German submarine U-74 (1940)

German submarine U-74 was a Type VIIB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II.

U-52, a similar Type VIIB boat.
Nazi Germany
Name: U-74
Ordered: 2 June 1938
Builder: Bremer Vulkan of Bremen-Vegesack
Cost: 4,760,000 Reichsmark
Yard number: 2
Laid down: 5 November 1939
Launched: 31 August 1940
Commissioned: 31 October 1940
Fate: Sunk, 2 May 1942 by British warships[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: Type VIIB U-boat
  • 753 t (741 long tons) surfaced
  • 857 t (843 long tons) submerged
  • 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in) o/a
  • 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draught: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)
Installed power:
  • 2,800–3,200 PS (2,100–2,400 kW; 2,800–3,200 bhp) (diesels)
  • 750 PS (550 kW; 740 shp) (electric)
  • 8,700 nmi (16,100 km; 10,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth:
  • 230 m (750 ft)
  • Calculated crush depth: 250–295 m (820–968 ft)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
1 inflatable rubber boat
Complement: 4 officers, 40 to 56 enlisted
Sensors and
processing systems:
FuMO 61 Hohentwiel U
Service record
Part of:
  • Kptlt. Eitel-Fredrich Kentrat
  • 31 October 1940 – 23 March 1942
  • Oblt.z.S. Karl Frederich
  • 24 March – 2 May 1942
  • Eight:
  • 1st patrol: 5 March – 11 April 1941
  • 2nd patrol: 8–30 May 1941
  • 3rd patrol: 5 July – 12 August 1941
  • 4th patrol: 8–26 September 1941
  • 5th patrol: 22 October – 12 November 1941
  • 6th patrol: 9–24 December 1941
  • 7th patrol: 27 December 1941 – 8 January 1942
  • 8th patrol: 23 April – 2 May 1942
  • Four ships sunk (24,694 GRT);
  • one warship sunk - 925 tons;
  • one ship damaged – 123 GRT
  • one auxiliary warship damaged – 11,402 GRT

Her keel was laid down on 5 November 1939, by Bremer Vulkan of Bremen-Vegesack, Germany as yard number 2. She was launched on 31 August 1940 and commissioned on 31 October, with Kapitänleutnant (Kptlt.) Eitel-Friedrich Kentrat in command until March 1942, when he was succeeded by Oberleutnant zur See (Oblt.z.S.) Karl Friederich, who remained in charge until the U-boat's loss.[2]


German Type VIIB submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIA submarines. U-74 had a displacement of 753 tonnes (741 long tons) when at the surface and 857 tonnes (843 long tons) while submerged.[3] She had a total length of 66.50 m (218 ft 2 in), a pressure hull length of 48.80 m (160 ft 1 in), a beam of 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in), a height of 9.50 m (31 ft 2 in), and a draught of 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 6 V 40/46 four-stroke, six-cylinder supercharged diesel engines producing a total of 2,800 to 3,200 metric horsepower (2,060 to 2,350 kW; 2,760 to 3,160 shp) for use while surfaced, two BBC GG UB 720/8 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 750 metric horsepower (550 kW; 740 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.23 m (4 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 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph).[3] When submerged, the boat could operate for 90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 8,700 nautical miles (16,100 km; 10,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-74 was fitted with five 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and one at the stern), fourteen torpedoes, one 8.8 cm (3.46 in) SK C/35 naval gun, 220 rounds, and one 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun The boat had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.[3]

Service history

U-74 conducted eight patrols, sinking four ships totalling 25,619 tons and damaging two others, totalling 11,525 tons.[2] She was a member of three wolfpacks.

1st patrol

Having first moved from Kiel to the German controlled island of Helgoland (sometimes called 'Heligoland') and Bergen in Norway, U-74 departed for her first patrol on 5 March 1941. Her route took her through the gap between Iceland and the Faroe Islands and into the Atlantic Ocean, although one source - - gives her position as off the Belgian coast on 21 March. She sank Leonidas Z. Canbamis on 3 April southwest of Iceland, followed by damage to the armed merchant cruiser HMS Worcestershire close-by on the same day. The auxiliary warship was fortunate because Kentrat, in U-74, had run out of torpedoes.[4]

U-74 docked in St. Nazaire in occupied France on 11 April.

2nd patrol

The boat's second foray was in a northwesterly direction, toward Greenland. She was attacked by two British warships on 21 May 1941; the vessels were the corvette HMS Verbena and the destroyer HMS Burnham. A mix of gunfire and depth charges (about 125 of them), were used. The damage inflicted was such that U-74 was obliged to return to France, but to Lorient, on the 30th.

U-74's involvement with the Bismarck

On 24 May 1941, the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen sank the British battlecruiser HMS Hood and damaged the accompanying battleship HMS Prince of Wales, beginning a three-day hunt that would involve nearly a hundred ships.[5]

That concentration of ships was a very attractive set of targets; Kentrat was ordered to attack the British forces in this area. In the evening U-74 dived in order to listen for contact and detected another U-boat. She surfaced; a hundred meters away, another U-boat appeared -U-556, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Wohlfarth.

Earlier, Flottenchef Admiral Lütjens requested that Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote (Commander-in-Chief for Submarines, Karl Dönitz) provide a U-boat to recover Bismarck's war diary. BdU had given the order to Wohlfarth, but U-556 was both out of torpedoes and very low on fuel. Using a megaphone, Wohlfarth now passed the order on to Kentrat. He accepted and proceeded toward Bismarck's last known position.[5]

By dawn on 27 May, Bismarck was crippled and under fire from the battleships HMS Rodney and HMS King George V and the cruisers HMS Norfolk and HMS Dorsetshire. It was clear to her crew that she would not survive.

At 10:36 U-74 heard sinking sounds but Kentrat could not determine whether it was Bismarck or a British ship. He came to periscope depth and saw battleships and cruisers directly in front of him. He tried to maneuver into an attack position, but the weather was too bad and the seas too high to remain at periscope depth or to fire a torpedo. Wreckage and yellow life-jackets were visible.[5]

After the British ships left, Kentrat surfaced amid debris and dead bodies. The sounds they had heard that morning was Bismarck's destruction. They searched but they could find no one alive until that evening when they came across a raft carrying three sailors, Georg Herzog, Otto Höntzsch, and Herbert Manthey.[5] U-74 searched for another day but found no one else alive and was ordered to return to Lorient. On the return trip, the three survivors recovered from their shock and gave the first statements of Bismarck's loss.

3rd patrol

For her third sortie, U-74 sank Kumasian on 5 August 1941 west of Ireland. She returned to St. Nazaire on the 12th.

4th patrol

Departing St. Nazaire on 8 September 1941, the boat HMCS Levis about 120 nautical miles (220 km; 140 mi) east of Cape Farewell (Greenland)[6] on 19 September 1941. This success was followed the next day when she sank the Catapult Armed Merchantman SS Empire Burton.[7]

5th patrol

On 7 November 1941 U-74 sank MV Nottingham 550 nautical miles (1,020 km) southeast of Cape Farewell. This ship was on her maiden voyage, which was from Glasgow to New York. There were no survivors. The U-boat returned to St. Nazaire for the last time on 12 November 1941.

6th patrol

U-74's next patrol was into the Mediterranean. Leaving St. Nazaire on 9 December 1941, she had slipped past the heavily defended Straits of Gibraltar by the 16th. She entered La Spezia in Italy on 24 December.

7th patrol

The German submarine's first patrol in new surroundings was between Sicily and the Italian mainland and toward the British controlled port of Alexandria, which was reached on 3 January 1942. She returned to La Spezia on the 8th.

8th patrol and loss

Having been ordered to operate against Allied aircraft carriers at the western end of the Mediterranean, U-74 was diverted to search for U-556 (which had been damaged in an air attack), when she was bombed by a Lockheed Hudson of No. 233 Squadron RAF on 1 May 1942. That evening, she also had torpedoes fired at her by the British submarine HMS Unbroken off the southeastern Spanish coast. Both attacks were unsuccessful.

U-74 was detected and sunk by depth charges and 'Hedgehog' from the British destroyers HMS Wishart and HMS Wrestler east southeast of Cartagena in Spain on 2 May 1942.

47 men died; there were no survivors.


U-74 took part in three wolfpacks, namely.

  • West (13–22 May 1941)
  • Brandenburg (15–20 September 1941)
  • Raubritter (1–6 November 1941)

Previously recorded fate

U-74 was sunk by the British destroyers HMS Wishart and HMS Wrestler and a PBY Catalina of 202 Squadron east southeast of Cartagena in Spain on 2 May 1942.

Summary of raiding history

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage[Note 1] Fate[8]
11 March 1941 Frodi  Iceland 123 Damaged
3 April 1941 HMS Worcestershire  Royal Navy 11,402 Damaged
3 April 1941 Leonidas Z. Cambanis  Greece 4,274 Sunk
5 August 1941 Kumasian  United Kingdom 4,922 Sunk
19 September 1941 HMCS Lévis  Royal Canadian Navy 925 Sunk
20 September 1941 SS Empire Burton  United Kingdom 6,966 Sunk
7 November 1941 Nottingham  United Kingdom 8,532 Sunk

See also



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


  1. Kemp 1999, pp. 81-2.
  2. Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIB boat U-74". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  3. Gröner 1991, pp. 43–44.
  4. Fairbank White, David (2006). Bitter Ocean – The dramatic story of the Battle of the Atlantic 1939–1945. Headline Publishing Group. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7553-1089-0.
  5. Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-74 and the Bismarck tragedy". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  6. The Times Atlas of the World (3rd ed.). 1995. p. 55. ISBN 0-7230-0809-4.
  7. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Empire Burton (Catapult armed merchant)". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  8. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-74". German U-boats of WWII -


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships, 1815–1945. Conway Maritime Press.
  • Kemp, Paul (1999). U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars. London: Arms & Armour. ISBN 1-85409-515-3.

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