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S-Boats in the Kriegsmarine 1935 - 1945

Loss of "S 223"

Oblt.z.S. Enno Brandi 1945 - Picture: Archives Brandi

Crew "S 223" at the Commisioning on 30. Oct. 1944 at Travemünde - Picture: Archives Brandi

On 30.10.1944  Oblt.z.S. Enno Brandi took over boat "S 223" at the Schlichting-Yard at Travemünde. From his pen is the report about the sinking of the boat after a minehit on 07.04.1945 on the Schelde-Themse-Route. Mister Brandi today lives as a pensioner at Münster/Westfalen.


"S 223" in the southern Northsea - Picture: Archives Brandi

"The task was to contaminate a piece of the convoi-route that led from the Thames- to the  Schelde-Estuary with bottom-mines. Towards 21:00 we left Hoek van Holland.

"S 212" (Stabobersteuermann Schanno), "S 706" (Obersteuermann Waldhausen), S 704" (Oberleutnant zur See Korn), "S 705" (Kapitänleutnant Hemmer), "S 223" (Oberleutnant zur See Brandi). 

Every boat had six bottom-mines on board. Right after leaving harbour a further boat got in behind me. Since I had no idea who it could be, I came into rage and had the whole flotilla stop. Thus I was informed that is was Kptlt. Seeger with "S 204" of the 4. SFltl.

The voyage was then reassumed as planned, but we had to stop shortly thereafter again; Waldhausen ("S 706") had to be dismissed due to engine-failure. So tothe greatest fury of Karlemann Hemmer of the two groups of three boats each there became one group of five boats.

After planned about 50 nm westerly course, which we sailed in V-formation due to the light night and the resulting danger of aircraft, we turned to about 220o, to hit the convoi-route on a southerly course at an right angle after another change of course. Sailing was due to the rough seastate rather strenuous and arduous. Towards 23:00 we got back in line in the wake, we were not far from our target.

 Shortly thereafter it happened. Everthing went fast as a lightning and passed by like in a movie. There was a hard, dry hit, not like by a airborne bomb detonation. I flew against the starboard side of the kalotte, turned around to the rear, heard a strange roar from the engines and saw behind me only water. The forecastle, all the forship raised up vertically in front of me, I had to hold on to something in order not to fall. My first word was a "very hard" one.   August Graf, my Seaman No. 1, said to me: "We got to get out!" when both of us already jumped overboard over the backboard side. Werner and Fähnrich z.S. Friedrich to follow. 

In the water I did not realize much of the wetness and coldness because of exitation. I just saw the foreship sink straight as a die, at which it made a terrible noise from the escaping air which made me think of a whale. Fortunately I had a completely inflated lifevest on so that I could move a bit away to port from the sinking boat without much effort. I saw in front of me a black longish something swim in the water, what to my greatest pleasure turned out to be one of the kapock-life rafts.  I could hold onto one of the straps und then called rather flipped out into the pitch-dark night: "Come here!" By and by some more or less cursing figures came swimming. They could also hold onto the life-raft.

About 100 m from the sinking foreship I saw in a different direction - I had in the meantime totally lost the orientation - the rear end of the ship with the stern upwards float like a box and sinking rapidly. My first thought was, were where the other boats. In the meantime we were a whole group at my raft and looked in vain into the black night for the other boats of the flotilla.

I let count through and tell me the names. Geils, next to me, somewhat hysterical, he had flewn against something and had pain. I inflated his lifevest as good as I could and got a feeling of nausea because one had to blow so hard. Then there were also Zupp, Schlösser and Janessa the two seacadets, midshipman Horeis and to the right of me the goog Sparty, Werner, midshipman Friedrich and Zöpfgen, who not even had a life-vest. Graf came swimming and was in his elegant way calming to me and the soldiers,  .....................................

Before we realized our rather hopeless and desperate situation we talked everybody to be somewhat relieving about more or less insignificant things. Friedrich said that he had been swimming on 27th of February last year. With Sparty I talked about Tuch, the other radio-operator who probably had not managed to come up from the radio-room.  

But soon our horrible situation and the preceding event with all its cruel effects came rather fast to our awareness when we heard from a greater distance terrible shouting: "Help! Help me! Where are you?" and similar. But we could not help, we were too lang away already, had one let go the raft and had started swimming he would have made no mare than 10 or 20 m.

Now we all becam anchious. Are the boats comming? Have they actually noticed it? Will they find us? It was so mean dark and to all disgust there was also a rather bad seastate, so that one could not see far just being some few centimeters above the level of the sea. In every breaking sea in every ruffle of the sea we saw boats. But they were only imaginations. Graf and I  calmed the men somewhat. But how difficult was that for ourselves, no longer believing in the chance of being rescued. The boats must have realized it, there had been a boat behind us. Yes, right, where were it? Why had it not stopped imediately? The water was so cold, damned, the clothing was so heavy and saturated with water.  How is this going to end?

Again we believed to have recognized the boats, this time not with the eyes, no, it was a droning to hear. We already were cheering. But was that not a strange noise? I thought it were the gun-boats. But that was already meaningless to us, the main thing was to get out of the water. But again it was a disappointment. The droning came out of the air, it was an aircraft. We all had the thought: "Damned guy, dont you see us?" Disappointed, yes fully discouraged we let our heads hang. Some already were screeming totally in pointless for help. To what avail, who should hear us?  Save power!

The shouting from the distance grew weaker, stopped finally, it was horrible. In our group it became silent, everybody was discouraged, thought  of himself, his relatives and other things that were worthy and dear to him. Also me. It became evident to me that I was drowning, downright drowning. I thought it might become a honourable death, no, not become but was! Who should now pick us out of the water. If the flotilla could not have done it immediately, now it was impossible to find us creating just a very smal silhouett in the pitch-dark night..

But again a different feeling: "You are the commanding officer here, you are the oldest, you cannot give up in front of your men." I made some efforts to get up the spirit of the men but without big results. There would just not be any success. The time was creeping, after it has gone by so rapidly as a lightening. I was probably not the only one with a watch, but nobody thought of looking at the watch, but to what avail?  We talked then also about the other fellowswho were not with us. We had to give them up because how would one from the engine-room have come up intact from there after all?

There may have passed a threequart of an hour, what seemed to us like a whole night, wenn again a noise to be heard. All were alive again, gained new courage. I don't know who said it first, no screemed it out: "That are our boats!"  An undescibeable feeling. Yes, it could only be our boats. We screemed and whistled on our whisles that were fastened to our life-vests just for that purpose with all our power. But another miracle happened, around us it  suddenly became light as during the day, the aircraft  had dropped a lightbomb, what could it have done better at this time? Thus we saw a boat, coming towards us, they had already seen us, but some were still screeming with all their power for help. I thought it to be the lead-boat and screemed: "Herr Kaleu, get us out of here!" or something other absolutely stupid.

But it was "S 705" - Karlemann Hemmer. Noew he had stopped, we swam directly at the port side of the boat. The boat was rolling so heavily in the seastate that one got the skirting board on your head with full power and you were pressed under water, or what was somehow better, you could grab the rail, but with your fully limp and fully watered down hands it it escaped from your hand immediately. A ladder was held out. Some grapped it and soon it lay in the water. Tow and hands were held out and extended towards us but we could not hold onto them. The adjutant, Wolf von Wieser, came to the rail, I screemed at him in total rage, he should do something, lower the rubber-boat. I remembered a sotie in 1942 on board of Walter Schnebel, when I had got Kptlt. Roeder out of the water on this way. The rubber-boat came, Wolf and the No. 1 of "S 705" jumped into it.

In the meantime some had already been picked up otherwise. But now into the rubber-boat, the own power was totally exhausted, after long struggling the two succeeded in getting me into the boat. August Graf to follow. He was directly handed up on deck, whereby I fell over board again. Now I got afraid, yes scared stiff, it was horrible. If now destroyers or MGBs would come, the boat had to take up speed and I had to stay in the water. I had no power left and probably was only screeming. After long struggle the leading engineer of "S 705" with t he help of some soldiers succeeded in getting me up on board. Now I was on board, was standing on deck. No, it was just a try, I wanted to stand, but  collapsed like a wet sack. In any case, rescued! I was laying were i had fallen, some were running over me and stepped upon me, I did not care at all.

On all four I crept up front, climbed into the bridge, in order to report myself on board to Karlemann, but there could not be any talk of a report, I stammered and whispered something and let my fall down the ladder to the K-room. I was totally nauseous, have probably trown up terribly, in any case I woke up after a while in the bunk. Küffer, the radio-operator had looked after me, undressed be and put me into the bunk with some warm blankets.

Subconcious I heard that the picked up speed, later that it was fired. Wolf came down shortly looked after me and reported, theat the sortie was being continued in order to lay the mines. After a while of dozzing and shivering Karlemann came storming down briefly. Both of us were glad, he,that I was laying here unscathed, and I, that it was him, that had rescued me. They were already on their march back, everything was allright, the mines had been laid. 

By and by I got alive again and asked who else had been rescued. After some wrong reproting and misunderstandings it turned out that 11 men in total had been rescued. Also Sparty and midshipman Horeis were missing. They had been with us at the side of the boat until the end. Kptlt. Seeger had also to men, of which we had not been aware in the water, Kohr and Voigt, both  of them had like Geils been survivors of "S 91" half a year ago.

When we entered Hook van Holland I was rather mobile again. The 4. SFltl was still laying there waiting for two boats. Achim Wienke and Steinhauer were missing, they did not return any more.

Only at  Rotterdam I met the Chef, Kptlt. Matzen. He was very serious and sad. 20 of my men were missing. They found a seaman's grave:

St.Ob.Masch. Rudolf Brümmer FunkOb.Gefr Ullrich Tuch
Masch.Ob.Maat Wilhelm Schmitz Funk.Ob.Gefr. Günter Sparty
Masch.Maat Ernst Irtel Masch.Hpt.Gefr. Johannes Müller
Fähnr. (Ing) Ortwin Bebendererde Masch.Hpt.Gefr. Heinz Reile
Fähnr.z.S. Wilfried Horeis Masch.Hpt.Gefr. Otto Lübcke
Matr.Ob.Gefr. Willy Menzel Masch.Ob.Gefr. Gerhard Wehenkel
Matr.Gefr. Heinz Jung Masch.Gefr.Josef Kapaunig
Matr.Gefr. Heinz Helmholz Masch.Gefr. Erich Klingbeil
Matr. Gefr. Willy Schafstedrt Verw.Hpt.Gefr. Werner Kuhnaht
Mech.Ob.Gefr. (T) Herbert Degel San.Ob.Gefr. Joachim Kreuzmann

              The sinking of "S 223" survived: Graf, Werner, Zöpfgen, Zupp, Kohr, Voigt, Geils, Janessa, Schlösser, Fähnr.z.S. Friedrich und Oblt.z.S. Brandi."


The 11 Survivors of "S 223" at Rotterdam - Picture: Archives Brandi