Monday, August 21, 2017
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!

Hong Kong Express

Most Popular

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Replacement Cranes Giving Humber a Lift +

    Gottwald Cranes Unloading Two new Gottwald 820 cranes were delivered in June to the Humber International Terminal of Associated British Ports (ABP) at Read More
  • Unified Ship Design Rolls Off the Drawing Board +

    Unified Ship Design The UK-based engineering company Rolls-Royce has radically overhauled its vessel design philosophy in a bid to optimise construction and operations Read More
  • World's Largest in Felixstowe +

    OOCL Hong Kong The world’s largest container ship, the OOCL Hong Kong, of 210,890gt and 21,413teu, made her maiden call at Felixstowe on Read More
  • Southampton's Record in a Weekend +

    Southampton Port Southampton welcomed 15 cruise ships in three days making it the busiest cruise weekend on record. Read More
  • Cleaning up Plastic from the Oceans +

    Cleaning up Plastic from the Oceans The marine geophysical company Petroleum Geo-Services (PG-S), of Oslo, has developed a concept for the largescale collection of plastic in Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Battleship Texas "Sinks" +

    USS Texas Having survived two world wars and now a museum ship, New York-class battleship USS Texas (BB-35), began to sink at Read More
  • Third Ice Class Ocean Tug for Foss +

    Nicole Foss On 6 June Foss Maritime christened their third Arctic-class ocean tug, Nicole Foss, at the Foss Waterway Seaport in Tacoma, Read More
  • "You may fire when ready, Gridley" +

    McCulloch On 1 May 1898, when US Admiral George Dewey gave this order to the Captain of his 344-foot Flagship, USS Read More
  • ‘Perfect Storm’ Star’s New Role +

    Tamora Decommissioned 74 year-old, US Coast Guard cutter, Tamaroa, famous for her role in the book The Perfect Storm and the Read More
  • Another Sign Summer’s Almost Here +

    MS Mount Washington Classed by the American Bureau of Shipping, MS Mount Washington, the 129-year-old, 220- foot flagship of the Winnipesaukee Flagship Corporation Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Trans-Shipment Hub for Coal Cargo +

    Coal Hub A coal imports trans-shipment hub centred on a floating platform is being established in Vietnamese waters by three partners. Read More
  • Court Stops Demolition Over Radioactive Claim +

    North Sea Producer The breaking up of the former floating oil production and storage tanker (FPSO) North Sea Producer was halted by the Read More
  • Two Crewmen Died Of 'Foul Play At The Hands Of Others' +

    Sage Sagittarius The inquest into the deaths of two crew members of the bulk carrier Sage Sagittarius, 73,427dwt, when the ship was Read More
  • Seven Die in Destroyer Collision +

    USS Fitzgerald Seven sailors died when the US, Navy destroyer Fitzgerald was in a collision with the Philippine-flag container ship ACX Crystal, Read More
  • Alert Over Gas Cylinder Safety Checks +

    Emerald Princess A gas cylinder that had just passed a mandatory detailed safety inspection exploded while being refilled and killed a member Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • Los Angeles Class Decommissioning +

    USS Dallas American News The end of May saw a lot of submarine news within the US Navy with the decommissioning of Read More
  • HMS Westminster Returns to Service +

    HMS Westminster British News After two years out of service undergoing a major reconstruction and refit, the Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster Read More
  • USS Tripoli Launched Ahead of Schedule +

    USS Tripoli American News Ingalls Shipbuilding achieved a remarkable achievement when they launched the latest America class amphibious assault ship, USS Tripoli, Read More
  • New Voyages for USS Enterprise +

    USS Enterprise American News Huntington Ingalls Industries was awarded a $25.5 million contract to essentially start the advanced fabrication of the third Read More
  • Naval Update - April 2017 +

    USS Antietam American News On Tuesday 31 January, the Ticonderoga class cruiser USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Yokosuka in Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority +

    Iyanough The Isle of Wight has always been associated in my mind with the “Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of Read More
  • CalMac's Isle of Lewis +

    Isle of Lewis This fine study of the Isle of Lewis in the dramatic environs of Castlebay, Barra, is a reminder she has Read More
  • Rotor Sails +

    Viking Grace If you thought the ungainly looking rotor sail system, an invention from the early 20th Century, was gone forever, you Read More
  • New Fast Ferry Deliveries +

    Express 3 News of Fast ferry investment; Express 3 has sailed from Tasmania on her delivery voyage to Denmark via the Panama Read More
  • Ferry Implications of Brexit +

    Cote des Dunes It must be a uniquely worrying time for operators of UK Ro-Ro Ferry ports with an uncertain future entirely out Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Oil Downturn Continues +

    Ocean Seeker The offshore oil downturn has been taking its toll around the North Sea amongst many rig boat operators and also Read More
  • Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta +

    Artemis On April 6 Dutch sailing vessels took part in the Race of the Classics from Holland across the North Sea Read More
  • Pioneering Spirit For Teeside +

    Pioneering Spirit Teesside has lost most of its steel manufacturing and much of the shipping traffic it brought, but at the other Read More
  • Troubles for Ahlmarks' Skagern +

    Skagern Ahlmark is Sweden’s oldest shipping company, founded by 1847, and still going strong, if not as strong as they used Read More
  • The Dawn +

    Dawn The 81ft Dawn, a ‘heritage’ sailing barge with an open hold and tiller-steered, took out trips last summer for people Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Captain Fryatt, The Martyr Of Bruges +

    SS Brussels and Captain Charles Fryatt At the end of the Great War, the bodies of only three heroes were ever brought back to England and Read More
  • Brahminy Kites in Port Sweetenham +

    Brahminy Kite Recently, I have been back in touch with Captain John Anderson; he now lives in Canada, but we sailed together Read More
  • Peel Ports Appoints New Port Director +

    Jouke Schaap Never a dull moment at Peel Ports which owns and operates six of the UK's major ports – Liverpool, Heysham, Manchester Read More
  • Exhibition on HQS Wellington +

    HQS Wellington News of a really interesting free exhibition on board HQS Wellington entitled "Abandon Ship! – Surviving the Wartime Atlantic". Read More
  • MOL Triumph +

    MOL Triumph Gary Davies of Maritime Photographic sent me this "jaw dropping" photograph of the MOL Triumph which dramatically conveys the sheer Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Gliding up the Thames +

    Glider SS18 It's been eight years in the making but finally the first Glider was unveiled in London last month. Read More
  • Yacht With a Pinch of Porsche +

    Dynamiq GTT 115 Taking the spirit of highperformance sports car styling to the high seas, the Dynamiq GTT 115 is designed to appeal Read More
  • The “Celebrity Edge” +

    Celebrity Edge You have to admire the innovative mindset that is evident within the creative corridors of a modern cruise line. Read More
  • The Mailship vs The Corsair +

    Windsor Castle and Corsair Before the Internet, Websites, Blogs and eNewsletters presented themselves to an unsuspecting world, the arrival of the monthly passenger shipping Read More
  • Cloud 9 Launched in Italy +

    Cloud 9 Nine different colours of cloudlike smoke were used as a backdrop when Cloud 9, the brand new 74 metre superyacht Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

TSS Awatea

Secrets of the "Awatea"

Somewhere off the North African port of Béjaïa, deep on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea, lie the remains of Read More
Dalia

A Different Type of Railway Steamer

When one thinks of Railway steamers of the past, the mind is invariably drawn to smart cross-channel or short-sea packets. Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

Painting of Venus

A Quartet for the North Sea

The chain of events that led to the Bergen Line building the Venus started in the head office of Swedish Read More
MS Pacheco

Happy Seagoing Days - MacAndrew Line

After gaining my Masters Certificate in July 1962, I started to look for another job on General cargo ships, but Read More
  • 1
  • 2