German Mine Sweeping Administration

The German Mine Sweeping Administration (GMSA) was an organisation formed by the Allies from former crews and vessels of the Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine for the purpose of mine sweeping after the Second World War, predominantly in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, which existed from June 1945 to January 1948.

German Mine Sweeping Administration
Deutscher Minenräumdienst
The signal pennant "8" was used as a identification flag on GMSA vessels
Active21 June 1945 – 31 December 1947
Country Allied-occupied Germany
Size27,000 men
300 vessels


The GMSA was formed on 21 June 1945 under Allied supervision, specifically that of the Royal Navy,[1][2] to clear naval mines in the North Sea and Baltic. It was made up of 27,000 former members of the Kriegsmarine on nearly 300 vessels.[3]

The Allied command was well aware of the problem caused for commercial shipping by the over 600,000 naval mines laid in the seas of Western, Northern and Eastern Europe and had asked that the German mine sweeping formations not be dismissed after the surrender in May 1945. For this reason, Vice Admiral Sir Harold Burrough, British Naval Commander-in-Chief, Germany, undersigned the instruction for the GMSA in June 1945. The British Admiralty preferred to risk German sailors rather than their own to do the dangerous work.[4] The GMSA was originally under the command of Commodore H. T. England; below him, as the highest ranking German officer, was Konteradmiral Fritz Krauss, who had been in charge of mine sweeping operations during the war.[5][6]

The German sailors initially served in their Second World War uniforms, with the German Eagle and the Swastika removed, and under the same rules and regulations as were valid in the Kriegsmarine. The sailors were paid a moderate wage and had the right to take local leave, unlike other German POWs, but service was not voluntary. Still, the daily, dangerous operations and the resulting high esprit de corps lead to increasing uneasiness about the GMSA, especially in the Soviet Union.

The service was sub-divided into six mine sweeping divisions (German: Räumbootdivisionen). The German headquarters of the service were located in Glückstadt.

On 25 May 1946, the GMSA was equipped with new blue work uniforms and special rank insignia, worn on the sleeve.

The headquarters of the GMSA were moved to Hamburg in December 1947, and it was disbanded in January 1948, despite American objections. The reason for its disbanding was primarily pressure from the Soviet Union which feared the GMSA was an attempt by the western allies to re-form the German Kriegsmarine, something the Royal Navy bitterly opposed themselves.[7] The Reichsmarine had used mine sweeping operations after the First World War to preserve a talent pool of officers and the Royal Navy wanted to avoid a repetition of this experience.[5]

The "German mine sweeping formation Cuxhaven", a civilian organisation, replaced the GMSA, still under British control and using equipment and personnel of the previous organisation.

One of the few large surface ships of the Kriegsmarine to survive the war, the light cruiser Leipzig, in a fairly bad condition, served as an accommodation hulk for the GMSA.[8]


The GMSA was sub-divided into six regional divisions of varying strength:[6]

  • 1st Division: Schleswig Holstein
  • 2nd Division: West Germany (Cuxhaven)
  • 3rd Division: Denmark
  • 4th Division: Norway
  • 5th Division: Netherlands
  • 6th Division: Bremen (US division)


  • Area cleared:
    • North Sea: 5,628 square nautical miles (19,300 km2)
    • Baltic Sea: 450 square nautical miles (1,500 km2)
  • Naval Mines cleared: 2,721
  • Losses:
    • Vessels lost: 10
    • Crew killed: 348


As of early 1947, the service consisted of the following ships and vessels:[6]

Similar formations

  • The 4th Mine Sweeping Group (German: 4. Minensuchgruppe) in Lorient, France, was made up from crews of French sailors and German POWs.
  • Deutscher Minenräumverband Cuxhaven (German mine sweeping formation Cuxhaven), based in Cuxhaven, Germany, a civilian formation under control of the British Customs, replaced the GMSA, active from January 1948 to June 1951
  • Labor Service Unit (B) (LSU/B), based in Bremerhaven and under control of the US Navy, the formation was active until 1957, many of its members continued to serve in the German Bundesmarine after that.


  1. Williamson, Gordon (2001). German Seaman 1939-45. Osprey Publishing. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-84176-327-9. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  2. "Weekly information bulletin". February 1947. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
  3. "German Mine Sweeping Administration (GMSA)" (in German). Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2008.
  4. Madsen (1998), p.127
  5. Madsen (1998), p.128
  6. Schelling, Manfred (2008). "German Minesweeping Administration (GM/SA)". Minesweeper: Sweeping for mines after the Second World War. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  7. Peifer, Douglas (April 2005). "From Enemy to Ally: Reconciliation Made Real in the Postwar German Maritime Sphere". War in History. 12 (2): 208–224. doi:10.1191/0968344505wh313oa. Retrieved 11 July 2008.
  8. Williamson, Gordon (2003). German Light Cruisers 1939-45. Osprey Publishing. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-84176-503-7. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  • Madsen, Chris (1998). The Royal Navy and German Naval Disarmament 1942-1947. Routledge. ISBN 978-0714643731.
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