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  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Enemy Boats
    Steven Wilson | October 14, 2005
    To the British and Americans these lethal boats were simply enemy boats, or E-boats. To the Germans they were S-boots or Schnell boots simply fast boats. For a period during the Second World War they controlled a respectable portion of the Mediterranean Sea and a sizeable area of the English Channel, specifically the area between Smiths Knoll and The Wash called E-boat Alley. Any convoys venturing from the London docks north or the Firth of Forth south paid a penalty to the E-boats for doing so.

    The Allies had their boats as well and in some way, they were similar. The British MTB (motor torpedo boat), the American PT (patrol-torpedo), and German E-boats were all heavily armed, capable of deploying either torpedoes or mines, and pound-for-pound some of the most dangerous vessels afloat. All of these vessels, including F-lighters and MAS boats were relatively small and unassuming. Far away; up close was a different matter.
    By late in the war, E-boats in the Channel were painted a very functional combination of grays—probably to match the English weather. The hull, superstructure and bridge vertical surfaces were painted a pale gray. The deck, superstructure, and bridge and wheelhouse horizontal surfaces were painted a darker gray. This monochromatic theme with its ominous hints of darkness scattered about a 120-foot vessel made it appear, as it was, lethal.
    The deck armament, compared to Pacific Theatre PT boats that carried everything except a re-enforced rifle company, was not exceptional. In the deck well forward was an Oerlikon 20mm cannon, mounted low in the hull. “Doorknockers” the crew called them for their remarkable inability to do anything to enemy vessels but announce the E-boats presence. In the center of the superstructure, just aft of the bridge was a twin mount 20mm gun with armored shield. Between amidships and the aft superstructure was a four-barreled 20mm gun, a 37mm gun, or a Bofors 40mm cannon. E-boats also carried 7.92 MG38 machine guns for anti-aircraft defense and close-quarter encounters. The 20mm guns, which constituted the bulk of the E-boats sting, were generally acceptable weapons under the right circumstances. They could pump out 240 rounds a minute with a maximum range of 12,000 meters, which gave enemy pilots reason to consider how best to approach an E-boat; and they seldom traveled alone. Doubling or tripling the 20mm rounds flying through the air, always made pilots a bit wary. Nothing increased one’s heart rate like a line of blazing green tracers coming straight toward one’s nose.
    But two weapons in the E-boats arsenal kept convoy commanders awake at night. One was the E-boat’s torpedoes; the other was the E-boat’s speed. E-boats carried four torpedoes, two loaded in tubes (later E-boats had the tubes enclosed in the hulls); and two ready to be loaded—elapsed time to replace fired torpedoes, 45 seconds.
    The second weapon available to the E-boat (with due respect given to the very capable 24-man crews that sailed them), were the three, supercharged Daimler-Benz 2500-hp engines. Subject to the vagaries of the sea, and the condition of the boats and engines, most E-boats could reach top speed of 42 knots, but for only 30 minutes at a time. Still, in the heat and confusion of battle, 30 minutes is a lifetime, and a short burst of power can mean a great deal to the attacker and the defender.
    James Foster Trent, in his superb book E-Boat Alert: Defending the Normandy Invasion Fleet, points out two components of the E-boat’s secret weapon, her hull design and special rudders. The American and British torpedo boats were designed with a hard chine, or scooped out bottom. This concave construction is cost-effective and pulls the boat’s hull out of calm water at high—less contact, less drag, better speed. E-boats had a round bottom, which was costlier to produce but which gave it a speed advantage in rough seas. In place of rough seas insert: English Channel. Trent also points out just how effective the twin Lurssen rudders were. A PT boat roaring through the sea with the forward third of its hull suspended above the surface of the ocean and churning out an impressive wake, is a joy to watch. But it is not the most efficient means to move a boat through the water. The Lurssen Effect is created when two, small Lurssen rudders, mounted to either side of the main rudder and turned outboard, lowers the wake height, which, according to Trent “requires less energy, allowing the vessel to go faster.”
    For a time E-boats (and smaller, slower but just as effective German coastal craft), controlled the English Channel. Contests between the British MTB, Coastal Command (air), and Coastal Forces (surface, and sometimes derisively known as Costly Farces), were deadly affairs with a third enemy taking its toll; the sea. Individual seamen often found themselves adrift after battles that might range over vast areas. In the best of weather a seaman might have a life expectancy of two hours in the cold water; other times, it was a matter of minutes.
    As the war progressed and things began to go badly for the E-boats they sought refuge during the day in massive E-boat bunkers in Cherbourg, Boulogne or LeHavre; coming out at night to practice Lauertatik, simply loitering around at night near possible convoy lanes, waiting. If they were lucky they could return to base before dawn (the light was anathema to them; too many enemy aircraft), flying a Victory Pennant. The boats carried radar, not as effective as the enemy’s but still a defense against surface or air attack The Funkmessbeobachtungsgerat, or FuMB, was a passive detection unit, much like the early U-boats Biscay Cross. Its purpose was to detect the enemy’s radar impulses; thus alerting the E-boats to the presence of an unfriendly aircraft that was in turn, looking for them.
    The Last Hurrah for E-boats was achieved quite by accident within sight of the English coast. Eight ships of Allied Convoy T-4 were scheduled to practice landings early on the morning of April 28, 1944. Slapton Sands in Lyme Bay was chosen because it closely resembled Utah Beach in Normandy to which the Americans had been assigned. A battalion of combat engineers and units of the 4th Infantry waited aboard their LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks, literally floating warehouses), for the exercise to begin when the first E-boats attacked. The LSTs were armed, but only with guns designed to withstand air attack, and the lone British destroyer attached to the convoy couldn’t protect the entire line of squat LSTs. E-boats raced in almost at will, firing their cannons and launching torpedoes. At a top speed of 12 knots, the men aboard their LSTs realized that the vessel’s nickname was apropos; Large Slow Targets.
    Nearly a thousand men died, killed in the attack or drowned, including ten who had been “bigoted.” That is, they knew enough about the upcoming invasion to be of real value to the Germans, and of great concern to the Allies, if captured. There were no losses among the E-boats. This attack and the desperate shortage of LSTs added one more nightmare to the long list facing Allied commanders responsible for moving hundreds of thousands of men and thousands of ships across a narrow, inhospitable body of water. What about E-boats? The Luftwaffe had virtually been eliminated, the U-boats of the Kriegsmarine neutralized, and broad lanes had been, or would be, swept through the dense minefields in the Channel. The Channel was, despite the fact that the Allies controlled it, a haven at night for E-boats.
    “The immediate threat on D-1 and D-Day,” Rear Admiral Alan J. Kirk, USN said, “is considered to be the E-boat, especially after nightfall.” In fleet defense, preemptory strikes and planning, action was taken to ensure that the E-boat threat to the invasion was destroyed. Lyme Bay had proved one thing to the Allied planners; these small, fast craft, let loose in even limited numbers within the invasion fleet, could cause a disaster.
    There were no E-boats captured during the war and those that came in under their own power to the Allies or were towed in, did so reluctantly. You can not get predators to renounce their predilections because somewhere, someone signed a piece of paper. It is not in the natural order of things. But as the war ended and E-boats were carried away to be studied by the victors, those that fought against them remembered tumultuous seas and gray skies. And the deep rumble of approaching death.
    They were indeed enemy boats.

    Enemy Boats
     
  2. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    good little blurb that should be moved to the Atlantic forums, look to see what in fact that has been posted recently as well as in the archivs there

    should be noted the the term E-boats is very much incorrect, the term should be Schnellboote(s)

    J. Tent is a great guy have had some interesting phone conversations and emails from him with a couple of unseen overhead RAF images showing the blowing of the bunkers in France in June of 44
     
  3. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Thanks. I thought that since it mainly concerned the Channel and surrounding areas that Europe would seem a little more appropriate :).
     
  4. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    look what's under the Atlantic Forum header.........names of ships, etc......so
     
  5. DocCasualty

    DocCasualty Member

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    Ran across this thread while I was looking further into the Schnellboot. Either the caption associated with this photo or the above statement would appear to be incorrect.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    That's very interesting. I was not aware of any units captured before D-Day. Is the listed date for action or for the photo?
     
  7. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    the S 111 was captured of sorts by 3 MTB 87, 88 and 91 off Holland on March 15, 1942. the Boot was part of the 2nd S-Flottille which attacked convoy FN 55 the night before, this thing was overwhelmed and shot to pieces so much so that when towed back to England she sank in deep waters never to be retrieved. Sunk in area SO - Küste ( 52 39,6' N 04 13,8' O )

    So you see the Allies never had an S-Boot in full board conditions to study her.

    Kriegstagebuch der 2. Schnellbootflottille : section / 1.5.40- 15.10.44 BA/MA M 362/ 1-8
     
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  8. DocCasualty

    DocCasualty Member

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    Thanks for that very helpful post, Erich.

    The date listed in the caption is indeed the photo release date.
     
  9. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    Is this in fact S 111 in the photo? She's not looking too healthy. You would expect, if a boat had been genuinely captured, to see her fixed up for the photo.
     
  10. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I think I read from an account of the battle, but I can't find the source right now, that S-111 was abandoned in sinking conditions and the british did not manage to tow her to port. The same photo appeared in the article I read.
    EDIT: Possibly wrong action the boat I was thinking of was S-41 that suffered a similar fate in November 1941 not S-111, the story of S-111 I found is she was captured by an MGB flotilla but re-captured by S-104, S-62 and S-29 and finally sunk by Spitfires while under German tow.
     
  11. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Tired o Sold.

    interesting comments your last one, do remember the article name -magazine or book ? my comments are from several German KM sources the most comprehensive being the one I listed which is the KM war diary of the 2nd S-Flottille which kept immaculate records of it's Boot losses

    yes the boot was commandieried after the crew was removed towed and it started sinking and had to be loosened to sink.

    The S-41 was lost when it rammed it's sister Boot the S-47 while in the Kanal on 20th of November 1941 ( 52 22' N 02 53' O )
     
  12. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    My source for both episodes is S-Boote German E-Boats in action 1939-1945 from french editor Histoire & Collections (english edition), the 175 page book contains what looks like a nearly day by day recount of the german flotillas operations and lots of nice pics but the "selected bibliography" at the end does not include the 2nd flotilla war diary though German, English and French sources (plus the inevitable Bagnasco for Italy) are cited.
    It reports S-41 abandoned after the attempt to recover her after the collision with S-47 was twarted by MGB 63 and MGB 64 under Lt. commander Hitchens and that the British boarded the sinking wreck before it went to the bottom, this does not contraddict the 2nd flotilla diary as the Germans may well have been unaware the boarding of the abandoned wreck took place. The S-111 episode is more confusing, I would expect to find traces of the action by S-104, S-62 and S-29 in German records, the book reports 14 members of S-111 crew died in the initial firefight (when she was captured by the MGBs) including her commandeer Paul Popp and his second Wilhelm Jopping, you may be able to check the names with your book.
     
  13. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Understood, will look closer and commanders of the other Boots and palce here.

    the 2nd S-Flottille records-diary is A4 sized papers as well as the other "main" flottilles as well, 1, 3, 4th, 5, 8th etc. little know anything about the training units as their principle roles were in action with the soviets in the baltic in 1945.

    am also using Kuhn's book as well as the S-Boot bible by Gerhard Hümmelchen and the one and only and must have seekreig from wlb-stuttgart on the net.
    your French/English edtions on the Schenllbootes is a must have and I enjou looking at the photos and text.
     
  14. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

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    While the S-boat in the picture looks badly shot up, she certainly doesn't appear to be sinking or even taking water. She is being towed stern first and appears to be riding on her normal water-line with no list and no trim by either the bow or stern.

    The first thing that would be done with a captured enemy vessel would be to quickly plug the holes in the hull near the water-line (there appear to be at least half a dozen). With the vessel already under tow, I would question whether this boat was the same one that supposedly sank under tow.
     

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