While the First U-Boat Flotilla was inspired by having microfilm of the flotilla’s War Diaries, this book came about purely as a logical next step. While the First Flotilla began the war with Type II boats and then graduated to Type VIIs, the Second began the war with Type VIIs and then moved onto the larger ocean-going Type Ix boats. The wars experienced by the two units were similar and yet so very different. Also the flotillas’ histories ended completely differently; the First was disbanded as Brest fell after weeks of savage predominantly urban fighting, while remnants of the Second fought on in the shattered defensive pocket that had been formed at Lorient, only surrendering upon Germany’s capitulation.
Somewhat curiously, the history of this unit also features some of the most successful attacks mounted by the Kriegsmarine U-boats and also some of their most stunning defeats. Fritz-Julius Lemp was sadly at the helm for two of them; the sinking of the Athenia and the loss of U110’s Enigma machine.
In 1942 when German U-boats struck with devastating force for the first time against distant targets in the waters of the North and South Atlantic, the large cruiser submarines of the Second U-Boat Flotilla were at the spearhead of each assault.
The Second U-Boat Flotilla ‘Saltzwedel’ was formed in 1936 an survived nine long years to the day of Nazi Germany’s final surrender. During the Spanish Civil War it had been a Saltzwedel boat that made the only successful submarine sinking of an ‘enemy’ warship. Three years later Fritz-Julius Lemp’s tragic destruction of the Athenia in another Saltzwedel boat triggered Germany’s U-boat war against England. Leading the attack, legendary commanders such as Albrecht Achilles, Werner Hartenstein and Reinhard Hardegen littered the Atlantic and Indian Oceans with the twisted steel of sunken ships. However, while the Second U-Boat Flotilla mounted the most shattering submarine offensives of the Second World War, it was the intact capture of two of its boats, complete with their Enigma code machines, that would ultimately spell doom for Germany;s undersea warriors.
The flotilla fought from the first day of World War Two to the last as the remains of the unit battled on either at sea or within the besieged port of Lorient; one of the occupied French citadels that remained in German hands until the war’s end.
Available from the Pen & Sword website and other book outlets.
First published by Leo Cooper, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2003.
ISBN 0 85052 917 4
During the research for this book I once again met many veterans of the Kriegsmarine who were unfailingly helpful and friendly. Among them was one of Lemp’s radio operators from U30 and U110, Georg Högel. A fascinating man and most engaging character he was also a gifted artist. I spent some time in his Munich studio where he let me read and photograph some of his wartime diaries and pictures he had painted and drawn. Sadly, he passed away in 2014.