Schnellboot E-boat S-130 Schnellboot Archive

S-130, The Old Soldier

By Maurice Laarman.

When one looks at the list of S-boote and their fates as documented in Dr. Hümmelchen's book, one notes a large number saw service after the war, and not all of them were sunk or scrapped. The thought naturally arises: where are they now? Recently documented on this website are 2 survivors, S-97 and S-130. Perhaps the near future will confirm another rumour, that yet another S-boat in California survives...

S-130, (Hull No. 1030) was built at the Johann Schlichting boatyard in Travemuende, and commissioned on October 21st 1943. Her Kommandant was Oberleutnant zur See Gunter Rabe. In November, S-130 was assigned to the 9th S-Boot Flotilla (von Mirbach) to reinforce their presence in the English Channel. From november 1943 until mid-february 1944 the flottilla was stationed in Rotterdam, then their home-base would be Cherbourg. A interogation of survivors report mentioned that her covername was Rabe, and that she carried a coat of arms incorporating a raven.

Following much routine action, S-130 took part in one of the most tragic defeats suffered by the US Navy. On the afternoon of 27 April 1944, a Luftwaffe reconaissance aircraft reported a convoy of 7 merchant ships off Start Point, England. At 22:00, S-130 left Cherbourg, one of nine boats from the 5th and 9th S-boot flotillas sent to attack.

Upon entering Lyme Bay, the German lookouts sighted eight American LST type landing craft escorted by a single British corvette, HMS Azaelia. The Schnellboote began their assault at 02.00, immediately striking LST 507 with a torpedo and setting her ablaze. Moments later LST 531 was struck by two torpedoes and sank rapidly. At 02:28 LST 289 opened fire on a prowling S-boat, which struck the LST with a torpedo, killing several men but failing to sink her. The short, savage action cost the lives of 197 American seamen and 441 soldiers, more than died on Utah beach in the invasion for which the men had been practicing that night.

On 12 May 1944, S-130 bore witness to one of WW2's many tragic footnotes, The 5th Flottilla and the 9th Flottilla, including S-130, sortied a patrol of 10 boats around the Isle of Wight. They were soon discovered by the Royal Navy, and destroyers were dispatched to dind them. The French ship La Combattante succeed in sinking S-141, onboard was the son of Grossadmiral Dönitz, Oberleutnant zur See Klaus Dönitz, then training to become an S-Boot Kommandant. He was among S-141's 18 casualties.

On the morning of 6 June 1944, D-Day, S-130 was one of the 31 battle ready S-boats sent to attack the Allied fleet. Although several vessels were sunk, against such a mass of ships (4126 landing craft and 1213 warships) the Kriegsmarine could do little to hinder the embarkement. The 9th Flottilla achieved some succes in sinking landingcraft, however records do not clearly indicate if S-130 fired the decisive torpedoes in the fierce battles off the Normandy coast. Two of S-130's men fell in the Normandy action.

In 1945, S-130 was taken as a British war prize ( FPB 5030) and put to use in covert operations. Under the guise of the "British Baltic Fishery Protection Service", the British Secret Intelligence Service MI 6 ferried spies and agents into Eastern Europe. Beginning in May 1949, MI 6 used S-208, (Kommandant Hans-Helmut Klose) to insert agents into Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland. The operations were very successful and continued under a more permanent organisation based in Hamburg. In 1952, S-130 joined the operation and the mission was enlarged to include signal intelligence (SIGINT) equipment. In 1954/55, S-130 and S-208 were replaced by a new generation of German S-boote.

S-130 was returned to the newly formed Bundesmarine in March 1957, and operated under the number UW 10. UW stands for Unterwasserwaffenschule, which trained sailors in underwater weaponry such as mines and torpedoes. Her final service was as a test boat under the name EF 3.

Today S-130 enjoys her retirement in Wilhelmshaven. Obviously well cared for, she is apparently the last seaworthy example of the Schnellboot.

These photos are courtesy Maurice Laarman and may not be reproduced without his permission.