Wednesday, February 21, 2018
U-864

A small memorial service was held in February 2017 over the wreck site that had, over the course of nearly eighty years, caused so much anguish. The remains of the German U-boat U-864 have now been entombed on the seabed. Imagine you were the first person to view the wreck of the U-boat after almost seventy years. Lying on a slope some one hundred and fi fty metres beneath the waves, she had all the tell tale signs of reclamation by nature. Barnacles and sea growth had started to disguise the distinctive layout of the submarine. If nature, however, knew of the submarine’s deadly cargo it wouldn’t be trying so hard to reclaim it. The story of U-864 is as intriguing as her cargo of 67 tons of mercury which is lethal to the environment.

U-864 was a Type IXD2 U-boat constructed as part of Nazi Germany’s final push against the might of the Allied Forces. She was powered by two MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged four stroke, nine cylinder diesel engines with an additional pair of MWM RS34.5S six cylinder four stroke diesels for cruising on the surface. For underwater operations U-864 had two Siemens-Schuckert 2 GU 345/34 double acting electric motors. She was armed with six 53.3cm torpedo tubes, a single 10.5 cm SK C/32 naval gun and a 3.7cm machine gun.

From her completion to her ultimate fate, U-864 was under the command of Korvettenhapitan Ralf-Reimar Wolfram as part of the 4th U-boat Flotilla. In early November 1944, she was reassigned to the 33rd U-boat Flotilla. She sailed from Kiel on 5 December 1944 on her last mission to transport desperately needed war supplies to Japan having first been fitted with a snorkel mast, which proved troublesome. On board were parts and engineering drawings for the latest German jet aircraft for Japanese engineers to copy and build and there was also 67 tons of mercury.

By this time of the war, German industry was suffering daily bombing raids and the supplies onboard could easily have been used within Germany itself. This lack of material also had a part to play in the ultimate fate of U-864. Her route took her from Kiel to Horten Naval Base. The passage was eventful as she ran aground en route to Bergen and had to make repairs at Farsund. She eventually made it to Bergen on 5 January 1945. She was then subjected to aerial attack on 12 January when 32 Lancaster bombers and a single Mosquito fighter bomber attacked the U-boat pens in which she rested.

At Bletchley Park, German communications regarding U-864 had been decrypted and accordingly HMS Venturer under the command of Lieutenant James S Launders was ordered to patrol the area around Bergen. There, the British submarine lurked waiting for her German counterpart to emerge into open water. On 9 February Lieutenant Launders spotted the telltale sign of an enemy periscope in the water a short distance away from his boat.

Launders, rather unusually, calmly waited forty five minutes before going to action stations. He had hoped that U-864 would eventually surface and make for a much easier target to attack. U-864, now aware of the British submarine, was not going to oblige him and neither commander risked using his periscope again. U-864 started a zig-zag course but couldn’t shake off his pursuer.

After three hours of manoeuvres, at 12.12 Lieutenant Launders finally decided to fire a spread of torpedoes in the relative direction of the German U-boat at 17 second intervals.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - June 2017 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Magellan

Most Popular

  • 1
  • 2

Top 10 Books and DVDs 2017

Maritime Log

  • Benefits of Shipping Power Station Parts by Sea +

    Power Station Boiler Two new 110 tonnes heat exchangers to be used in refitting Centrica’s power station at King’s Lynn, arrived at the Read More
  • Container Ship Fleet Hits 21m Record +

    Port of Hamburg The world's cellular container ship fleet reached a record 21mn teu last November, according to the analysts Alphaliner. Read More
  • Bravery Awards for Pilots’ Actions +

    Michael G McGee and Michael C Phillips Two pilots who brought a burning ship to safety, averting a major maritime catastrophe, have been presented with the 2017 Read More
  • Mammoth Crane Vessel for Obsolete Platforms +

    OOS Zeelandia The Dutch OOS International Group BV has signed a contract with China Merchants Industry Holdings for the design and building Read More
  • Solar Power Boost +

    Immingham Port Associated British Ports (ABP) is to build a further 20MW of solar arrays making the company one of the biggest Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Ship Adrift in Port +

    Helsinki Bridge Port tugs and members of the US Coast Guard, the Massport Fire Department, Boston Police Department and the Massachusetts State Read More
  • Services Mark Four Chaplains Tragedy +

    Dorchester Services are being held in many communities in the United States this month to mark the 75th anniversary of the Read More
  • Fast Crew Supply Vessel Launched +

    FCS 7011 As part of its relationship with Damen Shipyards, of the Netherlands, the Louisiana-based shipbuilder Metal Shark is offering the new Read More
  • First Of Three Self-Unloaders Now In Service +

    Algoma Niagara The first of the Algoma Central Corporation’s three Equinox class selfunloading bulk carriers for the Great Lakes and the St Read More
  • Special US Frigate Makes Harbour Trip +

    USS Constitution The historic US frigate Constitution made a special trip to Charlestown, Massachusetts, on Oct 20 last to mark the ship’s Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Protests at Certificate for Bangladesh Yard +

    Chittagong Shipbreaking Trade Unions and non-government organisations have protested following the move by the Italian classification society RINA to issue the PHP Read More
  • Automated Port Tested +

    Yangshan Deepwater Port Trial operations have begun at the world’s biggest automated container terminal at Shanghai, China. Read More
  • MHI Splits Into Two +

    MHI Nagasaki Shipyard The Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has established two new wholly-owned companies in a major reorganisation of its shipbuilding Read More
  • Fifth Is A First For Japan +

    MOL Truth The first Japanese-built 20,170 teu container ship was named MOL Truth at a ceremony on Oct 25 at the Imabari Read More
  • Sheep Ban After Ship Fails Safety Checks +

    Al Messilah A livestock carrier lost her licence to carry sheep from Australia after failing port state control checks at a livestock Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • New Patrol ship for Danes +

    HDMS Lauge Koch Danish News On 11 December, in a ceremony held at Naval Station Korsør, the Royal Danish Navy commissioned the third Read More
  • Royal Navy ‘Cannibalising’ Ships for Parts +

    HMS Artful UK News Once again, the Royal Navy was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the closing months Read More
  • New Oiler for Canada +

    Asterix Canadian News The Royal Canadian Navy’s long wait for a new replenishment oiler for the fleet is nearly at an Read More
  • HMS Queen Elizabeth Arrives at Home Port +

    HMS Queen Elizabeth British News An event following the 2010 Defence Review many thought would never happen occurred on Wednesday 16 August when Read More
  • Work Starts on Three Warships +

    Type 25 British News After an almost unseemly wait, the Royal Navy can breathe again having held its breath waiting for the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Lake Cruising +

    Western Belle In the English Lake District, on several of the Lakes, there are lake operations all year round. Read More
  • Wrestling Gales +

    Pride of Kent The sight of the familiar P&O ferry Pride of Kent blown aground while leaving Calais for Dover, is a shock. Read More
  • Indonesian Focus +

    Doro Landa To the Far East – PELNI (Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia) is Indonesia’s national shipping company, state-owned and operated, serving the entire Indonesian Read More
  • New FSG Builds +

    WB Yeats Readers will recall Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG), delivered the Ullapool-Stornaway ship Loch Seaforth to CalMac in late 2014, as well as Read More
  • Nostalgic Scout Trip Remembered +

    South Shields Scouts A morale boosting and nostalgic story from not long after WW2 came to my notice. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Ocean Troll +

    Ocean Troll Meanwhile, as the oil price is showing signs of recovery and the future of other oil and gas fi elds Read More
  • West Coast Drama +

    Fame High drama off the coast of Harris in December, when the small Norwegian flag freighter Fame, long a familiar presence Read More
  • Pickle +

    Pickle After the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson in 1805, the Royal Navy sent their fast schooner Pickle Read More
  • Cargo by Sail +

    Tres Hombres and Morgenster At the beginning of October the brigantine Tres Hombres sailed from Den Helder, North Holland, to Zaandam, Amsterdam before beginning Read More
  • From Rix To Stevie Clarkes +

    “Ronrix” leaving for Hull The name Rix is long associated with Humber ports with origins traced to Hull businessman Captain Robert Rix in the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • International Salvage Union: Challenging Times +

    Costa Concordia The International Salvage Union (ISU) is the global trade association representing marine salvors, its members provide essential services to the Read More
  • Hunterston Port Secures Energy Decommissioning Investment +

    Hunterston Port Hunterston Port and Resource Centre (PARC) in Ayrshire has been awarded grant funding from the Scottish Government that could pave Read More
  • British Antarctic Territory – Royal Research Ships +

    British Antartic Ships Stamps One of the good news stories of 2016 was that, against strong international competition, the famous Merseyside shipbuilding company, Cammell Read More
  • MV Glen Sannox, The UK’s First LNG Ferry +

    MV Glen Sannox Tuesday 21st November 2017 marked a very special occasion when Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the UK's first LNG Read More
  • P&O Report Strong Larne-Cairnryan Freight Demand +

    European Causeway Having spent over twenty years in shipping operations between Loch Ryan (South West Scotland) and Northern Ireland, I still take Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Innovative Itineraries That Make The Difference +

    Scenic Eclipse Whilst it is true that the majority of new cruise vessels emerging from the world’s shipyards fit into the category Read More
  • Hamburg Highlights its Harbour and Cruise Callers +

    Grand Hamburg Cruise Days Parade There are a number of ports around the globe who promote and celebrate their harbours on a fairly regular basis. Read More
  • Pedal to the Metal? +

    Norwegian Bliss NCL has announced that their new build, the Norwegian Bliss, the company’s 16th ship, is set to launch in June Read More
  • Classic with a Twist +

    Project 697 Reminiscent of the beautiful Aurora B dating from 1992, the newly launched 47-metre and somewhat secretive Project 697 from Feadship Read More
  • Rolls-Royce Unveils Hybrid Propulsion Yacht +

    Crystal Blue Rolls-Royce has unveiled a groundbreaking luxury yacht concept designed to showcase the advantages of advanced ship intelligence solutions, and hybrid Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

National Maritime Museum of Ireland Interior

National Maritime Museum of Ireland

The National Maritime Museum of Ireland is located in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin. It is housed in the 180-year-old Mariners Read More
Loch Morar

Empire Ships - An Early Experience

During World War Two, the losses of Britain’s merchant ships rapidly overtook their replacement rate, either from new construction, or Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Endeavour

Clews, Bunts & Reefs

With celebrations being planned next year for the 250 year commemoration of Captain Cook’s first landfall in New Zealand, I Read More
Encounter Bay

Shipping Services between Europe & Australia

In 2019 we will mark the 50th Anniversary of the arrival of the first oceangoing container ship, the Overseas Containers Read More
  • 1
  • 2