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SH3 - U-33's back at sea!

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Aufweidersehen Bergen!


While continuing my primary Silent Hunter 3 single player career as Richard Schepke in U-105 with the Doenitz Elite Flotilla (DEF), I'm also dipping back into my parallel career as Kommandant of U-33, Erich Pohl. This was started primarily as a try-out of the GWX OneAlex Edition mod before risking U-105, but that being done, it gives me an opportunity to try out shorter patrols earlier in the war, and with a smaller but handier Type VII boat. This career lacks the additional immersive features of a DEF patrol, not least a human role-played HQ to interact with, but is still fun.

It's 25 April 1940 and we're starting from the recently-occupied port of Bergen, in Norway. Bergen's U-boat bunkers weren't built at this time but neither SH3 nor my mod represents such developments. Even so, it's a nice experience as the mod I'm using starts some patrols from inside bunkers, whether or not they should really be there. Ahead of us as we slip our virtual lines is out minesweeper escort.


So, where are we going@ Oor patrol area is marine quadrat BE34, which is in the Western Aproaches. For now, though, the task is to follow our escort out to the open sea, no sinecure as Bergen lies inland of several channels between high ground.


As usual, the bridge watch are initially relaxed, but become fully alert as we get beyond about 400m from out berth.


It would be easy to ignore the escort, plot a course and jump into time acceleration, but for me, with a mod which simulates escorts out of port, I relish navigating my boat manually,  in real time.


About half-way down the channel out to the North sea, our escort turns back...


...at which point, I plot my course out to our patrol area.


The Western Approaches is a choke point for merchant shipping to and from the British Isles by the southern route. So I'm hopeful of a more productive patrol than was obtained by stooging about the North Sea chasing warships. Tine to start what BdU called the Tonnage War!

...to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA
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Thanks, Goob!

As it happens, this patrol had to be delayed a month due to serious technical issues. Namely, the SH3 bug whereby on loading a saved game, you find that your boat is submerged and plunging wildly to destruction past crush depth (or on the seafloor, if in shallow water). After struggling for a bit, I found the workaround in the GWX manual, which, weirdly enough, is to change the Windspeed value from 0 to 4 in the files (in data/Campaigns/Campaign) Campaign.LND, Campaign.RND and Campaign.SCR. Then re-load the saved file. Somwhere along the line, I lost nearly a month (perhaps because of a fixed 26-day gap between patrols set in Silent Hunter 3 Commander).

And so it comes to pass that U-33 casts off and sails again from Bergen on the evening of 20 May 1940, with cloud closing in and rain beginning to fall.


This time there's no escort to tag along behind, so I quickly plot my own way out to open water.


As soon as we clear the harbour moles, I order the crew below decks, but keep the battle ensign at the flagstaff for the time being. And the bridge watch on the bridge, naturally.


Visibility is soon down to a couple of hundred meters, as we pick our way carefully down the long fjord.


The weather improves in the middle of the next day...


...by which time we're about half-way across the North Sea. Our patrol zone, BE34, is down in the Western Approaches and bases in France are a thing of the not-too-distant future, with German forces steadily rampaging across France towards the Channel ports. I ignore a report of a distant enemy task force off the north-eastern Scottish mainland. My aim is to fight what Befehlshaber der U-Boote Doenitz called the Tonnage War, against the enemy's merchant shipping.


As fate would have it, my first encounter isn't very far away!

...to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA
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Wilco, wait out!

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Clear, moonlit nights don't seem to be particularly dark, in these latitudes, at this time of year


Which probably helps the bridge watch spot a ship about fifty degrees off our port bow, just before 01:20. At this point, we're north of the Shetlands.


I grab my binos and have a look. Even at this distance, I can see it's a sizeable freighter with a lot of what looks like deck cargo. Despite the direction in which the wind is blowing her funnel smoke, she's moving right to left across my field of view. Possibly headed towards Shetland, or enemy-held parts of Norway.


We increase revolutions and turn to intercept her.


'U-zo auf brucke!' As U-33's bows come around, I order the Uberwasser Ziel Optik brought up and mounted on its pedestal at the front of the bridge.


There she is! We're just past 90 degrees off her port beam at about five thousand metres - and she's doing 15 knots, no less!


Decisions, decisions! On the surface I have little speed advantage and from our rather poor starting position, it'll take hours to catch her, let alone get ahead - if I can do so at all, before losing sight of her. Few merchantmen are armed at this stage of the war, so I decide to engage with our deck gun at once. The range is long and there's a bit of a roll on our boat, but if I can get some decent hits, maybe we can at least slow her down, if not sink her.

Decision made!

...to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA

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The deck gun is quickly manned and ammo brought up. By the bridge watch, leaving only the watch officer there. I've not found a mod which keeps the bridge watch where they should be, keeping a good look-out while others man the deck gun.


The first round goes well wide, almost like a warning shot off the bows. But the second round hits and after that, we start scoring about every second or third shot.


I've ordered fire directed at the target's waterline and can't resist a 'cheat camera' look at how we're doing. It's a pity for the target this is a cheat, because it shows she's flying the flag of neutral Eire.


If I had legitimately noticed, I doubt I would have let her go. She's in a war zone, rather a big ship for the small Irish merchant marine, unlit after dark, and not carrying any of the usual prominent neutrality markings (typically, the national flag painted nearly the full height of the hull). As it is, in the dark, her tricolour could easily be taken for a French one, except at very close range.

So the battering continues. The freighter is soon burning and losing way, down from fifteen to seven knots and falling. The range begins to wind down.


As we close in,sometimes hitting, sometimes missing, our victim suddenly turns on powerful searchlights...


...and trains them towards us. Not very friendly! Besides, added to the smoke from her fire, the glare makes pretty sure I won't see her colours. And so, she seals her own fate.


She's now barely moving, well alight, and starting to go down by the stern, from the look of it. And those lights have gone out.


Yes, she's definitely sinking.


We turn to port as we come up to her, just as she takes the proverbial final plunge.


I don't see any rafts or lifeboats, just the usual flotsam popping to the surface.  Amongst it, something small is flopping around. A moment of horror - it's a man in the water! By the time we're on the scene, he's stopped flailing about and a few seconds later, disappeared under the surface. A sobering sight, and no mistake.


I lose no time in turning back onto my original course and putting as much distance as I can between U-33 and this unpleasant encounter. I report my sinking, and we're credited with just over five thousand tons. I'd thought it was a bigger fish but I'm not inclined to dwell on this one.


As it happens, soon enough, genuine neutral or flag of convenience, the Tommies will come looking for revenge!

...to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA
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Is there any penalty for sinking Neutral flagged ships? (regardless of tonnage credited)

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I just checked the Grey Wolves manual (the OneAlex mod I'm using being derived therefrom) and though the mod did make some changes to SH3's 'renown' system, it says points are still deducted for destroying friendly or neutral targets.

There's also the indignity of being shamed by the boss. As I found out after submitting an innocuous status report after my sinking...


...only to receive this, in response. Ouch!


What else is there to do, except carry on towards my patrol zone. I risk staying on the surface was we proceed through the Shetlands-Faroes gap in daylight, in good conditions - high, partial overcast, good visibility and a light swell.

The bridge watch maintain their vigilance as if their lives depended on it...which indeed they do.
Darkness comes but slowly...
...as the leisurely moon climbs up into the darkening skies.
By the time it's dark, we're through the gap and change course to the south-west.
We've a long way still to go and if nothing else, I'm resolved to take more care about identifying shipping...though I still have my doubts about the neutrality of the steamer I sunk - and will have no hesitation in telling Doenitz so to his face, when we get back.
...to be continued!
Edited by 33LIMA
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By early next morning, the weather has taken a turn for the worse, with heavy seas driven by 14 m/s winds from the south.


Of course, the bridge watch is in oilskins and sou'westers.


Time to drop into the cellar to give them a break, methinks. Also for some hydrophone checks.


At twenty meters, the boat is still rolling underneath the heavy swell.


...so I take her down to 40 metres.


I cruise submerged for a few hours, making regular hydrophone checks. But there's nothing to be heard but our own screws.


The last hydrophone check is still negative, so it's time to come back to the surface and get the bridge watch wet again.



I order the boat levelled off at periscope depth...


...and do a couple of sweeps with the sky periscope.


Alles klar! Auftauchen!


There's no sign of any change in the weather, but at least general visibility is unimpaired by rain or cloud.


We plough on, gradually working our way from south-west to nearer south as we past between western Ireland and Rockall Bank.


The people on the bridge will just have to put up with it as best they can...


...until the wind dies down, of which there's no sign as the day wears on.


Darkness begins to fall and cloud cover increases. There's still no let-up in the wind.


Just after seven the next morning, we get a report of a fast convoy to the south. I alter course and increase speed in an effort to intercept it.


We do need the weather to improve. Our often unreliable torpedoes will likely be near useless in the heavy seas, while manning the deck gun will be out of the question. But first, I need to make contact with that convoy!

...to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA
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We rattle and roll our way southward in pursuit of the distant fast convoy. We're both hindered by the heavy seas, windspeed and direction but I can barely make 10-12 knots and can't believe we'll catch up the enemy if these conditions persist.


The bridge watch do a good job of stating alert, despite waves which regularly submerge them.


Still no sign...


...so down we go for some hydrophone sweeps, which will give the boys on the bridge a bit of a break.


No joy. Even well below the swell and with the e-motors running at minimum revs, we can hear nothing.


We spend a couple of hours submerged. Repeated sweeps with the sound gear reveal no trace of shipping, friend or foe. So it's back up we go, into the teeth of the gale once more.


Suddenly, we have more to worry about than the weather. Aircraft, up there, fine off the port bow!


...to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA

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These are not the conditions in which I'd expect many aircraft to be operating, let alone prehistoric packing cases like a Walrus, better suited to air-sear rescue than anti-submarine warfare.


No point taking chances - down we go, the boat taking a longer time than usual to 'unstick' from the turbulent surface.


We make it without being bombed - he seems not to have spotted us.


We make another unsuccessful series of hydrophone sweeps while waiting for the Walrus to amble off. Then it's back up into the same heavy seas.


During the evening, we get a report of a convoy well to our east,  headed for the Irish Sea. Likely it's the one we chased, bound for Liverpool. No point in another stern chase, into enemy coastal waters.


During the night, we et a message from BdU, ordering U-boats in the vicinity of Dunkirk to assist in cutting off the enemy forces trapped in the vicinity. Much too far away for us.


Our next excitement comes in the early hours of the following day when we spot a small steamer to starboard, heading the opposite way on a roughly parallel course. By this time, the weather has finally begun to improve.


As the ship passes, I can make out in the UZO sight that she's a flying the Irish tricolour and that this time, she's got lights set. A neutral, and no grounds to doubt it this time. So we let her pass, keeping our distance.


The sun is coming up behind us as we press on. The skies are clearing but I'll take the greater risk from aircraft in exchange for the better conditions.


to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA

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The neutral steamer slips away to the north-east.


A few hours later, another aircraft appears ahead. Once again it's a biplane, this time a Swordfish torpedo bomber - complete with torpedo!


I'm very doubtful of his being able to make a successful torpedo attack on us and if I really knew that's what he was carrying, I'd have been tempted to stay up and pop him off with the flak. But it would have been foolish to take such needless chances with a valuable U-boat.


Half-an-hour later, after another fruitless hydrophone check, we're back on the surface...


...and running southwards towards our assigned patrol area, still a long way off.


Within a few hours, the winds have dropped right off and the sea is dead calm.


The good weather is with us all day and sunset finds us well on our way. At last, the bridge watch no longer need their oilskins.


We're now off Ireland's west coast and hopefully, Coastal Command will be leaving us alone for a while.


...to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA

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Great stuff... I feel like I'm in the middle of the Das Boot film!

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Thanks Trooper! That's how playing it feels!

On the evening of 27th May, we finally reach our patrol area in BE39 and start a search pattern. We're in the Western Approaches and so should pick up shipping traffic on any of the southerly routes to or from the British Isles.


I report my arrival to BdU. Happily, the conditions are still fine and settled...


...and I reduce speed to conserve fuel. We may be searching for some time. 



Towards nightfall, one of the steady stream of incoming radio messages reveals that I'm not the only one sinking doubtful neutral shipping. Oehrn in U-33 has been at it, too.


We're not far away but can neither see not hear any shipping, neutral or otherwise. And by nightfall, it's raining again!


Next day, the wind has picked up again too.


The day after that, May 29th, having more than completed my minimum 24 hours in BE39, I extend my search pattern in the hope of running into something.


The next day is much the same. Strong winds, regular showers, fruitless hydrophone checks, empty horizons. This is past tedious; it's now wearing us down. Where is everybody?


Next day, same again, though the showers seem to have decided to stop.


But the wind is picking up again, and soon the bridge watch is back in wet weather gear.


On we rumble, searching for something it seems isn't there.


Our dreary and morale-sapping routine finally ends on the morning of 1st June. A large convoy is reported to our north-north-west. It's a long way off at 140 kilometers, moving fast and heading away to the north-east. But it seems highly unlikely the convoy intends to reach Britain by sailing all the way up the west coast of Ireland. I'm prepared to bet it will turn onto a more easterly heading to make for St Georges Channnel, bound for Bristol or Liverpool. I plot a course to the north-east, in the hope of cutting them off. Full ahead both!

to be continued!
Edited by 33LIMA

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Within a few hours, we are enveloped in another weather front - high winds, turbulent seas, low clouds and driving rain.


About half-way to the estimated interception point, we dive for a hydrophone check.


In SH3 you can hear further if you man the hydrophones yourself, but neither myself nor the regular sound man can hear any screws but our own.


The next day, the weather has improved, but there is neither sight nor sound of the convoy. Nothing else for it but to resume our search pattern. The better weather holds for a couple of days...


...but by 6th June, it's once again dire. The rain is staying away but the seas are rough.


As this point, it seems our luck has changed. While we're back in BE39, our original patrol area, there's another report of a large convoy, this time just to our west and heading our way.


We go for it at once!


...to be continued!

Edited by 33LIMA

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For a while, it looks like our interception has gone awry, for the second time. Then, we get a distant hydrophone contact nearly dead ahead. We surface and run towards it.

Our first sighting is an escort off the port bow, likely a ‘sweeper’ ahead of the convoy.


I order a quick contact report made to BdU.


Then I alter course to starboard, to open the range from the escort, then back to port.  So far, the expected convoy remains invisible, but I'm convinced it's there. And coming straight for us.


Down we go again. Another hydrophone sweep picks up the swishing thump of the screws of many merchantmen, over a wide arc ahead...


...with the escort we spotted off to port.  We've got them where we want them!


In the convoy is an Armed Merchant Cruiser...


...and a fine variety of shipping.


I dive to 80 metres and slow down. The plan is to track the enemy with the hydrophones, let the escort pass over our heads, and then come up to periscope depth just ahead of the convoy itself. Preferably slightly to one side. Then, I'll let them have it!

...to be continued - here!

Edited by 33LIMA

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