German submarine Deutschland

Deutschland was a blockade-breaking German merchant submarine used during World War I. It was developed with private funds and operated by the North German Lloyd Line. She was the first of seven U-151-class U-boats built and one of only two used as unarmed cargo submarines.

German Empire
Name: Deutschland
Port of registry: Bremen
Ordered: 27 October 1915
Builder: Flensburger Schiffbau
Launched: 28 March 1916
Fate: Converted into U-155
Name: U-155
Commissioned: 19 February 1917
Fate: Surrendered 24 November 1918. Broken up at Morecambe in 1922.
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: German Type U 151 submarine
  • 1,512 t (1,488 long tons) (surfaced)
  • 1,875 t (1,845 long tons) (submerged)
  • 2,272 t (2,236 long tons) (total)
  • 8.90 m (29 ft 2 in) (o/a)
  • 5.80 m (19 ft 0 in) (pressure hull)
Height: 9.25 m (30 ft 4 in)
Draught: 5.30 m (17 ft 5 in)
Installed power:
  • 800 PS (590 kW; 790 bhp) (surfaced)
  • 800 PS (590 kW; 790 bhp) (submerged)
Propulsion: 2 × shafts, 2 × 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in) propellers
  • 12.4 knots (23.0 km/h; 14.3 mph) surfaced
  • 5.2 knots (9.6 km/h; 6.0 mph) submerged
Range: 25,000 nmi (46,000 km; 29,000 mi) at 5.5 knots (10.2 km/h; 6.3 mph) surfaced, 65 nmi (120 km; 75 mi) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) submerged
Test depth: 50 metres (160 ft)
Complement: 6 officers, 50 enlisted
Service record
Part of:
  • Kptlt. Karl Meusel
  • 19 February – 5 September 1917
  • K.Kapt. Erich Eckelmann
  • 6 September 1917 – 31 May 1918
  • K.Kapt. Ferdinand Studt
  • 1 June 1918 – 14 November 1918
Operations: 3 patrols
  • 42 merchant ships sunk 121,328 GRT
  • 1 merchant ship damaged 1,338 GRT

After making two voyages as an unarmed merchantman, she was taken over by the German Imperial Navy on 19 February 1917 and converted into U-155, armed with six torpedo tubes and two deck guns. As U-155, she began a raiding career in June 1917 that was to last until October 1918, sinking 120,434 tons of shipping and damaging a further 9,080 tons of shipping.


Deutschland was one of seven submarines designed to carry cargo between the United States and Germany, through the naval blockade of the Entente Powers. Mainly enforced by Great Britain's Royal Navy, the blockade had led to great difficulties for German companies in acquiring raw materials which could not be found in quantity within the German sphere of influence, and thus substantially hindered the German war effort.

Deutschland was built together with her sister ship Bremen in 1916 for the Deutsche Ozean-Reederei, a private shipping company created for the enterprise, a subsidiary company of the North German Lloyd shipping company (now Hapag-Lloyd) and the Deutsche Bank.[2] She was constructed without armaments, with a wide beam to provide space for cargo. The cargo capacity was 700 tons (230 tons of rubber could be stored in the free-flooding spaces between the inner and outer hulls[3]), relatively small compared to surface ships.

Britain and France soon protested against the use of submarines as merchant ships, arguing that they could not be stopped and inspected for munitions in the same manner as other cargo vessels. The US, under diplomatic pressure for supposedly showing favoritism while having declared itself neutral, rejected the argument. Even submarines, as long as they were unarmed, were to be regarded as merchant vessels and accordingly would be permitted to trade.[2]

Only two submarines were completed according to the original design: Deutschland and Bremen, which was lost on a voyage to the United States. Due to the United States' entry into the war the other five submarine freighters were converted into long-range cruiser submarine (U-kreuzers), equipped with two 150mm deck guns and were known as the Type U 151 class.

Merchant service

Deutschland and crew in Baltimore, 1916

First journey

Deutschland departed on her first voyage to the US on 23 June 1916 commanded by Paul König, formerly of the North German Lloyd company. On her return voyage she carried 750 tons of cargo in total, including 341 tons of refined nickel and 125 tons of highly sought-after chemical dyes, mainly Anthraquinone and Alizarine derivatives in highly concentrated form,[4] some of which were worth as much as $1,254 a pound in 2005 money. She also carried medical drugs, mainly Salvarsan, gemstones, and mail, her cargo being worth $1.5 million in total.[5]

Deutschland waited a week at Heligoland after the announced sailing date to avoid enemy patrols. She submerged for only 90 miles (140 km) of the 3,800-mile (6,100 km) outbound voyage.[6] Passing undetected through the English Channel[2] she arrived in Baltimore on 9 July 1916 (some sources say 7 July)[7] after just over two weeks at sea. A photograph by Karle Netzer dates the arrival 10 July (erreichte Baltimore Hafen 10 Juli 1916).[8] During their stay in the US, the German crewmen were welcomed as celebrities for their astonishing journey and even taken to fancy dinners. American submarine pioneer Simon Lake visited Deutschland while she was in Baltimore, and made an agreement with representatives of the North German Lloyd line to build cargo submarines in the US, a project which never came to fruition.[9]

She stayed at Baltimore until 2 August, when she sailed for Bremerhaven, arriving on 24 August with a cargo of 341 tons of nickel, 93 tons of tin, and 348 tons of crude rubber (257 tons of which were carried outside the pressure hull). Her cargo was valued at $17.5 million, several times the submarine's construction costs.[9] She had traveled 8,450 nmi (15,650 km; 9,720 mi), having been submerged for 190 nmi (350 km; 220 mi) of them.

Second journey

Deutschland made another round trip in November 1916 to New London, Connecticut with $10 million of cargo ($ 230,240,000 in 2019) including gems, securities, and medicinal products. At the same time the submarine U-53 also crossed the Atlantic to visit Newport, Rhode Island, and sank five Allied freighters just outside US territorial limits before returning home.

On 17 November as she was putting to sea, Deutschland accidentally rammed the tugboat T. A. Scott, Jr., which turned across her path suddenly while escorting her from New London to the open ocean. T. A. Scott, Jr., sank immediately with the loss of her entire crew of five. Deutschland's bow was damaged, and she had to return to New London for repairs, which delayed her departure by a week.[10][11] She finally left New London on 21 November 1916, with a cargo that included 6.5 tons of silver bullion.

Following his last voyage, Captain Paul König wrote a book (or possibly had it ghost-written) about the journeys of Deutschland, entitled Voyage of the Deutschland, the First Merchant Submarine (Verlag Ullstein & Co, Berlin 1916). The book was heavily publicized, as it was intended to sway public opinion in both Germany and the US.[12]

War service

A third voyage, planned for January 1917, was aborted as German-US relations had worsened following the sinking of shipping bound for the United Kingdom, often just outside US territorial waters. Deutschland was taken over by the German Imperial Navy on 19 February 1917 and converted into U-155, part of the U-Kreuzer Flotilla, being fitted with 6 bow torpedo tubes with 18 torpedoes, and two 15 cm SK L/40 naval gun taken from the pre-dreadnought battleship SMS Zähringen.[3] She made three successful war cruises, sinking 42 ships and damaging one.[13]


During the summer of 1917 U-155 made a 105-day cruise, commanded by Kptlt. Karl Meusel, leaving Germany around 24 May and returning on 4 September. During her traverse of the Northern Passage around the northern end of the British Isles and out into the Atlantic Ocean, she was stalked and nearly sunk by U-19 near Utsira Island, Norway.

During this patrol, the boat fired on the port city of Ponta Delgada in the Azore Islands on 4 July at 3 a.m. with its deck guns. Portuguese army units did not respond due to being equipped with obsolete artillery. The collier USS Orion happened to be in port at the time undergoing repairs. Its company returned U-155's fire and dueled with the German boat for about 12 minutes. U-155 submerged without being hit and eventually retired. While the raid was light in damage (it killed four people), it alarmed Allied naval authorities about the defenseless nature of the Azores and their possible use as a base by boats like U-155 in the future. Allied naval forces, led by the U.S. Navy, began to send ships and establish a naval operating base in Ponta Delgada as a result.

During her patrol she sank 19 merchant ships, most by either scuttling or gunfire. She attacked 19 Allied armed merchantmen but only succeeded in sinking 9 of them. Upon her return to Germany she had covered a distance of 10,220 nmi (18,930 km; 11,760 mi), of which 620 nmi (1,150 km; 710 mi) had been travelled submerged, one of the longest voyages made by a U-boat during World War I.[14]


U-155 sailed from Kiel on 11 August 1918 commanded by Ferdinand Studt. Studt's orders directed him to cruise off the US coast in the region of the Nantucket lightship and lay mines off St. John's, Newfoundland and Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was also directed to cut telegraph cables off Sable Island, 80 km (50 mi) southeast of Nova Scotia. His orders, however, proved problematic, and Studt came to believe that the St. Johns where he was to lay mines was actually Saint John, New Brunswick, in the Bay of Fundy.

On U-155's outbound voyage she had captured and scuttled the Portuguese sailing ship Gamo, had attempted an attack on SS France, and destroyed by gunfire the Norwegian Stortind. On 7 September U-155 found herself in a long range gun duel with the US steamer Frank H. Buck, with the steamer later claiming to have sunk U-155.

On 13 September U-155 engaged in another gun fight with the British merchantman Newby Hall, which managed to damage the submarine, denting her armour and causing serious leaks in her pressure hull which made diving temporarily impossible.

On 19 September, Studt tried and failed to locate and cut the telegraph cable near Sable Island, then headed for Nantucket.[15]


U-155 returned to Germany from her final cruise on 12 November 1918 and was surrendered on 24 November 1918 with other submarines as part of the terms of the Armistice. She was taken to Britain and exhibited in London and elsewhere and was eventually sold for scrap in 1921. On 17 September 1921, she was being broken up at Robert Smith and Sons, Birkenhead, when an explosion ripped the ship apart, killing five apprentices.[16]

Summary of raiding history

Date Name Nationality Tonnage[Note 1] Fate[17]
2 June 1917 Hafursfjord  Norway 1,669 Sunk
10 June 1917 Scottish Hero  Canada 2,205 Sunk
14 June 1917 Aysgarth  United Kingdom 3,118 Sunk
30 June 1917 Benguela  Norway 4,612 Sunk
30 June 1917 Siraa  Norway 1,938 Sunk
7 July 1917 Coblenz  United Kingdom 1,338 Damaged
8 July 1917 Ruelle  France 3,583 Sunk
12 July 1917 Calliope  United Kingdom 2,883 Sunk
14 July 1917 Chalkydon  Greece 2,870 Sunk
18 July 1917 Ellen  Norway 3,877 Sunk
20 July 1917 Hanseat  Norway 3,358 Sunk
21 July 1917 Doris  Kingdom of Italy 1,355 Sunk
21 July 1917 John Twohy  United States 1,019 Sunk
21 July 1917 Willena Gertrude  United Kingdom 317 Sunk
31 July 1917 Madeleine  France 2,709 Sunk
31 July 1917 Snowdonian  United Kingdom 3,870 Sunk
1 August 1917 Alexandre  France 2,671 Sunk
2 August 1917 Marthe  France 3,119 Sunk
7 August 1917 Christiane  United States 964 Sunk
7 August 1917 Iran  United Kingdom 6,250 Sunk
16 February 1918 Tea  Kingdom of Italy 5,395 Sunk
18 February 1918 Cecil L. Shave  United Kingdom 102 Sunk
23 February 1918 Sardinero  Spain 2,170 Sunk
4 March 1918 Antioco Accame  Kingdom of Italy 4,439 Sunk
13 March 1918 Wegadesk  Norway 4,271 Sunk
15 March 1918 Joaquina  Spain 333 Damaged
18 March 1918 Prometeo  Kingdom of Italy 4,455 Sunk
18 March 1918 Reidar  Norway 3,574 Sunk
24 March 1918 Avala  Kingdom of Italy 3,834 Sunk
24 March 1918 Jorgina  United Kingdom 103 Sunk
25 March 1918 Rio Ave  Portugal 179 Sunk
27 March 1918 Watauga  United Kingdom 127 Sunk
1 April 1918 Lusitano  Portugal 529 Sunk
7 April 1918 Sterope  Kingdom of Italy 9,500 Sunk
13 April 1918 Harewood  United Kingdom 4,150 Sunk
16 April 1918 Nirpura  United Kingdom 7,640 Sunk
23 April 1918 Frances  United Kingdom 54 Sunk
31 August 1918 Gamo  Portugal 343 Sunk
2 September 1918 Stortind  Norway 2,510 Sunk
7 September 1918 Sophia  Portugal 162 Sunk
12 September 1918 Leixoes  Portugal 3,245 Sunk
20 September 1918 Kingfisher  United States 353 Sunk
3 October 1918 Alberto Treves  Kingdom of Italy 3,838 Sunk
4 October 1918 Industrial  United Kingdom 330 Sunk
12 October 1918 Amphion  United States 7,409 Damaged
17 October 1918 Lucia  United States 6,744 Sunk

See also



  1. Tonnages are in gross register tons


  1. Gröner 1991, pp. 20-21.
  2. "Primary Documents: German Submarine Deutschland's Atlantic Crossing, 9 July 1916". 8 November 2003.
  3. Showell, Jak P. Mallman (2006). The U-boat century : German submarine warfare 1906–2006. Chatham Publishing. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-86176-241-2.
  4. "The Cargo of the Submarine "Deutschland"". Journal of the Chemical Society. XXXV (23): 1202. 15 December 1916.
  5. "The Submarine "Deutschland"".
  6. Halsey, Francis Whiting (1919). History of the World War. IX. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. pp. 308&309.
  7. Gibson, p. 103
  8. Tom (30 September 2013). "German U-Boat Deutschland Arrives in Baltimore (1916)". Ghosts of Baltimore. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  9. Polmar, Norman; Kenneth J. Moore (2004). Cold War Submarines. Brassey's. p. 225. ISBN 1-57488-594-4.
  10. "FIVE MEN DROWN AS DEUTSCHLAND CRASHES INTO TUG" (PDF). New York Times. 18 November 1916.
  11. Bernard, Warren, "A U-Boat′s Turn," MHQ, Summer 2017, p. 47.
  12. Directed Readings on the U-Boat War Archived 26 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine – Blake, Sam, East Carolina University, April 2003.
  13. Helgason, Guðmundur. "WWI U-boats: U 155 (ex. Deutschland)". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine -
  14. Gibson, p. 217
  15. Hadley, Michael L.; Roger Flynn Sarty (1991). Tin-pots and Pirate Ships. McGill-Queen's Press. pp. 244–245. ISBN 0-7735-0778-7.
  16. Paine, Lincoln P.; Hal Fessenden; James H. Terry (1997). Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia. Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 140. ISBN 0-395-71556-3.
  17. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U 155". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine - Retrieved 8 December 2014.


  • Duncan, Francis (April 1965). "Deutschland – Merchant Submarine". Proceedings. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute: 68–75.
  • Gibson, R.H.; Prendergast, Maurice (2002). The German Submarine War 1914–1918. Periscope Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-904381-08-1.
  • Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4.
  • Jung, Dieter (2004). Die Schiffe der Kaiserlichen Marine 1914-1918 und ihr Verbleib [German Imperial Navy ships 1914-1918 and their fate] (in German). Bonn: Bernard & Graefe. ISBN 3-7637-6247-7.
  • König, Paul (2001). Voyage of the Deutschland, the First Merchant Submarine. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-424-5.

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