dramatic painting shows the German U-boat U185
in her final moments on 24 August 1943. Strafed by two Wildcat
planes from escort carrier USS
then attacked with depth charges from their Avenger team mates, U185
quickly succumbed and slipped stern first beneath the waves for the last
Type IXC-40 U-boat was only commissioned 14 months earlier.
proud commander KL August Maus left Kiel in October 1942 to take U185
on her first war patrol. They
headed for the central Atlantic region but in November were urgently
redirected to form part of the “Westwall” U-boat pack west of
Gibraltar, hoping to intercept shipping as the Allies made their landings
in North Africa. The pickings
were not as rich as they had hoped for but U185 did manage to sink
one ship before she returned on New Year’s Day to the French port of
Lorient – her new home as part of the 10th U-boat flotilla.
second patrol lasted nearly three months and took her to the Caribbean
where, despite suffering some damage from a Mariner flying boat attack,
she successfully added three more ships to her tonnage score.
At the beginning of May 1943 she returned safely to Bordeaux.
Maus took her on her third and final patrol on 9 June 1943, leaving port
with four other boats: U159, U415, U564 and U634.
Just five days into the Atlantic crossing a Sunderland of 228
Squadron came in to attack U564.
In the exchange of fire the Sunderland was shot from the sky and
lost, complete with Flying Officer L B Lee and the rest of his men.
U564, escorted by U185, headed back towards the
French coast for repairs. However the next day the two boats were spotted again –
this time by a Whitley from 10 OTU. Both U564 and the Whitley ended
up as casualties and had to be abandoned.
Fortunately a French fishing vessel picked up the crewmen from the
aircraft whilst U185 picked up 18 of U564’s crew, later
passing them safely to German destroyers Z24 and Z25.
Finding herself alone U185 then continued on her original
route westwards to Brazil.
the next couple of months she sank five ships and damaged one more off the
Brazilian coast. She was then
instructed along with U172 to meet and render assistance to the
badly damaged U604 commanded by KL Höltring.
The three boats eventually met up on the 11 August and preparations
were made to transfer U604’s supplies and crew to the other two
boats before scuttling the unseaworthy vessel.
Their plans were interrupted, though, when a USN Liberator of
VP-107 arrived dropping bombs. U172 dived whilst U185 and U604 opened fire. The
Liberator was shot down by U185 and the crew lost.
Before further interruptions could take place U185 hurriedly
took onboard all of U604’s remaining crew and scuttled the
are not renowned for their spaciousness in the best of times, but now U185
was seriously overcrowded carrying two crews below decks.
It was with great relief that U185 and U172 managed
to meet again some three days later and 23 of Höltring’s men were
transferred to U172.
headed home across the Atlantic. On
the 14 August a Wildcat from USS Core spotted the surfaced U-boat
and what ended up being U185’s final battle took place.
Before the battle-scarred U-boat sank, the interior filled with
chlorine gas leaking from the flooded batteries.
Two badly injured men from U604’s crew were unable to move
and they begged their commander to end their lives quickly for them.
Höltring mercifully shot them before turning the gun on himself.
Tragically about 40 men went down with the boat although 36 were
rescued by destroyer USS Barker.
IXC/40 U-boat - Technical Details
1120 tons surfaced, 1232 submerged
Range: 13850 miles @ 10knots while surfaced but just 63 miles @ 4 knots
Speed: 19 knots surfaced,
Armament: 6 x 21" torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern), 22 torpedoes
carried, 1 x 105mm gun, 1 x 37mm gun, 1 x 20mm gun