On the hunt in the "Happy Time" for U-boats, U-103 under the command of Korvettenkapitän Viktor Schütze was stalking a lone merchant ship, the Seaforth. She was a new ship built in 1939 at Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. in Dundee, Scotland for the Elder Dempster Line and was 378' long, 5,459 tons. She was heading to Liverpool with a cargo of produce from Monrovia, Liberia when U-103 located her on February 18, 1941.
Rough seas prevented an attack early in the day, but Schütze was a patient man, he knew how and when to
attack an enemy. He would become one of the top scoring U-boat commanders in World War II sending over
180,000 tons of Allied shipping to the bottom. His total would be 35, on this day he would add number 21 to
his tally (he had sunk 7 ships while commander of U-25).
If Walter Minns, master of the Seaforth, knew he was being followed or not we will never know, but he was
trailed by the U-103 for almost eight hours before Schütze ordered the attack. The first torpedo fired missed,
three minuets later Schütze fired a second, it hit amidships stopping the Seaforth dead in the water. Schütze
reportedly observed the crew lowering the boats, this may be why he waited twenty minuets to fire the third
fish, this one hit the Seaforth in the stern and soon after she sank.
How many of the forty-nine crewmen and ten passengers got off the Seaforth before she sank is unknown,
Schütze did report seeing them abandoning the ship, as stated before, but no survivors were ever found.
Schütze would stay with U-103 until August of 1941 when he became commander of the 2nd Flotilla in Lorient, France and later became the Commander Training Flotillas in Gotenhafen (Gdynia), Poland. He survived the war and died on Sept. 23, 1950.
U-103 had two commanders after Schütze, Korvettenkapitän Werner Winter and Kapitänleutnant Gustav-Adolf Janssen. Winter would continue to improve on the record of U-103 sinking 15 more Allied ships, Janssen, had commanded two other boats, but U-103 was the first one he took to sea, he sank only two ships.
U-103 which was commissioned in 1940, made eleven war patrols, spending over 630 days at sea, her record an impressive 45 ships for 237,596 tons, but by March of 1944 she was worn out. She was removed
from service and finally ended up in Kiel, Germany, on Apr. 15, 1945 she was destroyed during an Allied
air raid on the harbor, her wreck was later scrapped.
© 2008 Michael W. Pocock