Monday, 6 June 2011

The story of U-625

The U-625 was a Type VIIC U-boat laid down in July 1941 at the Blohm und Voss yard in Hamburg, launched in April 1942 and commissioned on 4 June 1942, under the command of Oberleutenant zu See Hans Benker, later promoted Kapitan zur See. The submarine spent four months training with 8. Unterseebooflotille before being posted to 3. Unterseebootflotille on 1 October 1942.
The U-boat started its first war patrol on 4 November, heading North towards the convoy routes between Norway and the Spitsbergen. On 6 November U-625's men claimed their first kill torpedoing the 5,445 ton British merchant Chulmleigh, which had already been damaged the previous day by a Ju-88 of II./KG 30.
According to (great website!), Chulmleigh's crewmen abandoned their ship and landed on an isolated part of Spitzbergen, and were not rescued until 4 January. Only 13 of the 58 men abord survived.

At 22:24 the same day, U-625 torpedoed and sank the 7,455 ton Empire Sky, en route from Archangel to Hull, via Reykjavik. No one of the 41 crewmen survived.
The vessel scored no hits until 23 November, when the 5,581 ton British merchant Goolistan was hit at 00.56, then hit again by a second torpedo at 01.18, sinking at 01.45. The ship was part of Convoy QP-15, which had departed Archangel on 17 November,
The U-boat returned to Narvik on 29 November, after 26 days at sea in which she sank 18,751 tons of shipping. Commander Benker and his men departed Narvik on 30 December 1942 for their second war patrol which turned out to be uneventuful. The same was for the third, fourth and fifth patrol up to June 1943.
U-625 sixth patrol started on 12 July 1943, the vessel heading north-east towards Soviet waters for minelaying operations. On the of 25 July, the 557 ton Soviet trawler T-904 struck a mine and sunk with ten men lost.
The U-boat returned to Soviet waters for its seventh patrol during which she again laid mines, two of which sunk the salvage vessel ASO-1 Skhval. Out of 52 crewmen only 5 survived.
The 8th patrol was uneventful. On 15 November 1943 U-625 departed Trondheim for its 9th war patrol. On 2 January 1944, in the Bay of Biscay, the vessel was attacked by a Leight Light equipped Liberator of No. 224 Sdn. The U-boat opened fire and damaged the aircraft with hits at the port side, wounding the radio operator, and then began to crash dive. Kapitan Benker cancelled the order so that he and another sailor could recover the Naxos wire, but the order was not recognised and the submarine continued to dive; Benker and the other crewmen were lost at sea.
Oberleutnant Kurt Sureth took over in command and the vessel safely reached Brest on 6 January 1944. On 29 February U-625, now under the command of Oberleutnant Siegfired Straub, it sailed from the French port for its tenth and final patrol.
On 10 May, 1944, she was caught on the surface by a Coastal Command Sunderland. U-625 mounted a spirited defense, damaging the enemy flying boat , but was hit by four depth-charges. The U-boat submerged but was forced to reach the surface in severe troubles, and finally flashed the message "FINE BOMBISH"  [sic] to the Sunderland. All crewmen safely get on lifeboats and dinghies, but they were never rescued. Unfortunately, all the 53 crewmen were lost in a storm on the following night.


German U-Boat Losses During World War II. Niestle, Axel, 1999.

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