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Should Langsdorf be returned home???

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  • ~Alan~
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Mar 2010
    • 5018

    I was just checking to see that I wasn't making a duplicate thread, and came upon the above story.

    I was at Duxford on Tuesday for the BoB Flypast arrivals, and had lots of time to kill when I came upon this exhibit which
    I hadn't noticed before. It ties in well with this particular thread.

    Engine Failure:.... A condition which occurs when all fuel tanks mysteriously become filled with air.


    • Jinan
      Rank 5 Registered User
      • May 2013
      • 550

      Originally posted by ~Alan~ View Post
      I was just checking to see that I wasn't making a duplicate thread, and came upon the above story.

      I was at Duxford on Tuesday for the BoB Flypast arrivals, and had lots of time to kill when I came upon this exhibit which
      I hadn't noticed before. It ties in well with this particular thread.

      The date is interesting: 29 december 1944

      Those were 6.5 ton one-man vessels which could carry two underslung torpedoes of which 324 were built by Flenderwerke in Lbeck in 1944. They had the range of 130 miles at 6 knots surfaced and 8.6 miles at 5 knots submerged. This boat had the diving depth of 65 feet but could not launch torpedoes submerged due to depth-keeping problems.

      The Biber (beaver) was a one-man submarine developed from the capture of Welman W46 captured at Bergen, Norway on 22 November, 1943. Developed by Korvettenkapit�n Hans Bartels. He began negotiations with Flenderwerke of Lubeck for the construction of the craft. The first prototype known as either the Bunte-Boot (after Director Bunte of Flenderwerke) or Adam was completed on 15 March 1944. Much of the testing was done by Bartels on the River Trave and on 29 March 1944 the craft were accepted for service.

      24 production models were ordered as a first batch out of an eventual run of 324. Deliveries throughout 1944 comprised three units in May, six in June, nineteen in July, 50 (fifty) in August, 117 (one hundred and seventeen ) in September, 73 (seventy three) in October and 56 (fifty six) in November. Some components destroyed by air raids on Kiel but on the whole Allied bombing failed to disrupt production.

      K-Flotille 261 consisting of 20 Biber one-man submarines, commanded by Korvettenkapit�n Hans Bartels arrived eventually at Fecamp (Belgium) 28 August 1944.

      29/30: August 18 Biber sailed, all eighteen returned safely. Claims of a landing ship and a Liberty ship sunk were not substantiated by Allied records and no official reference of the attack.

      August 31: K-Flotille 261 forced to abandon Fecamp. Most of the Biber were destroyed and abandoned and those which were taken away were subsequently destroyed in a night action with an Allied armoured column. This marked the end of K-Verband operations in Normandy.

      An advanced base was prepared at Poortershavn and Hellevoetsluis [Netherlands] at the head of the Waal/Maas estuary. The main base being Rotterdam. 30 Biber and 30 Molch were sent here. A further 60 Molch and 30 Biber were sent to Assens from Heligoland and Groningen respectively. 60 more Biber would arrive in the area in January 1945.

      22/23 December 1944 - 18 Biber sailed from Poortershavn and Hellevoetsluis. This operation ended in failure. British MTBs surprised the Biber whilst still being towed and instantly sank four. One was mined and one returned damaged. The remaining 12 disappeared. One success - Alan a Dale 4,700 ton - sunk.

      23/24 December 1944 - 11 Biber sailed - none returned.

      24/25 December 1944 - 3 Biber sailed - none returned.

      By the end of 1944 - 31 (thirty-one) Biber lost in return for one merchant ship sunk. Only 8 (eight) of the Biber lost were claimed by the Allies.

      27 December 1944: - 14 Biber preparing to sail. Two torpedoes accidentally fired into the lock, 11 (eleven) Biber destroyed. Remaining 3 (three) sailed - none returned but Biber 90 found drifting off the North Foreland on 29 December by HMS Ready with the operator dead at the controls. It was attempted to tow this Biber to Dover but due to deteriorating weather the Biber sank . On its recovery 10 (ten) days later a post mortem on the operator established that he had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

      At the end of 1944 only 20 (twenty) Biber remained at Rotterdam

      On the 27th the accidental release of a torpedo in the Voorneschen resulted in the sinking of 11 Bibers (although they were later recovered).[10] The 3 undamaged bibers later sailed again; none returned.
      Surviving examples
      Biber No.90
      This craft is displayed at the Imperial War Museum, London. It was one of three Bibers launched from the canal at Hellevoetsluis in late December 1944.[10] It was found sinking 49 miles (79 km) NE of Dover on 29 December 1944, its crewman had failed to properly close the engine exhaust system and died from resultant carbon monoxide poisoning. The minesweeper HMS Ready took it in tow and, even when it sank close to Dover harbour entrance, the Royal Navy still raised it and subjected it to extensive trials. One oddity discovered during the initial search of the boat was:

      a bottle hidden under the seat and inside was a document in English, which, romantic as it read, appeared to have some bearing upon the capture of the submarine, and possibly the explanation of why the pilot met his end.
      That is all that the report says about that finding, any further details appear to have been lost.The pilot of the Biber was later identified as Joachim Langsdorff, who was the son of Captain Hans Langsdorf of the Admiral Graf Spee.
      So, CoD was carbon monoxide poisening, caused by improperly closed engine exhaust system. If the message in the bottle had some bearing upon the capture of the submarine, and possibly the explanation of why the pilot met his
      end, then - given the impossibility of the crewman to know where he would end up if dead and drifting - it may be that it is some sort of suicide note or at least a 'farewell note' from a sailor that realizes he is very likely about to die in action. I could understand him feeling he had to compensate for the actions of his father, or also just the opposite. I.e. being forced to serve in 'kleinkampfverbnde' as punishment or seeking to serve there because of the risks.

      Area map (North Foreland is of the coast near Ramsgate)
      Click image for larger version

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      The story of the development of the Biber, and, in particular, the capture of the Biber 90 can be read in more detail in the IWM Review No 4 (1989)
      For sale:

      This is in German about 'kleinkampfverbnde' but with google translate give a reasobaly readable result. It explains for example : " The first 40 pilots of the future flotilla consisted of members of the army and the Waffen-SS. Because of their lack of experience in the fields of nautical science, the navigation and the torpedo shooting these subjects had to be trained intensively."

      It was tough duty: on board human needs such as urination and defecation were difficult. Many pilots also suffered from severe flatulence, which they sought to meet with a strict "no flatulent" diet before and during use. While driving their midget subs, their secretions collected in vessels and containers which were then emptied on occasion in the course of surface running. Often this was not possible, and in particular the crews of the Seals were exposed to a mixture of seawater, diesel distillate, spilled oil, feces, urine and vomit. To some extent it prevailed so extreme hygienic conditions that crew members seriously ill. To prevent this, went through the budding lone a hard training, in which they should increase their mental and physical fitness. Training routine consisted of a morning 10,000 Metres run, followed by combat exercises or night marches over 30 km. Preparations also included in the K-seat exercises means that could take 20 hours.

      K-pilots, colloquially referred to as captains, suffered serious psychological problems such as claustrophobia and panic attacks and anxiety disorders. The physical problems of pilots was met with the "D-IX" tablet of which a drugmix of oxycodone (brand name Eukodal, an analgesic opioid) cocaine and methamphetamine (trade name Pervitin was). Extensive experiments with this preparation showed that the pilot in a two to three days lasting euphoria fell and then in total exhaustion
      Later seal -Besatzungen whose missions could take several days later were also given pure pervitin or the identical isophane which after days of oral hallucinations could cause. The use of pervitin was first investigated in September 1938 by the Navy on 90 subjects in the Military Medical Academy in Berlin. In 1944, these experiments were extended on athletes as well as inmates of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Result of these experiments was that the doctors of pervitin dissuaded because it could cause a failure of the central nervous system after the full effectiveness. They suggested, therefore, that the pilots instead mainly Kola chocolate (Scho-Ka-Kola addition) and should take Pervitin to only in small doses. The Chocolate consisted of 52.5% cocoa and 0.2% caffeine.

      Compared to the failures of other service branches throughout the war considered, the loss of K-associations are considered to be exceptionally high. Averaging 42% for all types minisubs januari-may 1945, with peaks to 69% for the Biber and Molch. In an interrogation after the war, he [Donitz] said that the K-associations have been considered from the outset as "consumption". They were cheap to produce and replace quickly.
      Last edited by Jinan; 29th September 2015, 08:58.
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