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The Seehund

Introduction

The Seehund was used by the Kriegsmarine or German Navy during the closing stages of World War II and are generally considered the most successful German midget submarines.  The first contract for the Seehund submarines was placed on 30th July 1944. Whilst initially the plan was to produce 1,000 boats this was reduced to just 285 due to problems such as conflicts in priority, shortage of raw material, labour and transport.

Technical

The Seehund had several precursors but when finalised became the Type XXVIIB5 or Type 127, better known as the Seehund (German: Seal). This version still had twin side mounted G7e torpedoes but boasted several further modifications. The Seehund now had a small raised platform amidships that held an air intake mast, compass, periscope and a clear dome which could be taken to depths of 45 meters (148 feet). The periscope allowed the crew to see dangers not just on the surface but also in the sky. This would be used, amongst other things, prior to surfacing to ensure no hostile aircraft were in the area.

Key features of the Seehund Midget Submarine

Displacement

17 tons when submerged

Length

12 metres (39 feet)

Beam

1.5 metres (5 feet)

Propulsion

1x 60 horse power Bussing diesel motor
1 x 25 horse power AEG electric motor.

Speed

- 7 knots (8.1 miles per hour) when on the surface
- 3 knots (3.5 miles per hour) when submerged.

Range

- 500 km (270 nautical miles) at 7 knots (8.1 miles per hour) when on the surface
- 117 km (63 nautical miles) at 4 knots (4.6 miles per hour) when submerged.

Compliment

2

Armament

 2 x G7e torpedoes


Line drawing1

 

Operational Service

When submerged the small size and electric propulsion of the Seehund made it very difficult to detect with either ASDIC (an early form of SONAR) or hydrophones (underwater microphones). If these small submarines had been deployed earlier in the war their effect could have been most significant, however their late arrival meant they had limited impact. However, their effect certainly rattled staff of the Royal Navy. Admiral Sir Charles Little, was quoted as saying "Fortunately for us these damn things arrived too late in the war to do any damage".

Most Seehund’s were operated along the German coast and around the English Channel. During their short operational service between January and April 1945 they were deployed on 142 sorties.  Their small size and limited displacement meant that they could attack, when on the surface, in wind conditions up to force 4 but when submerged had to be almost stationary before making their attack. However, one further advantage of their size was that they were, allegedly, relatively immune to the more severe effects of depth charging. Their small profile meant that they were tossed about rather than shattered by the explosive bursts.

 Records show that during these 142 sorties they sunk only 9 ships accounting for a loss of 18,451 tons and damaged a further 3 ships adding a further 18,354 tons. It was during this period that U-5377 was depth charged by HMS Torrington (see Demise of U-5377).

A final 2 missions were run on the 28th April and 2nd May 1945, these were to resupply the trapped German base at Dunkirk with rations. For these duties the conventional G7e torpedoes were replaced with containers colourfully known as ‘butter torpedoes’. On the return trip these were refilled with letters from the Dunkirk garrison.

Where Can You See a Seehund?

After the War several Seehund’s were obtained by the Allies and some found their way into museums around the world including Germany, France and the USA. Amongst other places you can see them in the following locations:-

Germany

The Maritime Museum at Bremerhaven Germany

France

Le Basa Sous-marine de Loirent, Lorient, France

Naval Museum , Brest, France

USA

US Naval Shipbuilding Museum Quincy MA USA

Washington Navy Yard, Washington, USA

UK

Whilst to our knowledge there are no examples of Seehund’s in any UK museum there are examples of the Seehund’s predecessor, the Biber, at the Imperial War Museum and at the Submarine Museum Gosport. Furthermore, there are examples of the British X-Craft at the Submarine Museum Gosport and Chatham Dockyard.

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