In the winter of 2011 the diving team of Antonis Grafas dived, filmed and photographed the well-known wreck of the German submarine U-133 at the bottom of the Argosaronic Gulf.
The action and sinking of the German submarine U-133 as seen through historical records, war diaries and field research.
During the Second World War one of the main weapons that contributed significantly and irreversibly in armed operations, largely defining the evolution and outcome of the war, was the submarine. Of all the naval officers, the one that gave particular attention to the technical development and high production of this weapon, even well before the war began, was the commander of the German Navy, the Kriegsmarine, Admiral Karl Donitz in 1936. Donitz, who during World War I initially served in the light cruiser S.M.S. BRESLAU and then on the U-39 and UC-25 submarines, he knew from his own experience the efficiency and capabilities of the submarines, which had been tested with great success and unprecedented results during the First World War.
In 1935, after the rejection from the German side, and with the simultaneous British tolerance of the Treaty of Versailles, nationalist Socialist Germany unilaterally recognized its right to establish a direct and powerful military armament program. The submarines, whose responsibility was taken over by Karl Donitz durring this time, were among the weapons whose production was top priority. Subsequently was then placed as the General Commander of the Submarines from 1936, (German Befehlshaber der U-Boote). Donitz – who served as the supreme commander of submarines throughout World War II and contributed to the development of the German submarine weapon in all seas of the world and on all the maritime fronts – was a fanatic proponent of submarines. He was absolutely convinced that the victory of the German arms would only come as a result of the underwater German supremacy. The first major submerged warfare, which arose immediately after World War II, was in September 1939. It was the so-called “Battle of the Atlantic” in which the submarines were the most aggressive combat medium of the German Navy. The Kriegsmarine Supreme Maritime Administration’s overarching goal throughout the Atlantic Battle was the isolation and maritime exclusion of Britain, resulting in the internal and external collapse of military, political and social structures and balances, which would immediately weaken the British Empire, leading her to the much-needed, defeat for the Germans. It was a tactic which in exactly the same way was successfully tested during the First World War. The import of commodities and raw materials from overseas countries, on which the economic existence of Britain was based and supported, was the Achilles heel of the British island in both world wars. The German submarines, which during the Battle of the Atlantic Ocean sank more than 4,000 ships, a total tonnage of 14.3 million tonnes – among them some 400 Greek merchant steamships – were the spearhead of the German war machine at sea. Attempted to put the British Empire under extreme pressure, cutting off her supply roots in the Atlantic. In the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted throughout the war, the submarine U-133 carried out two sea patrols in the northern and central Atlantic and took part as one of the hundreds of German submarines.
From the winter of 1941, immediately after the fall of France and the entry of Italy into the war, a new field of war began to become of particular importance to the rival forces, the Mediterranean. Italy’s inability, not only to contribute to the correlation of forces so that the Mediterranean would fall under the Axis, but also its general failure to keep up the previously achieved goals, led the German High Command to two major strategies and tactical dissplacements in the North African and Balkan Campaigns. After the completion of the Balkan Campaign, which ended with the capture of Crete in May 1941, and the successful counterattack in North Africa of General Erwin Rommel with Afrikakorps, three were the main priorities of the German army: The Attack Against the Soviet Union, the successful development of the North African Campaign and the continuation of the Battle of the Atlantic. The first two were aimed at controlling energy sources, Baku oil and the Arabian Peninsula, while the third was the extinction of Great Britain.
The significance of the Cyrenean war and the general importance of the German North African Campaign led the Third Relay Maritime Administration to send six submarines in the Mediterranean in September 1941 to the siege of the British in Tobruk, which resisted vigorously to the army of Erwin Rommel. These submarines formed the first German submarine fleet in the Mediterranean, the 23rd, and were based in the Salamis naval base. By the end of the same year, other submarines had been sent to the Mediterranean, having been removed from the very important for the Axis, Battle of the Atlantic. Thus at the beginning of January 1942 – immediately after the establishment of the 29th Submarine Fleet, based on La Spezia of Italy and Pola, Croatia, at the end of October 1941 – 25 German submarines operated in the Mediterranean, of which eight began their patrols from the Salamis naval base. Among these submarines is the submarine U-133, which is today sunk in the northeast of Aegina. Of the 65 German submarines operating in the Mediterranean during the Second World War, none of them managed not to be sank. 24 of these submarines were immersed in hostile fire, sometimes friendly, leading the submarine death toll to rise dramatically. The total crew losses of the German submarines during World War II rose roughly to 30,000, out of a total of 40,000 classified. This represents 75% of the total human resources of this weapon. Out of a total of 863 German submarines that fought on all sea fronts, the 784 were sank. The end of the war found six of these submarines sunk in the wider Greek territory. In addition to the U-133 the remaining five submarines were U-557 († 16.12.1941, from friendly fire west of Crete), U-453 († 21.5.1944, Ionian), U-407 († 19.9.1944, to the south of Milos), U-565 († 29.9.1944, in Salamis), and U-596 († 30.9.1944, in Skaramangas). From these submarines, the only one that has been accurately located and which can be visited is U-133, which is submerged in the northeast of Tourlos in Aegina. This fact makes this particular shipwreck the only ever-accessible German submarine of the Second World War, in the entire Greek territory. The U-133, whose historical significance is particularly important, was discovered accidentally in 1986 by the professional divers Efstathios Bparamatis and Theophilos Clemis. It was identified as the German submarine U-133 in the 90’s by the professional diver Kostas Thoktaridis, and was also investigated by diver-researcher Aristotle Zervoudes.
Although the unquestionable sovereignty of Great Britain in the Mediterranean Sea had been established since the 18th century, the main and most important reason for its further strengthening was the completion of the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869. Immediately after the official opening of the Canal to navigation on 17 November 1869, this led to a drastic reduction in sea voyages between the capital of the empire and its colonies in India, the Far East, and the Arabian and Persian Gulf oil fields. In order to keep the Mediterranean seaways open, the British Empire relied on its strong fleet and in its naval bases, the main ones being Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Alexandria, and Port Said. Although during the First World War the British sovereignty was strongly and dramatically challenged by the action of the German submarines, its end found the British Empire as remaining a dominant force in the Mediterranean. During the mid-war period, the political conditions in the Mediterranean region, and the resulting two-way power association, remained relatively stable until the early 1930s. The German Socialist party in Germany, the NDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) in the beginning of the new decade, the German protests against the Versailles Treaty in 1932, Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933, the state-of-the-art German armament programs, the Italian attack against Ethiopia in 1935, Benito Mussolini’s proclemnation of a “New Roman Empire”, and finally the establishment of the so-called “Axis” Berlin-Rome in 1936, led to the devastation of the sensitive balance of power in the region as Italy began to claim the Mediterranean calling it now directly «marenostrum». The basis of Mussolini’s claims were made mainly on the Italian war machine, whose most powerful forces were its powerful air force, RegiaAeronautica, and its naval regiment, RegiaMarina. The latter, despite its development and its ability to mobilize surface units and 120 submarines, was unable, at the time, to seriously threaten British power in the Mediterranean. Two additional factors that further strengthened Italian claims were the colonial policy of the Italian government and the simultaneous presence of strong army forces on the strategic bases of the Italian colonies of northern Africa, the Dodecanese, and Abyssinia. The British Government – following international developments and seeing the clouds of war in the horizon – voted on 30 January 1939 a British Army Naval War Plan, which had as its priority two main objectives: securing the North Atlantic Marine Corridors; maintaining British power in the Mediterranean. The first goal, which immediately after World War II was to lead to what was called the “Battle of the Atlantic”, had as its main purpose the very existence of the British island, the second aim was to maintain the British sovereignty in the Mediterranean, and as a consequence of the resulting sovereignty in the regions of the energy sources of the Arabian Peninsula. The onset of WWII on 1 September 1939 did not substantially alter the British power in the Mediterranean, although at the same time the Battle of the Atlantic was rapidly exhausting the forces of Great Britain, whose convoys received constant attacks from the German submarines. Although the British merchant fleet had begun in the spring of 1940 to travel by passing the Cape of Good Hope, thus avoiding the Mediterranean, the Royal Navy continued to remain the master of the Mediterranean, the triptych of its war bases, Gibraltar, Malta, and Alexandria. When on June 10, 1940, Italy entered the war, next to the Germans, it seemed immediately that the situations were not going to change. The total inability of the Italian army to create and support an organized war plan showed intense internal contradictions between Benito Mussolini’s brilliant designs and the limited capabilities of his army. The defeat of France in June 1940 and the associated disaster of the French fleet, which was the most important support of the British Navy in the Mediterranean, led to the overthrow of the balance of power in the region. After that, the British Admiralty decided to withdraw its forces from the eastern Mediterranean and transport them to Gibraltar, as it seemed impossible to maintain the control of the wider region. At this critical moment Winston Churchill vigorously interfered with the realization of the operation. The reason that led him to this move was his fear of a possible loss of Malta, the British “aircraft carrier” in the Mediterranean, and Egyptian oil pillar of Arabia.
On September 13, 1940, the Italian Army of Libya, which was part of the Italian-Turkish war in 1911-12, an Italian colony, under the command of General Rodolfo Graziani began a general assault against the British-held Egypt. The assault stopped almost immediately after the occupation of the Egyptian town of Sidi Barrani, as General Graziani decided to remain there to prepare a new offensive, which he believed would bring him very shortly to the Suez Canal. Shortly thereafter, on October 28, 1940, Mussolini sent his concentrated troops to Albania against Greece. The result was that the Greek army succeeded not only in stopping the Italian advance, but also in retaliation by occupying areas of Italian forces in southern Albania. Immediately after these two Italian attacks, Winston Churchill ordered the transfer of British troops from Egypt to Greece, which then led to the immediate attack of the German army in the Balkans in April 1941. It was not just these failures that marked the unreliability and inefficiency of the Italian army, but much more. When the Italian navy flew into naval battle with the British Royal Navy outside Taranta on 11 and 12 December 1940 initially, and in Cava Matapa on March 28, 1941, the Italian losses were such that led RegiaMarinaItaliana to a dramatic recession, material and moral, from which it did not manage to emerge until its capitulation on 8 September 1943. On December 9, 1940, the British forces in Egypt, to which the 7th Armored Division and the 4th Indian Division were added, unleashed a counterattack, under the command of General Archibald Wavell, against the Italian army that had originated from Cyrene in the west of Egypt , as already mentioned, in September 1940. Immediately after the British attack, all the obvious and hidden weaknesses of the Italian army became visible as the events showed and led to an immediate retreat. On Dec. 16, Sidi Barrani fell and Bardia was captured after a few days. On January 21, 1941, the British attack began on the Tobruk Fortress, which fell within 24 hours. On January 30, Derna fell. On February 7, the British Middle East headquarters declared triumphantly, “Benghazi is in our hands”. Within a very short time, 70,000 Italian soldiers were captured. The danger of a total defeat of the Axis in North Africa was not only visible, but it was literally ante portas. At this moment, Benito Mussolini seeing the war and political inability of the Italian military operations, he accepted the help of Adolf Hitler who proposed in January 1941, the German intervention in North Africa. As a result of this acceptance, the German 5th Light Division arrived in Tripoli, Libya on 11 February 1941. On February 6, the General Command of the German African Expeditionary Corps, Afrikakorps, was given to General Erwin Rommel. On 31 March, after the arrival of other Afrikakorps units, the German attack began, under Rommel’s orders, in Kyrenia. With the first aggressive wave, Marsa el Brega fell, Cyrene’s entrance. On 2 April, the city of Agedabia was taken, the fall of which allowed the rapid advance of Afrikakorps to the Tobruk Fortress, which was besieged on 11 April. Despite all the efforts of the German army to overthrow it, Tobruk withstood and led Rommel to continue the attack, temporarily leaving the British enclave to the rear of his army. One city after the other, along the North African coastline, fell into the hands of the German army. Bardia fell and after a tough fight Sollum fell. The British counter-attack, code named “Battleaxe”, which was designed to halt the German advance, not only failed in its goal, but was also hit hard. After 72 hours of raging battle, the result of which would give the winner control of Cyrene, the British were defeated losing more than 100 armored tanks.
On June 17, 1941, the German attack stopped, finding Afrikakorps cntrolling the entire area, from Tripoli to the border town of Sollum, east of Tobruk. General Erwin Rommel, better known as the “Desert Fox”, using the tactics of unexpected continual attacks through the dessert, succeeded with his quick victories in replenishing the lost morale of the Axis forces, recapturing the lost Italian positions, and expelled the Allied troops 800 km east. The main reason that forced to stop his attack in Sollum was the poor supply of his army and the difficulty of providing aid, which came with convoys, mostly Italian, from Europe. This fact, which was the Achilles heel of Rommel’s army, wa used the most by the Allies, throwing all their energy into the sinking of as many ships as possible from the Axis convoys. The British submarines, based off Alexandria and Malta, had overwhelmingly defeated the Italian convoys, creating a huge problem in supplying the Afrikakorps. When in August 1941 the fleet lost 70% of its capacity – which meant that 7 of the 10 ships transporting war material, fuel, drugs, food and human resources were sunk – the problem was so high that the German North African Campaign had now begun to be jeopardized. Next problem became Tobruk. This besieged British fortress, which was still resisting, was a constant threat to the Afrikakorps. Marine supply with munitions, drugs, food, and human resources – with British convoys coming from Alexandria and Port Said – strongly witheld the resistance of the besieged and the risk of receiving an Afrikakorps attack from the rear. Such an evolution could lead to the collapse of Sollum’s front, and as a consequence to the loss of the entire Kyrenia. This led General Rommel to request the direct assistance of the German Navy in the form of submarines. Its purpose was to continue the siege of Tobruk from the sea, so that its chain of supply and its defenses would collapse. Making such a decision was difficult for the general commander of the submarine weapon, Admiral Karl Donitz, because of the furious Battle of the Atlantic where the continued presence of the German submarines was absolutely necessary. But after Adolf Hitler’s personal intervention, Donitz ordered a submarine mission from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
At the end of September 1941, six submarines crossed Gibraltar to Salamis. During this month, based on the island’s naval yard, the first German submarine flotilla in the Mediterranean, the 23rd Submarine Flotilla, with commander Fritz Frauenheim, an experienced submarine war veteran, was deployed. These submarines, as well as all the German submarines that operated in the Mediterranean until the end of the war, were VIIC type and were selected taking into account the range of action, usability, hours of underwater presence, the duration of missions, and required speed of the necessary operations to be carried out in the Mediterranean. In October of the same year a second submarine flotilla was established, the 29th, based on La Spezia of Italy and Pola, Croatia. The transfer of additional submarines from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean immediately led to a dynamic presence of the German submarine weapon in the Mediterranean. The submarines that operated in the central and western Mediterranean were based on La Spezia of Italy and Pola, while those in the eastern Mediterranean were based in Salamina. The latter had as a permanent objective the Tobruk’s maritime exclusion and the constant attacks against allied convoys running from Alexandria and Port Said to Tobruk and Malta. The attacks were carried out by submarine groups, the so-called “herds”, “Rudel” in German, which were given passwords, primarily from German mythology and history, and attempted with a common plan and complex tactics. Because of the pseudonym “gray wolves of the deep”, given to the commanders and crew of the German submarines, already from World War I, the attacking submarine groups were also called “wolfs”, “Wolfrudel” or “Wolfpack” in German . This aggressive strategy had been successfully tested in the Battle of the Atlantic, bringing great losses to allied convoys.
At the beginning of 1942 the actions of the German submarines in the Mediterranean, in conjunction with the operations of the German 10th Aviation Corps, under the general commander Albert Kesselring, brought dramatic results. In addition to many allied ship sinking, among them the British HMS ARK ROYAL aircraft carrier, it also led to the restoration of Afrikakorps. The material supply was such that on 21 January 1942 a new German attack on the east began. In a very short time, Afrikakorps captured the cities of Derna and Benghazi, reaching the Gazala line. The important role of the German submarines in the North African expedition was already apparent from the end of 1941. In the entry on 30 December of this year in the War Diary General Director of the Underwater Army, Admiral Karl Donitz, reported that “The Submarine Operation in the East The Mediterranean has so far served as a relief for the North African front. That is why the decision to transfer submarines to the eastern Mediterranean was correct. […] There have been many successes. The losses so far are few. “Among the submarines that operated in the eastern Mediterranean, during this period, is also the German submarine U-133.
U-133, Atlantic -Mediterranean
On August 7, 1939, the Supreme Administration of the German Navy ordered at the Bremer Vulkan, Bremen, five submarines of the VIIC type, bearing the order numbers 132 to 136. The second of them, with a construction number of 12, began to be built on 21 August 1940 at the Vulkan yard in Vegesack, an area in the north of Bremen. On April 28, 1941, she was screened and then handed over to the Kriegsmarine. After the installation of the reinforcement, the machinery, the completion of the additional work and the tests, she was put into service under the command of Lieutenant Hermann Hesse, on July 5th of the same year, as the German submarine U-133. The submarine belonged, as a training vessel, to the 7th Submarine Flotilla, based on the Eckernforde of Kiel. Its general technical features, as with all German submarines of the VIIC type, were:
Displacement: 761 tonnes on the surface, 865 tonnes underwater, 1,050 tonnes in total.
Length: Pressure vessel 50.5 meters, total 67.1 meters.
Width: Pressure Quilt 4.7 meters, total 6.2 meters.
Draft: 4.7 meters.
Height: 9.5 meters.
Propulsion: 2 2,400 kilowatts (3,200 hp) diesel engines on the surface, 2 electric engines 560 kilowatts (750 hp) in dives.
Indicative speed: With diesel engines 17.6 knots, with electrical machines 10.5 knots, on the surface. In diving, only with electric machines, 7.6 knots.
Operational autonomy: 6,500 nautical miles at an average speed of 12 knots on the surface, and 80 nautical miles at an average speed of 4 knots in dives.
Torpedo tubes: 4 on the bow and 1 on the stern.
Crew: 44 to 52 people.
Dive depth: 100 meters (depth of construction), 165 meters (depth of test), 250 meters (mathematical depth of destruction).
Diving Speed: 30 seconds.
Armament: 1 8.8 cm gun, 1 2 cm anti-aircraft, Flak 30, 14 torpedoes.
On October 22, 1941, the U-133 was sent as a “battle front submarine” to its first patrol in the raging Battle of the Atlantic. She started her patrol on 24.10. and from 30.10. until 4.11.1941 participated along with submarines U-96, 552, 567, 571 and 577 in the submarine pack under the code name “Stosstrupp”. This pack attacked on October 31, 1941 the allied convoys under the OS-10 and HX-156 codes, resulting in sinking Dutch truck steamship BENNEKOM and American destroyer USS REUBEN JAMES, total tonnage of 7,188 tons. The first was torpedoed by U-96 (Lieutenant Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock) and the second by U-552 (Lieutenant Erich Topp). On November 5, 1941, the U-133, following a codified order received by the Supreme Command of Sumbmarines on 3.11., Participated in the submarine pack under the code name “Raubritter”, consisting of 14 submarines. This pack, which acted from 1.11. until 17.11.1941, had attacked two days before, on 3.11., the allied convoy with the code SC-52, sinking four ships of a total tonnage of 51,192 tons. It was yet another of the many blows against England, which during this time desperately struggled to keep open the sea supply roots that kept the British island alive. On November 8, due to the great seastorm, which in the following days reached 9 Beaufort, the pack Raubritter was dispanded to meet again, at a predetermined point, on November 14, 1941. The order of the Supreme Command of Submarines to the submarines on the front was during this period: “Continue the operations according to the fuel reserves”. On November 17, a new Order of the Supreme Administration led the U-133 to participate with submarines U-85, 571, and 577 in the Stortebecker pack. This pack – which was named after the legendary German pirate Klaus Stortebecker (1360-1401), who acted in the North Sea and the Baltic in the 14th century and was publicly beheaded in Hamburg on 20 October 1401 – ran from 5.11. until December 2, 1941 and consisted of 19 submarines. After continued patrols in the Northern Atlantic, between New Zealand, Iceland, Ireland and England, U-85, 133, 552, 571, and 577 were ordered to go to north-west France.
As reported in the U-133 War Diary, after 34 days at sea and performing an offensive patrol of 5,446 nautical miles across the Atlantic, the ship sailed into the Kriegsmarine submarine base, Nazaire of France, where she docked at 14:30 on November 26, 1941. On December 16, after receiving supplies and completing repairs to the ballast tank balancing pump, the U-133 abandoned St. Louis. Nazaire heading south, starting her second patrol. Arriving in Biscay, her commander, Lieutenant Hermann Hesse, decided to follow a Western course hoping to meet an allied convoy. After days of inertia, which were filled only with continuous exercises, Hesse distinguished the smoke in the horizon on 19 December. It was an allied convoy to the north, but he did not get closer because of the long distance that separated it from it. On the same day U-133 and U-577 (Lieutenant Herbert Schauenburg) received the order from the Supreme Command of Underwater, to cross Gibraltar and head to the Mediterranean.
The passage of Gibraltar – the narrow strip of sea that separates Europe from Africa, south to Tangier, Morocco and to the north, just in front of the Spanish coast, in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula, the British Fortress, the rock of Gibraltar, the UK’s most important Mediterranean naval base – was for the German submarines the most dangerous part of a trip to and from the Mediterranean. The German WWII submarines that had thus far been immersed in this channel, show the difficulty of this particular venture. When Hesse arrived at 15:16 on December 21, 1941, in front of the canal, he decided to wait in the Atlantic until it was dark enough to attempt the dangerous crossing. The anti-submarine nets and mines, at the bottom of the canal, the British surface destroyer, the patrol planes equipped with headlights, bombs, and machine guns, coupled with the heavy guns of the Gibraltar naval base, gave little room for success in this venture. The U-133 war log, associated to the passage of the Straits of Gibraltar, is a typical testimony that reflects on the one hand the conditions in the German submarines that were forced to pass this test, on the other, it shows the need for quick decisions that had to be taken by the commander of the submarine. It is translated here, translated from German, because of its authenticity, its versatile personality, and the personal style of the U-133 skipper Hermann Hesse’s writing.
December 21, 1941
15:16 Straits of Gibraltar
Smoke column to the left of the boat, edges protruding, steamer with southwest path. Change of course to the north. On the horizon there are two companions (high masts, funnels are behind them) with intense smoke appear to march north. They change course westwards and back east in a zigzag. I’m developing maximum speed to keep my position as I want to stay as close as possible to Cape Spartel. The sky is inconspicuous and the airplanes must not catch me unprepared and surprise me, also the horizontal visibility exceeds 15 nautical miles. I plan to go into the canal with the coming of the night as I can move at minimum speed, as the case may be, I will not show a high ripple on the stern, and I will be much more protected from air strikes.
18:31 Qu.CG 9567
Alarm! Masts can be seen from the western channel. Distance from Spartel 13 nautical miles, I await the arrival of darkness.
20:30 Emergency. I’m starting to attemtp to pass the channel. All men are in combat stations. The horizon to the east is slightly foggy. The western horizon is very open and clear due to the moon and Aphrodite. Course to the lighthouse of the Spartel Cape = 70 degrees.
21:25 Cape Spartel is in front of us. No purpose, no airplane. I’m moving with both diesel engines at low speed, holding 1.5 – 2 nautical miles away from the coast.
21:54 Tangier is in front of us.
22:06 The lighthouse of Malabata in front of us.
23:01 The Tarifa lighthouse in front of us.
23:42 I am 90 degrees ahead of PointLeona, a distance of 3 nautical miles, when a black shadow is located near the coast along the west. I turned her to the stern and prepared the fifth torpedo tube. Almost at the same time a larger shadow from the left side of the boat appears to me. It passes by the beam of the lighthouse that comes from Cape Tarifa, and I find it is a destroyer. I’m preparing the torpedoes 1-4 to unleash a torpedo of 4 torpedoes (I’m moving with the torpedo tubes ready and flooded, and the torpedo tubes 1, 4, and 5 open). The two diesel engines work with the smallest power, I turn the boat to the left to get into an attack position. Almost immediately, a beam of light from a large headlamp, which shines on the African coast, directs behind the destroyer and the center of the canal. At this moment, which lasted for seconds, I spotted three more destroyers in the light of the beam. They all have a course west.
The shadow that passed from the left side of the boat (a large-size guard boat, which seems to be responsible for exploring the shores of the coast due to its small draft) is heading at high speed towards me, firing at the same time against me with a gun about 2 centimeters in diameter. They must have seen the silhouette in the light of their headlamp.
23:45 Alarm and immediate diving at a depth of 55 meters. I follow a misleading course during which they are continuously sounding. I change course to the south and touch the bottom. I keep the depth constant to 55 meters. Everything has been deactivated on board and is totally quiet. Sounds of propellers indicate two ships. One of them is right above us, that is, in the bay, the other behind us, that is, in deeper waters. The submarine can not be held on the rocky bottom, and on the stern side is slipping northwards into deeper waters, creating a lot of noise. I drain slightly the water ballast, from both sides to position 3, and rise up to 30 meters, I change direction by bringing the bow to the left and following a course of 60 degrees. There is still only one ship sounding at long intervals. The electromechanics work with minimal power as the current of the channel, which moves greatly to the east, is able to pull us out of the area of the bay.
01:40 After 30 minutes and after no longer hearing anything I emerged. PointLeona is behind our stern. Three planes are flying with headlamps on, at an average height, north of us, above the channel exit. I continue my course with electric power at an average power. The horizon to the north is like tar from rain clouds, southeast and south the horizon is clear, it is not possible to see what is on the left side of the boat because of the dark horizon. Suddenly flares are fired … [pp. There are five words that can not be distinguished]. I can not pass from Ceuta as I see that, as seen from the north, my silhouette should be clearly marked in the light of the Ceuta Lighthouse.
02:27 Diving, course 90 degrees.
03:35 Emerging, I passed Ceuta and I’m moving on a northeast course to avoid the rain and the storm. I turn the propulsion to the diesel engines with average power. As soon as I hear a powerful engine sound in front of me, I stop the two engines and make a sharp reversal. An airplane flies over us and turns, making a long stroll to Gibraltar. No bombing, certainly did not see us. Four days later, on December 26, 1941, at 12:15 am, U-133 arrived in Messina, Italy. After filling up the fresh water tanks, oil tanks, the exterior inspection of the boat by divers, repairing the deck, and sorting the ammunition, the submarine departed late in the afternoon of December 28 to continue her patrol. After the Messina strait was passed, there were problems with the propeller’s axis, which could not be resolved at sea. Hesse decided to immediately return to Messina. During the following days and while the ship was repaired, problems were found with both the second propeller shaft and the engine cooling pump. The submarine was forced to remain in Messina for repairs until January 1, 1942, where she left at 16:00 on a south-eastern route.
On January 5, 1942 the U-133 arrived in northern Africa, in the area between Alexandria and Tobruk. It was the field in which she was ordered to act, aiming at causing as much damage as possible to the British convoys. Hermann Hesse, with the support of First Officer of U-133, Lieutenant Harald Preuss, and Second Officer Hans-Joachim Schale, was near the coast along with other German submarines – including his old companion, U-577 – for action. In the days of Hesse, he remained below the water, atop a height, watching the skyline for signs of smoke or taking some sound readings with the hydrophone of the boat. During the nights they emerged to renew the submarine air and fill the batteries with the generators. After some days – when it was not possible to approach the convoys passing due to the distance and location of the submarine – and whilst near Tobruk, he received on the night of January 13 the order to attack along with U submarines -205 (under Franz-Georg Reschke) and U -577 (deputy Herbert Schauenburg), an allied convoy heading towards Tobruk. At 02:30 he distnquished the lights of the convoy, but for his bad luck he was attacked by a British anti-submarine, which forced him to remain submerged until dawn. On 15.1. a new message from the Mediterranean Submarine Command announced the impending departure of a new allied convoy from Alexandria, and ordered U-133, 205, and 577 to head to Sollum bay. Upon reaching the U-133 there was a British destroyer against which he launched an attack with four torpedoes without damaging it. The destroyer responded to the offshore bomb attack, which forced the submarine to dive and stay for the rest of the day at 80 meters depth. On January 17, 1941, while the U-133 patroled west of Sollum, outside Sidi Barrani, it received with its hydrophone signals that declared the presence of ships in the area. The signals came from the allied convoy with the code MW-8B, which had begun on 16.1. from Alexandria with a final destination to Malta. The cruise ship was accompanied by the British GMS GURKHA II (G63), L-class, 1,920 tons, manufactured in 1940 in Birkenhead, UK, and Dutch HNLMS ISAAC SWEERS (G83), 1,604 tons, Gerard Callenbourgh finished in 1941 in Southampton of England. Hesse prepared and launched an attack, which it describes in detail in the logbook. I am translating from page 18 and 19 of the U-133 War Calendar.
03:00 West 4, 3-4, 7 degrees Celsius, good visibility, Qu. CO 9215
06:10 Diving and underwater course.
07:10 Locate sounds at a right angle, at 107 degrees, at a perimeter height. The hydrophone finds at the beginning a propeller with 78-80 turns, a steamer. This sound will be covered in a bit by the sounds of a destroyers propeller, and a little later the sounds of a second destroyer. I see in the periscope the subtle peaks of two destroyers that travel very close to one another, having a course westward. Approximately 45 hm [fm. hm = centimeters, this is unit of measurement for artillery and navy, 45 x 100 = 4,500 meters]. As of 07:25 sounds of engines are starting to heard. Because the destroyers come up to me in zero position, I’m heading south and later I turn again. A destroyer is located southwest, right from my bow to 80.0 = 25 hm. I’m attacking this destroyer. Opposite to the course of attack suddenly from the left in the field of vision, the second destroyer appears with right bow position 90 = 10 hm and at a speed of 15 knots. A group of four torpedoes was ready. The position was still up to position 100, where the shot was fired. The boat was kept under water at medium speed, and with the command “all men in front” [ff. This order was intended to keep the submarine horizontal after weight loss due to the torpedo launch. The boat remained under water. Torpedo hit after 48 seconds, a few seconds later, another explosion (bombs on the deck or ammunition), after 2-3 minutes the typical sinking sound of a ship (sound of gravel that sinks). It was a Jervis class destroyer.
After leaving submerged I was heading to point A plus 80 degrees and I changed course to the north. Around 08.00 I tracked us beeing tracked with a sound tracking machine. Depth chargers were thrown out of which 22 exploded, in a relatively good position, just above the craft. For a little while three crew members worked together, but most of the time. 2. The crew behaved impeccably and was proud of the “baptism of the fire.” There were no damages. Depth chargers were thrown into groups of five and a few of them alone.
10:20 Long sounding sounds of depth chargers constantly moving further.
11:05 Emerging and sending a short message: “Quotation Qu. CO 9214, route west “. The ship hit by one of the four torpedoes of the U-133 was GMS GURKHA II (G63), governed by C.N. Lentaigne, the British Royal Navy. After her torpedoing she caught fire and was in a flaming spot of oil, she received help from HNLMS ISAAC SWEERS (G83), which managed to save all crew members except nine people. After 90 minutes, while GMS GURKHA II continued to burn, she sank in position 31.50 B and 26.15 A. The survivors were then transferred to the still resisting British Tobruk while the sinking of GMS GURKHA II was announced by the British on the 9 March 1942, just five days before the U-133 sank.
In the following days, the submarine continued her patrols in the same area, again meeting allied convoys, but did not manage to sink a ship. On January 20, 1941, Hesse found that his vessel was experiencing problems, possibly coming from the 17.1.42 deep chargers, which limited her operational capacity, while at the same time threatening his own submarine and crew. The entry on page 22 of the U-133 War Card for the aforementioned date states that:
18:00 Emerging and course on the surface.
With the current state of the machines (connections), the virtually unusable hydrophone, which is constantly deteriorating, as I do not get a signal from the right side, while from the left I only get parasites, plus the loss of a screw on an external link, the craft is unable to withstand a deep dive and a deep-water attack by depth charges.
A few days later, on January 21, 1942, at 5:30 am, the U-133 was south of Gavdos. The following day, 22.1., At 8.00 am, she met with ships of the 12th Coastal Deck of Attica, off Poros, which accompanied her to the Salamina naval station where she docked at 10:45. ending her second patrol patrol.
Lieutenant Commander EberhardMohr and the last U-133 patrol patrol.
After his arrival at the Salamis naval base, the base of the 23rd German Submarine Fleet, the U-133 joined the flotilla’s fleet and remained for repairs at the base of the until early March 1942. Commander of the service and repair department of the 23rd Submarine Flotilla was at that time the chief engineer Otto Erich Zurn, one of the few officers in the Mediterranean who had been awarded during his U-48 submarine due to “calmness in battle” the military cross of the Knights (Ritterkreuz), one of the most important decorations of the German army. Otto Zurn, aware of the efforts, operational warfare and executive plans that involved the campaign of the North African Front, and the need for isolation of Tobruk, combined with the need for this underwater weapon, he attempted to carry out the necessary repairs ordered by the Kriegsmarine Supreme Administration as soon as possible within the technical means of the workshop. At the beginning of March 1942, the U-133 submarine was almost ready to continue its action by bringing it to its turret, the war symbol of the 23rd German Submarine Fleet, which was a donkey, the flotilla mascot. The original commander of the U-133, Lieutenant Hermann Hesse, who remained the official commander of the submarine until March 1, 1942, had left as a trainer – from March 1942 to January 1943 – serving in B Submarine Admiral, in Germany, whose commander during this period was the later admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg. Von Friedeburg was one of three soldiers who signed the unconditional tradition of G Reich in 1945. For the sake of completing the biography of the first commander of U-133 Lieutenant Hermann Hesse, it should be noted that Hesse requested his reintegration in a combat unit resulting in being commander of the new submarine U-194, type IXC / 40, in which he assumed duties on January 8, 1943. On June 24th of the same year, the U-194 was sunk with a total of 54 people in the south of Iceland, at an indicative mark of 59 degrees B and 26 degrees C .; and 18th D, following an aircraft attack, which was launched by a Catalina-type aircraft owned by the US Navy Squadron VP-84 VP-84. Hermann Hesse, born in Cologne on 10 March 1909, was at this day 33 years of age.
As the lists of German records reveal, the old crew of the U-133 remained, after the departure of the commander of submarine Hermann Hesse, almost as it was, without any particular changes, until his accession under the rule of his new commander, chief engineer Eberhard Mohr. Mohr assumed his administrative duties on March 2, 1942, just after Hesse left. One particular change was the replacement of the U-133 Engineer, which was introduced to the newly-arrived flag-bearer Eugen Pohlmann. Pohlmann had previously served in the anti-submarine and it was his first position as a submarine engineer after the prerequisite submarine training. He had received orders from Berlin and had arrived in Piraeus with Lieutenant Eberhard Mohr. Eberhard Mohr was born in Dusseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia on 21 October 1915. He graduated from the German Navy School in 1935 and served in various positions until he was promoted to Lieutenant-General in 1939. Having originally served in the German Navy Artillery Units , as in the 518th coastal arsenal, and as a second assistant in the command of the Gotenhafen City Guard (today Gdynia, Poland), was trained from April to September 1940 on the submarine. From September 40 to January 41, he served at the 24th Submarine Flotilla at Danzig in eastern Pomerania (nowadays Gdansk, Poland) and from February until July of the same year as an officer in the 2nd Marine Submarine Deck, based initially on Wilhelmshaven, Germany, and then Lorient, northwest France. On September 15, 41, Lieutenant Eberhard Mohr was appointed commander of the U-148 training submarine IID, which belonged to the 24th Submarine Fleet, the former German city of Memel (now Klaipeda, Lithuania) . He remained in this position, without ever participating in a patrol, until March 1, 1942, where he was appointed commander of the U-133. As his resume shows, Lieutenant Eberhard Mohr – who was 26 years old on the day of taking office as U-133 governor on 2.3.1942 – had previously served only in training submarine units and had not participated in any war mission. The first patrol, in which he participated and whose responsibility was his, was the third and final U-133 war patrol that was to last only about an hour, as the submarine sank immediately after its departure, after impact with a mine, in the former Greek minefield of Tourlos-Flevon.
The third and final patrol of the U-133 submarine began at 6pm on March 14, 1942. After a small farewell ceremony at the Salamis Naval Station with the commander of the 23rd Submarine Flotilla Commander Fritz Frauenheim, the anti-submarine barrier of the base opened and the U-133 went out to Psytalia and Piraeus. In the submarine, Lieutenant Colonel Eberhard Mohr, First Officer Harald Preuss, Second Officer Hans-Joachim Schale, and Eugen Pohlmann, the chief engineer, 41 others, 45 of whom most were approaching 25 years of age. Following the bypass of Kinousouras and Psittalia, the submarine followed a south-east course towards Cape Tourlos with the purpose of passing through the Tourlos-Flevo mine field. This passage was right in front of Tourlos and was protected by the guns of the German Coastal Artillery 603, which had the commander of the lieutenant and at the time captain of the Aegina Fritz Wienecke. At the same time, the German Navy Administration of Attica had ordered, after information of the appearance of an allied submarine in the Saronic Gulf, that the 12 V 9 and 12 V 10 of the 12th Coastal Flotila of Attica were to escort the U-133 after leaving the minefield and protect her from any attack until the area of Tselevinia. The in-line 12 V 9 and 12 V 10 arrived at Tourlos at six o’clock in the afternoon, just as the U-133 sailed from Salamis. Holding steady from the outside of the mine field and carrying out an anti-submarine patrol, they drove at low speed to the south of Tourlos, waiting there, at a distance of one and a half nautical miles from the mine’s passage, waiting for the submarine they were suppose to escort. At six and 55 minutes, the U-133, traveling on the surface, approached Aegina and a mile and a half nautical miles east of Tourlos, it became visible from the viewpoint of the 1st Intl of the Coastal Artillery 603. Two minutes later, at six 57 First, the above-mentioned view of Tourlos saw an explosion, at the point where the submarine had been identified. Immediately after the explosion the U-133 had disappeared from the surface of the water. The submarine hadsank in a few minutes after being hit by a mine in the old Greek minefield of Tourlos-Flevon. This was the third and last patrol of the German submarine U-133 which lasted about an hour. According to the scarce information provided by the German war diaries, U-133’s Submarine has so far not been found and is considered lost, it can be concluded that the U-133’s last war patrol had no other goal beyond what she had done during her second patrol, the prevention of allied aid to Tobruk. The fall of Tobruk was, during that time, a precondition for the continuation of the German attack, which had as its direct objective the control of Kyrenia and, by extension, the oil of the wider region, so important for the German army’s mobility and connected to the outcome of the war.
The Greek minefield of Tourlos-Fleves and the time of the sinking of the U-133. As it is precisely mentioned in the 1st volume of the Hellenic Navy’s Hellenic Diary of War, immediately after the tropedoing of the Efthromos Elli in Tinos on August 15, 1940, and the imminent threat of the Italian attack, the Navy General Staff informed the August 23, 1940, with the secret order K / 27/4332, a plan for placing sea mines in the maritime regions of Tourlou-Venes, Methana-Moni, and North and South Evia. The main purpose of these minefields was the protection of the marine area located in the west of the Saronic Gulf – in which there were points of great strategic importance such as the port of Piraeus, the Salamis naval base, the entrance of the Corinth Canal, etc. – as well as the protection of the maritime channels between Evoia and the coasts of Central Greece. Leaving open and coastal artillery guarding the passages between Fleves and Attica, as well as the small passage between the Methana peninsula and the Moni Island, the possibility of turning the sea area to the west of the Saronic Gulf into a closed sea in which it would be extremely difficult for the Italian submarines and ships to penetrate and operate as they were used to in the then Italian-occupied Dodecanese.
On the night of 29th to 30th October 1940, immediately after the declaration of the Greek-Italian War, the Torlou-Fleves and Methana-Moni mines began to be layed under the supervision of the senior commander of destroyers, Gregory Mezeviris. For the laying of the Methana-Moni mines, a surface of 5.700 meters, the auxiliary ships of ALIAKMON and STRYMON, assisted by the destroyer KINGDOM OF OLGA, were used as mine ships. A total of 115 Vickers mines were placed in this minefield. For the laying of the Tourlou-Flevna Field, 15,800 meters, the auxiliary ship of the ORION Lighthouse and the PATHIR, AETOS, HERRAX and HYDRA Destroyer, assisted by the KASILES GEORGIOS, LEON and SPETSES Destroyer. The plan, according to orders, was to lay 325 mines, of which 155 were Vickers type and 170 M-type. The letter “M” was the code for the Greek Moraitis mines. The minefield would start having a western boundary, lying 550 meters from Cape Tourlos and ending, following a straight line, at a distance of 200 meters, as an eastern boundary, from the island of Fleves.
The mine laying was carried out by the aforementioned ships divided into two groups. One team moved from Fleves to Aegina, with a course of 270 degrees, and the other team from Aegina to Fleves, following a course of 90 degrees. The launching of the mines, however, of the group that headed from Aegina to Fleves, took place 350 meters east of the buoy placed in Tourlos. This, combined with the rate laying and the average speed of the mines, led to more than 100 mines left over and many major minefield gaps. Although the Navy General Staff ordered to cover these gaps, which took place 15 days later, the effort did not yield as well as out of the 100 mines planned to be layed to fill these gaps, only 14 had been placed. As a result, the risk was considered to the operation, which was proved later when at midnight on 29 March 1941, the sailing ship of the Greek Royal Navy MIMIS (ex JANE JOLLIFFE), governed by Elias Deiannis, sank with 23 losses after colliding on the Tourlos-Fleves minefield.
The above-mentioned minefields remained as they were throughout the Greek-Italian war. After the German attack on Greece, the collapse of the front, and the occupation of Athens in April 1941 by the German occupation army, the pre-existing Greek minefields were incorporated into the defense plans of the Axis forces. Thus, the Turlos-Flenes and Methana-Moni minefields were integrated into the defense plan of Attica and referenced by the German military maps and naval diaries, with the term “hostile minefields” or “old minefields”. In addition to the Turlos-Fleves minefield, the old Greek naval bases of the Tourlos of Aegina and the island of Fleves were incorporated into the German defense, to which the German Navy’s Coastal Artillery Battery 603 was deployed. Among the tasks of this artillery were mine clearance and control of the ships passing through the port of Tourlos and the Fleves, headed to the port of Piraeus. On the Tourlos side there was initially a bright sign that determined the passage and helped in navigation. Apparently, according to the logbook of the Attica Defense Command, the commander of which was Lieutenant Richard Leffler, the army of occupation had continual problems with the Tourlos-Fleves minefield, as the mines cut off and this shipping risk was almost daily. Thus, from October until November 1941, a widening of the minefield took place, resulting in an increase of one and a half nautical miles. But the problems did not stop there, the mines of the old Greek minefield continued to be washed out on shore or cut off from their anchorages and floating, posing a danger not only for the German or Italian warships and ships, but also for the Greek diesel ships. On 12 January 1942, for example, two floating mines were eliminated. On January 16, 1942 a mine was emitted from the above minefield in Lemonadika, Piraeus. On January 18, 1942, a Greek diesel boat collided with a floating mine near Tourlos and sank with victims. There are many reports. It should also be mentioned and stressed here that in the area during the U-133 sink there were only the old Greek minefields of Tourlos-Flenes and Methana-Moni. The German occupation army began to deploy its own minefields from December 1942 onward, since in 1941 there was little in maritime means at its disposal in the Aegean. Although some important minefields, between Sounio and the uninhabited San Tzortzis Island, were placed by the Italian Navy BARLETTA, in cooperation with the Kriegsmarine, in the Marine region of Tourlos-Fleves and Methana-Moni, the only minefields that existed were the minefields that were placed in October 1940 by Greek destroyers. Finally, it should also be mentioned that according to the German Defense Administration of Attica, twelve days before the submarine sank, on 2.3.1942, the signaling sign of the mine passage at Tourlos was cut off after a cargo ship crashed into it. On 8.3.1942, six days before the U-133 accident, the lamp was replaced with a simple surface marker buoy. From this entry onward, there is no longer any reference to the issue of replacing the buoy with a signaling light in the Tourlos passage. If you consider that on the day of the submarine sinking, Saturday, March 14, 1942, the sunset began at 18:20 and the moon was in a two-day phase from the new moon, possibly concluding that at the time of the U-133 , seven in the afternoon the surface buoy which showed the mine’s passage, might have been no longer visible and distinct to the crew of the U-133. According to the brief war diary records of Coastal artillery 603 at Tourlos Aegina, whose sailors were on standpoint and were the only eyewitnesses, the facts of the sinking of U-133 occurred chronologically as follows:
18:10 A submarine is on the side of Piraeus path south (submarine sail signal is not obtained from the Naval Aegina base).
18:55 The Tourlos I watch informs you of a boat to the south. The vessel is identified as a submarine.
18:57 A white ploom of water from the boat and then a hollow explosion was heard. The submarine had disappeared.
19:02 Message to the naval commander: “A submarine coming from the side of Piraeus probably collided with a mine and sank”.
19:10 When contacting the Naval Base Aegina, “this the coastguard 12 9 V and 12 V 10. Both vessels to be driven by the use of headlamps to the point of the wreck”.
20:15 The 12 V 9 is heading to the north. Message from the Aegina Marine Base: “Stay! According to the order of the naval commander you are ordered to participate in the investigation. ” The 12 V 9 responds: “understood”.
20:30 The 12 V 9 no longer emits a signal, probably heading to Fleves.
20:50 The 12 V 10 orders you to place a buoy at the point of the accident and sends a message: “buoy unavailable”.
21:15 An Italian torpedo boat arrives and investigates the spot of the accident with her headlights.
21:45 arriving from the Navy command, tugboats participating in the survey (There were no pieces of the wreck and no other evidence).
The Maritime Logbook of the Attica Maritime Administration, in the entry of 14 and 15 March 1942, describes the same fact as follows:
Coastal Artilery 603 reports that at 19:02 a submarine at Cape Tourlos struck a mine and sank. Since at 18:00 there was a departure from our own submarine, it is believed that the sunken submarine is ours. The Aegean Admiralty, the 23rd Submarine Group and the Marine Risk Unit have been notified. The Port Commander sends two tugs at 19:30 under the command of Lieutenant Schweyer. Although the 12th Coastal Defence of Attica does not have any ships free, we consider that 12 V 9 and 12 V 10 ships are close to the point of the accident. Indeed, it was possible, following a message from the Aegina Marine Base, to head there and stay at the point of the accident until 23:00. […] The point of the accident is illuminated by the lights of the artillery unit. Work and navigation were difficult in the area due to ugly visibility and because of flares fired after an air raid. The notice to stay at the scene of an accident with a ship while the second ship would take care of the fuel was not received. After an ineffective investigation at the site of the wreck, the remaining tug started to arrive in Piraeus. Since the distance from Coastal Artillery 603, in relation to the scene of the accident, ranges between 800 and 2000 meters from the land, and because the cause of the eruption that led to the submarine loss has not been investigated, and furthermore because it is considered likely the existence of enemy mines, a mine investigation was ordered in the area of Tourlos with the dawn on the 15.3.42. Following the message from Aegina, that the sjips left the scene of the accident, immediate departures of a ship and a tug were ordered. Around 24:00, a message from the naval administration of Piraeus that the 12 V 10 is at the outer edge of the minefield and states its position by firing red flares. In order to avoid further accidents, the naval commander wants the delivery of the rig and the tug to take place only after dawn. But the wish of the Aegean Admiral is to send them immediately. Indeed, although the 12 V 10 docked without the permission of the naval base, it was ordered at 01:00 on 15.3. to sail again for the place of the accident. The tug will be sent there at dawn as the tug with Lieutenant Schweyer did not return and apparently is still at the scene of the accident. The rest of the rescue efforts will be coordinated by the Aegean Admiralty and the 23rd Submarine Flotilla. “These are the official, primary and essential elements of the sinking, which are also partly found in entries of other units. The fact of the U-133 sinking was assessed as a mistake in shipping handling and was primarily charged to the inexperience of commander Eberhard Mohr, who, immediately after his death, received an honorary promotion to deputy chief. Although there are many theories on the causes of the submarine sinking, they contain all serious inaccuracies or elements that contradict the facts and historical evidence. The most serious of these approaches the fact of sinking through historical military documents, but never managed to articulate a detailed and documented position. Perhaps we may never know the exact reasons that led to the failures and the associated sinking of the U-133, as there is no other testimony beyond a brief mention of the eyewitnesses, the Watchtower I of the 603 Coastal Artillery Aegina of Turlos.
The German investigation after the accident.
Immediately after the submarine U-133 was lost, a series of actions were carried out to determine the wreck in the first place, to determine whether there were survivors, to determine the cause of its sinking and to estimate the extent of the damage. Surveillance investigators for the sinking of the wreck and the causes of the sinking were taken over by the commander of the Navy Coast Guard 12th Coast Guard, Lieutenant Colonel Albert Oesterlin, in collaboration with the commander of the Naval Defense Force, Lieutenant Richard Leffler, and the Commander of the 23rd Submarine Flotilla Fritz Frauenheim. As reported in the logs of the Oesterlin naval calendar, immediately after the U-133 sank:
The 12 M 2, 12 M 6 and 12 M 7 sailboats sailed from Piraeus with the task of finding the wreck and widening the passage at the 1.5-mile Nautical Mine at the turtle mine. At the beginning of the work a lot of scattered oil spots were detected. At noon, when a submarine stream came from the south, a large release of oil was detected at about 3,000 meters from the coast, at the minefield. A large spot of oil was created from the current to the north (wind east 4-5). The depth, at the point where the wreck is most likely, is 80 meters. Oil droplets were being released until the night. To point out the exact location of the minefield, they moved from north to south, making circles to the east and west, and at a distance of 6,000 meters east of Cape Tourlos, buoys with anchors at the point of the mines. During this work, we passed over many mines, which with their light gray color are strongly visible. (They lie at a depth of 3-4 meters below the surface). Immediately thereafter, boys were placed, marking the free passageways to continue the search. (Distance from the end of Tourlos 2.400 meters). On March 16, 1942, after the information of the German units on the time of its sinking, the commander of the German Naval Administration of the South, headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria, admiral Karlgeorg Schuster, wrote in the wartime diary of the administration that:
Regarding the report from the 23rd Submarine Fleet to the Sumbarine Administration of the Mediterranean, related to the U-133 sinking at the Aegina minefield on 14.3.42 at 19:00, the Aegean Admiral said that so far no survivors were found, nor objects of the wreck. The sinking point, which is constantly releasing oil, is about 4,000 meters east of the edge of Tourlos, within the minefield. Regarding the lifting the sunken submarine, which is about 90 meters deep, I consider – especially due to the lack of tools and other high priority tasks – meaningless and order the end of the rescue work until a final decision is taken by the Supreme Administration of the Navy , whether it is important to be recovered or not.
Furthermore, as mentioned in the war calendar of the 12th Coastal Armored Fleet of Attica, on March 17, 1942:
The wreck, due to the continuous and intense release of oil, was multiplely identified and marked with two buoys, (just above the wreck a mine was detected). Tourlos artillery battery was measured by the distance from the land to the buoy, a distance of 2,200 meters, a wreck distance of 2,700 meters. At 15:15 Lieutenant Weiher and Lieutenant Frauenheim arrived along with two Italian deputies, for inspection at the wreck site. According to their own opinion, the continuous release of oil marks the point where the wreck of the submarine is located. Visits and discussions were then held to place a lamp at the wreck site, in conjunction with the additional light fitted vertically to the wreck and further north of it. The purpose was, in this way, to allow the safe passage from the edge of Tourlos, at a distance of 500-100 meters, during the night.
On March 18, 1942, the wreck was spotted even more clearly by the release of not only oil but also bubbles. This led to the correction of the placement of the buoys and the continuation of the widening of the Tourlos minefield after the mines were removed. On March 19, 1942 we read that:
The point of the wreck was marked with a red buoy just above the wreck and two more buoys located on either side 50 meters east and west of the wreck.
On 23 March 1942, the entry in the war calendar of the Aegean Admiralty states that:
The location of the U-133 submarine has now been clearly identified and marked with surface floats, after observing bubble and oil emissions, and by scanning the bottom with an electrical device operating according to the principle of a magnetic mine. The submarine is sank in the familiar minefield at a depth of 78 meters and 2,700 meters from the coast. Mines sweeping in the accident area has been completed so that the diving bell can be used in good weather. The required works are in progress.
After receiving, in the past days, the calendar entries of the units involved in the accident and the U-133 sinking and especially after the report of the 12th Coastal Atomic Fleet of Attica, that the submarine is at a depth of about 80 meters, the Supreme Administration Navy, based in Berlin, has decided a further assessment to determine whether the submarine’s shipwreck was repairable or not. The importance of the submarine weapon and the general need for submarines in the Mediterranean led the German administration to this decision as the assessment of the situation of the U-133 would indicate if it could be repaired to re-enter the 23rd Flotilla of Submarines. As the German Navy did not have at that time the necessary infrastructure in the Aegean, to conduct such operations, the commander of the German Admiralty of the Aegean, Admiral Erich Forste, requested the commander of the (Supermarina) Super Marine Staff in Greece, Vice Admiral Arturo Catalano Gonzaga di Cirella, material and technical support that was given to him. The preparations and the survey were carried out by the 12th Coastal Atmospheric Deck of Attica, with the 12 M 2 and 12 M 5 napkins, in cooperation with the Italian Royal Navy, Regia Marina Italiana. Regia Marina has made available to the German Navy the diving bell and divers manned as a shipwrecked TITAN tug, which came specifically from Kefalonia to join the group. The dives, with the Italian diver, chief engineer Enzo Biagi and the German war correspondent Werner Hartmann – took place on April 4, 1942. After the results of the survey, which were accurately documented by Albert Oesterlin, the Supreme Administration Navy stopped every thought of lifting the U-133 and considered the submarine as a total loss. According to the data provided by the divers and which were recorded in writing and with an accompanying plan in the war calendar of the 12th coastal defensive flank of Attica, the shipwreck could not be repaired due to its complete destruction. From this point onward, there is no mention of the U-133 until its discovery by the professional divers Stathis Baramati and Theophilos Cleis in 1986.
The preparations and the survey were carried out by the 12th Coastal Deference Flotilla of Attica, with the 12 M 2 and 12 M 5 napkins, in cooperation with the Italian Royal Navy, Regia Marina Italiana. Regia Marina made available to the German Navy the diving bell and divers manning a shipwrecked TITAN tug, which came specifically from Kefalonia to join the group. The dives, with the Italian diver, chief engineer Enzo Biagi and the German war correspondent Werner Hartmann – took place on April 4, 1942. After the results of the survey, which were accurately documented by Albert Oesterlin, the Supreme Administration Navy stopped every thought of lifting the U-133 and considered the submarine as a total loss. According to the data provided by the divers and which were recorded in writing and with an accompanying plan in the war calendar of the 12th coastal defensive flank of Attica, the shipwreck could not be repaired due to its complete destruction. From this point onward, there is no mention of the U-133 until its discovery by the professional divers Stathis Baramati and Theophilos Cleis in 1986.
The discovery of the wreck in 1986.
In 1986, a trawler passed to the northeast of Aegina, outside the cape of Tourlos, caught its net on an unknown object on the seabed. In her attempt to untangle the net a spot of oil had begun to emerge. Not knowing where the oil was coming from and fearing the high-cost of sea pollution, he decided to cut the ropes leaving the net and the “doors” (the metal guide that pushes the fish into the net), at the bottom.
At the same time, the same or the next day, a sponge boat, coming from the rocky islet of Petrokavaro, to the south of Aegina, passed through the aforementioned area. The onboard professional divers, Stathis Baramatis and Theophilos Klimis, spotted the location and approached it. Theofilos Klimis, having many years of experience, decided the oil spill was coming from a wreck at the bottom and decided to mark the spot with a buoy, aiming to return the following day to dive. The next day, Stathis Bombamatis dived at the spot where they had marked, finding out immediately that there was indeed a wreck, and that it was a submarine shipwreck. From the iron cross and the eagle symbol which he found on the submarine’s compass, he discovered it was a German submarine. The submarine, which was then accurately identified by the professional diver Kostas Thoktoridis, as the German submarine U-133.
Apparently, the trawler’s initial effort to release its tangled net led to a small movement of the submarine, resulting in changes to the interior pressure, which again led to continuous bubble and oil appearing on the surface both by the captain of the trawl and by Baraamatis-Klimis.
In the winter of 2011-12, after telephone conversations I had with Stathis and Kostas Barbastis, his son, and my request for a written testimony of finding the U-133 shipwreck, I received the following letter, which quoted in his words the main elements of the testimony of Stathis Bparamatis, the man who first dived and saw the U-133 shipwreck after WWII. The narrative elements of his letter not only delineate the history of the discovery, but also determine the events which took place by highlighting the essence of the discovery. Returning from a dive at the Petrokavaro area – behind Aegina – and as the sea was calm, open to Cape Tourlos, I spotted spots on the surface and began to monologue about the unknown frivolous people who created the stain of pollution I was seeing. Theofilos Klimis, the captain, having just realized what’s going on, made the assumption telling me it’s a wreck. In fact, we thought the incident was recent, imagining what we would find! We dropped a reel immediately, and after opening the sonar – an old cartographic – we immediately spotted the wreck at 39 fathoms depths (71.29 meters). We took our marks from the shore, since there were no GPS and other such means, and we left for the harbor. I was already with two deep dives and I was not going to dive again the same day. The next day we started and after we arrived at the site after one and a half hours, we started to prepare. My anxiety was at its peak. We poured the tubes into the sea – all the dives were made with the hookah diving system of course – and after dressing I fell into the water. As I descended I watched the spots with air bubbles rising testifying that the shipwreck was still leaking. Arriving at 25 to 30 fathoms, I spotted a strange shape like a cigar. I say shape because the waters were very short and the visibility was bad, but with the current that prevailed I found myself in a couple of minutes on the unknown wreck which was completely covered in oyster. I immediately realized it was a war vessel, but the sponges, the oysters and whatever else was stuck on it, and the net of a trawler – especially that – made it difficult to recognize the wreck. We later learned that on the same day or the previous day, while a trawler was in the area, it caught its net on the bottom and abandoned it. After a while passing in front of the turret, I spotted the machine gun and realized it was a submarine. Then I went along the bow where there was a big cut, as if missing a piece of bow. All this time my heart was beating hard in my mind how many souls are hiding in the wreck. After 25 minutes of splashing about 30 to 35 minutes of decompression, I came to the surface and told Theophilus what I saw. He, for his part, confirmed to me that it was a submarine. At this point, I want to say that the hours of diving and decompression, however odd this may sound today, are real. My dives were as follows, the first dive was at 55-65 meters for 35 to 45 minutes and a little less than an hour of decompression. The second was after two hours, a little shallower, and with the corresponding decompression. Definitely many dives, but everyday circumstances and years of experience from diving had conditioned me to be able to execute these dive plans. Today I would not recommend it to anyone, as we all know the results of so multi deco dives. Diving at the wreck continued for some days further because the u-boat had to be cleaned from the vast net from the trawl caught on it. During the cleaning, the dome of the compass shattered exposing the eagle holding the swastika at her feet. It was already clear, the wreck was a German submarine. The compass, which was brass, gyroscopic, around 25 to 30 pounds, had on the side, the swastika symbol with some numbers. When her dome exploded, the explosion was quite terrifying, especially durring that time on the bottom. From then on, the interest was lost because for us professional divers what plays an important role in our case is the monetary factor. Out of this money we live, from our work, as opposed to others who found things ready for them. At this point I would like to add that during another dive, in the same area, I found another wreck at 43 fathoms (78 meters) which was totally destroyed. From what I could discern, it’s probably a war vessel.
As for Theophilos now. He was a specialist at salvaging wrecks. He was the diver who went to Tinos, after the torpedoing of the Efthromos Helli. He was also the man Cousteau came into contact with during his trip to Greece to tell him about the location the Bretanic was lost. Uppon his return, after a while, he stopped to thank Theophilos and found him shortly after he had been “hit” by the bends during a dive. In fact, he left him with some sera. There is a long history of grandfather Klimis but what more can I say. I also think that Theophilus had worked on the Oria where they recovered tires and sold them for 1-3 gold coins a piece. Apparently they were used to make Shoes.
This is was I had to say in general about the discovery the German submarine.
Efstathios Baramatis »
The U-133 today.
Immediately after the discovery of the submarine, Stathis Bparamatis, being a professional diver and appreciating his discovery, both as a historical object and as a set of expensive precious metals, first addressed the German Embassy in Athens, disclosing the finding and asking if there was any interest in the Government from the Federal Republic of Germany. As his son Konstantinos Brematis informs us, the Germans not only showed no interest but also stated categorically “Leave the dead in their tomb. Hitler is a big shame for us.” They also stated that the German Federal Government had no interest in the finding. After the Germans’ denial and their zero interest, Stathis Bparamatis then addressed the same professional diver Giannis Panagos, owner of the company “N. John Panagos “, requesting his assistance for a possible salvaging and selling of submarine metals. After World War II and until 2003, the Ministry of National Defense / ARCH / Α1 / Φ43 / 48064/3385 (Government Gazette 1701 / Β / 19-11-2003) was established – which characterizes the shipwrecks, their immersion, as cultural monuments – the lifting of ships that had been submerged was permitted only after the approval from the respective authorities. The condition was to file an application with the details of the shipwreck and the request of the applicant. Assisted by Yiannis Panagos, Stathis Bmpamatis submitted on 27.02.1989 an application to secure and the lift the shipwreck at the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Merchant Marine, which was registered with the number 1753. Subsequently a second application was submitted to the Navy this time, Giannis Panagos, for the purpose of buying the shipwreck. The two applications were not approved by the responsible authorities, resulting to the submarine salvaging not being carried out. Two years later, in 1991, in an article in the newspaper “Mesimvrisi” of March 4, 1991, journalist G. Karagiorgas, in a report titled “German special find at the seabed”, interviewed Yiannis Panagos, reports the incident of the trawler and the discovery of the wreck “became known in the closed society of the sea lads diving for sponges.” Meaning that the inner circle of professionals knew the existence of the German submarine to the east of Aegina. According to Giannis Panagos, in the aforementioned article, the location of the wreck recorded in Stathis Bopamatis’s request for salvaging was “misleading” and had nothing to do with the actual position of the shipwreck. Thus, it can be assumed that the precise position of the submarine was known only to Mparamatis and Panagos, but the area was known as G. Karagiorgas repeatedly mentions the point of the sinking in his article, stating that the submarine was “east of Aegina”. From this point onward, through its article with a nationwide circulation of the newspaper “Mesimvrisi”, it became known that in the east of Aegina a wreck of a German submarine was found, resulting in the end of the 90s, divers to begin the visits to it. The German submarine U-133, which has so far been submerged in the northeast of Aegina, is one of the most important and rare historical witnesses left to recall the events that took place in the Aegean eastern Mediterranean region during the Second World War. Its historical substance – expressed in its role as a submarine weapon in the Battle of the Atlantic, but also in the German campaign in Cyrene, and at the same time its accession to the first German submarine flotilla of the Mediterranean, the 23rd, based on Salamis. The U-133 is a particularly important historical subject that is implicitly involved in the history of all peoples who participated, directly or indirectly, in the military operations that lasted from September 1939 to May 1945. The U-133 is beyond the role of a historic object and a sea grave, as it is where the remains of its crew lie until this day. Most of its members were young children who lost their lives, following with fanaticism highly chauvinistic visions, which led to the worldwide bloodshed that is now called, blatantly in my opinion, World War II. So the U-133, through its tragic history and its violent loss, makes it another factor that is probably the most important element of the wreck. It is the imaginary umbilical cord that connects this lifeless object with the suffering of the war, and at the same time contains those elements that make it the message of those who no longer have a voice to say, this can be no other than “No War Again!”. A clear warning to avoid similar events that might arise in the future. This article was primarily based on primary sources of the German war records, such as those of the Freiburg Federal Archives and the war calendars of the German units operating in Greece and listed on the NARA microfilms, Washington DC, but without the assistance of selected researchers and friends, archival research and field research would not be possible or at least would not reach the historical depth it reached in this work. I would therefore like to express my thanks to all those who have contributed to the emergence of the German submarine U-133. My thanks go to Theodor Dorgeist, Peter Schenk, Reinhard Kramer, Rene Stenzel, Axel Urbanke, Vyron Tezapidis and Platon Alexiadis for archival research. The field research and its results, which led to the confirmation of positions for the identity, history and sinking of the U-133. Finally, I want to thank, in particular, Stathis and Kostas Bparamatis for their willingness to assist in the investigation of the history of the shipwreck after its discovery in 1986, Aristotle Zervoudis, who gave me information from his records, primarily from the German war correspondent Werner Hartmann, as well as Luis Panagos who willingly helped with this research by providing information from the record of his late father, Giannis Panagos.
The main body of the shipwreck is standing upright on the bottom of the seabed with a north-south axis, having a left slope of 30-40 degrees. The bow is below the aft part of the wreck, forming a right angle on an east-west shaft. The maximum depth is 78 meters (propellers), eastward the depth increases while to the west it decreases. The turret lies at a depth of 67 meters, while the body of the wreck at 75 meters. Around the wreck there are compressed air bottles, probably for the submarine’s needs at the time. The cannon of 88 mm remains in place, but around it nature has composed its own colors, covering it with colorful sponges and other benthic organisms.