German submarine U-97 (1940)

German submarine U-97 was a Type VIIC U-boat built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine for service during the Second World War. She carried out thirteen patrols during her career, sinking sixteen ships and damaging a seventeenth. She was a member of two wolfpacks.

Nazi Germany
Name: U-97
Ordered: 30 May 1938
Builder: Germaniawerft, Kiel
Yard number: 602
Laid down: 27 September 1939
Launched: 15 August 1940
Commissioned: 28 September 1940
Fate: Sunk on 16 June 1943, by an Australian aircraft
General characteristics
Class and type: Type VIIC submarine
  • 769 tonnes (757 long tons) surfaced
  • 871 t (857 long tons) submerged
  • 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in) o/a
  • 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)
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)
  • 8,500 nmi (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth:
  • 230 m (750 ft)
  • Crush depth: 250–295 m (820–968 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 40–56 enlisted
Service record
Part of:
  • Thirteen
  • 1st patrol: 17 February – 7 March 1941
  • 2nd patrol: 20 March – 10 April 1941
  • 3rd patrol: 1–30 May 1941
  • 4th patrol: 2 July – 8 August 1941
  • 5th patrol: 20 September – 27 October 1941
  • 6th patrol: 23 December – 9 January 1942
  • 7th patrol: 12–31 January 1942
  • 8th patrol: 14–30 March 1942
  • 9th patrol: 5 April – 12 May 1942
  • 10th patrol: 15 June – 4 July 1942
  • 11th patrol: 22 July 1942 – 4 August 1942
  • 12th patrol: 22 July 1942 – 10 April 1943
  • 13th patrol: 5–16 June 1943
  • 15 ships sunk for a total of 64,404 GRT
  • One auxiliary warship sunk - of 6,833 GRT
  • One ship damaged - of 9,718 GRT

U-97 was sunk on 16 June 1943 while operating in the Mediterranean Sea, west of Haifa.[1] She was depth charged by an Australian aircraft.

Construction and deployment

U-97 was laid down at the Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft in Kiel as yard number 602. She was launched on 15 August 1940 and commissioned on 28 September under the command of Kapitänleutnant Udo Heilmann.

Serving with the 7th U-boat Flotilla, U-97 completed training in late 1940 and early 1941 before commencing operations.


German Type VIIC submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIB submarines. U-97 had a displacement of 769 tonnes (757 long tons) when at the surface and 871 tonnes (857 long tons) while submerged.[2] She had a total length of 67.10 m (220 ft 2 in), a pressure hull length of 50.50 m (165 ft 8 in), a beam of 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in). The submarine was powered by two Germaniawerft F46 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 AEG GU 460/8–27 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).[2]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph).[2] When submerged, the boat could operate for 80 nautical miles (150 km; 92 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-97 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 a 2 cm (0.79 in) C/30 anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.[2]

Service history

1st patrol

The boat's first patrol began with her departure from Kiel on 17 February 1941. Her route took her across the North Sea and through the gap between Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

She sank three ships on the 24th; Mansepool, Jonathon Holt, both southwest of the Faroe Islands and British Gunner 273 nautical miles (506 km; 314 mi) northwest of Cape Wrath (northern Scotland). The Flower-class corvette HMS Petunia had ordered the crew of British Gunner to abandon their vessel even though the master had said the ship could be towed to safety.

The U-boat then damaged G.C. Brøvig. The Norwegian tanker was a victim of U-97's third attack on Convoy OB 289. The torpedo strike caused her to lose her bow, but the bulkhead held and the engines remained usable. With assistance from HMS Petunia, she arrived at Stornoway (in the Outer Hebrides),[3] on 27 February. She was subsequently repaired and returned to service.

The patrol was somewhat marred when a crew-member was lost overboard on 3 March. The submarine docked at Lorient in occupied France on 7 March.

2nd patrol

U-97 sank three more ships between Cape Farewell (Greenland)[4] and southern Ireland in March and April 1941. They were: Chama and Hørda (on 23 and 24 March respectively) and Conus on 4 April. There were no survivors from Hørda or Conus.

3rd and 4th patrols

The boat sank HMS Camito, an Elders & Fyffes banana boat that had been requisitioned as an Ocean Boarding Vessel and Sangro, west southwest of Cape Clear (southern Ireland)[5] on 6 May 1941. On 8 May she struck again, sinking Ramillies southeast of Cape Farewell.

Sortie number four was relatively uneventful, starting from St. Nazaire on 2 July 1941 and terminating in the same port on 8 August.

5th patrol

Departing St. Nazaire on 20 September 1941, U-97 went south, slipped past the heavily guarded British base at Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean. She sank Pass of Balmaha 50 nmi (93 km; 58 mi) west of Alexandria on 17 October. The merchant ship had been part of the fourth convoy of Operation Cultivate, the relief of Tobruk. She also sank Samos on the same day.

An accident which left the IIWO (second watch officer) badly injured on 24 October forced the boat to cut her patrol short. She arrived at Salamis in Greece on the 27th.

6th and 7th patrols

Human frailties also came to the fore during the boat's sixth patrol when, having crossed the Aegean Sea towards Turkey, she was obliged by a sick crew-member, on 7 January 1942, to return to Salamis on the 9th.

The submarine's seventh patrol started and finished in Salamis.

8th and 9th patrols

Having moved to La Spezia in northwest Italy in February, U-97 was attacked by a Sunderland flying boat of No. 230 Squadron RAF off the North African coast. The aircraft dropped five bombs on the boat, but caused no damage.

Patrol number nine continued the shuttle-sequence between Salamis and La Spezia.

10th patrol

The situation improved for the crew when they sank Zealand and Memos 14 nmi (26 km; 16 mi) southwest of Haifa on 28 June 1942. The Marilyese Moller went to the bottom on 1 July about 27 nmi (50 km; 31 mi) west of Rafah[6] in Palestine. The armed trawler HMS Burra reacted with three depth charges, but was unsuccessful.

11th and 12th patrols

These patrols began in Salamis and La Spezia; the latter finished in Pola (now Pula) in Croatia in May 1943.

13th patrol and loss

U-97's final patrol started with her departure from Pola on 5 June 1943. She sank Palima 30 nmi (56 km; 35 mi) south southwest of Beirut on the 12th. She was also successful against Athelmonarch northwest of Jaffa on the 15th.

The U-boat was sunk by a Lockheed Hudson of 459 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force on 16 June 1943 west of Haifa. Twenty-seven men died, there were twenty-one survivors.


U-97 took part in two wolfpacks, namely.

  • West (8–27 May 1941)
  • Goeben (20–29 September 1941)

Summary of raiding history

Date Ship Nationality Tonnage[Note 1] Fate[7]
24 February 1941 British Gunner  United Kingdom 6,894 Sunk
24 February 1941 G.C. Brøvig  Norway 9,718 Damaged
24 February 1941 Johnathon Holt  United Kingdom 4,973 Sunk
24 February 1941 Mansepool  United Kingdom 4,894 Sunk
24 March 1941 Chama  United Kingdom 8,077 Sunk
24 March 1941 Hørda  Norway 4,301 Sunk
4 April 1941 Conus  United Kingdom 8,132 Sunk
6 May 1941 HMS Camito  Royal Navy 6,833 Sunk
6 May 1941 Sangro  Italy 6,466 Sunk
8 May 1941 Ramilles  United Kingdom 4,553 Sunk
17 October 1941 Pass of Balmaha  United Kingdom 758 Sunk
17 October 1941 Samos  Greece 1,208 Sunk
28 June 1942 Memas  Greece 1,755 Sunk
28 June 1942 Zealand  United Kingdom 1,433 Sunk
1 July 1942 Marilyse Moller  United Kingdom 786 Sunk
12 June 1943 Palima  Netherlands 1,179 Sunk
15 June 1943 Athelmonarch  United Kingdom 8,995 Sunk



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


  1. The Times Atlas of the World, Third edition, revised 1995, ISBN 0 7230 0809 4, p. 45
  2. Gröner 1991, pp. 43-46.
  3. The Times Atlas of the World p. 8
  4. The Times Atlas of the World, p. 55
  5. The Times Atlas of the World, p. 9
  6. The Times Atlas of the World, p. 45
  7. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-97". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 26 December 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.
  • 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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