U Boat 344

From information supplied by Ray Holden & U Boat.net
Created: 26 December 2001 Updated: 25 March 2009



On August 21st 1944, U344 came across HMS Kite, on Russian convoy escort duty, travelling at 6 knots on a straight course and put two torpedoes into her sending her to the bottom with the loss of 217 lives.  The reasoning behind this apparently suicidal course and speed can be read by clicking on HMS Kite, which is also on my domain.  A totally avoidable unnecessary loss but, without which, these pages would not have been written.  Small recompense for relatives but at least here they can find out how their loved ones died. Only 14 sailors where picked up by HMS Keppel, of which 5 died on her decks. It would be easy to be bitter against those officers and men pictured below but, like our lads, they were only doing their job.

The following day, a Fairey Swordfish, from the Escort Carrier HMS Vindex spotted the U344 on the surface and, using depth charges, dispatched it to the bottom with the loss of all hands. (50 men).  Of a total of 40,000 German sailors in WW2 who left port in the u boats, 30,000 never returned. The vast majority of these sailors were ordinary sailors with no particular political affiliation just like our own sailors.

11 flotilla

U344 Watch Officers


U344 Crew


Location of U344, amongst others, provided by www.uboat.net

Type VIIC  
Laid down 7 May, 1942 Nordseewerke, Emden
Commissioned 26 Mar, 1943 Oblt. Ulrich Pietsch
Commanders 03.43 - 08.44 Kptlt. Ulrich Pietsch
Career 5 patrols 26 Mar, 1943 - 31 Mar, 1944  8. Flottille (training)
1 Apr, 1944 - 31 May, 1944  
3. Flottille (front boat)
1 Jun, 1944 - 22 Aug, 1944  
11. Flottille (front boat)
Successes 1 ship sunk for a total of 1.350 tons. (This was HMS Kite)

Sunk 22 Aug, 1944 in the Barents Sea north-west of Bear Island, in position 74.54N, 15.26E, by depth charges from a British Swordfish aircraft from the escort carrier HMS Vindex (Sqdn. 825/X). 50 dead (all hands lost).

Information taken from www.uboat.net. All links in the above table are to uboat.net.
For technical information on this type,
click here

Ulrich Pietsch
Born on 5 Dec, 1915 in Laurahütte, Upper Silesia.
Crew 1936. Kapitänleutnant (1 Oct, 1943).
Died on 22 Aug, 1944, Barents Sea.
U-344 26 Mar, 1943 22 Aug, 1944 (+) 5 patrols (74 days) 

Biography on the Commander of U344.  (From Ray Holden).
Born 5.12.1915, Laurahutte, Upper Silesia. 
Crew. Officer Cadet, Seaman Branch, 1936. Kplt. 1.10.43. Ships Aircrew, Pilot, (1/196) Battleship Gneisenau. 2/40--7/40 and heavy Cruiser Admiral Hipper 7/40--1/42 with period on light cruiser Nurnberg from 9/41. U Boat training 2/42--7/42. 1st Watchofficer U373 7/42--1/43 U Boat Commanders course 2UAA and 26th U-Flotilla 1/43--2/43. Baublehrung 6KLA 2/43--3/43 Commander U344 26.3.43--22.8.44 Lost 22.8.44 NW Bear Island, Barent Sea. Whilst a member of the See-luftwaffe he would have flown HE 59 and HE 60 float planes. Some cadets went on to fly HE111J bombers from airfields in Hamberg-Uetersen, Oldenberg-Jever/Varrelbusch and Stavanger, Norway. The Baublehrung can be translated as boat familiarisation, the Commanding Officer becoming the Baublehrung Commander, The concept was that all crew members from Commanding Officer to the lowest rating should be present at the building of their boat from the keel laying onwards, so that each man not only new every nook and cranny and the source and destination of every pipe and wiring but was also familiar with all the tasks of all other crewmen. In this way crew and boat were welded together into a unit greater than a sum of all its parts, mechanical and human. A KLA Kriegs-schiffbaulehrabteilung was a warship training division under which a Baubelehrung was supervised. Once complete the boat would sail for the Baltic for boat handling exercises and tactical convoy attack exercises would follow, once these had been concluded she would be declared Frontrief, fit to sail on her first operational mission. German records show that Ulrich Pietsch was awarded no decorations but the photo of the U344 shows that this is incorrect, he appears to be well decorated but it is not apparent where he won these awards. These may be awards from his heavy surface ships period or when he served as 1st Watchofficer on U373. This U Boat claimed two ships sunk and another damaged. He most certainly appears to have been the holder of the Knights Cross. U373 was sunk in the Bay of Biscay by aircraft.

One August Morning.

The date is 21 August 1944. Kapitanleutnant Ulrich Pietsch of the submarine U-344 together with his comrades in the Trutz Group have deployed themselves across the route of Arctic Convoy JW.59. In those latitudes at this time of year there is continuous daylight which means that there is little respite for the submarines from the ever—vigilant eyes of the aircraft and the escort vessels protecting the merchantmen. The Allies are, however, not the only people to have eyes in the air. A twin-engined Junkers Ju88 has reported the convoy east of Jan Mayen Island, and the Trutz Group goes in for the attack, firing a salvo of Gnat torpedoes at the convoy. Although it is not usual for the German submarines to attack escort vessels, the Escort Group presents a target of opportunity for U—344. The white feather caused by the periscope of U—344 is barely visible in the spray and spume of the Greenland Sea as the submarine closes up to the small ice—covered warships heaving in the freezing seas. There is a tense atmosphere in the control room of the submarine, as bearings and ranges are tersely reported. Then, in a moment, a salvo of pattern—running torpedoes bubbles its way toward the little warships. A moment’s wait, and then the muffled sound of torpedoes striking home. One of the little escorts has been hit by two torpedoes; blown apart she is sinking fast. Little hope now for the 226 men on board as the green sea climbs higher and higher over the wreckage of the ship. In some 90 seconds all is over, save for a few, too few, life—jacketed sailors bobbing in the unforgiving sea. The little warship is HMS Kite.

Taken from: The Price of Admiralty by C J Thompson MA. A copy of which can be purchased from Braintree Museum.

See HMS Kite

An Account of the sinking of U344 in a letter from Gordon Bennett to Clem Bray 1989

Thanks to Ray Holden, here is a complete crew list for the U344 courtesy of: