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German submarine U-47 (1938)
U-47 returns to port after sinking HMS Royal Oak. The battleship Scharnhorst is in the background
October 1939. U-47 returns to port after sinking HMS Royal Oak. The battleship Scharnhorst can be seen in the background
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-47
Ordered: 21 November 1936[1]
Builder: Germaniawerft, Kiel
Yard number: 582[1]
Laid down: 27 February 1937[1]
Launched: 29 October 1938[1]
Commissioned: 17 December 1938[1]
Fate: Disappeared, 7 March 1941, in the North Atlantic near the Rockall Bank and Trough.[2]
General characteristics
Type: Type VIIB
Displacement: 761 t (749 long tons)
865 t (851 long tons) submerged
Length: 66.6 m (219 ft)
Beam: 6.2 m (20 ft)
Depth: 220 m (720 ft)
Propulsion: 2 × 1400 PS (1 MW) diesel engines
2 × 375 PS (280 kW) electric motors
Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h) surfaced
7.6 knots (14.1 km/h) submerged
Range: 6,500 nautical miles (12,000 km)
Complement: 44–48
Crew: 47
Service record
Part of: 7th U-boat Flotilla
(17 December 1938 – 7 March 1941)[2]
Identification codes: M 18 837[1]
Commanders: KrvKpt.[3] Günther Prien
(17 December 1938 – 7 March 1941)[2]
Operations: 10 patrols[2]
Victories: 30 ships sunk for a total of 162,769 gross register tons (GRT)
one warship sunk for a total of 29,150 tons
eight ships damaged for a total of 62,751 GRT[4]

The German submarine U-47 was a Type VIIB U-boat of the Nazi German Kriegsmarine during World War II.[2] She was laid down on 25 February 1937 at Krupp Germaniawerft in Kiel as 'werk' 582 and went into service on 17 December 1938 under the command of Günther Prien.[1]

During U-47's career, she sank a total of 31 enemy vessels and damaged eight more.[4] She is also noted for the sinking of the British battleship HMS Royal Oak on 14 October 1939. U-47 ranks as one of the most successful German U-boats of World War II.[5]

Service history

U-47 carried out ten combat patrols and spent a total of 238 days at sea. She sank 30 enemy ships (totalling 164,953 tons) and damaged eight more.[4] Prior to her disappearance in March 1941, U-47 lost one crewman, Heinrich Mantyk, who fell overboard on 5 September 1940.[2]

First patrol

U-47 was assigned to the 7th U-boat Flotilla on 17 December 1938, (the day she was commissioned). She was an operational boat in the 7th Flotilla for her entire career.[2] U-47 was sent to sea in a pre-emptive move before war broke out in September 1939, this move would enable her to engage enemy vessels as soon as the war began. She left for her first war patrol on 19 August 1939 (two weeks before the commencement of hostilities), from the port of Kiel. During her first patrol, she circumnavigated the British Isles and entered the Bay of Biscay. It was here that U-47 sank her first three ships, the SS Bosnia on 5 September, the SS Rio Carlo on 6 September and the SS Gartavon on 7 September 1939.[6]

Second patrol and the sinking of HMS Royal Oak

Infiltration of Scapa Flow by U-47

On 8 October 1939, U-47 began her second patrol. On 14 October 1939 (six days after leaving port), she succeeded in penetrating the Royal Navy's primary base at Scapa Flow.[7] Although most of the Home Fleet was not at the base at the time, U-47 managed to find a target, the battleship HMS Royal Oak.[8] Once she had spotted Royal Oak, she opened fire with her torpedoes. Her first two salvos did nothing more than sever an anchor chain. After reloading the bow tubes the last salvo of three torpedoes struck the British warship, causing severe flooding.[8] Taking on a list of 15 degrees, her open portholes were submerged, worsening the flooding and increasing the list to 45 degrees; Royal Oak sank within 15 minutes with the loss of over 800 men.[7] Following the victory, Prien received the nickname Der Stier von Scapa Flow ("The Bull of Scapa Flow"); the emblem of a snorting bull was then painted on the conning tower of U-47 and the image soon became the emblem of the entire 7th U-boat Flotilla.[7] Prien was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the first sailor of a U-boat and the second member of the Kriegsmarine to receive this decoration. The rest of the crew members were awarded the Iron Cross.[9] Two other U-47 crew members also earned the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross later on during World War II: the chief engineer (Leitender Ingenieur) Johann-Friedrich Wessels and 1st watch officer (I. Wachoffizier) Engelbert Endrass.

Many years later, in September 2002, one of the unexploded torpedoes that U-47 had fired during the attack on Royal Oak rose to the surface from its resting place on the bottom. The unexploded torpedo, minus its warhead, gradually drifted towards the shore, where it was spotted by a crewman aboard the Norwegian tanker Petrotrym. A Royal Navy tugboat intercepted the torpedo, and after identifying it as having belonged to U-47 63 years earlier, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) personnel discarded it a mile from shore.[10]

Third patrol


Conning tower art of U-47. This image was later used as the emblem for the entire 7th U-boat Flotilla

Following a lavish celebration in Berlin for the sinking of HMS Royal Oak in which the crew members of U-47 were received by Adolf Hitler and decorated, the boat returned to sea on 16 November 1939.[9][11] Once the U-boat had left Kiel on 16 November, she headed out into the North Sea. After traveling around the British Isles into the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, U-47 sank a further three vessels, the Navasota on 5 December, the Norwegian steamer MV Britta on 6 December and the Tajandoen on 7 December.[11] Following the sinking of the Navasota, British destroyers briefly fired depth charges at the U-boat but she managed to safely evade the attack without any damage.[11]

Fourth patrol

U-47 left the port of Wilhelmshaven and began her fourth patrol on 11 March 1940. For 19 days, she roamed the North Sea in search of any Allied convoys. However, she only managed to torpedo the Danish steam merchantman Britta north of Scotland on 25 March. Following the sinking of the Britta, U-47 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 29 March.[12]

Fifth patrol

U-47's fifth patrol was her first one that resulted in no ships sunk. She left Wilhelmshaven on 3 April 1940, and headed once again out into the North Sea. While she did not sink any Allied vessels on her fifth patrol, around 19 April, she fired a torpedo aimed at the British Battleship HMS Warspite but the torpedo missed its target or failed to detonate upon impact. Several nearby destroyers attempted to sink the U-boat using depth charges. U-47 managed to escape.[13]

Sixth patrol

U-47's sixth patrol was much more successful. Having left Kiel on 3 June 1940, she ventured out into the North Sea and operated off the southern coast of Ireland. The first ship to fall victim to the U-boat on her sixth patrol was the British vessel, the Balmoralwood; which was sunk on 14 June. Within less than a month, the boat sank a further seven vessels, the San Fernando on the 21st, the Cathrine on the 24th, the Lenda and the Leticia on the 27th, the Empire Toucan on the 29th, the Georgios Kyriakides on the 30th, and the SS Arandora Star on 2 July. The German submarine returned to Kiel on 6 July after 34 days at sea and eight enemy vessels sunk.[14]

Seventh patrol

U-47's seventh patrol consisted of her travelling north of the British Isles and into the North Atlantic, south of Iceland. During a period of 30 days, she sank a total of six enemy vessels and damaged another. U-47's first victory during her seventh patrol was the sinking of the Belgian passenger ship Ville de Mons on 2 September 1940. This was followed by the sinking of a British vessel, the Titan, on 4 September and the Gro, José de Larrinaga, and Neptunian on the 7th. On the 9th, U-47 sank the Greek merchant ship Possidon, and on 21 September she damaged the British merchant ship Elmbank. Following these victories, on the 25th, U-47 entered the French port of Lorient, which was now under German control following the decisive Battle of France.[15]

Eighth patrol

U-47's eighth patrol began on 14 October 1940 when she left her home port of Lorient. While her eighth patrol lasted ten days, she sank four enemy vessels and damaged a further two in only two days. On 19 October, U-47 damaged the British vessel Shirak and sank the Uganda and the Wandby, both of which were British registered. The next day, the U-boat damaged the British vessel Athelmonarch and sank the La Estancia as well as the Whitford Point. She returned to port three days later on the 23rd.[16]

Ninth patrol

U-47 left her home port of Lorient on 3 November 1940 and moved out into the North Atlantic in search of Allied convoys. During her ninth patrol, she damaged three ships, the Gonçalo Velho, the Conch and the Dunsley and sank another, the Ville d´Arlon. U-47 returned to Lorient for the last time on 6 December.[17]


U-47 went missing on 7 March 1941 and was believed to have been sunk by the British destroyer HMS Wolverine west of Ireland, when the submarine was attacked by Wolverine and HMS Verity. The British ships took turns covering each other's ASDIC blind spots and dropping patterns of depth charges until U-47 rose almost to the surface before sinking and then exploded with an orange flash visible from the surface,[18] but it seems likely that the boat attacked there was U-A, part of the foreign U-Boat corps. To date, there is no official record of what happened to U-47 or her 45 crewmen, although a variety of possibilities exist, including mines, a mechanical failure, a victim of her own torpedoes, or possibly a later attack that did not confirm any claims by the corvette team of HMS Camellia and HMS Arbutus. U-47 had a crew of 47 officers and men during her last North Atlantic patrol in early 1941, all of whom were presumed to have died.[2][19][20]

Summary of raiding career

A model of U-47 viewed from the side

A view of U-47 from above

During her service in the Kriegsmarine, U-47 sank 30 commercial ships for 162,769 GRT and one warship of 29,150 tons; she also damaged eight commercial ships for 62,751 GRT and one warship of 10,035 tons.[4]

Date[4] Ship[4] Nationality[4] Tonnage[4] Fate and location[4]
5 September 1939 SS Bosnia[21] United Kingdom British 2,407 sunk at 45°29′N 09°45′W / 45.483°N 9.75°W / 45.483; -9.75 (Bosnia (ship))
6 September 1939 SS Rio Claro  Great Britain 4,086 sunk at 46°30′N 12°00′W / 46.5°N 12°W / 46.5; -12 (Rio Claro (ship))
7 September 1939 SS Gartavon  Great Britain 1,777 sunk at 47°04′N 11°32′W / 47.067°N 11.533°W / 47.067; -11.533 (Gartavon (ship))
14 October 1939 HMS Royal Oak  Great Britain 29,150 sunk at 58°55′N 02°59′W / 58.917°N 2.983°W / 58.917; -2.983 (Royal Oak (ship))
5 December 1939 SS Novasota  Great Britain 8,795 sunk at 50°43′N 10°16′W / 50.717°N 10.267°W / 50.717; -10.267 (Novasota (ship))
6 December 1939 MV Britta  Norway 6,214 sunk at 49°19′N 05°35′W / 49.317°N 5.583°W / 49.317; -5.583 (Britta (ship))
7 December 1939 MV Tajandoen  Netherlands 8,159 sunk at 49°09′N 04°51′W / 49.15°N 4.85°W / 49.15; -4.85 (Tajandoen (ship))
25 March 1940 SS Britta  Denmark 1,146 sunk at 60°00′N 04°19′W / 60°N 4.317°W / 60; -4.317 (Britta (ship))
14 June 1940 SS Balmoralwood  Great Britain 5,834 sunk at 50°19′N 10°28′W / 50.317°N 10.467°W / 50.317; -10.467 (Balmoralwood (ship))
21 June 1940 SS San Fernando  Great Britain 13,056 sunk at 50°20′N 10°24′W / 50.333°N 10.4°W / 50.333; -10.4 (San Fernando (ship))
24 June 1940 SS Cathrine  Panama 1,885 sunk at 50°08′N 14°00′W / 50.133°N 14°W / 50.133; -14 (Cathrine (ship))
27 June 1940 SS Lenda  Norway 4,005 sunk at 50°12′N 13°18′W / 50.2°N 13.3°W / 50.2; -13.3 (Lenda (ship))
27 June 1940 SS Leticia  Netherlands 2,580 sunk at 50°11′N 13°15′W / 50.183°N 13.25°W / 50.183; -13.25 (Leticia (ship))
29 June 1940 SS Empire Toucan  Great Britain 4,421 sunk at 49°20′N 13°52′W / 49.333°N 13.867°W / 49.333; -13.867 (Empire Toucan (ship))
30 June 1940 SS Georgios Kyriakides  Greece 4,201 sunk at 50°25′N 14°33′W / 50.417°N 14.55°W / 50.417; -14.55 (Georgios Kyriakides (ship))
2 July 1940 SS Arandora Star  Great Britain 15,501 sunk at 55°20′N 10°33′W / 55.333°N 10.55°W / 55.333; -10.55 (Arandora Star (ship))
2 September 1940 SS Ville de Mons  Belgium 7,463 sunk at 58°20′N 12°00′W / 58.333°N 12°W / 58.333; -12 (Ville de Mons (ship))
4 September 1940 SS Titan  Great Britain 9,035 sunk at 58°14′N 15°50′W / 58.233°N 15.833°W / 58.233; -15.833 (Titan (ship))
7 September 1940 SS Neptunian  Great Britain 5,155 sunk at 58°27′N 17°17′W / 58.45°N 17.283°W / 58.45; -17.283 (Neptunian (ship))
7 September 1940 SS José de Larrinaga  Great Britain 5,303 sunk at 58°30′N 16°10′W / 58.5°N 16.167°W / 58.5; -16.167 (José de Larrinaga (ship))
7 September 1940 SS Gro  Norway 4,211 sunk at 58°30′N 16°10′W / 58.5°N 16.167°W / 58.5; -16.167 (Gro (ship))
9 September 1940 SS Possidon  Greece 3,840 sunk at 56°43′N 09°16′W / 56.717°N 9.267°W / 56.717; -9.267 (Possidon (ship))
21 September 1940 SS Elmbank  Great Britain 5,156 damaged at 55°20′N 22°30′W / 55.333°N 22.5°W / 55.333; -22.5 (Elmbank (ship))
19 October 1940 SM Uganda  Great Britain 4,966 sunk at 56°35′N 17°15′W / 56.583°N 17.25°W / 56.583; -17.25 (Uganda (ship))
19 October 1940 MV Shirak  Belgium 6,023 damaged at 57°00′N 16°53′W / 57°N 16.883°W / 57; -16.883 (Shirak (ship))
19 October 1940 SS Wandby  Great Britain 4,947 sunk at 56°45′N 17°07′W / 56.75°N 17.117°W / 56.75; -17.117 (Wandby (ship))
20 October 1940 SS La Estancia  Great Britain 5,185 sunk at 57°00′00″N 17°00′00″W / 57°N 17°W / 57; -17 (La Estancia (ship))
20 October 1940 SS Whitford Point  Great Britain 5,026 sunk at 56°38′N 16°00′W / 56.633°N 16°W / 56.633; -16 (Whitford Point (ship))
20 October 1940 MV Athelmonarch  Great Britain 8,995 damaged at 56°45′N 15°58′W / 56.75°N 15.967°W / 56.75; -15.967 (Athelmonarch (ship))
8 November 1940 MV Gonçalo Velho  Portugal 8,995 damaged at 52°30′N 17°30′W / 52.5°N 17.5°W / 52.5; -17.5 (Gonçalo Velho (ship))
2 December 1940 SS Ville d'Arlon  Belgium 7,555 sunk at 55°00′N 18°30′W / 55°N 18.5°W / 55; -18.5 (Ville d'Arlon (ship))
2 December 1940 MV Conch  Great Britain 8,376 damaged at 55°40′N 19°00′W / 55.667°N 19°W / 55.667; -19 (Conch (ship))
2 December 1940 MV Dunsley  Great Britain 8,376 damaged at 54°41′N 18°41′W / 54.683°N 18.683°W / 54.683; -18.683 (Dunsley (ship))
26 February 1941 SS Kasongo  Belgium 5,254 sunk at 55°50′N 14°20′W / 55.833°N 14.333°W / 55.833; -14.333 (Kasongo (ship))
26 February 1941 MV Diala  Great Britain 8,106 damaged at 55°50′N 14°00′W / 55.833°N 14°W / 55.833; -14 (Diala (ship))
26 February 1941 MV Rydboholm  Sweden 3,197 sunk at 55°32′N 14°24′W / 55.533°N 14.4°W / 55.533; -14.4 (Rydboholm (ship))
26 February 1941 MV Borgland  Norway 3,636 sunk at 55°45′N 14°29′W / 55.75°N 14.483°W / 55.75; -14.483 (Borgland (ship))
28 February 1941 SS Holmlea  Great Britain 4,233 sunk at 54°24′N 17°25′W / 54.4°N 17.417°W / 54.4; -17.417 (Holmlea (ship))
7 March 1941 MV Terje Viken  Great Britain 20,638 damaged at 60°00′N 12°50′W / 60°N 12.833°W / 60; -12.833 (Terje Viken (ship))

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "U-47 Type VIIB". Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Helgason, Guðmundur. "U-47". U-Boat War in World War II. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-47". WWII U-boat successes. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  5. Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Most Successful U-boats". U-boat Operations. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  6. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (First patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Bull of Scapa Flow". U-Boat War in World War II. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "The Attack". Scapa Flow. Retrieved 22 March 2010. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "The Aftermath". Scapa Flow. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  10. "Prien's Ghost?". Scapa Flow. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Third patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  12. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Fourth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  13. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Fifth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  14. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Sixth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  15. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Seventh patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  16. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Eighth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  17. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Ninth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  18. Standard of Power, Dan van der Vat, 2000: Hutchinson ISBN 0-09-180121-4, p212
  19. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Tenth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  20. Kemp, Paul: U – Boats Destroyed, German submarine Losses in the World Wars, 1997. p. 68. Arms and Armour ISBN 1-85409-321-5
  21. "SS Bosnia (+1939)". The Wreck Site. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 

External links

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