Convoy battles


3 Jan 1943 - 12 Jan 1943

The Convoy9 ships
First sightingOn 3 Jan 1943 by U-514
EscortsThe British escort group B5 consisting of the destroyer Havelock (Cdr Boyle) and the 3 corvettes Pimpernel, Saxifrage and Godetia.


The wolfpack Dolphin of 10 boats U-134 (KptLt Schendel) *, U-181 (KorvKpt Luth), U-381 (KptLt Von Puckler und Limburg) *, U-436 (KptLt Seibicke) *, U-442 (KorvKpt Hesse) *, U-511 (KptLt Schneewind) *, U-522 (KptLt Schneider) *, U-571 (KptLt Moehlmann) *, U-575 (KptLt Heydemann) *, U-620 (KptLt Stein) *

Also some individual boats : U-105 (Oblt Nissen) *, U-124 (KorvKpt Mohr), U-125 (KptLt Folkers), U-514 (KptLt Auffermann) *

* U-boats that fired torpedo or used the deck gun

The battle

Already on Dec 29th U-124 sights a small feeder convoy, consisting of 2 tankers and the Godetia. Any attempt to attack is frustrated by the corvette and air escort. Since no convoy is sighted, the BdU does not order any other boats to attack.

On Jan 3rd U-514 reports the convoy, attacks and torpedoes one tanker, who is abandoned, but remains floating until U-105 sinks the wreck on Jan 24th.

The BdU knows now based on the report of U-514 that a large tanker convoy is heading right from the Caribbean oil fields to the battle theatre of North Africa, where the allies are in urgent need of oil supplies in order to support their offensive there. The vital importance of the convoy is recognised and so Dönitz himself orders to ignore the other, more favourable convoy sighting of GUS-2 and to chase the tanker convoy. Dönitz suspects the convoy will use the Great Circle Route, heading immediately for Gibraltar. He deploys the boats of the Delphin pack and some other boats into a patrol line. Indeed the convoy ignores a re-routing order from the Submarine Tracking Room (based on D/F bearings on U-boats) and runs into the patrol line, being sighted by U-381 on the 8th Jan.

U-381 brings up U-436, U-571 and U-575. U-436 attacks in the evening and with 2 torpedoes sinks one tanker and with a third torpedo damages another. The boat is the damaged by the Havelock in a counterattack. U-571 is driven of by the Pimpernel and U-575 is repulsed by the Godetia.

In a second attack in the morning of the 9th, U-575 damages two tankers. Other boats arrive and U-442 torpedoes one tanker, but attacks by U-181 and U-134 fail. U-134 is damaged by depth charges from the Godetia.

U-620 keeps contact during day. In the evening of the 9th U-552 sinks the 2 ships previously damaged by U-575. U-442 and U-436 finish off their jobs on the tanker they damaged. Meanwhile U-511 sinks an independent ship not belonging to the convoy.

In the evening of the 10th U-522 damages a tanker that is finished off by U-620. U-571 fails in attacks on the 2 remaining tankers in the evening of the 10th and 11th. U-511 has also no success in the evening of the 12th.

Finally the escort is reinforced with the destroyer Quentin and the corvettes Pentstemon and Samphire. Air escort is also provided and the 2 tankers arrive in Gibraltar on the 14th.

On receiving the news of the convoy battle, the German Commander of the Afrika Corps von Arnim sends congratulations to Dönitz, thanking for the substantial contribution the U-boats have made for the African front.

During attacks on the convoy, several U-boats report torpedo failures.

Article compiled by Tom Linclau

Ships hit from convoy TM-1

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat.Map
3 Jan 1943U-514Hans-Jürgen Auffermann British Vigilance (d.)8,093brA
8 Jan 1943U-436Günther Seibicke Albert L. Ellsworth8,309nwB
8 Jan 1943U-436Günther Seibicke Oltenia II6,394brC
9 Jan 1943U-522Herbert Schneider Minister Wedel6,833nwD
9 Jan 1943U-522Herbert Schneider Norvik10,034paE
9 Jan 1943U-442Hans-Joachim Hesse Empire Lytton9,807brF
11 Jan 1943U-522Herbert Schneider British Dominion (d.)6,983brG
11 Jan 1943U-620Heinz Stein British Dominion6,983brH
24 Jan 1943U-105Jürgen Nissen British Vigilance8,093brI

7 ships sunk (56,453 tons) and 2 ships damaged (15,076 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.
(d.) means the ship was damaged.

This was the only convoy on route TM hit by U-boats in the war.

Media links


Nolan, L and Nolan J.
(£ 15.95)

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