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U 33

U 33 was famous for revealing details of the Enigma code machine when she was destroyed in coastal waters. She entered the Bristol Channel during her second patrol.
U 33
Type VII
Laid down 1 Sept 1935 Germania Werft, Kiel
Commissioned 25 July 1936 Kptlt. Ottoheinrich Junker
Commanders 07.36 - 11.36
11.36 - 12.36
12.36 - 06.37
06.37 - 07.37
08.37 - 10.38
10.38 - 02.40
Kptlt. Ottoheinrich Junker
Kptlt. Kurt Freiwald
Kptlt. Ottoheinrich Junker
Kptlt. Kurt Freiwald
Kptlt. Ottoheinrich Junker
Kptlt. Hans-Wilhelm von Dresky


July 1936 - December 1939 U-Flottille 'Saltzwedel' (Wilhelmshaven)
January 1940 - February 1940 2 U-Flottille (Wilhelmshaven)


Patrol 1 19 August 1939. Left Wilhelmshaven to operate with 2 U-Flottille. On 7 September, U 33 sank the SS Olivegrove (British, 4060t) south west of Ireland. After the crew had abandoned ship the captain of the vessel was taken aboard the boat for questioning. Back in his lifeboat, the captain decided to make for Fastnet, almost 300 miles away. Von Dresky had radioed the position of the two lifeboats to the US liner Washington. U 33 circled the lifeboats for nine hours and fired Very lights when the liner arrived. The boat then went away westwards. On 16 September U 33 sank the SS Arkleside (British, 1567t) south west of the Scillies by gunfire and on the 24th she sank the fishing vessel Caldew (British, 287t) south of the Faroes, again by gunfire. U 33 returned to base on 28 September 1939. The crew of U 33 was held in such high esteem that they had a visit from Adolf Hitler on their return.

Patrol 2 29 October 1939. Left Wilhelmshaven for a minelaying operation in the Bristol Channel. The boat was clearly not seaworthy and had to lie on the bottom of the North Sea for three days whilst the crew made emergency repairs to the diesels. U 33 laid twelve TMB mines off Foreland Point on 9 November. The effects of these mines were felt over a period. Two ships were sunk, the SS Stanholme (British, 2473t) on 25 December 1939, and the tanker MV lnverdargle (British, 9456t) on 16 January 1940. In addition, the MV Sussex (British, 13467t) was damaged on 24 November 1939. Bristol had to be closed to shipping for a second time. In the afternoon of 20 November, U 33 sank three fishing vessels by gunfire just north of Tory Island, the Thomas Hankins (British, 276t), the Delphine (British, 250t) and the Sea Sweeper (British, 329t). The next morning two more were sunk by gunfire north west of Rathlin, the Sulby (British, 287t) and the William Humphries (British, 276t). Returning, U 33 sank the German ship Borkum (3670t) north west of the Orkneys on the 24th. She had been captured by the British on the 17th and a prize crew was taking her to Kirkwall, Orkneys. The Borkum was beached in Papa Sound and abandoned. U 33 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 26 November 1939. The Bristol Channel operation had highlighted a number of design problems with the diesel engine and the boat was returned to Germania Werft for overhaul.

Patrol 3 5 February 1940. Admiral Dönitz came to see the boat leave Wilhelmshaven for a minelaying operation in the Clyde. For several days thereafter, the crew worked hard to repair a number of defects in the valves and engines whilst moving around the northern tip of Scotland. Whilst attempting to lay mines off the southern tip of the Island of Arran on the 12 February, U 33 was attacked by the minesweeper HMS Gleaner (Lt Cdr H P Price) and mortally damaged with depth-charges. Twenty three men, including von Dresky, were lost and 17 others were captured. Some naval Enigma rotors were recovered from one of the crew (Machinist Fritz Kumpf) who had forgotten to throw them away in the rush to escape the sinking vessel.