Monday, 27 July 2015

U-243

The Type VIIC uboat U-243 was built from 28 October 1942 at the Krupp yards in Kiel. She was launched on 2 September 1943 and pressed into service exactly one month later, under command of Oberleutnant zur See Hans Martens.

Her first voyage was a small trip from Kiel to Flekkefjiord, from where she sailed on her first war patrol on 8 June 1944. U-243 was ordered to reach the waters off Normandy, her target being the invasion fleet supporting the Overlord operation. 

Three days after, the Uboat claimed its first victim in a very unfortunate accident. At 02.50 hrs, the boat opened fire with its AA guns on an aircraft flying over her at low altitude. The unidentified aircraft answered the recognition signals, but crashed in the sea seconds later. It was, in fact, a Ju 88 returning from a weather reconnaissance mission, and sadly only one crew member survived.
Sources online differ, identifying the aircraft as belonging to Wekusta 3 or Wekusta 5.

The following day, U-243 returned to Bergen due to engine troubles, where the Ju 88 survivor was landed ashore. The boat left again three days later, on the 15th, safely crossed the North Atlantic and positioned herself in the bay of Biscay, ready to hunt enemy vessels. 

Instead of Allied ships, U-243 met her fate on 8 July: at 14.35 hrs the uboat was spotted by a Sunderland flying boat. The German sailors opened fire with their Flak guns, but the Sunderland manage to strafe the aircraft wounding all men on deck and silencing their guns. Six depth charges were dropped which they disabled all engines and crippled to German vessel, causing her to take  a heavy list to port. 
Other sailors came on deck to operate the Flak guns and keep the Sunderland away, but at 15:00 the Germans launched their dinghies and abandoned the boat.

This photo was taken by the Sunderland crew after dropping the six depth charges which sank the uboat
A second Sunderland and a Liberator reached the scene, initially dropping more depth charges: the commander of the first Sunderland, F/O Tilley, dropped a food pack and a dinghy before returning to base. Thirty-eight Germans managed to evacuate the sinking Uboat, leaving eleven of them behind. They were picked up during the night by HMS Restigouche, but commander Martens succumbed to the wounds caused by the strafing Sunderland.

The flying boat was W4030 and belonded to RAAF no.10 Sqn. Its commander, F/O Tilley was awarded the DFC and the gunner, Flt. Sgt Cook the DFM.

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