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S-Boats in the  Kriegsmarine 1935 - 1945

Loss of "S 31"

The 3. S-Flotilla performed only  24 mining operations during years 1941 and 1942 off the northern coast of Malta and in the estuary of the harbour of La Valetta to hamper or prevent British Navy shipping in and out of the harbour.

Some of the mining areas were laid directly in front of the harbour, so as areas MT 1a, MT 1b on 16.12.1941, MT 2 on 23.12.1941, MT 20 on 08.05.1942 and MT 22 on 10.05.1942.

Based upon a reconnaissance information of 09.05.1942, in which a destroyer or cruiser was reported heading to La Valetta, the 3. S-Flotilla with boats "S 56", "S 54", "S 58", and "S 57" loaded with torpedoes left Porto Empedocle at 22.00 Uhr hours. At the same time the three boats carrying mines, "S 61", "S 31", and "S 34", left harbour with orders to lay their mines directly in the harbour entrance of La Valetta.

Heini Haag's Boat "S 31" with the Flying Fish - Picture: Archives H. Haag 

Since the boats had to avoid guard-ships several times the mines could not be laid earlier than from 04:14 to 04:21 Uhr on the 10.05.1942. Immediate after laying the minebarrier  "S 31" run into a mine. The mayority of the ships complement, among them the commanding officer Oblt.z.S. Heinz (Heini) Haag, the flotilla-medical, MarStArzt Dr. Mehnen, and the Italian liason-officer, Lt.z.S. Tomasi, could be taken over by "S 61" coming alongside immediately. Eight men killed in action were to be mourned: ObMasch. Helmut Ley, OMaschMaat Herbert Kluger, MaschMaat Erich Mosig, MaschMaat Hans Krienke, MaschObGefr. Werner Quetscher, MaschGefr. Heinz Stefan and MaschGefr Helmut Schmieder. ObMasch. Karl Göldenitz additionally embarked for on-the-job-training died in consequence of the wounds suffered.

With a closer look to the positions of the German minefields it must be stated that minefields MT 1a and MT 1b laid on 16.12.1941 and minefield MT 2 laid on 23.12.1941 were not taken into account when laying the barriers MT 20 on 08.05.1942 and MT 22 on 10.05.1942.

In any case areas MT 1a and MT 22 are clearly overlapping each other as do areas MT 1b and MT 20. A minehit by an own mine therefore was preprogrammed. 

Overview of the Mining Areas off Malta - Picture: From Kemnade: Die Afrikaflottille

Overview of the Mining Areas off Malta - Picture:  Archives Submarine-Museum La Valetta

Based upon this fact and provided that the Britsh did not lay mines in the La Valetta harbour entrance in defence of the harbour, it must be assumed that "S 31" hit a German mine. Careful preparation of the minelaying operation by the flotilla could have prevented the death of nine soldiers and this loss of a boat.

Overlaping of Mining Areas off La Valetta - Picture: From Kemnade: Die Afrikaflottille

Oblt.z.S. Heinz Haag - Picture: Archives H. Haag

 Boats "S 61" and "S 34" left the sinking boat, "S 31", behind at 04.38 hours in position 35o 34'N 14o 31'E and attacked the supposed cruiser, in reality it was the fast minelayer "Welshman", with torpedoes without any success.