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U-111

 

Former German Submarine: dp. 798 (surf.), 996 (subm.); 1. 235V2'; b. 20%'; dr. 11%'; s. 16.4 k. (surf.), 8.4 k. (subm.); cpl. 36; a. 6 20" tt., 1 4.1", 13.4"; cl. V-111)

 

V-111 was laid down early in  1917 at Vegesack, Germany, by Bremer Vulcan under subcontract to the Germaniawerft in Kiel; launched on 5 September 1917; completed by Germaniawerft in Kiel; and commissioned in the Imperial German Navy on 30 December 1917, Kapitanleutnant Beyersdorff in command.

 

After completing her shakedown cruise on 17 March 1918, she was posted to the IV U-Flottille, Hochseeflotte (Fourth Submarine Flotilla, High Seas Fleet). She departed Heligoland, a fortified island and naval base located well inside the German Bight, on 25 March. After the outward voyage, which took her around the Orkney Islands, west of the Hebrides Islands, and south along the western coast of Ireland, she arrived in her patrol area near St. George's Channel during the first week in April. On the 7th, she sighted her first target, the 2,346-ton British steamer SS Boscastle. The submarine made a surface torpedo attack and sank the ship with a single torpedo. Boscastle, however, proved to be her only victim during this first cruise. She operated in the vicinity of St. George's Channel for another five days without encountering further shipping and then began the voyage home to Germany. After backtracking along the route she had taken on the outward voyage, U-111 returned to Germany at Emden on 24 April.

 

A month and three days later, the U-boat exited the Ems estuary to begin her second cruise to raid Allied merchantmen. From the Ems, she headed through the North Sea. On 28 May, her second day out, she came upon a small Danish steamer, the 393-ton SS Dronning Margrethe. Declining to waste a valuable torpedo on such small game, U-111 brought her deck guns to bear and sank the Dane with gunfire. From the North Sea, she followed substantially the same route as on her initial voyage, reaching St. George's Channel early in June. After an unsuccessful patrol off the entrances to St. George's and the English Channels, the U-boat retired from the area and again retraced her outward route. On 22 June just outside the Skaggerak, during the last leg of her homeward voyage, the submarine encountered a Norwegian sailing vessel laden with timber for English mines. Once again, she scorned the use of a torpedo in favor of her 4.1-inch and 3.4-inch deck guns and riddled the 272-ton SS Rana with gunfire. Leaving that ship sinking, U-111 headed south through the North Sea for Wilhelmshaven, where she arrived on 26 June.

 

U-111's third and final combat cruise proved to be the least successful of all. She departed Wilhelmshaven on 25 August, transited the Kiel Canal, and headed north through the Baltic Sea around Denmark to debouch into the North Sea by way of the Skaggerak. Thence, she rounded the Orkneys and the Hebrides and headed south along the west coast of Ireland. The U-boat then transited St. George's Channel and entered the Irish Sea. Stormy weather and heavy seas plagued her throughout the cruise, and she appears to have encountered no Allied shipping. She followed the same route back to Germany and concluded her last patrol at Emden on 30 September.

 

Apparently, U-111 remained in port at Emden through the cessation of hostilities on 11 November. Nine days after the armistice, she was surrendered to the Allies and interned at Harwich, England. When the United States Navy expressed an interest in acquiring several of the latest types of U-boats, the Allies allocated six boats—U-117, U-HO, UB-148, UB-88, UC-97, and U-164—to the United States on condition that they be destroyed within a year of the transfer. In March 1919, 12 officers and 120 enlisted men arrived in England to ferry the six submarines back to the United States. The crew assigned to U-164 found the submarine in such atrocious condition that it was impossible to ready her for the Victory Bond drive—the ostensible reason for which she had been acquired. For that reason, American authorities in England arranged to secure the substitution of U-111 for the cannibalized and dilapidated U-164. Soon thereafter, she was placed in commission in the United States Navy, Lt. Comdr. Freeland A. Daubin in command.

 

Since she had been substituted for U-164 at the very last minute, U-111 did not put to sea on 3 April with the rest of the Ex-German Submarine Expeditionary Force. She remained in Harwich for an additional four days while her crew conducted a crash familiarization course and completed last-minute repairs. Finally, on 7 April, she steamed out of Harwich and stood down the English Channel. Rather than follow the route taken by the other U-boats via the Azores and Bermuda, U-111''a commanding officer sought to make up the time he had lost by heading directly across the Atlantic via a great circle route. Fog, gales, and heavy seas harassed the U-boat all the way across the ocean. On one occasion, she came near sinking when she began filling with water because of an open sea-cock. However, one of her crewmen crawled under her engines and into the slimy dark water to find and close the offending apparatus. In spite of adversity, U-111 made her passage successfully and moored in New York on 19 April, in plenty of time to carry out her tasks in the Victory Bond campaign.

 

At New York, swarms of tourists, reporters, and photographers roamed throughout the submarine. Navy technicians and civilian shipbuilders also came to try to learn everything they could about German submarine construction in the brief time before U-111 departed New York for visits to various ports on the Victory bond circuit. For the bond drive, the coasts of the United States and the country's major waterways were divided into five different regions, one for each of the captured U-boats except U-140. U-111 visited ports along the New England coast and received visitors in conjunction with the sales campaign. The submarine completed her assigned itinerary late in the summer of 1919. Following that, she and UB-148 were subjected to an extensive series of performance testa before being laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. During the summer of 1921, she returned to sea for another series of tests, this time as a target for gunnery and aerial bombardment tests. As a result of those experiments, her battered hulk went to the bottom of the ocean sometime in July 1921.