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German submarine U-331

Nazi Germany
Name: U-331
Ordered: 23 September 1939
Builder: Nordseewerke, Emden
Yard number: 203
Laid down: 26 January 1940
Launched: 20 December 1940
Commissioned: 31 March 1941
Fate: Sunk, 17 November 1942
General characteristics
Class & type: Type VIIC submarine
  • 769 tonnes (757 long tons) surfaced
  • 871 t (857 long tons) submerged
  • 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in) o/a
  • 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draft: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)
Installed power:
  • 2,800–3,200 PS (2,100–2,400 kW; 2,800–3,200 bhp) (diesels)
  • 750 PS (550 kW; 740 shp) (electric)
  • 17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph) surfaced
  • 7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph) submerged
  • 8,500 nmi (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth:
  • 230 m (750 ft)
  • Crush depth: 250–295 m (820–968 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 40–56 enlisted
Service record[1][2]
Part of:
  • 1st patrol: 2 July – 19 August 1941
  • 2nd patrol: 24 September – 11 October 1941
  • 3rd patrol: 12 November – 3 December 1941
  • 4th patrol: 14 January – 28 February 1942
  • 5th patrol: 4–19 April 1942
  • 6th patrol: 9–21 May 1942
  • 7th patrol: 25 May – 15 June 1942
  • 8th patrol: 5–10 August 1942
  • 9th patrol: 12 August – 19 September 1942
  • 10th patrol: 7–17 November 1942
  • 1 auxiliary warship sunk (9,135 GRT)
  • 1 warship sunk (31,100 GRT)
  • 1 warship damaged (372 tons)

German submarine U-331 was a Type VIIC U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II.

The submarine was laid down on 26 January 1940 at the Nordseewerke yard at Emden, launched on 20 December 1940, and commissioned on 31 March 1941 under the command of Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen. She would ultimately be tracked by the RAF and crippled before being destroyed by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm in late 1942 with the loss of most of her crew.


  • Design 1
  • Service history 2
    • 1st patrol 2.1
    • 2nd patrol 2.2
    • 3rd patrol 2.3
    • 4th and 5th patrol 2.4
    • 6th to 9th patrol 2.5
    • 10th patrol 2.6
      • Sinking 2.6.1
    • Wolfpacks 2.7
  • Summary of raiding history 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7


German Type VIIC submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIB submarines. U-331 had a displacement of 769 tonnes (757 long tons) when at the surface and 871 tonnes (857 long tons) while submerged.[3] It had a total length of 67.10 m (220 ft 2 in), a pressure hull length of 50.50 m (165 ft 8 in), a beam of 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in). The submarine was powered by two Germaniawerft F46 four-stroke, six-cylinder supercharged diesel engines producing a total of 2,800 to 3,200 metric horsepower (2,060 to 2,350 kW; 2,760 to 3,160 shp) for use while surfaced, two AEG GU 460/8–27 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 750 shaft horsepower (760 PS; 560 kW) for use while submerged. It had two shafts and two 1.23 m (4 ft) propellers. It was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).[3]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph).[3] When submerged, it could operate for 80 nautical miles (150 km; 92 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, it could travel 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-331 was fitted with five 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at its bow and one at its stern), fourteen torpedoes, one 8.8 cm (3.46 in) SK C/35 naval gun, 220 rounds, and an anti-aircraft gun. It had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.[3]

Service history

1st patrol

U-331‍ '​s first patrol took her from Kiel in Germany on 2 July 1941, out into the mid-Atlantic, before arriving at Lorient in France on 19 August.[4]

2nd patrol

She sailed from Lorient on 24 September and headed into the Mediterranean Sea. There on 10 October she engaged three British tank landing craft off Sidi Barrani, Egypt. After missing with a torpedo, she engaged with her deck gun, slightly damaging HMS TLC-18 (A 18), before breaking off the attack after being hit by 40 mm shells, which wounded two men (one fatally) and damaged the conning tower. She arrived at Salamis, Greece, the next day, 11 October.[5]

3rd patrol

HMS Barham‍ '​s main magazines explode, 25 November 1941

Sailing from Salamis on 12 November 1941, U-331 returned to the Egyptian coast. On 17 November she landed seven men of the Lehrregiment Brandenburg[6] east of Ras Gibeisa, on a mission to blow up a railway line near the coast, which failed.[7] On 25 November 1941, north of Sidi Barrani, U-331 fired three torpedoes into the British Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Barham. As the ship rolled over, her magazines exploded and she quickly sank[8] with the loss of 861 men, while 395 were rescued.[9] U-331 returned to Salamis on 3 December, where her commander, Freiherr Hans-Diedrich von Tiesenhausen, was subsequently promoted to Kapitänleutnant and awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.[10]

4th and 5th patrol

U-331 left Salamis on 14 January 1942 for another patrol off the Egyptian coast, this time with no success, she then sailed for La Spezia, Italy, arriving on 28 February.[11]

Her next patrol was the reverse of the previous one, she left La Spezia on 4 April, patrolled the enemy coast, then returned to Salamis on 19 April.[12]

6th to 9th patrol

Her next four patrols were similarly uneventful, operating from Messina, Sicily, and then La Spezia again, from May to September 1942, patrolling the North African coast without success.

10th patrol

U-331 departed La Spezia on her final voyage on 7 November 1942 to attack the massed ships of "Operation Torch".[13] Two days later, on 9 November, U-331 sighted the American 8,600 ton troopship USS Leedstown (AP-73) off Algiers. The Leedstown had landed troops on the night of 7/8 November, and the next day had been hit by an aerial torpedo from a Ju 88 torpedo bomber of III./KG 26 destroying her steering gear and flooding the after section. U-331 fired a spread of four torpedoes at the ship hitting her with two. Leedstown settled by the bow with a heavy starboard list, and was abandoned, finally sinking two hours later.[14]

On 13 November U-331 was attacked by an escort ship and was slightly damaged when she dived too deep and hit the sea bed.[13]


U-331 was sunk on 17 November, north of Algiers in position .[1] She had been badly damaged after being attacked by a Lockheed Hudson bomber of No. 500 Squadron RAF, with the forward hatch jammed open, preventing the submarine from diving, and she signalled surrender to the Hudson.[15] The destroyer HMS Wilton was ordered to seize the submarine, but an airstrike by three Fairey Albacore torpedo-bombers from 820 Naval Air Squadron escorted by two Grumman Martlet fighters of 893 Naval Air Squadron was launched from the British aircraft carrier HMS Formidable against the damaged submarine.[15] Unaware of any surrender signals, the Martlets strafed U-331 which was then sunk by a torpedo dropped from one of the Albacores.[16] Of her crew 32 were killed and 17 survived, including her commander.[17]


U-331 took part in one wolfpack, namely.

  • Goeben (24–30 September 1941)

Summary of raiding history

Date Name Nationality Tonnage
10 October 1941 HMS TLC-18  Royal Navy 372 Damaged
25 November 1941 HMS Barham  Royal Navy 31,100 Sunk
9 November 1942 USS Leedstown  United States Navy 9,135 Sunk

See also


  1. ^ a b Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIC boat U-331". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  2. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "War Patrols by German U-boat U-331". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  3. ^ a b c d Gröner 1985, pp. 72-74.
  4. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol of U-boat U-331 from 2 Jul 1941 to 19 Aug 1941". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  5. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol of U-boat U-331 from 24 Sep 1941 to 11 Oct 1941". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  6. ^ "U-331"Report on the interrogation of survivors from . Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  7. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol of U-boat U-331 from 12 Nov 1941 to 3 Dec 1941". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  8. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "HMS Barham (04) (Battleship)". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  9. ^ Jason Stevenson. "The Barham Conspiracy". Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  10. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Kapitänleutnant Freiherr Hans-Diedrich von Tiesenhausen". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  11. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol of U-boat U-331 from 14 Jan 1942 to 28 Feb 1942". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  12. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol of U-boat U-331 from 4 Apr 1942 to 19 Apr 1942". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  13. ^ a b Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol of U-boat U-331 from 7 Nov1942 to 17 Nov 1942". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  14. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "USS Leedstown (AP 73) (Troop transport)". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  15. ^ a b Hodgson 1994, p. 12.
  16. ^ Hodgson 1994, pp. 13–14.
  17. ^ Hodgson 1994, p. 13.


  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German) IV (Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler).  
  • Gröner, Erich (1985). U-Boote, Hilfskreuzer, Minenschiffe, Netzleger, Sperrbrecher. Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815–1945 (in German) III (Koblenz:  
  • Hodgson, Bill. "The Sinking of U-331". Aeroplane Monthly, March 1994, Vol 22 No 3. pp. 11–14.

External links

  • Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIC boat U-331". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  • Helgason, Guðmundur. (photo gallery)"Barham" - The Sinking of HMS . German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  • Hofmann, Markus. "U 331". Deutsche U-Boote 1935-1945 - (in German). Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  • "U-331"Report on the interrogation of survivors from . Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
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