Nothing! Twenty four hours of absolute diddly squat! Not even a seagull to break the monotony — we’re too far from shore! This time command really screwed the pooch in sending us all the way out here. There is nothing useful floating out here at all.
After the jump, a twist ending
We receive an unexpected reprieve with regard to our fuel supply; our base is changed to Lorient, which is a mere 1000k north, instead of that 1000 + another 2 to get around France. We’re still down to our reserve so I won’t be charging here and there anytime soon, but this certainly means we can at least use our normal running speed and maybe range a little bit out on the way home. Handy, since we have some torpedoes left over…
I whip out the shipping lanes chart again to see if any potential hotspots are within range. There are two; one coming out of the English Channel and one further up north where several routes from Liverpool, Blackpool and Bristol intersect. The northern one is certainly richer, but out of respect for our dwindling fuel I go with the nearest one.
Have I mentioned the power of naptime? 1000 kilometers pass by in a blink of an eye, and I’m approaching my chosen spot. I expect to spend some time here just camping out, mostly underwater to get best soundings and only occasionally popping out to refresh air supply. I send a torpedo towards an ASW trawler mostly to see if I can, but those guys are sharp and hear something pretty darn quick. They change course and dodge it, and turn to chase, and I quietly turn away and resolve to leave them alone from now on.
I take the ASW sighting to be good news however and remain in the area. My efforts are rewarded very soon indeed. A single unescorted merchant, perhaps emboldened by that previous ASW trawler’s sweep scaring me away. I don’t scare that easily though, and soon we have a perfect targeting solution. If this was earlier in the war I’d surface and blow them away with my deck gun but as the war goes on some merchant ships arm themselves, and I can clearly make out some sort of turret in the back of this one. Even if I’m not fully up to date with their current armaments, this is a big ship and as such they’re more likely to be carrying some serious weaponry. That deck gun will have to wait for another chance.
The approach is utterly textbook since it’s just us two out here except for me misjudging their course entirely. I hightail it at flank speed (submerged of course) to get into a better position and fire two on a small spread.
In the absence of escorts the wait is even more of a formality, and I’m rewarded with a double hit, roughly in the middle and towards the back of the merchant. Just look at that perfect 90-degree torpedo approach. This is the largest boat I’ve tangled with so far and it’s no surprise that the two hits merely slow it down to half its former speed. I tail it for a while hoping for more bounty — still three torpedoes left! — but it continues gamely on at half speed and no other signs of trouble like a fire or secondary explosions. In fact, the torpedo hits are amazingly clean, look.
Just plumes, no smoke or fire. Well, only one thing to do — finish it off with another one. I spin about — the 1 minute turnover is much faster than the 10 minute reload — and fire the aft fish towards the ship’s aft. This one has got to do it, and it does.
With two torpedoes remaining it’s a coin toss whether to stick around or not, but the fact we’re on reserve fuel tips the balance towards heading home. It’s still several hundred kilometers to Lorient and we might need the speed — all leeway for maneuvers in case of another interception is gone. As the merchant goes to the bottom of the ocean I surface, stretch my arms in the bright, bright day (again!) and set course for the twisty harbor of Lorient. Mission accomplished.
In case anyone’s interested, the final tally is 10,668 tons sunk over the first 3 weeks of September 1940. I haven’t counted my duds or misses, but considering a torpedo weighs 1,500kg, even 24 of them traded for that cargo loss are more than a square deal. For my efforts I have been awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, the 2nd highest possible award for service, and the boat has received a promotion and a qualification to hand out. I promote one of the seamen who’s been with me the longest (14 patrols now!), and send one of my Warrant Officers to Gunnery school; even if only get to use our deck gun once, it might as well be with an expert gunner.
Click here for the previous Silent Hunter III entry.
Marcin Manek has been playing games since Pong and BASIC programs from the back of magazines on the ZX Spectrum. He now codes, reads, plays games and explores Oregon with his wife and 1 year old.