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Early WW-2 KIA U-Boat Wehrpass

Article about: Having a soft spot for early WW-2 killed in action Wehrpasse & Soldbucher I couldn't resist this recently acquired Kriegsmarine Wehrpass for a submariner who joined the KM prior to WW-2

  1. #1

    Default Early WW-2 KIA U-Boat Wehrpass

    Having a soft spot for early WW-2 killed in action Wehrpasse & Soldbucher I couldn't resist this recently acquired Kriegsmarine Wehrpass for a submariner who joined the KM prior to WW-2 and went missing in mid-1940 in circumstances that remain unclear to this day.
    Heinrich-Wilhelm Spahn registered for military service in July 1936 and volunteered to join the Kriegsmarine a year later, aged 20. Despite volunteering he still had to wait a year before actually being called-up but in July 1938 he joined 10 Schiffstammabteilung at Bremerhaven to begin his basic naval training before progressing to various other training units including the Unterseebootschule, which was under the command of Kapitän zur See Werner Scheer.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Early WW-2 KIA U-Boat Wehrpass

    Completing his training and promoted from Matrosen to Funkgefreiter (Radio Opeartor) he was assigned to the 4 Minensuchflotille just days after the Second World War had broken out which would of been involved in escort and minesweeping duties in the North Sea.
    Upon completion of his time with 4 MS-Flotille he was reassigned to the U-Bootwaffe in January-February 1940 and posted to the 2 U-Flotille based at the time at Wilhelmshaven. Within this flotilla was Spahn's U-Boat, the U-122 which was a large Type IXB designed to be a long range ocean going counterpart to the more famous medium range Type VII. U-122 was commissioned into service in March 1940 so was a relatively new boat and was under the command of Korvettenkapitän Hans-Günther Looff.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Early WW-2 KIA U-Boat Wehrpass

    For U-122's first operational cruise, she departed Kiel on 16th May 1940 and transitted to Trondheim in Norway to transport various items, including an 88mm Flak gun, some ammunition, aircraft fuel and motor oil. Arriving at her destination on 19th May, she returned to Germany on 24th May although not without incident as on the 23rd May she encountered an enemy submarine but for whatever reason neither boat attacked the other. Arriving at Wilhelmshaven on the 24th May, U-122 then made the short transit to Kiel through the canal arriving on the 25th.
    U-122's next, and final, patrol wasn't long in coming and on 13th June 1940 she sailed once again from Kiel and made her way into the North Sea and around the top of the UK.
    On the 20th June, to the west of Scotland U-122 sunk her one and only target, the Empire Conveyor, a 5,900 ton merchant ship carrying nearly 8,000 tons of wheat to Manchester from Montreal. Although originally built in Britain in 1917, the ship had spent many years sailing under other flags, mainly those of France, Greece and, ironically, Germany. It was while she was in German service as the 'Gloria' that she was captured on 21st October 1939 by HMS Sheffield and eventually renamed and re-entered service with the British Merchant Navy as 'Empire Conveyor'.
    Her sinking saw the death of 3 sailors from her ships company of 41.
    The image shows her under her original 'as built' name of Farnworth.

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    The attack was actually witnessed by another U-Boat, U-61, who saw the unescorted and zig-zagging Empire Conveyor hit on the port side by a torpedo. Although U-122 never reported her success she was the only other U-Boat in that area and so is credited with the sinking. Although the radio operator on the ship couldn't send out a Mayday due to damage, she was spotted by a flying boat and as well as sending out a call to alert the Admiralty the aircraft dropped a pattern of bombs to keep the U-Boat at a distance. A small group of 3 ships, a tug and two destroyers were despatched to her aid but she sunk before they could arrive and the survivors spent 6 hours in the water before being picked up by one of the destroyers, HMS Campbell. One of the ships company killed was the Master, Finlay Black MacIntyre, when one of the lifeboats was swamped during launch.
    Last edited by hucks216; 05-06-2012 at 12:32 PM.

  5. #4

    Default Re: Early WW-2 KIA U-Boat Wehrpass

    However, despite this success for the crew of U-122 her time was now running out. It is hard to pin down an exact date for her loss as the exact causes for her disappearance are open to debate. The generally accepted date for her loss is 22nd June 1940, just 2 days after her sinking of the Empire Conveyor.
    There are generally 2 possibilities for her loss, neither of which can be proven but are a possibility of causing U-122's loss with all hands. On 22nd June the British tanker 'San Filipe' reported an underwater collision, 77 miles to the south of the irish Republic while the Flower class corvette HMS Arabis conducted a depth charge attack on an unknown U-Boat a day later in the South West Approaches, and 85 miles south of the reported collision.
    The entry in Spahn's Wehrpass lists the date of his death as 5th August 1940 and this has been backdated to 1st July 1940. It is this latter date that has been entered in the Volksbund.

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    Last edited by hucks216; 05-06-2012 at 03:12 PM.

  6. #5
    ?

    Default Re: Early WW-2 KIA U-Boat Wehrpass

    Very tasty Wehrpass and a nice bit of research !

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