- Wright, Ken
- Naval Intelligence, Ship histories and stories, History - WW2, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2007 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Conditions inside the U-Boat were intolerable and everyone was depressed but on the 16 September, Jebsen received orders from Berlin to proceed to Base Poula (Penang).The boat was also showing signs of strain. The engines overheated, mechanical malfunctions became regular and importantly, the submarine’s locating device had broken down, depriving them of the ability to hear the engine noise of enemy vessels. Five days later, Jebsen surfaced and reported his position as approximately 150 nautical miles off the Western tip of Sumatra. An order from the Japanese authorities came back that they were to rendezvous the following day with the U‑861 which was already at Base Poula and be escorted into Penang harbour. U-859 submerged to wait out the 24 hours. The next day they were informed that the rendezvous would be postponed for a further 24 hrs.
At dawn on 23 September 1944, U-859 rose up out of the warm Indian Ocean midway between the islands of Lanskavi and Botong to await the meeting with U-861. This was a great occasion. Kapitanleutnant Jebsen, his officers and his crew had endured extreme cold and heat, been subjected to an ferocious air attack by the enemy, sunk 22,000 tons of enemy shipping, had one man killed and one injured and suffered personal privations that had broken the health of some. The U-boat had sailed 22,000 nautical miles and of those miles 18,000 were submerged. They had been on the voyage for five months, two weeks and five days. By 0800, Jebsen began to get worried and at 1030, he radioed Penang and was advised that due to deteriorating weather conditions, U-859 would have to proceed into the harbour without an escort and unprotected. U-859 was 20 nautical miles north-west of Penang in the Straits of Malacca travelling on the surface at about 14 knots.
The submerged British submarine HMS Trenchant closed in on U-859. The British Commander Arthur Hezlet had known for a day and a half where the U-boat was going to be and at 300 yards fired a salvo of three torpedoes from his stern torpedo tubes at the U-boat. The exhausted German lookouts failed to detect the British submarine or the incoming torpedoes. Only one struck the U-boat astern of its conning tower 14 feet below the waterline. She broke in two and sank. Eight crew made an astonishing escape from the sunken forward bulkhead. Many may have died from the poisonous chlorine gas as the battery acid mixed with the salt water. Eleven more escaped from the rear bulkhead including electrician Baudzus. Kapitan-Leutnant Johann Jebsen and 47 of his crew perished. HMS Trenchant surfaced and began rescuing the survivors but Japanese ships were sighted on the horizon. With eleven survivors onboard, Commander Hezlet submerged and escaped despite a Japanese attack by sea and air. The remaining eight survivors, including electrician Baudzus, were rescued by the Japanese Navy approximately 24 hours later. On 24 September 1944, Arthur Baudzus and seven fellow crew members from the U-859 finally arrived in Penang.
They can take great pride in the fact that they had completed one of the longest and most dangerous voyages of any German U-boat under the most appalling conditions and lived to tell the tale, unlike 30,000 of their comrades in the U-boat Arm.
The Nazi-Coming of Age in Hitler’s Germany and the Voyage of the U-859. Arthur Baudzus. Pub. Riverdale Books, Georgia, USA 2006
Stalin’s Silver. John Beasant. Pub. Bloomsbury, UK 1995