This painting is featured on the back cover
by Lawrence Paterson
published by Pen & Sword and the US Naval Institute
To find out more about this book
double click on the cover
U203 spent the first couple of months after commissioning
as a training boat in Kiel. By May 1941 though U203 was part of the
front line defence unit based with the 1st U-boat flotilla in
Brest, France. Under her
commander, KL Rolf Mützelburg, she proved to be one of the top scoring
U-boats claiming many victims on her war patrols.
She also participated in the initial attacks on the United States
of America. Mützelburg
was duly awarded the much-esteemed Knights Cross with Oak Leaves on 15
Despite the horrendous cramped conditions on-board
and the tensions of war experienced by all submariners, occasionally there
were times when all appeared quiet and the crew could relax.
On one such occasion during their 9th patrol, U203’s
crew were enjoying a swim in the sea.
Mützelburg dived from the top of the conning tower.
Unfortunately, at that precise moment the U-boat rocked and he hit
the saddle tank below breaking his neck.
He died and was buried at sea the next day, on 12 September 1942.
While the rest of the world was busy blowing each other up Mützelburg’s
death was recorded as “death by misadventure”.
U203 returned to port. Two further patrols under KL
Herbert Kottman saw two more Allied ship sunk. Whilst returning to base
after their 11th and last patrol U203 was spotted by a
Swordfish aircraft of 811 (FAA) Squadron.
The Swordfish informed its escort carrier HMS Biter who in
turn passed the information to British destroyer HMS Pathfinder.
U203 dived quickly beneath the surface hoping to escape but was
easily located by Commander Gibbs on Pathfinder.
After enduring 2 hours of depth charges U203, now leaking badly,
was forced to surface where she was attacked by gunfire and sank taking 11
men with her. Kottman and 38
crew were rescued and became Prisoners of War.
U203 was the last “ace” boat in the 1st
U-Flotilla. She sank over 20 Allied ships claiming an impressive 100,000
This painting shows U203 underwater under Mützelburg’s
command. Her powerful 88mm
quick firing cannon is charging towards the viewer.
The conning tower, from which Mutzelburg will soon take his
fateful dive, sports the Essen coat of arms - the German town of Essen
being the U-boat’s sponsors.
U203 – Facts and Figures
Keel laid: 28/3/1940
Sunk: 25/4/1943 South of Cape Farewell, Greenland