German submarine U-103 (1940)

German submarine U-103 was a Type IXB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine that operated during World War II. She was one of the most successful boats in the entire war, sinking over 237,000 gross register tons (GRT) of Allied shipping in 11 patrols, in a career lasting more than four years.

U-103 in 1939. Looking backwards from the conning tower. Note the width of casing of the Type IX compared to the Type VII U-boat
Nazi Germany
Name: U-103
Ordered: 24 May 1938
Builder: AG Weser, Bremen
Yard number: 966
Laid down: 6 September 1939
Launched: 12 April 1940
Commissioned: 5 July 1940
Fate: Sunk 15 April 1945, Kiel by bombs. Only one man was killed.
General characteristics
Class and type: German Type IXB submarine
  • 1,051 t (1,034 long tons) surfaced
  • 1,178 t (1,159 long tons) submerged
  • 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in) o/a
  • 4.40 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draught: 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)
Installed power:
  • 4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
  • 1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
  • 12,000 nmi (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 64 nmi (119 km; 74 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Service record[1][2]
Part of:
Identification codes: M 05 635
  • Viktor Schütze
  • Werner Winter
  • Gustav-Adolf Janssen
  • Heinz Murl
  • Hans-Norbert Schunck
  • Eleven
  • 1st patrol:
  • 21 September – 19 October 1940
  • 2nd patrol:
  • 23 September – 19 December 1940
  • 3rd patrol:
  • 21 January – 24 February 1941
  • 4th patrol:
  • 1 April – 12 July 1941
  • 5th patrol:
  • 10 September – 9 November 1941
  • 6th patrol:
  • 3 January – 19 March 1942
  • 7th patrol:
  • 15 April – 22 June 1942
  • 8th patrol:
  • 21 October – 29 December 1942
  • 9th patrol:
  • 7 February – 26 March 1943
  • 10th patrol:
  • 24 April – 26 May 1943
  • 11th patrol:
  • a. 18–19 September 1943
  • b. 23 September 1943 – 1 January 1944
  • 45 ships sunk for a total of 237,596 GRT
  • Three ships damaged for a total of 28,158 GRT

U-103 was laid down on 6 September 1939 at DeSchiMAG AG Weser in Bremen as yard number 966. She was launched on 12 April 1940 and commissioned on 5 July under the command of Korvettenkapitän Victor Schütze. After her warm-up, (designed to give her an opportunity to train and repair minor faults), she was deployed into the North Atlantic in September 1940 and saw overwhelming success, sinking 45 ships and damaging three other vessels.


German Type IXB submarines were slightly larger than the original German Type IX submarines, later designated IXA. U-103 had a displacement of 1,051 tonnes (1,034 long tons) when at the surface and 1,178 tonnes (1,159 long tons) while submerged.[3] The U-boat had a total length of 76.50 m (251 ft), a pressure hull length of 58.75 m (192 ft 9 in), a beam of 6.76 m (22 ft 2 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged four-stroke, nine-cylinder diesel engines producing a total of 4,400 metric horsepower (3,240 kW; 4,340 shp) for use while surfaced, two Siemens-Schuckert 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 1,000 metric horsepower (740 kW; 990 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.92 m (6 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).[3]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 18.2 knots (33.7 km/h; 20.9 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph).[3] When submerged, the boat could operate for 64 nautical miles (119 km; 74 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 km; 14,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-103 was fitted with six 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 22 torpedoes, one 10.5 cm (4.13 in) SK C/32 naval gun, 180 rounds, and a 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 as well as a 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of forty-eight.[3]

Service history

1st patrol

The boat entered the Atlantic via the gap between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. Her first victory was sinking Nina Borthen in mid-ocean on 6 October. After being hit by a torpedo, the ship developed a list, which the crew corrected. The ship was hit by two more projectiles, which also caused a list. Another torpedo hit broke the vessel in two and she sank. There were no survivors.

A steady stream of victories followed; Zanes Gounaris on 9 October, Graigwen (damaged) also on the 9th, as was Delphin, although she did not sink until the next day. The Nora went down on 13 October; Thistlegarth was the last victim - sinking 45 nmi (83 km; 52 mi) west northwest of Rockall on 15 October.

U-103 docked at her new base - Lorient on the French Atlantic coast, on 19 October.

2nd patrol

U-103's second foray commenced with her being unsuccessfully attacked by the Flower-class corvette HMS Rhododendron northwest of Ireland on 11 November 1940.

She then added to her score: Daydawn on the 21st, Victoria on the same day; Glenmoor on the 27th, Mount Athos on the 28th and St. Elwyn, also on the 28th. There was a slight pause before the attacks continued: the Calabria on 8 December and Empire Jaguar the next day.

The submarine returned to Lorient on 19 December.

3rd patrol

The list of sunk and damaged ships grew. The Arthur F. Corwin was damaged by U-103 13 February 1941 and sunk by U-96 later that same day. U-96 went on to sink Edwy R. Brown (17 October), Seaforth (18th) and Benjamin Franklin (19th). MS BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (LTK001192701) Torpedoed and sunk 19/02 by the German submarine U 103 (Korvettenkapitän Viktor Schütze) in position 58.50N- 16.30W whilst on a voyage from San Francisco, CA, USA via Bermuda to Liverpool, England with 8.400 t general cargo. 7 of her crew was saved by HMS PIMPERNELL and landed in Liverpool. 29 of her crew was taken aboard Egyptian SS MEMPHIS who was broken down and sank 28/02 in bad weather North West of Ireland. No survivors.

4th patrol

A change of operational area saw U-103 conduct her fourth sortie off the coast of West Africa. This patrol was also notable, because at 103 days, it was her longest. She sank Polyana 41 nmi (76 km; 47 mi) southwest of the Cape Verde Islands on 24 April 1941. The ship went down in one minute, there were no survivors.

The tally increased: Samsø, Wray Castle, Surat and Dunkwa were all sent to the bottom in the first week of May. When Dunkwa met her end, it was noticed that there were 39 survivors in one lifeboat; the U-boat-men righted another and provided water.

U-103 sank another eight ships in the vicinity of the 'dark continent' before returning to Lorient on 12 July.

5th patrol

Patrol number five was relatively modest in terms of ships sunk. 'Only' two vessels went under; (Niceto de Larrinaga and Edward Blyden), west of the Canary Islands on 22 September 1941.

6th patrol

The boat's sixth patrol centred around the eastern US coast. She sank W. L. Stead about 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) off the Delaware River on 2 February 1942. The torpedo hit set the ship on fire but wave action soon extinguished it. Using her deck gun, U-103 fired 83 rounds, scoring 17 hits and reigniting the fire. She fired a further two torpedoes, the second missed, but the third caused the tanker's cargo to explode, sending flames 500 ft (150 m) into the air.

U-103 also sank San Gil on 4 February, India Arrow on the 5th and China Arrow on the same date.

7th patrol

Her seventh patrol began with her departure from Lorient on 15 April 1942. She sank Stanbank northeast of Bermuda on 5 May. Moving into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, she caused more mayhem among the unprotected merchant ships in May. In all, she destroyed nine vessels on this voyage.

U-103 returned to Lorient on 22 June.

8th patrol

Two more ships went to watery graves - Tasmania north of Madeira on 31 October 1942 and Henry Stanley in mid-Atlantic northwest of the Azores on 6 December. The Henry Stanley's master was taken prisoner and was eventually sent to the POW camp for merchant seamen at Milag Nord.

U-103 also damaged Horata north of the Azores on 13 December.

9th and 10th patrols

The boat experienced something that was relatively novel on her ninth sally - she sank no ships. Despite scouring the Atlantic off Spain as far west as the Azores and as far south as Morocco, she came across no convoys. Having departed Lorient on 7 February 1943, she returned there on 26 March.

U-103 was attacked by a Leigh Light equipped Vickers Wellington of No. 172 Squadron RAF on 27 April, during her tenth patrol. The aircraft had found the U-boat with its radar; six depth charges were dropped, but no damage inflicted. The boat was also attacked by a Whitley bomber of No. 10 OTU (Operational Training Unit) on 22 May. A hit from the boat's AA fire prevented the aircraft from dropping its depth charges. Plane and submarine both returned safely to their bases.

11th patrol

U-103's last operational patrol was officially divided into two parts; the first of which saw her arrive in Brest in France only two days after her departure from 'Lorient. She then returned to the west African coast but could not repeat her earlier success. She sailed to Bergen in Norway via a reverse in the course of her first patrol and arrived at the Nordic port on 1 January 1944.


The boat moved from Bergen on 3 January 1944 and arrived in Kiel on the 7th. In March U-103 was taken out of service and used as a Schulboot (training boat). She went from Gotenhafen to Hamburg in January 1945 and in April from Hamburg back to Kiel. On 15 April 1945 she was sunk by Canadian bombers; one man died and there were an unknown number of survivors.


U-103 took part in nine wolfpacks, namely.

  • Störtebecker (5–7 November 1941)
  • Streitaxt (29 October – 2 November 1942)
  • Schlagetot (9–21 November 1942)
  • Westwall (21 November – 16 December 1942)
  • Robbe (16 February – 12 March 1943)
  • Wohlgemut (12–19 March 1943)
  • Amsel 4 (4–6 May 1943)
  • Rhein (7–10 May 1943)
  • Elbe 2 (10–14 May 1943)

Summary of raiding history

DateShipNationalityTonnage[Note 1]Fate[4]
6 October 1940 Nina Borthen  Norway 6,123 Sunk
9 October 1940 Delphin  Greece 3,816 Sunk
9 October 1940 Graigwen  United Kingdom 3,697 Damaged
9 October 1940 Zannes Gounaris  Greece 4,407 Sunk
13 October 1940 Nora  Estonia 1,186 Sunk
15 October 1940 Thislegarth  United Kingdom 4,747 Sunk
21 November 1940 Daydawn  United Kingdom 4,768 Sunk
21 November 1940 Victoria  Greece 6,085 Sunk
27 November 1940 Glenmoor  United Kingdom 4,393 Sunk
28 November 1940 Mount Athos  Greece 3,578 Sunk
28 November 1940 St. Elwyn  United Kingdom 4,940 Sunk
8 December 1940 Calabria  United Kingdom 5,186 Sunk
9 December 1940 Empire Jaguar  United Kingdom 5,186 Sunk
13 February 1941 Arthur F. Corwin  United Kingdom 10,516 Damaged
17 February 1941 Edwy R. Brown  United Kingdom 10,455 Sunk
18 February 1941 Seaforth  United Kingdom 5,459 Sunk
19 February 1941 Benjamin Franklin  Norway 7,034 Sunk
25 April 1941 Polyana  Norway 2,267 Sunk
1 May 1941 Samsø  United Kingdom 1,494 Sunk
3 May 1941 Wray Castle  United Kingdom 4,253 Sunk
6 May 1941 Dunkwa  United Kingdom 4,752 Sunk
6 May 1941 Surat  United Kingdom 5,529 Sunk
9 May 1941 City of Winchester  United Kingdom 7,120 Sunk
11 May 1941 City of Shanghai  United Kingdom 5,828 Sunk
22 May 1941 British Grenadier  United Kingdom 6,857 Sunk
25 May 1941 Radames  Egypt 3,575 Sunk
25 May 1941 Wangi Wangi  Netherlands 7,789 Sunk
8 June 1941 Elmdene  United Kingdom 4,853 Sunk
29 June 1941 Erani  Italy 6,619 Sunk
22 September 1941 Edward Blyden  United Kingdom 5,003 Sunk
22 September 1941 Niceto de Larringa  United Kingdom 5,591 Sunk
2 February 1942 W. L. Steed  United States 6,182 Sunk
4 February 1942 India Arrow  United States 8,327 Sunk
4 February 1942 San Gil  United States 3,627 Sunk
5 February 1942 China Arrow  United States 8,403 Sunk
5 February 1942 Stanbank  United States 5,966 Sunk
17 May 1942 Ruth Lykes  United States 2,612 Sunk
19 May 1942 Ogontz  United States 5,037 Sunk
21 May 1942 Clare  United States 3,372 Sunk
21 May 1942 Elizabeth  United States 4,727 Sunk
23 May 1942 Samuel Q. Brown  United States 6,625 Sunk
24 May 1942 Hector  Netherlands 1,828 Sunk
26 May 1942 Alcoa Carrier  United States 5,588 Sunk
28 May 1942 New Jersey  United States 6,414 Sunk
31 October 1942 Tasmania  United Kingdom 6,405 Sunk
6 December 1942 Henry Stanley  United Kingdom 5,025 Sunk
13 December 1942 Horata  United Kingdom 3,945 Damaged

See also



  1. Merchant ship tonnages are in gross register tons. Military vessels are listed by tons displacement.


  1. Helgason, Guðmundur. "German U-boats of WWII: U-103". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  2. Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-boat patrols: War Patrols by U-64". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  3. Gröner 1991, p. 68.
  4. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-103". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 3 October 2014.


  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). German U-boat commanders of World War II : a biographical dictionary. Translated by Brooks, Geoffrey. London, Annapolis, Md: Greenhill Books, Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-186-6.
  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 [German U-boat losses from September 1939 to May 1945]. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German). IV. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler. ISBN 3-8132-0514-2.
  • Edwards, Bernard (1996). Dönitz and the Wolfpacks - The U-boats at War. Cassell Military Classics. pp. 119, 125. ISBN 0-304-35203-9.
  • 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.

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