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German submarine U-103 (1940)
Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-3930-23A, U-Boot U-103 in See.jpg
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
Career (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 at Kiel by bombs. One dead
General characteristics
Class & type: Type IXB U-boat
Length: 76.5 m (251 ft 0 in) overall
58.7 m (192 ft 7 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.8 m (22 ft 4 in) overall
4.4 m (14 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.6 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draft: 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)
Speed: 18.3 knots (33.9 km/h) surfaced
7.3 knots (13.5 km/h) submerged
Range: 22,200 nmi (41,100 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
118 nmi (219 km) at 4 kn (7.4 km/h) submerged
Service record[1][2]
Part of: Kriegsmarine:
2nd U-boat Flotilla
24th U-boat Flotilla
Identification codes: M 05 635
Commanders: Viktor Schütze
Werner Winter
Gustav-Adolf Janssen
Heinz Murl
Hans-Norbert Schunck
Operations: 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
Victories: 45 ships sunk for a total of 237,596 gross register tons (GRT)
Three ships damaged for a total of 28,158 GRT

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

U-103 was laid down on 6 September 1939 at AG Weser in Bremen as 'werk' 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 Atlantic Ocean in September, 1940 and saw overwhelming success, sinking 45 ships and damaging three other vessels.

Operational career

1st patrol

The boat entered the Atlantic via the 'gap' between the Faroe and Shetland Islands. Her first victory was sinking the 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; the Zanes Gounaris on 9 October, the Graigwen (damaged) also on the 9th, as was the Delphin, although she did not sink until the next day. The Nora went down on 13 October; the Thistlegarth was the last victim - sinking 45 mi (72 km) 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: the Daydawn on the 21st, the Victoria on the same day; the Glenmoor on the 27th, the Mount Athos on the 28th and the St. Elwyn, also on the 28th. There was a slight pause before the attacks continued: the Calabria on 8 December and the 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), the Seaforth (18th) and the Benjamin Franklin (19th).

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 the Polyana 41 mi (66 km) southwest of the Cape Verde Islands on 24 April 1941. The ship went down in one minute, there were no survivors.

The tally increased: the Samsø, the Wray Castle, the Surat and the Dunkwa were all sent to the bottom in the first week of May. When the 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; (the Niceto de Larrinaga and the 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 the W. L. Stead about 90 mi (140 km) 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 the San Gil on 4 February, the India Arrow on the 5th and the China Arrow on the same date.

7th patrol

Her seventh patrol began with her departure from Lorient on 15 April 1942. She sank the Stanbank northeast of Bermuda on 5 May. Moving into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, she caused more mayhem amongst 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 - the Tasmania north of Madeira on 31 October 1942 and the 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 mechant seamen at Milag Nord. U-103 also damaged the 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.

Summary of raiding history

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



  1. Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-103". German U-boats of WWII. Retrieved 25 December 2012. 
  2. Helgason, Guðmundur. "War Patrols by U-64". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 25 December 2010. 

See also

Coordinates: 54°19′34″N 10°09′50″E / 54.326°N 10.164°E / 54.326; 10.164

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