Monday, 22 July, 2024
14September 1939

First U-boat sunk following cat-and-mouse battle with three warships

The British Royal Navy today sunk a German submarine, U-39. This is the first German u-boat to have been destroyed by the Allies since the start of the war.

U-39, under the command of Gerhard Glattes, had launched last month on its first war patrol, along with four other u-boats. After circumnavigating the British Isles, the crew narrowly avoided destruction on 10 September after being depth-charged by an unknown allied warship.

Today U-39 located HMS Ark Royal. Whilst undetected, U-39 fired two torpedoes. Lookouts aboard the British aircraft carrier spotted the torpedoes in the water, and the vessel turned towards the rapidly approaching missiles. The move by the British warship, along with a defect in the torpedoes causing them to detonate early, meant the torpedoes missed and exploded harmlessly away from their target.

Three destroyers which had been escorting the Ark Royal, HMS Faulknor, HMS Firedrake, and HMS Foxhound, quickly detected U-39. All three warships moved in and depth-charged the area, fatally damaging the submarine. A depth charge from HMS Firedrake’s caused U-39 to surface, and the German crew quickly abandoned their damaged submarine. HMS Foxhound, which was the closest to the u-boat, picked up 25 crew members while HMS Faulknor rescued 11 and HMS Firedrake saved the remaining eight. All crew are now prisoners of war (POWs).

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