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German submarine U-47 (1938)

U-47 returns to port after sinking HMS Royal Oak. The battleship Scharnhorst is in the background
October 1939. U-47 returns to port after sinking HMS Royal Oak. The battleship Scharnhorst can be seen in the background
Nazi Germany
Name: U-47
Ordered: 21 November 1936[1]
Builder: Germaniawerft, Kiel
Yard number: 582[1]
Laid down: 27 February 1937[1]
Launched: 29 October 1938[1]
Commissioned: 17 December 1938[1]
Fate: Disappeared, 7 March 1941, in the North Atlantic near the Rockall Bank and Trough.[2]
General characteristics
Class & type: Type VIIB U-boat[3]
  • 753 t (741 long tons) surfaced
  • 857 t (843 long tons) submerged
  • 66.50 m (218 ft 2 in) o/a
  • 48.80 m (160 ft 1 in) pressure hull
  • 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in) overall
  • 4.70 m (15 ft 5 in) pressure hull
Draught: 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)
  • 8,700 nmi (16,112 km; 10,012 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)surfaced
  • 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph)
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft). Calculated crush depth: 250–295 m (820–968 ft)1
Complement: 4 officers, 40–56 enlisted
Sensors and
processing systems:
Service record
Part of:
Identification codes: M 18 837[1]
Operations: 10 patrols[2]
  • 30 ships sunk for a total of 162,769 GRT
  • one warship sunk for a total of 29,150 tons
  • eight ships damaged for a total of 62,751 GRT[5]

The German submarine U-47 was a Type VIIB U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II.[2] She was laid down on 25 February 1937 at Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft in Kiel as yard number 582 and went into service on 17 December 1938 under the command of Günther Prien.

During U-47‍ '​s career, she sank a total of 31 enemy vessels and damaged eight more.[5] She is also noted for the sinking of the British battleship HMS Royal Oak on 14 October 1939. U-47 ranks as one of the most successful German U-boats of World War II.[6]


  • Design 1
  • Service history 2
    • First patrol 2.1
    • Second patrol and the sinking of HMS Royal Oak 2.2
    • Third patrol 2.3
    • Fourth patrol 2.4
    • Fifth patrol 2.5
    • Sixth patrol 2.6
    • Seventh patrol 2.7
    • Eighth patrol 2.8
    • Ninth patrol 2.9
    • Disappearance 2.10
    • Wolfpacks 2.11
  • Summary of raiding history 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • External links 7


German Type VIIB submarines were preceded by the shorter Type VIIA submarines. U-47 had a displacement of 753 tonnes (741 long tons) when at the surface and 857 tonnes (843 long tons) while submerged.[7] It had a total length of 66.50 m (218 ft 2 in), a pressure hull length of 48.80 m (160 ft 1 in), a beam of 6.20 m (20 ft 4 in), a height of 9.50 m (31 ft 2 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 460/8-276 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).[7]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph).[7] When submerged, it could operate for 90 nautical miles (170 km; 100 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, it could travel 8,700 nautical miles (16,100 km; 10,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-47 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 one 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun. It had a complement of between forty-four and sixty.[7]

Service history

U-47 carried out ten combat patrols and spent a total of 238 days at sea. She sank 30 enemy ships (totalling 164,953 tons) and damaged eight more.[5] Prior to her disappearance in March 1941, U-47 lost one crewman, Heinrich Mantyk, who fell overboard on 5 September 1940.[2]

First patrol

U-47 was assigned to the 7th U-boat Flotilla on 17 December 1938, (the day she was commissioned). She was an operational boat in the 7th Flotilla for her entire career.[2] U-47 was sent to sea in a pre-emptive move before war broke out in September 1939, this move would enable her to engage enemy vessels as soon as the war began. She left for her first war patrol on 19 August 1939 (two weeks before the commencement of hostilities), from the port of Kiel. During her first patrol, she circumnavigated the British Isles and entered the Bay of Biscay. It was here that U-47 sank her first three ships, SS Bosnia on 5 September, SS Rio Carlo on 6 September and SS Gartavon on 7 September 1939.[8]

Second patrol and the sinking of HMS Royal Oak

Infiltration of Scapa Flow by U-47

On 8 October 1939, U-47 began her second patrol. On 14 October 1939 (six days after leaving port), she succeeded in penetrating the Royal Navy's primary base at Scapa Flow.[9] Although most of the Home Fleet was not at the base at the time, U-47 managed to find a target, the battleship HMS Royal Oak.[10] Once she had spotted Royal Oak, she opened fire with her torpedoes. Her first two salvos did nothing more than sever an anchor chain. After reloading the bow tubes the last salvo of three torpedoes struck the British warship, causing severe flooding.[10] Taking on a list of 15 degrees, her open portholes were submerged, worsening the flooding and increasing the list to 45 degrees; Royal Oak sank within 15 minutes with the loss of over 800 men.[9] Following the attack, Prien received the nickname Der Stier von Scapa Flow ("The Bull of Scapa Flow"); the emblem of a snorting bull was then painted on the conning tower of U-47 and the image soon became the emblem of the entire 7th U-boat Flotilla.[9] Prien was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the first sailor of a U-boat and the second member of the Kriegsmarine to receive this decoration. The rest of the crew members were awarded the Iron Cross.[11] Two other U-47 crew members also earned the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross later on during World War II: the chief engineer (Leitender Ingenieur) Johann-Friedrich Wessels and 1st watch officer (I. Wachoffizier) Engelbert Endrass.

Many years later, in September 2002, one of the unexploded torpedoes that U-47 had fired during the attack on Royal Oak rose to the surface from its resting place on the bottom. The unexploded torpedo, minus its warhead, gradually drifted towards the shore, where it was spotted by a crewman aboard the Norwegian tanker Petrotrym. A Royal Navy tugboat intercepted the torpedo, and after identifying it as having belonged to U-47 63 years earlier, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) personnel discarded it a mile from shore.[12]

Third patrol

Kriegsmarine U-boat commander Günther Prien
Conning tower art of U-47. This image was later used as the emblem for the entire 7th U-boat Flotilla

Following a lavish celebration in Berlin for the sinking of HMS Royal Oak in which the crew members of U-47 were received by Adolf Hitler and decorated, the boat returned to sea on 16 November 1939.[11][13] Once the U-boat had left Kiel on 16 November, she headed out into the North Sea. After traveling around the British Isles into the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, U-47 sank a further three vessels, the Navasota on 5 December, the Norwegian steamer MV Britta on 6 December and the Tajandoen on 7 December.[13] Following the sinking of the Navasota, British destroyers briefly fired depth charges at the U-boat but she managed to safely evade the attack without any damage.[13]

Fourth patrol

U-47 left the port of Wilhelmshaven and began her fourth patrol on 11 March 1940. For 19 days, she roamed the North Sea in search of any Allied convoys. However, she only managed to torpedo the Danish steam merchantman Britta north of Scotland on 25 March. Following the sinking of the Britta, U-47 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 29 March.[14]

Fifth patrol

U-47's fifth patrol was her first one that resulted in no ships sunk. She left Wilhelmshaven on 3 April 1940, and headed once again out into the North Sea. While she did not sink any Allied vessels on her fifth patrol, around 19 April, she fired a torpedo aimed at the British battleship HMS Warspite but the torpedo missed its target or failed to detonate upon impact. Several nearby destroyers attempted to sink the U-boat using depth charges. U-47 managed to escape.[15]

Sixth patrol

U-47's sixth patrol was much more successful. Having left Kiel on 3 June 1940, she ventured out into the North Sea and operated off the southern coast of Ireland. Along with 6 other U-boats in Arandora StarSS  on 2 July. The German submarine returned to Kiel on 6 July after 34 days at sea and eight enemy vessels sunk.[16]

Seventh patrol

U-47‍ '​s seventh patrol consisted of her travelling north of the British Isles and into the North Atlantic, south of Iceland. During a period of 30 days, she sank a total of six enemy vessels and damaged another. U-47's first victory during her seventh patrol was the sinking of the Belgian passenger ship Ville de Mons on 2 September 1940. This was followed by the sinking of a British vessel, the Titan, on 4 September and the Gro, José de Larrinaga, and Neptunian on the 7th. On the 9th, U-47 sank the Greek merchant ship Possidon, and on 21 September she damaged the British merchant ship Elmbank. Following these victories, on the 25th, U-47 entered the French port of Lorient, which was now under German control following the decisive Battle of France.[17]

Eighth patrol

U-47‍ '​s eighth patrol began on 14 October 1940 when she left her home port of Lorient. While her eighth patrol lasted ten days, she sank four enemy vessels and damaged a further two in only two days. On 19 October, U-47 damaged the British vessel Shirak and sank the Uganda and the Wandby, both of which were British registered. The next day, the U-boat damaged the British vessel Athelmonarch and sank the La Estancia as well as the Whitford Point. She returned to port three days later on the 23rd.[18]

Ninth patrol

U-47 left her home port of Lorient on 3 November 1940 and moved out into the North Atlantic in search of Allied convoys. During her ninth patrol, she damaged three ships, the Gonçalo Velho, the Conch and the Dunsley and sank another, the Ville d´Arlon. U-47 returned to Lorient for the last time on 6 December.[19]


U-47 departed Lorient on her tenth and last patrol on 20 February 1941. She went missing on 7 March 1941 and was believed to have been sunk by the British destroyer HMS Wolverine west of Ireland, when the submarine was attacked by Wolverine and HMS Verity. The British ships took turns covering each other's ASDIC blind spots and dropping patterns of depth charges until U-47 rose almost to the surface before sinking and then exploding with an orange flash visible from the surface,[20] but it seems likely that the boat attacked there was U-A, part of the foreign U-Boat corps. To date, there is no official record of what happened to U-47 or her 45 crewmen, although a variety of possibilities exist, including mines, a mechanical failure, a victim of her own torpedoes, or possibly a later attack that did not confirm any claims by the corvette team of HMS Camellia and HMS Arbutus. U-47 had a crew of 47 officers and men during her last North Atlantic patrol in early 1941, all of whom were presumed to have died.[2][21][22]


U-47 took part in one wolfpack, namely.

  • Prien (12–17 June 1940)

Summary of raiding history

A model of U-47 viewed from the side
A view of U-47 from above

During her service in the Kriegsmarine, U-47 sank 30 commercial ships totalling 162,769 GRT and one warship of 29,150 tons; she also damaged eight commercial ships totalling 62,751 GRT and one warship of 10,035 tons.[5]

Date[5] Ship[5] Nationality[5] Tonnage[5] Fate and location[5]
5 September 1939 Bosnia[23]  United Kingdom 2,407 Sunk at
6 September 1939 Rio Claro  United Kingdom 4,086 Sunk at
7 September 1939 Gartavon  United Kingdom 1,777 Sunk at
14 October 1939 HMS Royal Oak  Royal Navy 29,150 Sunk at
5 December 1939 Novasota  United Kingdom 8,795 Sunk at
6 December 1939 Britta  Norway 6,214 Sunk at
7 December 1939 Tajandoen  Netherlands 8,159 Sunk at
25 March 1940 Britta  Denmark 1,146 Sunk at
14 June 1940 Balmoralwood  United Kingdom 5,834 Sunk at
21 June 1940 San Fernando  United Kingdom 13,056 Sunk at
24 June 1940 Cathrine  Panama 1,885 Sunk at
27 June 1940 Lenda  Norway 4,005 Sunk at
27 June 1940 Leticia  Netherlands 2,580 Sunk at
29 June 1940 Empire Toucan  United Kingdom 4,421 Sunk at
30 June 1940 Georgios Kyriakides  Greece 4,201 Sunk at
2 July 1940 Arandora Star  United Kingdom 15,501 Sunk at
2 September 1940 Ville de Mons  Belgium 7,463 Sunk at
4 September 1940 Titan  United Kingdom 9,035 Sunk at
7 September 1940 Neptunian  United Kingdom 5,155 Sunk at
7 September 1940 José de Larrinaga  United Kingdom 5,303 Sunk at
7 September 1940 Gro  Norway 4,211 Sunk at
9 September 1940 Possidon  Greece 3,840 Sunk at
21 September 1940 Elmbank  United Kingdom 5,156 Damaged at
19 October 1940 Uganda  United Kingdom 4,966 Sunk at
19 October 1940 Shirak  Belgium 6,023 Damaged at
19 October 1940 Wandby  United Kingdom 4,947 Sunk at
20 October 1940 La Estancia  United Kingdom 5,185 Sunk at
20 October 1940 Whitford Point  United Kingdom 5,026 Sunk at
20 October 1940 Athelmonarch  United Kingdom 8,995 Damaged at
8 November 1940 Gonçalo Velho  Portugal 8,995 Damaged at
2 December 1940 Ville d'Arlon  Belgium 7,555 Sunk at
2 December 1940 Conch  United Kingdom 8,376 Damaged at
2 December 1940 Dunsley  United Kingdom 8,376 Damaged at
26 February 1941 Kasongo  Belgium 5,254 Sunk at
26 February 1941 Diala  United Kingdom 8,106 Damaged at
26 February 1941 Rydboholm  Sweden 3,197 Sunk at
26 February 1941 Borgland  Norway 3,636 Sunk at
28 February 1941 Holmlea  United Kingdom 4,233 Sunk at
7 March 1941 Terje Viken  United Kingdom 20,638 Damaged at

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "U-47 Type VIIB". Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIB boat U-47". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Gröner, p. 71, 74.
  4. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "War Patrols by U-47". U-boat Patrols - Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-47". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Most Successful U-boats". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d Gröner 1985, pp. 71, 74.
  8. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (First patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Bull of Scapa Flow". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "The Attack". Scapa Flow. Retrieved 22 March 2010. 
  11. ^ a b "The Aftermath". Scapa Flow. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  12. ^ "Prien's Ghost?". Scapa Flow. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Third patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  14. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Fourth patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  15. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Fifth patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  16. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Sixth patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  17. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Seventh patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 28 March 2010. 
  18. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Eighth patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  19. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Ninth patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  20. ^ Standard of Power, Dan van der Vat, 2000: Hutchinson ISBN 0-09-180121-4, p212
  21. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Tenth patrol)". U-boat patrols - Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  22. ^ Kemp 1999, p. 68.
  23. ^ "SS Bosnia (+1939)". The Wreck Site. Retrieved 20 March 2010. 


  • 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:  
  • Kemp, Paul (1999). U-Boats Destroyed - German Submarine Losses in the World Wars. London: Arms & Armour.  

External links

  • Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type VIIB boat U-47". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  • Hofmann, Markus. "U 47". Deutsche U-Boote 1935-1945 - (in German). Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  • "The Bull of Scapa Flow" Detailed article on the Scapa Flow mission. Includes photos, video, maps, quotes, sources

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