Air Attack Königsberg Capsizes After Pounding by Norwegians & RAF

 

Reichsmarine/ Kriegsmarine light cruiser Konigsberg

Konigsberg Visiting Gdynia, Poland, circa 1935. Note the offset arrangement of her after 15cm triple gun turrets. (US Navy History and Heritage Command).

 

The Königsberg on fire and sinking.

[Images courtesy of the US Navy History and Heritage Command]

9 April 1940, during the German invasion of Norway, Norwegian coastal artillery located on the approaches to Bergen fired effectively on Konigsberg and caused major damage to the ship which almost sank. On 10 April 1940, Royal Navy dive bombers of the Fleet Air Arm sank the ship.

 

Artwork by Adolf Bock, 1941, published in a book on the German Navy published by Erich Klinghammer, Berlin, during World War II. It depicts the light cruisers Köln and Königsberg landing troops at Bergen, Norway, on 9 April 1940. (USNA)

 

German damage control crews labored through the night, but the damage from the guns of the Norwegian fort had been grievous. Nonetheless, the ship was afloat–but not for long.

Approximately 0700 on 10 April 1940, sixteen Skua dive bombers of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm located Konigsberg in Bergen Harbor. German AA crews were exhausted and thought the British planes were German. The first British bomb hit knocked out electric power to the AA guns. Thus, before the Germans were fully alert a half dozen or more 500-pound armour piercing bombs had hit the Konigsberg.

With fires spreading out of control and water pouring into the ship from holes opened in the sides, the Kommandant ordered the crew to abandon ship, and the Konigsberg rolled over and sank. This was the first sinking of a major warship by aerial attack to occur. Many more would come. (Source: The German Invasion of Norway April 1940 by Geirr H Haarr)

 

While the British and French had long been urged by then First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill to block Swedish iron ore shipments to Nazi Germany through Norwegian territorial waters, hand-wringing on behalf of the French and the British delayed this action. (The French Minister of War refused to speak to the Prime Minister who would avoid being in the same room with him if possible. Their respective mistresses also hated each other. This ill feeling caused delays in decision making as you might imagine).

 

+Halftone reproduction of a photograph taken while the ship was transiting the Kiel Canal, about 1935.
 

 

Moored in a German harbor, circa 1936. Note the ship’s crest on her bow, and what appear to be old torpedo boats tied up in the right distance.

 

When British ships were finally ordered out to lay mines in the sea lanes used to transport the ore and to capture the ice free port of Narvik, they ran into German forces who were staging a surprise invasion of Norway including the occupation of Narvik. Germans got to Narvik before the British by taking incredible chances in terrible sea conditions and managing to find the fjord which led to Narvik. Ten German destroyers carrying troops navigated in pitch dark down the Narvik fjord and put the troops ashore.

Captain Warburton-Lee, RN, VC.
Early that morning, while the exhausted German sailors were sleeping and their guard-ship not very alert, British destroyers under the Command of Captain B.A.W. Washburton-Lee, VC, skipped in and sank three destroyers and damaged more.
Their commander was killed in the action and posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour in Great Britain. Several days later the battleship HMS Warspite went down the fjord with numerous destroyers protecting her and her big guns hit the remaining German destroyers and blew them out of the water.

King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav seeking shelter on the outskirts of Molde during a German bombing raid on the city in April 1940.
While the invasion of Norway by the Germans was success, they failed in to accomplish one of their key objectives which was capturing the King. The Germans were looking everywhere for the King and Crown Prince (the Queen had died in 1938) and had been bombing any town or village they were rumored to be in.
On 1 May 1940, a British cruiser took them and leaders of Parliament from the small coastal town of Molde to a temporary capitol in  Tromsø.  King Haakon VII and the crown prince took refuge in a small cabin in the nearby woods.By the end of May, the Germans had attacked France and both France and Great Britain began to withdraw their forces. On 7 June 1940, the Royal Family and government ministers boarded HMS Devonshire and were spirited away to England. The King had been a Danish Prince elected King of Norway. He was an uncle to England’s King George VI.
Königsberg on her visit to Britain in 1934; she is flying the British White Ensign and firing a salute. (US Navy History and Heritage Command)
 

+Vertical aerial photograph, probably taken while the ship was under attack by British aircraft at Bergen, Norway, on 9 April 1940. Note the prominent swastika identification markings on her deck, fore, and aft. This was used in most German Navy ships to prevent them from being attacked by their own airforce.
Being attacked by your own planes was a constant problem particularly in the European theater. Pilots saw what they wanted to see. No matter what recognition devices ships employed their own planes attacked them.

License Plates and Vehicle Identification Marks of the Wehrmacht

License Plates and Vehicle Identification Marks of the Wehrmacht

by

Charles McCain

copyright (c) 2017

author of An Honorable German published in hardback 2009 by GCP/Hachette & paperback 2010. Available on Kindle and Nook.

http://charlesmccain.com/an-honorable-german/

 

the first two letters on the number plate identify this as a Luftwaffe truck. This is a Mercedes “type LG3000”. This guy was probably stuck in Russia which isn’t a place you wanted to be stuck. Note the relatively narrow tires.

WL is the abbreviation of Wehrmacht Luftwaffe (that is W=Wehrmacht [which translates as ‘Defense Forces’ or ‘Armed Forces’] L=Luftwaffe –Air Force)

It may seem odd that German military vehicles – not tanks but other vehicles – had license plates or number plates as the Brits call them. But they did. One sees them in lots of photographs of German vehicles although as the war goes on one notices the plates are either missing or have been painted over or smeared with oil since the back color of the plates was white and stood out.

Tank 411 fires its flamethrower

The markings on tanks were normally a large three digit number painted on each side of their turret and often on the back of the turret. This was their radio call sign so their squadron commander could identify and direct specific tanks under his command to do specific things instead of just saying over his radio, “hey you, the tank under the tree…”

Tiger tank in Russia identified as Number 323 (German National Archive)

Soviet tanks did not have radios so once a battle started they could not be controlled by a superior officer which is why they normally attacked in waves. This was a major issue for their tank forces. At the same time, I should point out that radios in American and British tanks often didn’t work because of battery problems or having their antennas ripped off or having wires come loose after repeated firings of the main battery.

 

Sd.Kfz.250 German Army halftrack. The first two letters of the number plate identify this as an army vehicle. (W=Wehrmacht H=Heer (Army)

German military police constantly set up checkpoints and the number plate was one of the key issues they checked. Did the number plate correspond to the registration which was required to be carried in every vehicle? To drive a German Army vehicle, you had to have a license to drive that specific type of vehicle. That is, you had to have a license to drive a passenger car, a license to drive various classes or trucks, etc.

One can imagine the Feldgendarmarie knocking on one’s vehicle window and demanding, “license and registration.”

German Navy truck. You can see the first two letters on the number plate are WM. (W=Wehrmacht  M=Marine (navy)

On German vehicles, the number plates were coded in the following way: WH (Wehrmacht, Heer (army)), WL (Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe), WM (Wehrmacht, Marine (navy)), or SS. Each license plate began with one set of these letters. These two letter combinations were followed by five to six numerals, usually divided into a group of two numerals followed by a group of three or four numerals.

The first two numerals indicated which command the vehicle belonged to such as Army District, 10th U-Boot Flotilla, etc. and specifically what type of vehicle it was. The last three or four numerals comprised the actual code letters of the vehicle.

Each type of vehicle would have its own code. So each type of truck made by Mercedes or Ford would have had a different designation. Ford’s German subsidiary, as well as GM’s Opel subsidiary, continued to manufacture trucks for the German Army all through the war. German units tended to prefer Fords over Mercedes because the Fords were more durable and and easier to maintain.

WH on the license plate identifies this as a German Army truck. This happens to be a Ford. Ford-Werke in the Third Reich manufactured trucks for the German Armed forces. This continues to be a subject of great controversy as you might imagine. Henry Ford himself was a notorious anti-Semite.

 

This is a restored German Army Ford truck. You will note the ‘WH’ on the left front fender. The marking above the number plate indicates this truck belongs a specific company. The number of the company is hidden by the headlamp. On the right front fender is the divisional symbol of the Großdeutschland division. (This photo appears on so many websites that I was unable to determine who I should credit)

So a license plate on a German Armed Forces truck which began WH, belonged to the Army. The next two numerals would indicate what specific model of truck and to which type of unit such as a panzer or infantry division or Armee Korps it belonged to and the last three numerals would indicate which specific truck of a specific model it was. It was a bit more complex than this but this will give you a sense of what the number plates mean.

Note the numeral ‘3’ as the first numeral on the license plate of both trucks pictured above. Since these are both the same model of Ford truck they have the same letter designation.

 

A Luftwaffe (WL) Ford V3000 truck in Italy, 1943. photo courtesy of German National Archive.

Each type of vehicle would have its own code. So each type of truck made by Mercedes or Ford would have had a different designation. Ford’s German subsidiary continued to manufacture trucks for the German Army all through the war. German units tended to prefer Fords over Mercedes because the Fords were more durable and and easier to maintain.

 

In this photograph you can clearly see the silhouette of the German Army helmet used to mark vehicles of the Großdeutschland division. The mark below that indicates this vehicle is assigned to a reconnaissance unit.

All German Army divisions had a distinctive symbol which they put on signs, equipment, vehicles, etc. Example: the elite Großdeutschland (Greater Germany) division had as its symbol a white silhouette of a German Army helmet (1935 pattern). A tank or other vehicle of GD (as it was abbreviated) would also have had a tactical symbol indicating which type of unit the vehicle belonged to: infantry, armor, medical, engineers, etc.

Additionally, vehicles were marked with the insignia of the division and/or higher formation or ad hoc formation they were assigned to. Example: vehicles assigned to the 4 Armee during the invasion of France in 1940, had a ‘K’ on their vehicles which stood for ‘Kluge’. Günther von Kluge commanded 4 Armee during the attack on France.

 

You can see the Balkenkreuz clearly on this German dive bomber Ju 87 Stuka. The Luftwaffe was the first of the German Armed Forces to use the symbol.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkenkreuz

 

German Luftwaffe Tornado attack jet with post-war design of the Balkenkreuz

Every German military vehicle, tank, or plane was also, then and now, marked with a version of the Balkenkreuz, which is said to be the symbol of the Teutonic Knights, a Germanic Catholic military/religious Order which conquered and ruled parts of Prussia and Eastern Europe in medieval times.

Sources: Wehrmacht Camouflage and Markings 1939-1945 by W.J.K. Davies and Wehrmacht Divisional Signs 1938-1945 by Theodor Hartmann. If you have a deep interest in this subject I would purchase one or both of these books. A lot of information on the internet is wrong.

Information on the Teutonic Knights can be found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teutonic_Order

 

 

 

 

Charles McCain

copyright (c) 2017

author of An Honorable German available from any online bookstore as well as Kindle and Nook.

http://charlesmccain.com/an-honorable-german/

 

German Light Cruiser Köln

Reichsmarine Light Cruiser Köln

Reichsmarine sailors pose in front of a turret on light-cruiser Köln during a visit to Sydney, Australia.

 

Köln was the third of the three ‘K’ class light cruisers built for the Reichsmarine.

 

STARBOARD SIDE VIEW OF GERMAN LIGHT CRUISER KOLN WHICH VISITED MELBOURNE BETWEEN 1933-04-10 AND 1933-04-19. NOTE THE TALL TUBULAR MAST AND THE CONCENTRATION OF HER TRIPLE DRH LC/25 TURRETS WITH THEIR 15 CM SKC/25 GUNS AFT. SHE IS PAINTED IN THE STANDARD GERMAN SCHEME OF THE PERIOD WITH A MEDIUM GREY HULL AND LIGHT GREY FUNNELS. (NAVAL HISTORICAL COLLECTION).

The K class light cruisers suffered from many design problems since they were designed and built in the late 1920’s and had to adhere to the strict limit’s imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. As the design problems became increasingly apparent, the duties of the ships were limited to compensate and they increasingly failed to serve in the roles they were supposed to perform in the fleet.

The Köln patrolled the coasts of Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and then spent the remainder of her life in the Baltic and North Sea. She participated in the Invasion of Norway and then she resumed mining operations and limited attacks on Allied Convoy shipping. In February 1943, the Köln was damaged in a submarine attack and remained out of service until March 1944 receiving repairs.

Light cruiser Koln in Baltic Stripe camouflage

 

She recommissioned as a training ship for cadets. On 12 December 1944, she was heavily damaged by a British bombing raid. She was transferred to Wilhelmshaven in February 1945 to begin extensive repairs. Once there, she was sunk on even keel during another British bombing raid on 3 March 1945. Her turrets remained above water and continued to shell the oncoming Allied advance.

The Köln was captured on 5 May 1945 by the Polish First Armored Division along with 200 other ships of the Kriegsmarine in the surrender of the Wilhelmshaven garrison. She was finally scrapped in 1946. Collected below are photographs of Köln during World War Two.

+
“Conquest of Bergen by German Light Cruisers”
Artwork by Adolf Bock, 1941, published in a book on the German Navy published by Erich Klinghammer, Berlin, during World War II. It depicts the light cruisers Köln and Königsberg landing troops at Bergen, Norway, on 9 April 1940.

 

+
Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945).
Reconnaissance photograph, probably taken by the British Royal Air Force, showing the ship (marked by arrow) moored to the shore in the Fætten Fjord, about 30 KM ENE of Trondheim, Norway, 19 July 1942. Note rafts and netting used to camouflage the ship, and anti-torpedo booms moored to protect her from attacks from abeam and astern. Booms abeam have been folded to simulate a ship.

 

+
Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945).
Reconnaissance photograph, probably taken by the British Royal Air Force, showing the ship (marked by arrow) moored to the shore in the Fætten Fjord, about 30 KM ENE of Trondheim, Norway, 19 July 1942. The southern side of the Fjord is in the top center of the image.

 

+
Köln (German Light Cruiser, 1930-1945).
Reconnaissance photograph, probably taken by the British Royal Air Force, showing the ship (marked by arrow) moored to the shore in the Fætten Fjord, about 30 KM ENE of Trondheim, Norway, 19 July 1942. Note rafts and netting used to camouflage the ship, and anti-torpedo booms moored to protect her from attacks from abeam and astern. Booms abeam have been folded to simulate a ship. The southern side of the Fjord is just beyond the top of the image.

 

+
German cruiser Köln sunk by Allied bombing on 7 May 1945 in Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

[Images courtesy of Wikimedia and the Department of the Navy – Naval History & Heritage Command.]

Whore’s Underwear Worn on U-Boats

A DIRTY, SWEATY AND FOUL ENVIRONMENT

Untrimmed beards were the mark of U-Boatmen who had been long at sea. 

Freshwater was rationed and while possible to shave in salt-water few men wanted to take the time to do that. U-Boats such as the Type VII depicted in Das Boot, were not designed for the long range operations they were compelled to undertake so there were few comforts for the men.

crew watching fellow sailor dancing in scene from director’s cut 1997 of Das Boot

Water for drinking was rationed. While the men were given one cup of fresh water every day for personal use such as brushing teeth or washing, most drank the water instead of using it for anything else since they barely received enough water as it was.

Men Wore Black Underwear: Whore’s Undies

Because storage space on a U-Boat was extremely limited, U-Boat crewmen could only bring aboard one change of clothes and two pairs of underwear for an entire war patrol which could last as long as two and occasionally three months. In order to make the dirt less obvious, the men wore black underwear which they referred to as “whore’s undies.”

US Navy fleet submarine USS Gato 1944. Fleet submarines were designed for the long range patrols required in the Pacific and had far more comforts for the men and necessities such as bathing facilities. Not washing for a long period of time is unhealthy for the skin. These boats could make 21 knots on the surface vs the German surface speed of 15/16 knots.

Unlike US Navy fleet submarines, German U-boats were not air conditioned nor did they have heat except for a handful of electric heaters. The boat took on the temperature of the water so if you were in very cold water the interior was very cold and if you were in the warm even the hot water of the tropics, the inside of the boat was hot and steamy.

It would have been like working in a steam room. Crewman often wore nothing but their underwear in conditions like this when the temperature in the boat could go above 100 degrees. (The warmth of the water combined with the heat generated by the diesel engines and other equipment in the boat).

The equipment and torpedoes were the priorities. Crewmen had to squeeze in wherever room could be found for a bunk. Except for the officers and senior petty officers, the crew “hot bunked” that is once a man woke up and went on duty an off-duty man climbed into that bunk and slept. 

No washing facilities

U-boats did not have facilities for the men to wash themselves or their clothing. The best that could be done was to wash yourself and/or your clothing in a bucket of seawater using special salt water soap issued by the UBoatwaffe.

In memoirs, veterans of the UBoatwaffe often mention that one thing they could never get used to was how badly the boat smelled. In fact, when boats came in from war patrols and docked, flotilla engineers who went aboard often threw up. That’s how bad the smell was.

These U-Boat crewmen are probably rendering honors to another ship as they come into port. Beginning in 1942, however, the crew were mustered on deck coming into port because more and more U-Boats were being sunk by striking magnetic mines.  Therefore, most of the crewmen would be saved if the boat sank. These magnetic mines were constantly being dropped into the approaches to German U-Boat ports on the French Channel coast such as Lorient by RAF Coastal Command. 

Armourers “bombing up” an RAF Coastal Command Liberator with 250-lb Mark VIII depth charges. 50% of German U-boats were actually sunk by aircraft, not by Allied escort ships.

U-boat kommandant (identified by his white cap cover) looking down through the main hatchway from the bridge into the conning tower where the helmsman sat, controlling the rudder with push buttons. In the conning tower, there was another watertight hatch.

Ventilating the Boat

Ventilating the boat to replace the foul air was difficult. On occasion, the kommandant would allow the two hatches in the conning tower to be opened and all the interior hatches–which were watertight as well— to be opened and the outboard air intakes in the diesel compartment closed. This would cause the diesel engines to start drawing air from through the open hatches and ventilate the boat. This wasn’t highly effective but it did change the air within the boat.

When proceeding on the surface in an area where they could be attacked, most of the interior hatchways would be closed or a sailor stationed close by would have the duty of immediately closing the hatch. Normally, the hatch to the engine room and beyond that the hatch E-motor compartment would be closed and dogged shut, that is they would be sealed and waterproof.

Theoretically, everyone who served in the UBootwaffe was a volunteer but we know from memoirs, post-war interviews, and wartime interrogation reports that this was not the case.

 

Nazi Ship Now USCG Eagle

US seized Kriegsmarine Sail Training Ship Horst Wessel As a Prize of War

 “The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle laying at a shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany being rigged and outfitted for her voyage to the United States. The square-rigged sailing vessel was the former German Training ship ‘Horst Wessel’. The bombed buildings of Bremerhaven are in the background.” Photo dated 16 April 1946. (Official USCG photo)

USCGC Eagle under sail in 2015

derelict sail training ship which was to become USCGC Eagle in Bremerhaven immediately after World War Two.

Horst Wessel was a Nazi thug and a pimp who supposedly was killed in a street fight with Communists in Berlin prior to the Nazi seizure of power. He made his living as a pimp and there is evidence to suggest he was murdered by the brother of one of his prostitutes. The ship is has a steel hull and was outfitted as a barque which is a sailing ship with three masts in which the foremast and mainmast are square-rigged and the mizzenmast is rigged fore-and-aft.

Horst Wessel about to be launched. The original ship was built by the German shipbuilder Blohm and Voss, who also built the Bismarck. You have to give it to them: they certainly built strong ships.

Sailing barque Horst Wessel:

Laid down: 15 February 1936
Launched: 13 June 1936
Commissioned: 17 September 1936
Decommissioned: 1939
Recommissioned: 1942
Captured: April 1945

 Horst Wessel in front of German Naval Academy Mürwik in Flensburg in 1937.

The construction of the German naval academy began in 1910. The buildings weren’t badly damaged in World War Two and became the last headquarters of the Nazi government under Admiral Doenitz. Repairs were made in the years after the war and the academy reopened in the mid-1950s when West Germany was permitted to begin rearmament.

The Naval Academy Mürwik with the Gorch Fock (sister ship of the USCG Eagle) on the Flensburg Firth, the Northernmost part of Germany. 

Prinz Eugen Becomes a Prize of War

Prinz Eugen

 German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken as a prize-of-war by the US Navy and designated the USS Prinz Eugen, an unclassified miscellaneous vessel. This is the only foreign warship commissioned into the US Navy since the days of sail.

cruisers_admiral_scheer_and_prinz_eugen_at_lofjord_1942

Prinz Eugen (centre) under repair in the Lofjord; next to her, on her starboard side, is the repair ship Huascaran; Admiral Scheer is also moored behind anti-torpedo nets. (Imperial War Museum)

 

ca-prinz-eugen-a

Prinz Eugen at anchor still fitting out circa 1938. The swastika on the bow is meant to help German warplanes identify Prinz Eugen as a German ship. (German National Archive)

One of Prinz Eugen’s three-bladed screws on display at the Laboe Naval Memorial

 

Photo of a 10.5cm SK C/33 anti-aircraft mounting on the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in US Navy service, preparing for the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests in 1946. Photo was taken by the US Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance on 17 June 1946 to document the ship before the nuclear tests.

 

Prinz Eugen at her launch 22 August 1938    (Bundesarchiv)

U-Boat Bunker St. Nazaire

 

nazaire1

Vizeadmiral Dönitz during the opening (photo courtesy Uboat.net)

 

U-Boat Bases and Bunkers: Saint Nazaire: The U-Boat Bunker suffered thirty major raids through the war with three being extremely heavy. The 28 February 1943 raid consisted of 430 bombers, the 22 March 1943 raid consisted of 350 bombers, and the 28 March raid consisted of 320 bombers. The town was almost completely destroyed in these raids while the bunker saw minimal damage.

From Uboat.net:

“The construction work started in February 1941. The bunker, built on the western side of the basin at Saint-Nazaire, was 295m wide, 130m long and 18m high and contained 14 U-boat pens.

After only 4 months the first pens were ready and so Vizeadmiral Dönitz opened on the 30th June 1941 the bunker. U-203 under Kptlt. Rolf Mützelburg was the first boat to use one section of the newly completed shelter.

Later a sluice bunker was also built, which the U-boats used to reach the sea.”

uboat.net/flotillas/bases/saint_nazaire.htm