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Not So Silent

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caldrail

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Post Wed Oct 02, 2013 5:53 am

Not So Silent

Truth be told, I just don't like water sports. By nature I prefer aerial pursuits and not suprisingly considering which website this is, I do have fun simulating flights in both war and peace. Once in a while however I indulge in a mission with Silent Hunter III, prowling the oceans in a World War Two U-Boat. It's a game that can be full of suspense and panic, but a bit too real in one annoying way - a mission can take a long time to complete as you sail from one waypoint to another over great distances. No matter. I was in the mood.

The previous voyage had been pretty much a washout. The Atlantic weather in January 1940 was horrendous. Target vessels were slipping past me in heavy seas and thick fog. I'm not sure, but I think one vessel quite literally scraped the paint off my hull - damage appeared from nowhere.

So it was February 1940 and I wanted to improve my score. The mission was an awkward one, to patrol south west of Ireland. It meant a voyage around the British Isles but perhaps I'll get lucky and pick off some targets on the way. I opted for the northern route, taking in ships heading for Scapa Flow, Loch Ewe, or heading into the Irish Sea for Liverpool. So early one frosty Februrary morning, just before first light, I ordered Ahead One Third to have U-46 leave the big concrete pens at Kiel Harbour.

Very quickly I started receiving reports of allied shipping in the North Sea. How could I resist targets of opportunity? Although the weather was very good I simply could not find the ships reported by radio. Do those Luftwaffe boys know what they're doing? Feeling a bit frustrated I gave up and sailed back on course for the Hebrides. Then, north of Scotland, an unwary merchant hove into view. At last!

The seas were too choppy for the deck gun so I had no choice but to resort to torpedoes. Fire one! Wait fifteen seconds... Fire two! With luck that will sink the big C2 merchantman. It didn't. The first torpedo merely bounced off the hull. I had to expend two more valuable torpedoes to get that darn merchant to sink. By now I thought this mission was going to be almost as hopeless as the one before.

So I cruised southward to pass Ireland and get the mission over and done with. I don't usually encounter good weather in the Atlantic but yes, clear skies, no wind, and barely a wave to be seen. Then I couldn't believe my luck. A report came in of a nearby convoy heading my way. Oh yes...

It pays to be circumspect about approaching vessels until you know what you're dealing with. I was at periscope depth, waiting for the convoy to appear, and there they were - lots of unsuspecting cargo ships just asking for a torpedo. The trouble is though once I fire off one or two the convoy will know I'm there and take evasive action, reducing my chances of sinking more tonnage. What I really wanted was to surface and get to work with the deck gun. The big problem with that was of course....

Oh no! As I swung the periscope around there was the Royal Navy, a big fat warship bearing down on me fast. Run silent and manoever out of the way! They were pinging me with sonar, my threat indicator stuck firmly in the red. Depth charges went off to no effect. Well, if I was actually going to do anything now was the time, before the warship turned for another pass, but I was too close to the convoy. Having spent too long lining up another tube, disaster! A tanker had spotted my periscope in the water and tried to ram. My rear hull turned yellow on the damage screen and screeching metal noises confirmed I was close to a nasty end. The tanker was just behind the conning tower. I was, quite literally, inches from sinking.

Right. No more Mr Nice Guy. Two torpedoes went off in quick succession at my preferred target. Ahead slow and turn ten degrees right. New target... Another two torpedoes. I fired off the aft tubes for good measure. No-one sank but one vessel lost speed.

Where was the Royal Navy? Normally they're relentless and aggressive when a U-Boat is reported. Had they sailed off somewhere on a wild goose chase? If so, could I get away with surfacing the boat and running amok with the deck gun? It was a gamble, but it might be worth it. So I turned the boat to join the convoy and surfaced. The allied shipping immediately spotted me, beginning slow motion zigzags to ward off my attacks, a defense useless against the deck gun.

One ship after another got pounded. Eight cargo ships, at least a third of the luckless convoy, went down. Finally I ran out of shells, torpedoes, sticks and stones, so it was time to make myself scarce. For some reason I cannot fathom, the Royal Navy did not pursue me. Not a sign of that warship anywhere, I got clean away, completing the mission and returning a score of more than 70,000 tons of shipping sunk in one voyage. They gave me a Knights Cross for that. I don't think a certain British Captain got much reward for his efforts.

In battle, the danger is always worst for those who have the worst fear: boldness acts like a wall.
The Catilinarian War (Sallust)
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Serpiko

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Post Wed Oct 02, 2013 3:05 pm

Re: Not So Silent

Thank you for this interesting battle report! :D
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LeBigTed

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Post Thu Oct 10, 2013 10:26 am

Re: Not So Silent

Hi Caldrail,

I was very interested by your report ! Thanks a lot, and I hope to read more !!!

I have read a book recently on 'Ali' Cremer a U-boat commander. Here a biography from Wikipedia:

"Peter-Erich Cremer, also known by the nickname "Ali Cremer", was born in Metz, Alsace-Lorraine, on 25 March 1911. After high school, Cremer enlisted in the German Navy (Reichsmarine) in 1932. After serving on cruisers and destroyers, Cremer became captain in February 1940. He received the Iron Cross 2nd class. On August 1940, Cremer was promoted to the rank of commander of submarine. After a perilous sea trip, his crew gave him the nickname "Ali". After this epic trip, "Ali" Cremer commanded the U-152. Then, Cremer commanded the U-333 from 25 August 1941 to 6 October 1942 and again from 18 May 1943, to 19 July 1944. On 31 January 1942 he mistakenly attacked and sunk the SS Spreewald. Subsequently he was court-martialed and found not guilty.

After several victorious trips, he received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 5 June 1942. The same year, Cremer was severely wounded. He sailed again from 1943 until July 1944, before giving his boat to his lieutenant. On November 1944, Cremer, now Lieutenant Commander, aimed to convey the new submarine U-2519 Class XXI. Citing "several design flaws", Cremer scuttled the submarine at Kiel, on May 1945. As the War drew to a close, he was attached to the personal security unit of Karl Dönitz. In this role he was involved in the incident in which Kapitän zur See Wolfgang Lüth was shot to death by a German guard.

Peter-Erich Cremer recounted his life in his books "U-333: The story of a u-boat ace" and "U-Boat Commander: a periscope view of the Battle of the Atlantic.". He died at Hamburg on 5 July 1992."

Reading your report Caldrail, with the realistic details you give us, i remember all the hazards Ali Cremer had to fight, and how lucky he was...

If you have an interest on U-boats, you should read his books ;o)

Ted
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Fireskull

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Post Sat Oct 12, 2013 1:57 am

Re: Not So Silent

caldrail,


I like your story. It was a fun read. :D


YouTube videos of Silent Hunter 5 shows some players speeding the game between waypoints, much like we can do in IL-2 Sturmovik 1946. I don't see anything wrong with either playing it realistic or speeding the uneventful parts.

Really brave men volunteered to go deep. We can be glad that the blunders of Hitler and German High Command sealed defeat for U-boats in the war. However, any reasonable person can't help but admire the strength of character for the captains and crews to put themselves at such great risk and perform with amazing skill and dedication. Only the smartest sailors were generally accepted to be U-boat crew and officers for obvious reasons. The mental toughness is amazing to endure so many things in a U-boat.

Thanks,


Clinton

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