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demigod151
12-12-2006, 06:47 AM
Personal Report of Patrol 25.

U-95 Type VIIc.
Erich Berghardt commanding.
Patrol Grid: AM68

Having submitted my official report to Command as is standard procedure, I decided to file this personal report into my own records and memoirs in the hope that one day they will benefit others etc etc???

AM68, the Lion???s Den to all extents and purposes. When I heard Command was sending me there, I think for the first time during the course of this war, I felt real terror. AM68 is situated directly between Wales and Ireland right in the northern-central part of the Irish Sea. So I knew there and then, we would be in for a rough time, and the chances of us making it back to base were slim at the very best. I did maintain that, I would not fight to the death, if it came down to it, I would surrender and accept capture rather than see 50 men who were relying on me killed in a senseless last ditch effort.

The boat was prepared for our departure the next day, I of course not wanting to scare or worry my Val put on a show of bravado in order to allay any fears she must have. However, having survived 24 patrols in wartime I think by now even a worrier like her was pretty sure I would return in one piece and my crew with me. Yet again I had to pack up smoking, and its getting to a stage now where I am wondering, why do I even bother with it at all? I can???t really continue out at sea with any real proper regularity. So this time, I decided if I made it back in one piece from AM68, no more smoking. Of course I could urge Val to do the same, but I doubt I would meet with much joy there. She had given up a lot for me when she transferred from the medical unit in Wilhelmshaven to follow me to Brest. I loved her, and she loved me, so, what was stopping me asking her to marry me? I know the answer to that question, but do you know what could be strong enough to stop someone asking the woman they idolise and have no doubts about to marry them? Consider my position and my career???

When you are the captain of a German U-Boat, when you are about to step aboard and go out on yet another patrol, a number of things go through your mind, fear, excitement, anticipation, regret, but worse of all, pleasure. There was something pleasurable about the tasks we would be called to do. Lots of my fellow Kaleuns had for a while now been referring to these way years as the ???happy time??? and I could see why, there was an element of happiness. I could not deny every time I sank something or caused carnage to the point where I hear about a lone U-Boat causing such and such I lit up inside, because I knew it was me.

The day came as usual and I boarded the boat last everything was in readiness. We started both diesels ahead slow and gently started our way at a steady 8 knots. It was a very sunny day, and it was warm. Despite the fact is was late November. The lookouts stared to the horizons panning the skies, even this close to base we were not safe, planes represented a growing and ongoing threat to U-Boat activities and we simply could leave nothing to chance.
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As we cleared the row of Subpens and Brest, I ordered an increase to 1/3, and, with our new and improved Diesel engines, U-95 at 1/3 was able to cruise rather nicely at 11 knots. Which, for the sake of 1 knot, was as fast as a IIa running flank speed! I still have not forgotten U-3. Under the care of someone else she is training tomorrows U-Boat men, today. We headed out, and the first part of our trip was largely uneventful. Just a simple surface cruise, it was when we turned towards the Irish sea that things started to become a little more complicated shall we say. Suffice, our first 48 hours at sea consisted of us surface cruising and nothing more.

Some time after 1am, Adolf Carlewitz the watch officer at that time called down to the control room that he thought he had spotted a light on the horizon bearing 350. Since it was too dark to confirm his theory we dived. I ordered us down to 20m, where Karl confirmed indeed, there was a merchant, right where Adolf had said. This was before we even had fully began our way into the Irish sea, we still had miles and miles to go. I decided that it would be best to attack while the element of surprise was still ours.

I ordered U-95 back to the surface and a flank speed dash in the general direction. It did not take us long before we made definite visual contact. It was not long before Wolf Degan and his two gunners were making their way into the command room ready to man the deck gun. Despite conditions being perfect for a surface attack and the possibility of saving a torpedo, I decided against it, much to his chagrin. However when you are heading into the heart of enemy waters, you don???t want them having a clue as to your paying a visit, and we got this far without being spotted, it certainly was not time to announce our prescence. We charged in at flank on the surface as near as we dare go before Adolf once again urged we dive. We did so, down to periscope depth.

I made a couple of routine checks with the periscope before lining up for a submerged torpedo attack. Oddly enough, I had not carried out many of these, for one thing I was much more used to being a lot closer than we were now, and I was also used to being on the surface. Tension in the U-Boat was high. I could feel the sweat running down my brow as I manned the attack scope. Otto Totenhagen my weapons officer aided me with my solution plotting, then the time was right, with the tube open, I fired tube 1. There was a whoosh and blast as the Torpedo was ejected from the front of the boat. It was a T 1, and I set it to run fast, I always set them to run fast, no sense in setting them to run slow, the quicker they go, the harder they are to evade. Simple logic but I am always surprised at how many green Kaleuns overlook this.

As we waited in the command room anxiously, there was a loud boom. I ordered up the observation scope and saw the Coastal Merchant split in two, and slowly almost methodically slipping beneath the waves. There were cheers through the U-Boat, mission accomplished. We had claimed our first victim and they never knew till it was all over. I felt it was a rather hollow and shortcut victory for us.
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We remained submerged then for an extra 30 minutes, returning to our original course at ahead standard, which gives us a 6 knot submerged cruise. I set depth for 20m and we continued on our way. As Otto and his torpedo men reloaded tube one from our internal reserves. After the 30 mins was up and our torpedo long since reloaded, I decided it would be a good idea while it was night to bring the forward external into the boat, you never know??? While we carried on at ahead standard on the surface we recharged our batteries again, making sure to keep them topped off. We were in hostile waters to say the very least!

The rest of the day went particularly well I thought, the weather was still holding up, we were sailing on at 1/3 and then we came under fire from enemy aircraft, there were two planes, based on their attack patterns, diving was made impossible! The water was not very deep in these regions either, we had no choice, we had to fight it out on the surface. I came up to the bridge as Edgar Wissmann, one of the best flak gunners in the flotilla at the time manned the flak gun. These pilots, were veterans, they were definitely not the cannon fodder we had encountered previously on other patrols. I ordered an increase to flank. I also ordered some basic evasive manoeuvring to try and throw them. We almost succeeded but a depthcharge rattled our bow. Luckily we evaded serious damage to the bow compartment.

???Ship spotted, bearing 342!!??? Philipp Witte called out. I stared and noticed that in all the commotion a British Tribal Destroyer was charging straight at us.

Things were not looking particularly good for us. With the planes timing their attack runs so that we were unable to dive they were keeping us on the surface right where they wanted us, where we were vulnerable to them. The destroyer was on an attack run, and was now starting to shell us.

???Steer to course 005!!??? I screamed down to the control room.

???005 aye sir!??? Fritz called back.

???What!???? exclaimed Philipp, ???sir that will take us towards the destroyer!???

???Yes I know that Lieutenant??? Keep firing Edgar, try to blast one of those damn planes down!???

???Trying sir, these pilots know what they are doing.???

It was a setup, the planes were obviously meant to function as part of the unit with this destroyer. But they were not actually bombing us now, they were spraying machine gun fire at us, but not dropping bombs, it was clear now, their task was to occupy the U-Boat while the destroyer closed the distance. Very clever, we had sailed right into a British trap. Philipp was not impressed with my course of action.

???Sir, we have to dive its our only chance!???

???Wrong Philipp, the only chance we have is to sink that destroyer.??? I replied sternly.

It was a reckless course of action but our best chance, I hoped that if I could somehow get round the Destroyer without getting shot to bits or bombed by the plane, I could veer off to his side and fire the stern torpedo straight under his keel! My pulse was racing as I stood on the bridge as the distance between us and the Destroyer narrowed. The planes backed off. Clearly, they were not expecting us to try and remain surfaced, their game would be to try and sink us as we dive. But I decided to not play their game.

???Oh dear God, please let us live through this.??? Philipp said stressed out of his mind. Edgar on the flak turned and looked.

???Get the gunners up here.??? I ordered.

???Yes sir, man the deck gun!??? Philipp called to the control room.

Petty Officers; Wolf Degen and Ulrich Mannesmann emerged on deck along with the third man Senior Seaman, Albert Keller.

They clearly looked nervous but we didn???t have a great deal of option.

???Philipp on my signal, I want the boys to aim for the weapons on that tub. Till then hold their fire.???

???aye sir, holding fire!!???

The shells from the Destroyer were literally whizzing past us, drawing nearer and nearer there was less than 800m between us.

???NOW!!??? I screamed.

Philipp ordered fire at will.

The gun blasted at the Destroyers front turret with a well aimed armour piercing shell. Meanwhile tube 5 was being prepared. We drew nearer still and now they began to machine gun.

???Rudder hard starboard chief!!??? I bellowed into the control room.

U-95 responded quickly at her high speed. We turned sharp to the right and headed off at a diagonal, I spun the Uzo round and aimed a 180 at the Destroyer.

???Rudder midships!??? I screamed.

U-95 began to head in a straight line again and also began to pick up speed with the rudders midshipped. As I hoped, the Destroyer turned to port to try and follow us, but it was too little too late.

???Tube 5 fire!!???

The T 1 launched out the back of the U-Boat and stormed towards its target, again as I hoped, they noticed it, and not as I planned stayed on a hard port. But the Destroyer as fast as he was, was not quicker than a 44 knot torpedo. The explosion came from the back quarter of the ship and immediately the back end slumped into the water.

???Oh my god, we hit her!!??? Philipp said somewhat unbelieving.

A great sense of relief came over me. Relief that we had done it. The gunners stared in awe at the sinking sight. It was not the first time we sank a destroyer, but by god, it was the first time we had sank one on the surface and in plain sight! Our celebration did not last long as the planes having seen the explosion from the destroyer, returned with a vengeance, forcing Edgar to have to open fire again.
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I could not help but watch the sinking destroyer off on bearing 240ish??? I watched the sailors jumping into the water and desperately swimming away from the sinking ship. I had to respect the Royal Navy for their diligence in hunting us, they really gave it 110% which was fantastic, but at the same time, as much as I respected their efforts, there was no way I was going to take a depthcharging lying down!

We went back to flank speed once more and the deck gunners scrambled below deck again, as Edgar fired up at the planes, this time their game was thrown, they did not bank on us sinking the destroyer, I was not 100% confident in it myself, but needless to say fortune favours the bold! So with the planes not timing their runs properly the way was open for a crash dive. So as they had both made runs, the window was open.

???ALARM!!!???

The bell rang and the boat really came to life now, men inside scrambling like rats in a drainpipe forward for the torpedo room. An additional 4 tons of concentrated ballast to help our descent beneath the waves! I ordered us down to 40m. It was more than enough. We could hear the bombs furiously exploding above us. But nothing too serious to worry about, Karl who was manning the hydrophone could hear the Destroyer sinking behind us.
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We had gotten away with it. The men in the boat cheered and smiled, but I was too relieved that we had escaped relatively unscathed to celebrate. Also knowing our eventual destination, put a bit of a crimp on my desire to celebrate, if the rest of the crew knew of our eventual destination, I doubt they would be celebrating too.

But the day was not over yet, after 1 hour running submerged, about 5 minutes before we surfaced, we picked up a hydrophone contact on a bearing of 002, another merchant, and it was coming towards us. We surfaced and once more ran at flank speed. This was a typically unremarkable sinking, it was a C2 ship, and from the looks of it, they were loaded to the gunnels. The ship itself was unarmed. Which made sinking her all the more easy for us as most lone merchant ships did have a weapon of some kind. The torpedo ran true and split her in half, and down she went.
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We continued on our way after sinking the C2. Evening was creeping up on us. Myself and the other officers were enjoying our meal in the officers mess. The bread was doing well, it was not as mouldy as it was before on our last patrol. Heintz always had some clever comments he had to pass about the food. He commented that the potatoes were so hard we could have used them for ammo in the flak cannon. He was not wrong! Food on a U-Boat is consistently poor, occasionally mediocre. This was by far one of the reasons I looked forward to going home, Val was not the world???s best cook by any stretch, but the meals she put together even with limited supplies were above and beyond anything that could be prepared in a U-Boat kitchen. Also the location of the galley puzzled me, surely it was not the best idea to put the galley right next to the engine room? There again, I doubt when the designers dreamt up the VIIc comfort was on the top of their list.

I had just moved on to my pudding, cherries and cream, this was actually nice and a real treat. I tried to savour every mouthful, but???

Otto who was being watch officer screamed down we had incoming enemy aircraft. The meal was abandoned, and I couldn???t help but think, why not attack during the main course? Never mind???

Edgar shimmied up the ladder to the bridge like a rat up a drainpipe, he manned the flak cannon and began shooting at our two attackers. The first was deflected from his attack, and the bomb thankfully missed our deck. It did cause minor damage to our diesel room, but thanks to Edgar the attack was deflected effectively. The second plane was not so fortunate, Edgar scored a flurry of hits, the plane burst into flames and plummeted towards the sea.
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The second plane was circling back towards us so I called for the alarm, and we made a rapid crash dive to 50m. The damage to the diesels was fixed after we submerged. We heard the depthcharges way above us from the surviving plane. Feeling confident the danger had passed, I returned to the officers mess to finish my pudding. Then I posed myself a question, a jest if you will??? Can planes fly underwater?
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A little grin appeared on my face and I shook my head. I always found it good when the hunted, hunt down the hunter, which was what had happened today.

We had continued underwater for a bit longer before I decided to surface again to recharge the batteries. It was night now and the air was cold and crisp. I decided to go to my bunk and grab a little shuteye while I could. It had been quite an eventful few days. The night was rolling in, at midnight we dived to 20m to make a hydrophone check.
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The check revealed yet another merchant ship in our vicinity. I altered course and we returned to the surface where we chased down and caught yet another C2 cargo ship. We were extremely fortunate, but we were able to get right up to them without being seen.
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U-95 drew closer and closer to the target, I stood atop the bridge lining things up with the Uzo for our torpedo shot. My fingers were twitching. As we closed another 300m between us and them they spotted us. We were too close now to fend off with a few splutters from their deck gun. My own gunners were at the bottom of the ladder itching to get up and start blasting themselves, they were my standbys for after we softened the big clunker up with a torpedo shot.
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Tube 1 ejected its contents into the water. We saw the trail from the bridge as the torpedo left the tube and proceeded on its way to the target full speed ahead on a 44 knot cruise. I turned the U-Boat hard to starboard to try and keep us away from their stern deck gun as whoever was manning that was not too bad a shot all things considered, some shells had been whizzing awfully close to the conning tower!
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I had instructed that the torpedo ran under the keel for detonation. That always seemed to work well on the clunkerous C2???s. This time it worked a bit too well.
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It was one of the most fearsome detonations I had ever seen and experienced in my life! The concussive force actually shook U-95 and were 500m away! One lookout who was stationed by the flak gun actually got blew over by the rush of air. I assumed that the ship was laden with munitions and explosives which is why it was probably such a fearful blast. The ship seemed to float for a few moments, then it just collapsed under its own weight, splitting neatly in two and then each half sinking into the water.
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One torpedo was all that was required to put this ship out of commission. My gunners seemed rather disappointed that they were not getting a chance to man the battle station. Myself and the lookouts observed the men in their little lifeboats, and others just leaping into the sea swimming away from the sinking ship. We too would have to evacuate the area as well, doubtless that this C2 had radioed for help and a destroyer was probably already on its way here. That said we turned around and resumed our original course.
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The following morning was absolutely fine. We even had the gramophone playing some music for us as we performed the basic maintenance and general upkeep of the boat. We had done well with U-95 as far as malfunctions go, all of her equipment seemed to work well and was for the most part very reliable, but none the less I liked to make sure it kept that way. I remembered my old rival Gustavesen and his VIIb, he had put off lubing the torpedoes and one jammed in the tube, could have killed them all. Just asnexample, but I was no way going to let that happen to us. Basic maintenance is everything.

We continued on our way, the day was fine, visibility was excellent. Unfortunately visibility is a two way deal. We can see good, but so can our enemies. It was not long before we encountered yet more planes. There were two of them and they were coming in fast. One of the trickiest decisions a U-Boat commander is faced with is when there are attacking planes, and aboard your boat is one of the best gunners going, and a real good flak cannon too. So, do you fight it out, and possibly shoot a plane down? Or dive? When a U-Boat dives to escape a plane, it always produces safety and escape. When you fight, sometimes, the results can be devastating.
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I decided to fight. Edgar manned the gun and released a hail of bullets to the skies against our attackers. U-95 was running at flank speed and we were doing well evading. Things got even more interesting when Adolf happened to spot a ship! I was on the bridge too and I observed through my binoculars that indeed there was a ship, which I instantly recognised as a lone coastal merchant.
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Despite how rash this decision may be, I stand by it. I am a firm believer in fortune favours the bold. We steered towards the target and ran at flank in an intercept, with our airborne friends making runs at us from behind and the sides, undeterred we pressed on, even despite taking minor damage to the bow quarters from a bomb we trundled on our Diesels running as hard as they could. With the upgrades we could make 19 or even 20 knots when the sea is calm enough. We came closer and closer to the ship, the planes had expended their bombs but still tried to make us nervous they attempted to machinegun the boat. As we came within deck gun range Wolf and his gunners manned the deck casing and pretty soon we were trading shells with this armed ship.
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Wolf was a crack shot and his aims were true, he very rarely missed what he was shooting at.

The planes now were obviously in a pickle, they had no more bombs to drop, yet there we go about to claim a victim in the form of a Coastal Merchant.
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Wolf???s aim was spot on, the ship was being pummelled on the waterline by our HE shells. Many amateurs will often fire their AP shells at a target, this is a mistake! The HE are the best ones for the job. We fired at this coastal merchant quite mercilessly trying to sink him but he proved most effective in resisting.
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We were drawing in closer to him now, and while he was finding it hard to fire at us, it didn???t seem we were faring much better to be honest! I could see we were getting in very close so ordered ahead slow. As you can imagine, an object that has been travelling at 20 knots, does not all of a sudden go from 20 knots to 8 knots in an instant, our momentum carried us forward right in front of the coastal merchants bow.
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The situation, I could see it coming, despite the fact the ship was clearly filling with water, it was still chugging along and I knew her captain was attempting to ram us, he very nearly succeeded, in a panic I ordered hard starboard and ahead flank once more, Adolf and Edgar and all the others on deck we nearly wet ourselves as had we been rammed then quite possibly we would have been sunk, at the very least we would be severely damaged. But as I midshipped the rudders, we were able to evade being rammed by the skins of our teeth and no more.
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As we got by, the crippled coastal merchant flopped over to her starboard side, she could no longer stay afloat, the crippled ship then simply rolled over and sank. We then returned to normal surface cruise and went back onto our original course heading to our eventual destination, AM68.

While we were cruising I took the time to make some notes in my log, I also took some time to gaze at a picture of my Val. Way back in 1939, this felt like so long ago, I once told my crew, many of whom were still with me, they had to forget about their loved ones and their friends and to concentrate on the task at hand. That to not do so, would be to endanger all our lives and we could all end up dead for one man???s mistakes. This was my moment, my quiet time, there was nothing for me at that precise moment. I had learned to be able to switch it on and off at a moments notice. One moment I could be aching to see her, to feel her touch, and the next, it was as though she didn???t exist. I could narrow my whole world to being the U-Boat, the men, and any ships within its visual range at a moments notice. It was the only choice you have when you sail. I wonder if anybody has figured out then why I still haven???t popped the question? I expect you have.

Today was not done yet, in the late afternoon there was to be another surprise for us, one that I still do not quite understand but I get the painful expectation I will soon come to learn all about it. Adolf and his lookouts were still posted on the bridge, all looked well and were fully alert. They notified me that there was a ship and it was closing on us.

I looked through my binoculars and to my horror, I saw what looked like a destroyer charging straight at us.

???That can???t be right!??? I said to Adolf as I stared at the charging ship.

???Their coming straight at us!??? I said again.

Indeed they were, I could just about make it out, looked like a Tribal or Clemson Destroyer, it didn???t matter which to me really, a destroyer is a destroyer is a destroyer.
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I hesitated a moment, it was not possible! They could not have spotted us from that distance!

???They are charging, there is no way they could have seen us at that range Adolf!??? I said, but they had. Every second we wasted brought them in closer. I ordered a cautious dive to 50m. Karl manned the hydrophone.

???Contact bearing: 010. Speed: Very fast! Closing!???

There was the solid concrete proof we needed, or not??? The Destroyer WAS coming towards us. But how?! They could not have seen us before we seen them, a U-Boat is too low to the water to see from that kinds of range. Nevertheless, they had seen us before we saw them. I wondered what their lookouts were eating.

I stared at Adolf in the command room.

???Funny how they saw us first.???

He looked back and said,

???No way we could have missed him sir. No way! We saw him the moment he first appeared on the horizon.???

I believed him and so decided to let the matter drop.

???Chief, increase to 1/3, rudder hard to port.???

The chief carried out my order and we turned away from the charging destroyer which was getting nearer and nearer. When we turned sufficiently I ordered rudder midships and silent running. We were now creeping at ahead slow and I was hoping against hope we were out of his way. We all listened intently, staring at the roof. We could hear it, the asdic pings. They knew, somehow, they knew we were there and they were coming to look for us.
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We heard the explosions of depth charges, they were performing a routine blast based on our last known position, what was worrying, was they were blasting our last position, indeed, we were there a few minutes ago! Had I stayed on course towards the Destroyer, we would have been dead.

To make things worse, or more interesting, I???ll leave that judgement up to you. Karl detected a second contact off in the distance a merchant ship, a big one too according to him. I then realised, us being here playing cat and mouse with a destroyer was not where we needed to be. I pondered it for a moment, and realised, if, IF, I attack and screw it up, that destroyer will get us, an with the shallow water we would not have a fighting chance. But, if we did strike and sink that monster, there would be nothing to stop us going after the merchant.

???Prepare all torpedo tubes for submerged firing.???

Fritz, the chief engineer looked somewhat surprised.

???You???re going to attack them????

???Yes I am.??? I answered matter-of-factly. ???periscope depth chief both ahead 1/3, rudder 30 degrees port.???

The order was carried out, and the submerged U-95 responded rather ponderously but it was enough. The Destroyer had turned round now and was headed back the way he came, I decided on a stern shot rather than try to swing the bow round. The stern swung to point at the destroyer. I began collecting data for the torpedo shot. I set the torpedo to run about half a meter under the keel. Then the door opened. Then I ordered fire, when I did I realised I had partially shot from the hip. I nervously waited as the torpedo powered out of the stern tube towards the target. The I saw it, the Destroyer had clocked our Torpedo and they were speeding up. A feeling of dread suddenly came over me. I for a few scary moments thought I had botched up, but then at the estimated time of impact, BOOM!! I saw an enormous explosion from the stern of the ship. It then slumped in the water with the bow sticking up.

???Sir, I can???t hear the propellers of the Destroyer anymore.??? Karl reported from the hydrophone.
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I peeped through the periscope and mused that the propellers had been destroyed, a sly grin then appeared on my face. Not to mention a huge amount of relief, I looked around the command room as much as, ???there you are???. I was trying to blast it into oblivion not immobilise it, but still, without props, it can???t chase us. So at least we were reasonably safe.

???We got him a sitting duck now. Chief: Ahead Flank, Rudder hard starboard, lets finish them off.???

It was a nice sight to see officers and crew looking so happy about something. It was also refreshing to know that one on one we were capable of taking on a destroyer. I made a quick check with the scope to see how our positioning was doing.
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We were doing well. I ordered a rudder midships and we began our underwater crawl into firing position. The Destroyer was drifting now at a measly 2 knots. We were like a speedboat by comparison. After a few minutes of careful positioning, I fired off another torpedo aiming for just aft of midships. It was a T 1, I set the speed to slow, deliberately so as the crew would see the incoming, and would have a few more vital seconds to leap off the ship and to get away. The torpedo slammed into the side of the ship. She then started to go down by the stern first.
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After finishing off our would be killer, we then returned to our original course at ahead standard. We stayed down for a little while incase aircraft were looking for us, which when you do such a thing as we did, they are looking for you 99% of the time. After placing sufficient distance between us and the sinking, we surfaced to replenish air, and batteries.

Still the question was on our minds ??? how?!

The evening was drawing in, it was quiet for us since we sank the destroyer, it seemed we had successfully avoided the enemy aircraft, for now at least, so for that much I was grateful. We had not been out at sea very long, and already I could feel the fatigue creeping up on me. The patrol had been intense. It was to continue that way as well, we sighted yet another C2 ship and so we torpedoed our victim and then finished her off with our deck gun.
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After a few pummelous shots it broke in two and sank. I brought U-95 alongside where some of the survivors were, I ordered Edgar to keep the flak gun trained on them at all times just in case they tried to pull something. I then pointed them in the nearest direction land was. I spoke to them in English, they seemed surprised I had took the time to point them in the right direction. I am sure they were thinking a few

demigod151
12-12-2006, 06:47 AM
Personal Report of Patrol 25.

U-95 Type VIIc.
Erich Berghardt commanding.
Patrol Grid: AM68

Having submitted my official report to Command as is standard procedure, I decided to file this personal report into my own records and memoirs in the hope that one day they will benefit others etc etc???

AM68, the Lion???s Den to all extents and purposes. When I heard Command was sending me there, I think for the first time during the course of this war, I felt real terror. AM68 is situated directly between Wales and Ireland right in the northern-central part of the Irish Sea. So I knew there and then, we would be in for a rough time, and the chances of us making it back to base were slim at the very best. I did maintain that, I would not fight to the death, if it came down to it, I would surrender and accept capture rather than see 50 men who were relying on me killed in a senseless last ditch effort.

The boat was prepared for our departure the next day, I of course not wanting to scare or worry my Val put on a show of bravado in order to allay any fears she must have. However, having survived 24 patrols in wartime I think by now even a worrier like her was pretty sure I would return in one piece and my crew with me. Yet again I had to pack up smoking, and its getting to a stage now where I am wondering, why do I even bother with it at all? I can???t really continue out at sea with any real proper regularity. So this time, I decided if I made it back in one piece from AM68, no more smoking. Of course I could urge Val to do the same, but I doubt I would meet with much joy there. She had given up a lot for me when she transferred from the medical unit in Wilhelmshaven to follow me to Brest. I loved her, and she loved me, so, what was stopping me asking her to marry me? I know the answer to that question, but do you know what could be strong enough to stop someone asking the woman they idolise and have no doubts about to marry them? Consider my position and my career???

When you are the captain of a German U-Boat, when you are about to step aboard and go out on yet another patrol, a number of things go through your mind, fear, excitement, anticipation, regret, but worse of all, pleasure. There was something pleasurable about the tasks we would be called to do. Lots of my fellow Kaleuns had for a while now been referring to these way years as the ???happy time??? and I could see why, there was an element of happiness. I could not deny every time I sank something or caused carnage to the point where I hear about a lone U-Boat causing such and such I lit up inside, because I knew it was me.

The day came as usual and I boarded the boat last everything was in readiness. We started both diesels ahead slow and gently started our way at a steady 8 knots. It was a very sunny day, and it was warm. Despite the fact is was late November. The lookouts stared to the horizons panning the skies, even this close to base we were not safe, planes represented a growing and ongoing threat to U-Boat activities and we simply could leave nothing to chance.
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As we cleared the row of Subpens and Brest, I ordered an increase to 1/3, and, with our new and improved Diesel engines, U-95 at 1/3 was able to cruise rather nicely at 11 knots. Which, for the sake of 1 knot, was as fast as a IIa running flank speed! I still have not forgotten U-3. Under the care of someone else she is training tomorrows U-Boat men, today. We headed out, and the first part of our trip was largely uneventful. Just a simple surface cruise, it was when we turned towards the Irish sea that things started to become a little more complicated shall we say. Suffice, our first 48 hours at sea consisted of us surface cruising and nothing more.

Some time after 1am, Adolf Carlewitz the watch officer at that time called down to the control room that he thought he had spotted a light on the horizon bearing 350. Since it was too dark to confirm his theory we dived. I ordered us down to 20m, where Karl confirmed indeed, there was a merchant, right where Adolf had said. This was before we even had fully began our way into the Irish sea, we still had miles and miles to go. I decided that it would be best to attack while the element of surprise was still ours.

I ordered U-95 back to the surface and a flank speed dash in the general direction. It did not take us long before we made definite visual contact. It was not long before Wolf Degan and his two gunners were making their way into the command room ready to man the deck gun. Despite conditions being perfect for a surface attack and the possibility of saving a torpedo, I decided against it, much to his chagrin. However when you are heading into the heart of enemy waters, you don???t want them having a clue as to your paying a visit, and we got this far without being spotted, it certainly was not time to announce our prescence. We charged in at flank on the surface as near as we dare go before Adolf once again urged we dive. We did so, down to periscope depth.

I made a couple of routine checks with the periscope before lining up for a submerged torpedo attack. Oddly enough, I had not carried out many of these, for one thing I was much more used to being a lot closer than we were now, and I was also used to being on the surface. Tension in the U-Boat was high. I could feel the sweat running down my brow as I manned the attack scope. Otto Totenhagen my weapons officer aided me with my solution plotting, then the time was right, with the tube open, I fired tube 1. There was a whoosh and blast as the Torpedo was ejected from the front of the boat. It was a T 1, and I set it to run fast, I always set them to run fast, no sense in setting them to run slow, the quicker they go, the harder they are to evade. Simple logic but I am always surprised at how many green Kaleuns overlook this.

As we waited in the command room anxiously, there was a loud boom. I ordered up the observation scope and saw the Coastal Merchant split in two, and slowly almost methodically slipping beneath the waves. There were cheers through the U-Boat, mission accomplished. We had claimed our first victim and they never knew till it was all over. I felt it was a rather hollow and shortcut victory for us.
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We remained submerged then for an extra 30 minutes, returning to our original course at ahead standard, which gives us a 6 knot submerged cruise. I set depth for 20m and we continued on our way. As Otto and his torpedo men reloaded tube one from our internal reserves. After the 30 mins was up and our torpedo long since reloaded, I decided it would be a good idea while it was night to bring the forward external into the boat, you never know??? While we carried on at ahead standard on the surface we recharged our batteries again, making sure to keep them topped off. We were in hostile waters to say the very least!

The rest of the day went particularly well I thought, the weather was still holding up, we were sailing on at 1/3 and then we came under fire from enemy aircraft, there were two planes, based on their attack patterns, diving was made impossible! The water was not very deep in these regions either, we had no choice, we had to fight it out on the surface. I came up to the bridge as Edgar Wissmann, one of the best flak gunners in the flotilla at the time manned the flak gun. These pilots, were veterans, they were definitely not the cannon fodder we had encountered previously on other patrols. I ordered an increase to flank. I also ordered some basic evasive manoeuvring to try and throw them. We almost succeeded but a depthcharge rattled our bow. Luckily we evaded serious damage to the bow compartment.

???Ship spotted, bearing 342!!??? Philipp Witte called out. I stared and noticed that in all the commotion a British Tribal Destroyer was charging straight at us.

Things were not looking particularly good for us. With the planes timing their attack runs so that we were unable to dive they were keeping us on the surface right where they wanted us, where we were vulnerable to them. The destroyer was on an attack run, and was now starting to shell us.

???Steer to course 005!!??? I screamed down to the control room.

???005 aye sir!??? Fritz called back.

???What!???? exclaimed Philipp, ???sir that will take us towards the destroyer!???

???Yes I know that Lieutenant??? Keep firing Edgar, try to blast one of those damn planes down!???

???Trying sir, these pilots know what they are doing.???

It was a setup, the planes were obviously meant to function as part of the unit with this destroyer. But they were not actually bombing us now, they were spraying machine gun fire at us, but not dropping bombs, it was clear now, their task was to occupy the U-Boat while the destroyer closed the distance. Very clever, we had sailed right into a British trap. Philipp was not impressed with my course of action.

???Sir, we have to dive its our only chance!???

???Wrong Philipp, the only chance we have is to sink that destroyer.??? I replied sternly.

It was a reckless course of action but our best chance, I hoped that if I could somehow get round the Destroyer without getting shot to bits or bombed by the plane, I could veer off to his side and fire the stern torpedo straight under his keel! My pulse was racing as I stood on the bridge as the distance between us and the Destroyer narrowed. The planes backed off. Clearly, they were not expecting us to try and remain surfaced, their game would be to try and sink us as we dive. But I decided to not play their game.

???Oh dear God, please let us live through this.??? Philipp said stressed out of his mind. Edgar on the flak turned and looked.

???Get the gunners up here.??? I ordered.

???Yes sir, man the deck gun!??? Philipp called to the control room.

Petty Officers; Wolf Degen and Ulrich Mannesmann emerged on deck along with the third man Senior Seaman, Albert Keller.

They clearly looked nervous but we didn???t have a great deal of option.

???Philipp on my signal, I want the boys to aim for the weapons on that tub. Till then hold their fire.???

???aye sir, holding fire!!???

The shells from the Destroyer were literally whizzing past us, drawing nearer and nearer there was less than 800m between us.

???NOW!!??? I screamed.

Philipp ordered fire at will.

The gun blasted at the Destroyers front turret with a well aimed armour piercing shell. Meanwhile tube 5 was being prepared. We drew nearer still and now they began to machine gun.

???Rudder hard starboard chief!!??? I bellowed into the control room.

U-95 responded quickly at her high speed. We turned sharp to the right and headed off at a diagonal, I spun the Uzo round and aimed a 180 at the Destroyer.

???Rudder midships!??? I screamed.

U-95 began to head in a straight line again and also began to pick up speed with the rudders midshipped. As I hoped, the Destroyer turned to port to try and follow us, but it was too little too late.

???Tube 5 fire!!???

The T 1 launched out the back of the U-Boat and stormed towards its target, again as I hoped, they noticed it, and not as I planned stayed on a hard port. But the Destroyer as fast as he was, was not quicker than a 44 knot torpedo. The explosion came from the back quarter of the ship and immediately the back end slumped into the water.

???Oh my god, we hit her!!??? Philipp said somewhat unbelieving.

A great sense of relief came over me. Relief that we had done it. The gunners stared in awe at the sinking sight. It was not the first time we sank a destroyer, but by god, it was the first time we had sank one on the surface and in plain sight! Our celebration did not last long as the planes having seen the explosion from the destroyer, returned with a vengeance, forcing Edgar to have to open fire again.
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I could not help but watch the sinking destroyer off on bearing 240ish??? I watched the sailors jumping into the water and desperately swimming away from the sinking ship. I had to respect the Royal Navy for their diligence in hunting us, they really gave it 110% which was fantastic, but at the same time, as much as I respected their efforts, there was no way I was going to take a depthcharging lying down!

We went back to flank speed once more and the deck gunners scrambled below deck again, as Edgar fired up at the planes, this time their game was thrown, they did not bank on us sinking the destroyer, I was not 100% confident in it myself, but needless to say fortune favours the bold! So with the planes not timing their runs properly the way was open for a crash dive. So as they had both made runs, the window was open.

???ALARM!!!???

The bell rang and the boat really came to life now, men inside scrambling like rats in a drainpipe forward for the torpedo room. An additional 4 tons of concentrated ballast to help our descent beneath the waves! I ordered us down to 40m. It was more than enough. We could hear the bombs furiously exploding above us. But nothing too serious to worry about, Karl who was manning the hydrophone could hear the Destroyer sinking behind us.
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We had gotten away with it. The men in the boat cheered and smiled, but I was too relieved that we had escaped relatively unscathed to celebrate. Also knowing our eventual destination, put a bit of a crimp on my desire to celebrate, if the rest of the crew knew of our eventual destination, I doubt they would be celebrating too.

But the day was not over yet, after 1 hour running submerged, about 5 minutes before we surfaced, we picked up a hydrophone contact on a bearing of 002, another merchant, and it was coming towards us. We surfaced and once more ran at flank speed. This was a typically unremarkable sinking, it was a C2 ship, and from the looks of it, they were loaded to the gunnels. The ship itself was unarmed. Which made sinking her all the more easy for us as most lone merchant ships did have a weapon of some kind. The torpedo ran true and split her in half, and down she went.
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We continued on our way after sinking the C2. Evening was creeping up on us. Myself and the other officers were enjoying our meal in the officers mess. The bread was doing well, it was not as mouldy as it was before on our last patrol. Heintz always had some clever comments he had to pass about the food. He commented that the potatoes were so hard we could have used them for ammo in the flak cannon. He was not wrong! Food on a U-Boat is consistently poor, occasionally mediocre. This was by far one of the reasons I looked forward to going home, Val was not the world???s best cook by any stretch, but the meals she put together even with limited supplies were above and beyond anything that could be prepared in a U-Boat kitchen. Also the location of the galley puzzled me, surely it was not the best idea to put the galley right next to the engine room? There again, I doubt when the designers dreamt up the VIIc comfort was on the top of their list.

I had just moved on to my pudding, cherries and cream, this was actually nice and a real treat. I tried to savour every mouthful, but???

Otto who was being watch officer screamed down we had incoming enemy aircraft. The meal was abandoned, and I couldn???t help but think, why not attack during the main course? Never mind???

Edgar shimmied up the ladder to the bridge like a rat up a drainpipe, he manned the flak cannon and began shooting at our two attackers. The first was deflected from his attack, and the bomb thankfully missed our deck. It did cause minor damage to our diesel room, but thanks to Edgar the attack was deflected effectively. The second plane was not so fortunate, Edgar scored a flurry of hits, the plane burst into flames and plummeted towards the sea.
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The second plane was circling back towards us so I called for the alarm, and we made a rapid crash dive to 50m. The damage to the diesels was fixed after we submerged. We heard the depthcharges way above us from the surviving plane. Feeling confident the danger had passed, I returned to the officers mess to finish my pudding. Then I posed myself a question, a jest if you will??? Can planes fly underwater?
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A little grin appeared on my face and I shook my head. I always found it good when the hunted, hunt down the hunter, which was what had happened today.

We had continued underwater for a bit longer before I decided to surface again to recharge the batteries. It was night now and the air was cold and crisp. I decided to go to my bunk and grab a little shuteye while I could. It had been quite an eventful few days. The night was rolling in, at midnight we dived to 20m to make a hydrophone check.
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The check revealed yet another merchant ship in our vicinity. I altered course and we returned to the surface where we chased down and caught yet another C2 cargo ship. We were extremely fortunate, but we were able to get right up to them without being seen.
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U-95 drew closer and closer to the target, I stood atop the bridge lining things up with the Uzo for our torpedo shot. My fingers were twitching. As we closed another 300m between us and them they spotted us. We were too close now to fend off with a few splutters from their deck gun. My own gunners were at the bottom of the ladder itching to get up and start blasting themselves, they were my standbys for after we softened the big clunker up with a torpedo shot.
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Tube 1 ejected its contents into the water. We saw the trail from the bridge as the torpedo left the tube and proceeded on its way to the target full speed ahead on a 44 knot cruise. I turned the U-Boat hard to starboard to try and keep us away from their stern deck gun as whoever was manning that was not too bad a shot all things considered, some shells had been whizzing awfully close to the conning tower!
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I had instructed that the torpedo ran under the keel for detonation. That always seemed to work well on the clunkerous C2???s. This time it worked a bit too well.
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It was one of the most fearsome detonations I had ever seen and experienced in my life! The concussive force actually shook U-95 and were 500m away! One lookout who was stationed by the flak gun actually got blew over by the rush of air. I assumed that the ship was laden with munitions and explosives which is why it was probably such a fearful blast. The ship seemed to float for a few moments, then it just collapsed under its own weight, splitting neatly in two and then each half sinking into the water.
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One torpedo was all that was required to put this ship out of commission. My gunners seemed rather disappointed that they were not getting a chance to man the battle station. Myself and the lookouts observed the men in their little lifeboats, and others just leaping into the sea swimming away from the sinking ship. We too would have to evacuate the area as well, doubtless that this C2 had radioed for help and a destroyer was probably already on its way here. That said we turned around and resumed our original course.
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The following morning was absolutely fine. We even had the gramophone playing some music for us as we performed the basic maintenance and general upkeep of the boat. We had done well with U-95 as far as malfunctions go, all of her equipment seemed to work well and was for the most part very reliable, but none the less I liked to make sure it kept that way. I remembered my old rival Gustavesen and his VIIb, he had put off lubing the torpedoes and one jammed in the tube, could have killed them all. Just asnexample, but I was no way going to let that happen to us. Basic maintenance is everything.

We continued on our way, the day was fine, visibility was excellent. Unfortunately visibility is a two way deal. We can see good, but so can our enemies. It was not long before we encountered yet more planes. There were two of them and they were coming in fast. One of the trickiest decisions a U-Boat commander is faced with is when there are attacking planes, and aboard your boat is one of the best gunners going, and a real good flak cannon too. So, do you fight it out, and possibly shoot a plane down? Or dive? When a U-Boat dives to escape a plane, it always produces safety and escape. When you fight, sometimes, the results can be devastating.
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I decided to fight. Edgar manned the gun and released a hail of bullets to the skies against our attackers. U-95 was running at flank speed and we were doing well evading. Things got even more interesting when Adolf happened to spot a ship! I was on the bridge too and I observed through my binoculars that indeed there was a ship, which I instantly recognised as a lone coastal merchant.
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Despite how rash this decision may be, I stand by it. I am a firm believer in fortune favours the bold. We steered towards the target and ran at flank in an intercept, with our airborne friends making runs at us from behind and the sides, undeterred we pressed on, even despite taking minor damage to the bow quarters from a bomb we trundled on our Diesels running as hard as they could. With the upgrades we could make 19 or even 20 knots when the sea is calm enough. We came closer and closer to the ship, the planes had expended their bombs but still tried to make us nervous they attempted to machinegun the boat. As we came within deck gun range Wolf and his gunners manned the deck casing and pretty soon we were trading shells with this armed ship.
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Wolf was a crack shot and his aims were true, he very rarely missed what he was shooting at.

The planes now were obviously in a pickle, they had no more bombs to drop, yet there we go about to claim a victim in the form of a Coastal Merchant.
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Wolf???s aim was spot on, the ship was being pummelled on the waterline by our HE shells. Many amateurs will often fire their AP shells at a target, this is a mistake! The HE are the best ones for the job. We fired at this coastal merchant quite mercilessly trying to sink him but he proved most effective in resisting.
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We were drawing in closer to him now, and while he was finding it hard to fire at us, it didn???t seem we were faring much better to be honest! I could see we were getting in very close so ordered ahead slow. As you can imagine, an object that has been travelling at 20 knots, does not all of a sudden go from 20 knots to 8 knots in an instant, our momentum carried us forward right in front of the coastal merchants bow.
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The situation, I could see it coming, despite the fact the ship was clearly filling with water, it was still chugging along and I knew her captain was attempting to ram us, he very nearly succeeded, in a panic I ordered hard starboard and ahead flank once more, Adolf and Edgar and all the others on deck we nearly wet ourselves as had we been rammed then quite possibly we would have been sunk, at the very least we would be severely damaged. But as I midshipped the rudders, we were able to evade being rammed by the skins of our teeth and no more.
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As we got by, the crippled coastal merchant flopped over to her starboard side, she could no longer stay afloat, the crippled ship then simply rolled over and sank. We then returned to normal surface cruise and went back onto our original course heading to our eventual destination, AM68.

While we were cruising I took the time to make some notes in my log, I also took some time to gaze at a picture of my Val. Way back in 1939, this felt like so long ago, I once told my crew, many of whom were still with me, they had to forget about their loved ones and their friends and to concentrate on the task at hand. That to not do so, would be to endanger all our lives and we could all end up dead for one man???s mistakes. This was my moment, my quiet time, there was nothing for me at that precise moment. I had learned to be able to switch it on and off at a moments notice. One moment I could be aching to see her, to feel her touch, and the next, it was as though she didn???t exist. I could narrow my whole world to being the U-Boat, the men, and any ships within its visual range at a moments notice. It was the only choice you have when you sail. I wonder if anybody has figured out then why I still haven???t popped the question? I expect you have.

Today was not done yet, in the late afternoon there was to be another surprise for us, one that I still do not quite understand but I get the painful expectation I will soon come to learn all about it. Adolf and his lookouts were still posted on the bridge, all looked well and were fully alert. They notified me that there was a ship and it was closing on us.

I looked through my binoculars and to my horror, I saw what looked like a destroyer charging straight at us.

???That can???t be right!??? I said to Adolf as I stared at the charging ship.

???Their coming straight at us!??? I said again.

Indeed they were, I could just about make it out, looked like a Tribal or Clemson Destroyer, it didn???t matter which to me really, a destroyer is a destroyer is a destroyer.
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I hesitated a moment, it was not possible! They could not have spotted us from that distance!

???They are charging, there is no way they could have seen us at that range Adolf!??? I said, but they had. Every second we wasted brought them in closer. I ordered a cautious dive to 50m. Karl manned the hydrophone.

???Contact bearing: 010. Speed: Very fast! Closing!???

There was the solid concrete proof we needed, or not??? The Destroyer WAS coming towards us. But how?! They could not have seen us before we seen them, a U-Boat is too low to the water to see from that kinds of range. Nevertheless, they had seen us before we saw them. I wondered what their lookouts were eating.

I stared at Adolf in the command room.

???Funny how they saw us first.???

He looked back and said,

???No way we could have missed him sir. No way! We saw him the moment he first appeared on the horizon.???

I believed him and so decided to let the matter drop.

???Chief, increase to 1/3, rudder hard to port.???

The chief carried out my order and we turned away from the charging destroyer which was getting nearer and nearer. When we turned sufficiently I ordered rudder midships and silent running. We were now creeping at ahead slow and I was hoping against hope we were out of his way. We all listened intently, staring at the roof. We could hear it, the asdic pings. They knew, somehow, they knew we were there and they were coming to look for us.
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We heard the explosions of depth charges, they were performing a routine blast based on our last known position, what was worrying, was they were blasting our last position, indeed, we were there a few minutes ago! Had I stayed on course towards the Destroyer, we would have been dead.

To make things worse, or more interesting, I???ll leave that judgement up to you. Karl detected a second contact off in the distance a merchant ship, a big one too according to him. I then realised, us being here playing cat and mouse with a destroyer was not where we needed to be. I pondered it for a moment, and realised, if, IF, I attack and screw it up, that destroyer will get us, an with the shallow water we would not have a fighting chance. But, if we did strike and sink that monster, there would be nothing to stop us going after the merchant.

???Prepare all torpedo tubes for submerged firing.???

Fritz, the chief engineer looked somewhat surprised.

???You???re going to attack them????

???Yes I am.??? I answered matter-of-factly. ???periscope depth chief both ahead 1/3, rudder 30 degrees port.???

The order was carried out, and the submerged U-95 responded rather ponderously but it was enough. The Destroyer had turned round now and was headed back the way he came, I decided on a stern shot rather than try to swing the bow round. The stern swung to point at the destroyer. I began collecting data for the torpedo shot. I set the torpedo to run about half a meter under the keel. Then the door opened. Then I ordered fire, when I did I realised I had partially shot from the hip. I nervously waited as the torpedo powered out of the stern tube towards the target. The I saw it, the Destroyer had clocked our Torpedo and they were speeding up. A feeling of dread suddenly came over me. I for a few scary moments thought I had botched up, but then at the estimated time of impact, BOOM!! I saw an enormous explosion from the stern of the ship. It then slumped in the water with the bow sticking up.

???Sir, I can???t hear the propellers of the Destroyer anymore.??? Karl reported from the hydrophone.
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I peeped through the periscope and mused that the propellers had been destroyed, a sly grin then appeared on my face. Not to mention a huge amount of relief, I looked around the command room as much as, ???there you are???. I was trying to blast it into oblivion not immobilise it, but still, without props, it can???t chase us. So at least we were reasonably safe.

???We got him a sitting duck now. Chief: Ahead Flank, Rudder hard starboard, lets finish them off.???

It was a nice sight to see officers and crew looking so happy about something. It was also refreshing to know that one on one we were capable of taking on a destroyer. I made a quick check with the scope to see how our positioning was doing.
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We were doing well. I ordered a rudder midships and we began our underwater crawl into firing position. The Destroyer was drifting now at a measly 2 knots. We were like a speedboat by comparison. After a few minutes of careful positioning, I fired off another torpedo aiming for just aft of midships. It was a T 1, I set the speed to slow, deliberately so as the crew would see the incoming, and would have a few more vital seconds to leap off the ship and to get away. The torpedo slammed into the side of the ship. She then started to go down by the stern first.
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After finishing off our would be killer, we then returned to our original course at ahead standard. We stayed down for a little while incase aircraft were looking for us, which when you do such a thing as we did, they are looking for you 99% of the time. After placing sufficient distance between us and the sinking, we surfaced to replenish air, and batteries.

Still the question was on our minds ??? how?!

The evening was drawing in, it was quiet for us since we sank the destroyer, it seemed we had successfully avoided the enemy aircraft, for now at least, so for that much I was grateful. We had not been out at sea very long, and already I could feel the fatigue creeping up on me. The patrol had been intense. It was to continue that way as well, we sighted yet another C2 ship and so we torpedoed our victim and then finished her off with our deck gun.
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After a few pummelous shots it broke in two and sank. I brought U-95 alongside where some of the survivors were, I ordered Edgar to keep the flak gun trained on them at all times just in case they tried to pull something. I then pointed them in the nearest direction land was. I spoke to them in English, they seemed surprised I had took the time to point them in the right direction. I am sure they were thinking a few