept 1942 after 8 patrols he had sunk or destroyed 5 ships for over 21,000 tons and damaged another - the last 3 ships fell to mines laid by U-561.

Kptlt. Bartels went through his third Baubelehrung from Sept to Oct 1942 in order to prepare for the much, much larger type IXD2 boats. These boats were very long range and later convert for transport use. Bartels commissioned the new U-197 on 10 Oct 1942.

Loss of U-197

KrvKpt. Robert Bartels was killed when the U-197 was sunk on 20 Aug, 1943 south of Madagascar, in position 28.40S, 42.36E, by depth charges from 2 British Catalina aircraft (Sqdn. 259/C & 265/N). 67 men died, no survivors (Niestlé, 1998). During his 140 days at sea the boat has sunk 3 ships for over 21,000 GRT and damaged a large merchant.

The day before its loss U-197 had met with Lüth's U-181 where Bartels told Lüth he intended to stay in this area and hunt the traffic Lüth had told him about. Their radio chatter had allowed the Allies to pinpoint the location finding Bartel's boat the next day (Blair, 1998).


Blair, C. (1998). Hitler’s U-boat War. The Hunted, 1942-1945.
Busch, R. and Röll, H-J. (1998). German U-boat commanders of World War II.
Niestle, A. (1998). German U-boat losses during World War II.

Patrol info for Robert Bartels

 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-561 25 May 1941  Kiel  1 Aug 1941  Brest  Patrol 1,69 days
2. U-561 20 Aug 1941  Brest  20 Sep 1941  Lorient  Patrol 2,32 days
3. U-561 1 Nov 1941  Lorient  26 Nov 1941  Brest  Patrol 3,26 days
4. U-561 3 Jan 1942  Brest  22 Jan 1942  Messina  Patrol 4,20 days
5. U-561 26 Jan 1942  Messina  20 Feb 1942  Pola  Patrol 5,26 days
6. U-561 4 Apr 1942  Pola  5 May 1942  Pola  Patrol 6,32 days
7. U-561 11 Jun 1942  Pola  25 Jun 1942  Messina  Patrol 7,15 days
8. U-561 2 Jul 1942  Messina  24 Jul 1942  La Spezia  Patrol 8,23 days
9. U-197 3 Apr 1943  Kiel  20 Aug 1943  Sunk  Patrol 9,140 days
9 patrols, 383 days at sea

Ships hit by Robert Bartels

Date U-boat Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
28 Jul 1941U-561 Wrotham1,884brOG-69
11 Nov 1941U-561 Meridian5,592paSC-53
14 Nov 1941U-561 Crusader2,939paSC-53
14 May 1942U-561 Fred (d.) [Mine]4,043gr
14 May 1942U-561 Hav (t.) [Mine]5,062nw
14 May 1942U-561 Mount Olympus [Mine]6,692gr
20 May 1943U-197 Benakat4,763nl
24 Jul 1943U-197 Pegasus9,583sw
30 Jul 1943U-197 William Ellery (d.)7,181am
17 Aug 1943U-197 Empire Stanley6,921br

8 ships sunk (43,436 tons) and 2 ships damaged (11,224 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.
(d.) means the ship was damaged.
(t.) means the ship was a total loss (included in ships & tonnage lost).
[Mine] indicates the vessel was hit by a mine laid by said U-boat.

About ranks and decorations
Special thanks to Fernando Almeida for data on ranks and decorations.

Media links

German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim

Naval Officers Under Hitler

Rust, Eric C.

Listing of all U-boat commanders

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