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SM U-52

   SM U-52 was a Type U 51 built at Shipyard Germaniawerft, Kiel (Werk 234) Ordered 23 Aug 1914, Laid down 13 Mar 1915, Launched 8 Dec 1915 and Commissioned 16 Mar 1916.

Her commanders were:
8 May 1916 - 18 Sep 1917 Hans Walther.
19 Sep 1917 - 29 Oct 1917 Oblt. Johannes Spieß.
17 Nov 1917 - 28 Feb 1918 Siegfried Claaßen.
1 Mar 1918 - 5 May 1918 Waldemar Haumann.
6 May 1918 - 11 Nov 1918 Franz Krapohl.

She had a career of 4 patrols, sailing with I Flotilla until 25th of May 1916, 25 May 1916 to 24 Dec 1916 with II Flotilla, 24 Dec 1916 to 27 Apr 1917 with Pola Flotilla and 27 Apr 1917 to 11 Nov 1918 with II Flotilla.

Successes totalled 30 ships sunk with a total of 70,856 tons:

  • 11 Jul 1916 Onward 266 br
  • 19 Aug 1916 HMS Nottingham 5,400 br
  • 26 Sep 1916 Conqueror Ii 526 br
  • 26 Sep 1916 Sarah Alice 299 br
  • 26 Sep 1916 St. Gothard 2,788 br
  • 25 Nov 1916 Egyptiana (damaged) 3,818 br
  • 25 Nov 1916 Suffren 12,750 fr
  • 10 Dec 1916 Emma Laurans 2,153 fr
  • 30 Mar 1917 Michelina Catalano 78 it
  • 4 Apr 1917 Missourian 7,924 am
  • 4 Apr 1917 Ravenna 4,101 it
  • 5 Apr 1917 Angel Marina 257 it
  • 7 Apr 1917 Seward 2,471 am
  • 8 Apr 1917 Alba 1,639 it
  • 9 Apr 1917 Esterel 2,574 fr
  • 11 Apr 1917 Ansgar 301 da
  • 12 Apr 1917 Glencliffe 3,673 br
  • 14 Apr 1917 Tres Macs 163 pt
  • 15 Apr 1917 Cabo Blanco (damaged) 2,163 sp
  • 16 Apr 1917 Crios 4,116 gr
  • 19 Apr 1917 Senhora Da Conceicao 206 pt
  • 20 Apr 1917 Caithness 3,500 br
  • 21 Apr 1917 Heather (hms) (damaged) 1,250 br
  • 23 Apr 1917 Acadia 1,556 nw
  • 6 Jul 1917 Flora 818 nw
  • 9 Jul 1917 Prince Abbas 2,030 br
  • 11 Jul 1917 Vanda 1,646 sw
  • 12 Jul 1917 Fredrika 1,851 sw
  • 17 Jul 1917 C 34 321 br
  • 20 Aug 1917 Bulysses 6,127 br
  • 1 Sep 1917 Tarapaca 2,506 fr
  • 2 Sep 1917 Wentworth 3,828 br
  • 4 Sep 1917 Peerless 3,112 br
  • 5 Sep 1917 Echunga 6,285 br
  • 5 Sep 1917 San Dunstano (damaged) 6,220 br
  • 11 Sep 1917 Tobol 3,741 ru
  • 16 Aug 1918 Fylde (damaged) 256 br

U52 Surrendered on the 21st of Nov 1918, she was broken up at Swansea in 1922.

There was another U 52 in World War Two, launched from its shipyard on 21 Dec 1938 and commissioned into the Kriegsmarine on 4 Feb 1939.

19th August 1916 Bombardment of Sunderland   The raid on Sunderland, 19th August 1916, was part of a German post-Jutland attempt to draw our units of the British Grand Fleet to ambush them hoping to inflict losses to try to address the numerical superiority of the British Fleet.

The Action of 19 August 1916 was one of two further attempts made by the German High Seas Fleet in 1916 to engage elements of the British Royal Navy following the mixed results of the Battle of Jutland in World War I. The lesson of Jutland for Germany had been the vital need for reconnaissance so as to avoid the unexpected arrival of the British Grand Fleet during any raid, so on this occasion four Zeppelins were deployed to scout the North Sea between Scotland and Norway for signs of British ships, while four more scouted immediately ahead of German ships. Twenty four submarines were also deployed off the English coast in the southern North Sea and off the Dogger Bank.


Although Jutland had been officially hailed as a success, the German commander Admiral Reinhard Scheer felt it important that another raid should be mounted as quickly as possible to maintain morale in his severely battered fleet. It was decided that the raid should follow the pattern of previous ones, with the battlecruisers carrying out a dawn artillery bombardment of an English town, in this case Sunderland. Only two battlecruisers were still serviceable after Jutland, Moltke and Von der Tann, so the force was bolstered by the addition of three battleships, Bayern, Markgraf and Grosser Kurfürst. The remainder of the High Seas Fleet, comprising 16 dreadnought battleships, was to carry out close support 20 miles behind. The fleet set sail at 2100 on 18 August from the Jade river.


Information about the upcoming raid was obtained by British Intelligence in Room 40 through intercepted and decoded radio messages. Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, commander of the British fleet, was on leave so had to be recalled urgently and boarded the light cruiser Royalist at Dundee to meet his fleet in the early hours of 19 August off the river Tay. In his absence, Admiral Cecil Burney took the fleet to sea on the afternoon of 18 August. Vice-Admiral David Beatty left the Firth of Forth with his squadron of six battlecruisers to meet the main fleet in the Long Forties. The Harwich Force of 20 destroyers and 5 light cruisers commanded by Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered out, as were 25 British submarines which were stationed in likely areas to intercept German ships. The battlecruisers together with the 5th Battle Squadron of five fast battleships were stationed 30 miles ahead of the main fleet to scout for the enemy. The assembled fleet now moved south seeking the German fleet, but suffered the loss of one of the light cruisers screening the battlecruiser group, HMS Nottingham, which was hit by three torpedoes from submarine U-52 at 0600.

Finding the opposition

At 0615 Jellicoe received information from the Admiralty that one hour earlier the enemy had been 200 miles to his south east. However, the loss of the cruiser caused him to first head north for fear of endangering his other ships. No torpedo tracks or submarines had been seen, so it was unclear whether the cause had been a submarine or entering an unknown minefield. He did not resume a south-easterly course until 0900 when William Goodenough, commanding the light cruisers, advised that the cause had been a submarine attack. Further information from the admiralty indicated that the battlecruisers would be within 40 miles of the main German fleet by 1400 and Jellicoe increased to maximum speed. Weather conditions were good, with plenty of time for a fleet engagement before dark. The German force had received reassurances about Jellicoe's position, when a zeppelin had spotted the Grand Fleet heading north away from Scheer, at the time it had been avoiding the possible minefield. Unfortunately for the British, the Zeppelin L 13 sighted the Harwich force approximately 75 miles ENE of Cromer, mistakenly identifying the cruisers as battleships. This was precisely the sort of target Scheer was seeking, so he changed course at 1215 also to the south-east and away from the approaching British fleet. No further reports were received from zeppelins about the British fleet, but it was spotted by a U-boat just 65 miles north of Scheer. Scheer turned for home at 1435 abandoning his potential target. By 1600 Jellicoe had been advised that Scheer had abandoned the operation and so turned north himself.

The actual attack

A second cruiser attached to the battlecruiser squadron, HMS Falmouth, was hit by two torpedoes from U-63 at 1652 and sank the following day while being towed to the Humber, when hit by two more torpedoes fired by U-66. By 1745 the Harwich force had sighted German ships, but was too far behind for any prospect of an attack before nightfall so abandoned the chase. A British submarine HMS E23 commanded by Lieutenant-Commander R.R Turner managed to hit the German battleship SMS Westfalen at 0505 on the 19th, but the ship was able to return home.


This was the last occasion on which the German fleet travelled so far west into the North Sea. On 6 October a decision was made in Germany to resume attacks against merchant vessels by submarine, which meant the submarine fleet was no longer available for combined attacks against surface vessels. On 13 September a conference took place on Jellicoe's flagship to discuss recent events and it was decided that it was unsafe to conduct fleet operations south of latitude 55.5° North (approximately level with Horns reef and where the battle of Jutland had taken place), except in extreme emergency such as a German invasion force. Scheer was unimpressed by the efficiency of the zeppelin reconnaissance. Only three zeppelins had spotted anything and from seven reports four had been wrong. On 18–19 October Scheer once again led a brief sortie into the North Sea and British intelligence gave warning. However, the Grand Fleet declined to prepare an ambush, staying in port with steam raised ready to sail. The German sortie was abandoned after a few hours when SMS München was hit by a torpedo fired by E38, Lieutenant-Commander J. de B. Jessop, and it was feared other submarines might be in the area. Scheer suffered further difficulties when in November he sailed with Moltke and a division of dreadnoughts to rescue U-20 and U-30 which had become stranded on the Danish coast. British submarine J1, Commander J. Laurence, managed to hit the battleships Grosser Kurfürst and Kronprinz. The failure of these operations reinforced the belief, created at Jutland, that the risks involved in such operations were not justified by the outcomes. Both sides feared the loss of their capital ships to submarines or mines.

25th November 1916 French Battleship Suffren Sinking  

French Battleship Suffren

Name Suffren, Type Battleship, Country French.
GRT 12,750 tons, Built 1899, Builder Arsenal de Brest.
Operator French navy


On the 25 Nov 1916, U 52 (Hans Walther) Sank the French Battleship Suffren, 90 miles West of Portugal (39.10N, 10.48W). There were no survivors with crew of 648 lost.

4th April 1917 SS Missourian  

SS Missourian

Name SS Missourian, Type Steamer, Country USA.
GRT 7,924 tons, Built 1903, Builder Maryland Steel Co. Sparrow’s Point, Maryland.
Operator American-Hawaiian Steamship Co., New York.


On the 4th April 1917 SS Missourian was sunk off Porto Maurizio (Ita.). 43.33N, 08.15E by U 52 (Hans Walther) en route Genoa to Boston. No casualties.

14th September 1917 SS Peerless sinking  

SS Peerless

On the 14th September 1917 the SS Peerless was sunk when torpedoed by U 52 60 miles south west of Bishop Rock or 40 miles per Captain’s report. (49.11N, 07.16W) in passage from Lisbon to Manchester, carrying iron ore and cork. The SS Peerless was a Steamer of 3,112 tons, built in 1898, by Richardson, Duck & Co., Stockton.She was owned by Hall Bros. SS. Co., Ltd. (Hall Bros.), Newcastle

Report of Captain Arthur Newman, Master of the ship : (some words have been hardly deciphered) To the D. N. I. Admiralty S.W. Dear Sir, Re s/s Peerless The vessel was torpedoed and sunk at 1.30am Sept 4th 1919(1917) approximately 40 miles SxW of Bishop light – my instructions were to pass S of Bishop & N of loof to U52, Commander Walter or Walther. The torpedo struck at stoke hold. Killing the 5 firemen on watch and the 2 starboard boats were wrecked by the explosion and the vessel sank in 4-5 mins. Myself and 2 gunners were taken on board after repeated threats to fire in the boat if I did not give myself up. We three were accommodated on the floor of the after torpedo room and had our food after the greasers who also occupied that room. She carried 13 torpedoes and 1 gun and was fitted with 2 tubes at each end. She seemed to be cruising across the mouth of the Channel and as far south as Belle Isle but she had been further South prior to my going on board as from questions asked me, they had been on the watch for the 2 troop transports from Lisbon. She was not fitted that I could see for mine laying. There were 7 torpedoes remaining after I got on board and these were all used with the exception of 1 which seemed entirely made of brass and I was told it was pre war and they were rather doubtful about it. I cannot give you any particulars about other ships sunk as no other prisoners were taken after me, but I should say no more than 3 although they claimed one for each torpedo but on only 3 occasions I heard the explosions of the torpedoes. The line was I should judge between Lands End and Ushant where they attacked a convoy firing the forward torpedoes and then passing beneath the convoy, but let go on one of the aft ones. The first one certainly got its mark but by the time the second one went there were too may depth charges exploding around us to be certain. She returned to her base via west coast of Ireland attacked and I believe sank a vessel there and then attacked a convoy bound to Norway and I believe sunk one ship there, but as before could not be certain on account of the depth charges. On five occasions after manoeuvring for position to torpedo ships the U 52 went away and I was told that they had been hospital ships and this commander would not sink them. We were on top of the water most of the time I was on board. As soon as smoke was seen we went below. The submarine continued on the surface until they raised the upper works of the ship and then submerged, followed the zig zag until they had got it worked out for themselves and in the case of a slow ship they ran on ahead and waited for the ship coming. Coming down the North Sea the submarine herself zig zaged and I was told that they did this on the belief England had several stationery submarines in various places in the North Sea. On two or three occasions the telefunkan was working presumably with other submarines and on the 16th were calling up Nordeutch for escort through the minefields, but we were kept below and I did not see any. We were submerged all night of the 16th and anchored early morning of the 17th in the mouth of the Emms, from there were taken to Helogland and the following day the Wilhelmshafen. One of my gunners H Payne and myself had only trousers and shirt on when taken and applied for clothing and boots on the submarine and Helogland and Wilhelmshafen but on each occasion was told they had nothing to give prisoners. It was not until we arrived at Brandenburg camp that we were given wooden clogs and some filthy gear which had evidently belonged to dead soldiers. In conversation with the crew of the 52, most whom could speak English, I learnt that she had made cruises in the Mediterranean and to Las Palmas. Amongst other ships sunk were the English cruiser Northampton and submarine of the Empire the French battleship Souffren the English SS Glencly and the SS Wentworth. The latter was sunk before me and the captain and 2 gummers were on the submarine with me in the fore compartment. Yours truly Arthur F Newman Master ex SS Peerless

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