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U-156 & the sinking of the Laconia

U-boat skipper ruthlessly torpedoed British ship then defied Hitler to rescue survivors | Mail Online

<<The story of the Laconia incident, as it became known, has been made into a drama, as well as a documentary, to be shown on BBC2 for the next three nights. It portrays some German submariners, not as the callous monsters of British wartime propaganda, but as courageous, humane men.....>>

The Sinking Of The Laconia, tonight and tomorrow, 9pm, BBC2.

The Sinking Of The Laconia: Survivors’ Stories, Saturday, 7.30pm, BBC2.
 
Read about this before. The fact that a lot of the survivors were Italian POW's, may have had something to do with the commanders actions.Thats war. We weren't blameless ourselves in some other actions. Cdr, later Adm Myers, is alledged to have machine gunned survivors in the water from a German troopship he'd torpedoed in the med from his boat.Anyone hear of that?
 
As far as I can make out it was common practice to attempt to assist survivors, without of course risking the safety of the submarine itself.
The Laconia tragedy was one of the things that, to some degree, changed this, largely due to the actions of the U.S. forces involved.
 

Seaweed

War Hero
Book Reviewer
As to the film, the whole uniform and badges bit was pathetic and wrecked the credibility of the rest of the 'drama', leaving me wondering how much was sheer fiction. Didn't understand why (the rather unbelieveable) Doenitz' HQ was staffed with Luftwaffe girls. A rush job by producers who neither know nor care.
 
As to the film, the whole uniform and badges bit was pathetic and wrecked the credibility of the rest of the 'drama', leaving me wondering how much was sheer fiction. Didn't understand why (the rather unbelieveable) Doenitz' HQ was staffed with Luftwaffe girls. A rush job by producers who neither know nor care.


I was thinking exactly the same, a merchant navy officer with RN red badges for instance. The ship itself looking a darn sight more scruffy than would have been the case; a little hard to believe for the Cunard line.
The sidetracking with the mother and daughter brothel team=-(
It all smacks as you say of rushed production and playing fast and loose with actual events.
Probably an education though for those were not aware that any U boats offered such concessions.
 
As to the film, the whole uniform and badges bit was pathetic and wrecked the credibility of the rest of the 'drama', leaving me wondering how much was sheer fiction. Didn't understand why (the rather unbelieveable) Doenitz' HQ was staffed with Luftwaffe girls. A rush job by producers who neither know nor care.

Indeed, that "Junior 3rd Officer" looked like he was wearing a foreign legion uniform that had been accessorised with PO's hooks on the left sleeve.

Also njoyed all the upside down RN trade badges which seemed to have been liberally scattered among both the MN ship's company and the Naval Party.

The highlight though was the chap at the dance with 2nd Lt pips on each shoulder and corporal stripes on each arm.

I don't know if the original jimmy was RN or not (perhaps commanding the NP?), but ast night he was certainly the only officer wearing RN 2 1/2 stripes in a sea of merchant/FFL. Just to confuse the issue, he was wearing an MN cap badge as per all the other officers on the ship.

In the preview of the next ep at the end, every single RN officer was going astern on their shoulder boards.

The story was pretty compelling though - although apprently they had to invent the German woman so that there was at least one sympathetic German female. Apparently the German producers fought quite hard against the sympathetic portrayal of Doenitz (who was of course the second and last furher), and even commissioned their own historians to go and prove the scriptwriters must be wrong. They lost.
 

2_deck_dash

War Hero
I saw a little snippet of this and saw a bloke wearing some Merchant Navy stripes on his shoulders (upside down gold chevron type things), red PO's badges on both arms and chief's buttons.

Is this a gen uniform for the Merchant Navy? Is he basically an awesome Chief Mega PO Commander? Or had the costume department just dragged up whatever shit they had lying around?

It did make me want to wear my submariner jumper to work this morning though.

Edited to add: Quite amusingly the production designer for this is called Knut Loewe.
 
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Ninja_Stoker

War Hero
Moderator
Must admit I wondered about the accuracy of the uniforms worn. Particularly the bare chested guy wearing a woman's coat in the lifeboat. (Obviously a Booty). Was that bloke with the chevron doo-dahs Norweigian or summat? There were a few matelots in it, presumably gunners party.

I must admit I hadn't heard of this particular historical incident, nor had a shufty on Wiki yet. I'm assuming the atrocity is the shooting of the caged prisoners and indeed whatever comes next. If it's true then I'm surprised it was never investigated further. Then again, as I get older I begin to accept that despite the propaganda, over the years the Brits were no better than "Johnny Foreigner" in warfare & until more recently, appear to have got away with criminal acts in the fog of war.

To this day I distinctly remember hearing of summary executions ashore during the Falklands campaign as it was supposedly happening - whether it was rumour or fact I'll never know.
 
Drama and Documentary

Bleasdale’s Drama was rather ambitious and a large part of the budget must have been spent on building/borrowing the U-Boat etc, leaving nothing for research into uniforms/badges. Let that not detract from the ramifications and very human stories arising from the aftermath of this sinking.

I think we can expect better from the Documentary that will accompany the drama and feature first hand accounts from survivors of The Laconia Sinking, telling their own extraordinary stories:

THE Sinking of Laconia: Survivors’ Stories will be broadcast on BBC2 at 7.30pm on Saturday, January 8


Meanwhile, there is quite an abundance of information around about this incident, ie:

Devon Family Saved by a U-Boat

The following is a copy of a series of three articles that appeared in the WESTERN SUNDAY INDEPENDENT in March and April 1974.

1 BBC - WW2 People's War - Devon Family Saved by a U-Boat (Part 1)

2 BBC - WW2 People's War - Devon Family Saved by a U-Boat (Part 2)

3 BBC - WW2 People's War - Devon Family Saved by a U-Boat (Part 3)


Bob
 
I watched it, and found the whole experience very difficult. Maybe we have got to the stage where we glorify war - without perhaps studying the human consequences. We often see Germans portrayed as typical jackbooted Nazis (like Joachim Peiper) but less often people with human qualities of compassion (like Langsdoff and Hartenstein) and rarely do we see the Allies portrayed as anything other than 'good' people fighting evil (although the series Nazi Collaborators on Yesterday has been very good and has shown the issues faced by the complexities of war, but how many of you have heard of the forced repatriation of the Cossacks to the Russians?). I shall watch the second part tonight and the documentary with a heavy heart.
 
Sinking of the Laconia and the happenings afterwards are quite renowned in history for the unusual show of humanity. Specially as this incident was what prompted Hitler to reiterate the instruction that no survivors were to be picked up by uboats after their ships were sunk. The film itself was awful but the historical event is fascinating.

The Meyers war crimes mentioned by Sarking (there were 2 alleged incidents) are also interesting and the Biography of Meyers sheds some light on them and the circumstances.
 

Seadog

War Hero
Moderator
The Meyers war crimes mentioned by Sarking
Sarking mentioned Myers. You are both referring I assume to Miers. It's important. Miers was never put on trial. A bloke called Meyer, a German General was tried by the Canadian Army for war crimes against Canadian soldiers, found guilty, death sentenced commuted to life, released, wrote memoirs, memoirs ended up on Commandant's reading list at JSCSC.

Back to submarines, IIRC there was only one war crimes trial relating to submarine warfare in the Atlantic (include Med) theatre. U Boat CO Heinz Eck was found guilty and shot for killing shipwrecked mariners. One act of chivalry worthy of note is one by Otto Kretschmer - highest scoring ace of WWII even though he was captured in 1941. Just as well. From his Telegraph obit in 1998, I recall a dit about him calculating the track of a lone survivor he'd seen on a raft while escaping from a destroyer. He found him, took him on board, nicey nicey handed him over to a passing neutral. Kretschmer returned to the Navy in the fifties and retired as an Admiral, as did fellow ace (number 3?) Erich Topp.

I knew the Laconia story but didn't see the drama Just as well judging by the comments regarding the costume department. Oh dear.

rosina carley wrote
....but how many of you have heard of the forced repatriation of the Cossacks to the Russians?)

Me miss, me miss.

Seadog. Skimmer despite the avatar.
 
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clanky

War Hero
Indeed, that "Junior 3rd Officer" looked like he was wearing a foreign legion uniform that had been accessorised with PO's hooks on the left sleeve.

Also njoyed all the upside down RN trade badges which seemed to have been liberally scattered among both the MN ship's company and the Naval Party.

The highlight though was the chap at the dance with 2nd Lt pips on each shoulder and corporal stripes on each arm.

I don't know if the original jimmy was RN or not (perhaps commanding the NP?), but ast night he was certainly the only officer wearing RN 2 1/2 stripes in a sea of merchant/FFL. Just to confuse the issue, he was wearing an MN cap badge as per all the other officers on the ship.

In the preview of the next ep at the end, every single RN officer was going astern on their shoulder boards.

The story was pretty compelling though - although apprently they had to invent the German woman so that there was at least one sympathetic German female. Apparently the German producers fought quite hard against the sympathetic portrayal of Doenitz (who was of course the second and last furher), and even commissioned their own historians to go and prove the scriptwriters must be wrong. They lost.

The continuity errors certainly spoil the effect, (did anybody notice the distinctly modern hull form on the ship in dry dock?). I'm sure astronauts watch Apollo 13 with the same sense of frustration.:eek:
 

Seaweed

War Hero
Book Reviewer
Dry dock blooper, yes. Thought the hun bits on board the U Boat donw MUCH better than the rest of it (separate Hun producer). Was the headroom on board the U boat a bit generous? I seem to remember reading how our bods driving the captured U Boat HMS Graph found her even more cramped than what they were used to, and that's saying something! Thought I saw a pusser's sound powered telephone too.
 

2badge_mango

War Hero
Mrs Mango has sworn never to watch a film with me again. I spotted most of the uniform gaffs (out loud I'm afraid), but also thought I saw the 4 ring Captain (ashore) return a salute with open palm - I know he was wearing khaki, but there are limits!
Nevertheless, I thought it was a good yarn, reasonably well told, (providing the viewer has never been on a ship or seen a uniform), and followed most of the story quite accurately (from what I have previously read). Saturday's interviews with survivors may prove interesting. It appears that the septic who made the bombing decision only crossed the bar a couple of weeks ago, and never regretted his decision. he may well be one of the interviewees.

2BM
 
Sarking mentioned Myers. You are both referring I assume to Miers. It's important. Miers was never put on trial. A bloke called Meyer, a German General was tried by the Canadian Army for war crimes against Canadian soldiers, found guilty, death sentenced commuted to life, released, wrote memoirs, memoirs ended up on Commandant's reading list at JSCSC.

Back to submarines, IIRC there was only one war crimes trial relating to submarine warfare in the Atlantic (include Med) theatre. U Boat CO Heinz Eck was found guilty and shot for killing shipwrecked mariners. One act of chivalry worthy of note is one by Otto Kretschmer - highest scoring ace of WWII even though he was captured in 1941. Just as well. From his Telegraph obit in 1998, I recall a dit about him calculating the track of a lone survivor he'd seen on a raft while escaping from a destroyer. He found him, took him on board, nicey nicey handed him over to a passing neutral. Kretschmer returned to the Navy in the fifties and retired as an Admiral, as did fellow ace (number 3?) Erich Topp.

I knew the Laconia story but didn't see the drama Just as well judging by the comments regarding the costume department. Oh dear.

rosina carley wrote


Me miss, me miss.

Seadog. Skimmer despite the avatar.
Myers, Meirs. You say tomato ,i say toamato. Think his first name was Antony, when he wasnt (Alledgdy) machine gunning you, or ordering others to do so. Eck, commited his faux pas off the horn of Africa as i recall, before running the boat on the putty in Somailia, and being taken prisoner.
 
I'd certainly heard about it and always understood it was this incident, courtesty of the U.S; that bought about the end of more compassionate actions by U boat crews.
I suppose the actions of the Liberator crew can be understood to some extent as U boat activity off the, mostly unprotected, eastern seaboard of the U.S. was causing immense damage at the time.
 
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