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
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.
U344 Watch Officers
Location of U344, amongst others, provided by
||7 May, 1942
||26 Mar, 1943
||Oblt. Ulrich Pietsch
||03.43 - 08.44
||Kptlt. Ulrich Pietsch
26 Mar, 1943 - 31 Mar, 1944 8.
1 Apr, 1944 - 31 May, 1944 3.
Flottille (front boat)
1 Jun, 1944 - 22 Aug, 1944 11.
Flottille (front boat)
1 ship sunk for
a total of 1.350 tons. (This was
Sunk 22 Aug, 1944 in the
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
All links in the above table are to uboat.net.
For technical information on this
Born on 5 Dec, 1915 in Laurahütte, Upper
Crew 1936. Kapitänleutnant (1 Oct, 1943).
Died on 22 Aug, 1944, Barents Sea.
||26 Mar, 1943
||22 Aug, 1944 (+)
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
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
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: