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U 32

U 32 was diverted to the Bristol Channel for a minelaying operation during her second patrol.
U 32
Type VII
Laid down 15 Mar 1936 AG Weser, Bremen
Commissioned 15 Apr 1937 Kptlt. Werner Lott
Commanders 04.37 - 08.37
09.37 - 02.40
02.40 - 10.40
Kptlt. Werner Lott
Kptlt. Paul Büchel
Oblt. Hans Jenisch (Knights Cross)


April 1937 - December 1939 U-Flottille 'Saltzwedel' (Wilhelmshaven)
January 1940 - October 1940 2 U-Flottille (Wilhelmshaven/Lorient)

Patrol 1 30 August 1939. U 32 was in the Baltic at the start of the Polish campaign but she was ordered away after it was known that the three Polish destroyers had escaped. She reached Kiel on 1 September 1939.

Patrol 2 5 September 1939. Left Kiel for a minelaying operation off Portsmouth. U 32 was one of the few early boats that carried a naval Enigma code machine. Any such boat was not allowed to undertake hazardous tasks in shallow water in case she was sunk and could be salvaged by the enemy. As soon as U-boat command realised the intensity of the Royal Navy's anti-submarine patrols off Portsmouth, U32 was hastily diverted to a far quieter area to lay her mines.

After passing through the English Channel, U 32 laid mines ( probably 12 TMB mines) on the 17th near Scarweather lightship, WSW of Porthcawl. Two ships were damaged by these mines, the SS Marwarri (British, 8063t) on 5 October 1939, and the SS Lochgoil (British, 9462t) the following day. Both ships were beached at Mumbles before being towed to Swansea docks for repair. The Luftwaffe were well aware of Swansea’s importance as a ship repair centre and considered the dry docks at Swansea as important targets (Luftwaffe Target Reference Numbers GB 8363 the Cambrian Dry Docks, and GB 8364 the Prince of Wales Dry Dock). No other sinkings were attributed to the minefield and the operation was considered a failure.

On 18 September, U 32 sank the SS Kensington Court (British, 4863t) by gunfire south of Cork, bound from the Argentine to Liverpool with a cargo of wheat.  U 32 then went north up the west coast of Ireland to an area between the Faroes and the Shetlands. On the 28th the returning boat sighted SS Jern (Norwegian 875t) west of Skudenes, Norway. Although neutral and thus unlikely to be attacked, her skipper scuttled his ship when the boat appeared. Engine problems led to mechanical breakdown and the boat had to abort the patrol, U 32 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 30 September 1939.

The boat went to Kiel for repairs and a refit and was not ready for further operations until late December 1939..

Patrol 3 28 December 1939. Left Wilhelmshaven for a minelaying operation in the Clyde. Outward-bound on the evening of the 31st, U 32 torpedoed and sank the SS Luna (Norwegian 959t) west of Haugesund. Mines were laid on 7 January off Ailsa Craig, in the entrance to the Firth of Clyde. The mines were not laid in an appropriate place or depth, and there are no recorded sinkings resulting from them. U 32 returned to base on 22 January 1940. The commander was promptly fired for this failure.

Patrol 4 26 February 1940. Left Wilhelmshaven, with Jenisch in command, for a minelaying operation off Liverpool, the intention being to drop mines adjacent to those dropped by U 30 in January. Early on 2 May, north of Cape Wrath three torpedoes were fired at the SS Belpamela (Norwegian). All three exploded prematurely near the side of the ship and may have caused damage. Later the same morning, in the same area, U 32 sank the SS Lagaholm (Swedish 2818t) by gunfire. Jenisch took his boat through the North Channel into the Irish Sea and laid twelve TMB mines off Liverpool on 7 March. One of these sank the SS Counsellor (British, 5068t) next day. On the return journey U 32 was sighted several times by aircraft and attacked. U 32 returned to base on 23 March 1940.

Patrol 5 27 April 1940. Left Wilhelmshaven on transport duty to Norway. Returned to base on 13 May 1940.

Patrol 6 3 June 1940. After diesel engine repairs at Kiel, U 32 left Wilhelmshaven for the Atlantic, passing north of the Shetlands and down the west coast of Ireland. A pack-operation was planned and U 32 was one of six boats which made up a group commanded by Günther Prien. They formed a patrol line south west of Ireland from the 12th, to intercept expected eastbound convoy HX 48 on the 16th. The convoy moved southwards and no contact was made. The group was broken up on the 17th and the boats moved to positions at the western approaches to the English Channel. During the evening of the 18th three ships were sunk by U 32 WSW of the Scillies, the SS Altair (Norwegian 1522t) by torpedo and two Spanish fishing vessels, the Salvora (108t) and the Faro-Ons (108t), both by gunfire. On the 19th the SS Labud (Yg. 5334t) was sunk south west of Fastnet Rock and on the 22nd the tanker MV Eli Knudsen (Norwegian 9026t), from convoy HX 49, was sunk south east of Fastnet. U 32 returned to base on 1 July 1940.

Patrol 7 15 August 1940. After a refit and diesel repairs, U 32 left Wilhelmshaven for Atlantic operations. In the early hours of 30 August, three ships from convoy HX 66A were torpedoed and sunk north of the Isle of Lewis, the SS Chelsea (British, 4804t), the SS Mill Hill (British, 431 8t) and the MV Norne (Norwegian 3971t). On 1 September, U 32 encountered the British Dakar Task Force north of Rockall and torpedoed and damaged the cruiser HMS Fiji. U 32 put in to Lorient on 8 September 1940.

Patrol 8 18 September 1940. Left Lorient on weather-boat duties but she was directed to join other boats operating against eastbound convoy HX 72 on the 21st. She damaged the SS Collegian (British, 7886t) from the convoy by torpedo and gunfire 320 miles west of Malin Head on the 22nd.  Early on the 25th she sank the SS Mabriton (British, 6694t) WSW of Rockall. Next day U 32 encountered ships from dispersed convoy OB 217 in the central North Atlantic. She torpedoed and damaged the SS Corrientes (British, 6863t), the abandoned wreck of which was sunk by U 37 on the 28th. U 32 also torpedoed and sank the MV Tancred (Norwegian 6094t) and the SS Darcoila (British, 4084t), both from the dispersed convoy. On the 28th the boat sank the SS Empire Ocelot (British, 5759t) by torpedo and gunfire south west of Rockall and in the early hours of the 29th she sank the SS Bassa (British, 5267t) in the same area. U 32 moved further west into the central North Atlantic and on the 30th the SS Haulerwijk (Nl. 3278t) was sighted south east of Cape Farewell.  On 2 October, U 32 sank the SS Kayeson (British, 4606t) south of Reykjavik. The boat returned to base on 6 October 1940.

Patrol 9 24 October 19.40. Left Lorient for weather-boat duties west of the British Isles. On this patrol U 32 was carrying a supernumerary officer, considered by the crew to be bad luck. In the early hours of the 26th a Condor of 2/KG 40 bombed and severely damaged the liner SS Empress of Britain (British, 42348t), setting her on fire. The liner was put under escort and taken in tow by the Polish destroyer Burza. The nearest U-boats, U 28, U 31 and U 32 were ordered to pursue. Believing U 31 to be nearest, U 32 did not immediately respond. However, when the message was repeated next day, the 28th, Jenisch made for the liner, which was only sixty miles away. When he sighted her he also saw her destroyer escort and a circling Sunderland. Resurfacing after dark, Jenisch positioned his boat ahead of the vessels and slightly to port. The escorts and tugs went by and as the liner passed he fired three torpedoes from only 600 yards and then left, still on the surface. The Empress of Britain, hit by two torpedoes, sank north west of Aran Island with the loss of 118 lives. She was the largest ship ever sunk by a U-boat. U32 was sunk in the following ASW operation. Nine men were lost and thirty three, including Jenisch, were picked up.