Thursday, September 17, 2015

U-Boats Stranded in the Frozen Port

Although East and West Prussia were used to severe winters on account of their continental climate, the winter of 1941-42 broke all records for cold. In mid-January 1942 frigid Siberian air streamed through an enormous high-pressure area over Russia and into Northern Europe. Overnight, temperatures in the East- and West-Prussian Baltic ports fell to more than 20 degrees below zero. In a very short time everything became frozen in ice, including the U-Boat arm’s training base. The U-Boat flotillas in Danzig, Pillau and Gotenhafen were forced to suspend practical training on U-Boats. Kapitänleutnant (Ing.) Otto Elwert, an instructor in the 2. Unterseeboote-Lehrdivision (ULD, 2nd Submarine Training Division) in Gotenhafen, captured the 22. U-Flottille’s predicament in Gotenhafen-Oxhöft on Agfa color slide film. The photos show the German submarines frozen in the ice. At that time the 22. U-Flottille had 18 training boats, the U-8, U-14, U-19, U-56, U-57, U-58, U-59, U-78, U-137, U-138, U-139, U-140, U-142, U-143, U-145, U-146, U-149 and U-150. All were type II boats except for the U-178, which was a VI C. The 2nd ULD was established in June 1940 and it began training operations at Gotenhafen base on 1 November 1940. Its first commander was 39-year-old Fregattenkapitän Werner Hartmann, who had received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes (Knight’s Cross of the Iron Crosses) on 9 May 1940 after successfully commanding the U-37. Hartmann came from Crew 21 and his age and success made him an ideal training unit commander, but in November 1941 he handed command over to Fregattenkapitän der Reserve Ernst Hashagen. He was not from the new generation of U-boat commanders, having commanded the UB-21 and U-62 in the First World War. Also under the command of 2. ULD was the 22. U-Flottille under Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Ambrosius. This flotilla, which was responsible for practical training, was established in January 1940. The 2. ULD was responsible for training U-boat crews and submarine officers. Command courses were also given there. Personnel trained on engines, weapons and torpedoes in the 2. ULD’s training buildings. As a rule, the courses lasted 3 to 4 months, but some were shorter. During this time most of the participants were quartered on the 2. ULD’s residence ships. Placed in service in November 1940, they were the former “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength through Joy) cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff, plus the Hansa and Oceana. The Wilhelm Gustloff, which had seen previous military service as a hospital ship, was now permanently anchored in Gotenhafen-Oxhöft. Approximately 1,000 members of the 2. ULD lived on the Gustloff. The majority were course participants, but a number of instructors – the so-called “core personnel” – also lived aboard. The submarine people took their meals on the ship and a number of diversions were provided to make their stay more pleasant. Movies were shown twice daily. Initially the residence ships continued supplying their own power, steam and water, but in 1943 a steam plant was set up ashore to provide the three vessels with steam. Most married members of the Core Personnel moved their families and lived in apartments in Gotenhafen.

Source :
"U-Boot im Focus", editon no.2 - 2007

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