MARINEGRUPPENKOMMANDO WEST

 

1. COMMANDERS 

 

Set up in August 1939, Marinegruppenkommando West was in charge of naval operations in the Helgoland Bight, the North Sea and the Atlantic. Originally, the HQ of the group was in Sengwarden, near Wilhelmshaven. In August 1940, the Group transferred its HQ to Paris (Place de la Concorde, in the former French Navy Ministry) and abandoned its control over operations in the North Sea to concentrate on France and Belgium. Its first commander was General-Admiral Alfred Saalwachter, who ceded his place in September 1942 to General-Admiral Wilhelm Marschall, who had previously been Kommandierender Admiral Frankreich. On 16 November 1942 the post of Kommandierender Admiral Frankreich was eliminated and its staff transferred in full to Marinegruppenkommando West to form the large General Staff of the Kriegsmarine in the West. As of this date, Marinegruppenkommando West took charge of not only operations but also the administration of personnel, supplies and all other tasks that had previously pertained to the Kommandierender Admiral Frankreich.

 

 

General-Admiral Alfred Saalwachter

General-Admiral Wilhelm Marschall

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The third and last commander of Marinegruppenkommando West under this title is much better known to the public, since he was much lauded in German propaganda. This was General-Admiral Theodor Krancke, who took over on 20 April 1943 and who held this command until 20 October 1944. His promotion through the media was due to two factors: he benefited from the presence of the big dignitaries during their visits to the French coast, notably Rommel and Dönitz, and secondly, he was in charge of the Kriegsmarine during the Allied landings in Normandy and in Provence, which gave him a high profile.

 

                                                                                                                                                   

 General-Admiral Theodor Krancke

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During the whole war, Marinegruppenkommando West benefited from Chiefs of Staff who stood in capably during the absences of the Commanders-in-Chief. Successively there were Konteradmiral Otto Ciliax (September 1939 - March 1941), Kapitän zur See Hans Meyer (May 1941 - December 1942), Konteradmiral Wilhelm Meisel (December 1942 - February 1943), and finally Konteradmiral Karl Hoffmann (February 1943 - October 1944).

In addition, Marinegruppenkommando West delegated its officers to act as liaison officers with the Oberbefehlshaber West at Saint-Germain en Laye, where Fregattenkapitan Richard Konig was attached to Feldmarschall von Rundstedt, and with Heeresgeuppe B, with Vize-Admiral Friedrich Ruge, later replaced by Vize-Admiral Friedrich Rieve (September 1944 - October 1944). In addition there was the general staff attached to Marinegruppenkommando West following the dismantlement of Kommandierender Admiral Frankreich, with Konteradmiral Otto Fricke (November 1942 - March 1943) replaced by Kapitän zur See Johannes Hain (April 1943 - October 1944) as Deputy Chiefs of Staff of Marinegruppenkommando West.

On October 20, 1944, Marinegruppenkommando West was dissolved, and its general staff served to form the high command of the Kriegsmarine in the West under the new name Marineoberkommando West.
 
2. ADMIRALSTAB

The HQ had several services for its own needs, as well as a multitude of units attached to it. Marinegruppenkommando West was essentially in charge of operations, personnel administration and supplies, for which it had an important general staff made up of:

  • the Chief of Staff in charge of coordinating the functions of the different staff officers to ensure an efficient cooperation to achieve the set tasks. In the absence of the commanding admiral, the Chief of Staff would fill in for him and take care of day-to-day matters.

  • First Admiralty Officer: in charge of preparing and executing operations. In June 1944 this position was held by Kapitän-zur-See Eduard Wegener.

  • Second Admiralty Officer: in charge of armaments, supplies, equipment, dockyard programs, personnel and reinforcements. In June 1944 this position was held by Fregattenkapitän Bernhard Busse.

  • Third Admiralty Officer: in charge of security against torpedo attacks, mines and submarines, as well as the escort service. In June 1944 this position was held by Korvettenkapitän Eduard Hashagen.

  • Fourth Admiralty Officer: in charge of the intelligence and counter-intelligence service. In June 1944 this position was held by Fregattenkapitän Horst Biesterfeld.

  • Fifth Admiralty Officer: in charge of the war diary. In June 1944 this position was held by Korvettenkapitän Franz Bachmann.

  • Sixth Admiralty Officer: a specialist in radar. In June 1944 this position was held by Oberleutnant Hans-Karl von Willisen.

  • Deputy Chief of Staff: in charge of supplies.

  • Department Quartermaster I: in charge of planning.

  • Department Quartermaster II: responsible for questions of armaments and artillery.

  • Department Quartermaster III: responsible for questions of navigation.

  • Department Quartermaster IV: responsible for information.

 

3. DIRECT-REPORTING UNITS

The high command of the Navy in Paris had a certain number of units or services directly subordinated to it throughout France:

  • Directorate-General of Naval Engineering, which later became the Staff of Coastal Fortifications, under Generalmajor der Marinepionere Franz Habicht.

  • Directorate of Naval Engineering in France, under Hafenbaudirektor Gerdes, then Ministerialrat Johannigmann.

  • Naval Intendant in Paris: Konteradmiral Werner Lindenau, who himself had a direct authority over these services.

  • Navigation Protection Service for the Seine.

  • Navigation Protection Service for the Saint-Quentin Canal.

  • Naval Signals Battalion West.

  • 12th Naval Transport Group, in Paris.

  • 3rd Naval Automobile Park Group, in Fontainebleau.

  • 4th Naval Automobile Instruction Group, in Provins.

  • Torpedo Arsenal West, at Chateaudun.

  • Artillery Repair Arsenal, in Paris.

  • Official representative of the Deputy Admiral Commanding, North Sea.

  • Warehouse Company, in Paris.

  • School for the Application of Measures for Gas and Smoke Protection, in Paris.

  • Command of Torpedo Arsenals West, headed successively by:

    -Konteradmiral Clamor von Trotha 7.16.42 - 2.25.43
    -Konteradmiral Werner Lindenau 2.26.43 - 7.14.43
    -Kapitän zur See Erich Heymann 7.15.43-11.2.44

 

4. DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR NAVAL SHIPYARDS IN FRANCE


 In Paris, at the HQ of the Kommandierender Admiral Frankreich , a special service was created in June 1940. In fact, it was rapidly dissolved, in accordance with Order of the Day No. 206 of the Admiral Commanding, North Sea, dated 30 August 1940.

The head of the service, Kapitän zur See Rhein (serving from August - October 1940), held the official title of Delegate to the Naval Shipyards in France, which was shortly thereafter changed to Directorate-General for Naval Shipyards.

A new service was thus formed. It depended directly, for all questions concerning technical responsibility, on the Department of Naval Construction of the OKM, whilst from the strictly military point of view, it was subordinated to the Kommandierender Admiral Frankreich which was succeeded by Armeeoberkommando West (Secret Order of the Day No. 63 of the Admiral Commanding, North Sea, dated 9 December 1942).

The Director of Naval Shipyards was in charge of the shipyards and naval arsenals at Brest, Lorient, La Pallice, Saint-Nazaire, Bordeaux and Toulon, as well as the naval armaments warehouses, repair facilities and supply depots.

In February 1943, the service in charge of maintenance of submarines, previously under the auspices of the Lorient Arsenal, was integrated into the Directorate-General for Naval Shipyards.

In October 1943, an armaments service was created, stationed at Brest, which was charged with control over all the artillery depots, repair facilities and arsenals in France.

As a result, the links between the Directorate-General for Naval Shipyards and the armaments service were somewhat loose. The armaments service was placed under the authority of the Director of the Naval Shipyard at Brest

The General Staff of the Directorate-General for Naval Shipyards was dissolved in October 1944.

The position of Director-General was held successively by:

-Vize-Admiral Siegfried Massmann June - August 1940
-Kapitän zur See Wilhelm Rhein August - October 1940
-Vize-Admiral Walter Kinzel October 1940 - 13 March 1944
-Konteradmiral Max Schenitzki l4 March 1944 - October 1944

 

5. HISTORY OF THE MARINEGRUPPENKOMMANDO WEST (in the area of the AOK15)

 

Please note that only events relating to the area of the AOK15 are mentioned. The history below is NOT the full history of the Marinegruppenkommando West.

 

On 31 July 1942 it was reported that the ships T3 and T14 had moved from Le Havre to Cherbourg. Further on the same day, three boats of the 2. Schnellbootflottille had moved from Cherbourg to Guernsey on a recce mission. Finally, the 5. Schnellbootflottille had move from Hoek van Holland to Boulogne.

During the night of 4/5 August 1942 some ships were moved: of the 3. Torpedobootflottille 1 Rotte to Lezardrieux and 1 Rotte to Guernsey; of the 4. Schnellbootflottille from Peter Port to Boulogne; the S104 and the S105 from Peter Port to Boulogne and the S112 and S116 from Boulogne to Cherbourg.

 

On 16 September 1943 2 Vorpostenboote, towing targets for firing practice in front of the Le Havre harbour, were attacked by some 20 enemy planes. During this attack both boats caught fire. Help was offered by the 38. Minensuchflottille and sea-rescue boats. One of the 2 Vorpostenboote sank within the Hafensperre, while the other could be moored, while stille burning. Casualties were high with 11 killed (including 1 commander) and 38 injured. The Vorpostenboote managed to shoot down 2 aircraft. In view of the heavy casualties suffered today and the day before yesterday the admiral was forced the prohibit the use of boats for target practice between the eastern boundary of the command and the Cap de la Hague until further notice. One condition for lifting the ban was the availability of armoured target-towing boats. In the evening some 36 bombers also attacked Rouen, causing limited damage to a power plant and a nearby phosphor factory.

On 18 September 1943 it was reported that during the night the 4. Schnellbootflottille had transferred 6 boats from Boulogne to Vlissingen. Also on this day the admiral again requested the allocation of 4 further torpedo boats (complementing the four current present in the 4. Torpedobootflottille).

On 19 September 1943 the laying of mines was discussed to protect convoys of ships being transferred from Atlantic ports to Germany. At the end of September the ships Madali and Livadia would be transferred from Le Havre and Bordeaux respectively. These transfers would be protected by German boats but also by mines. One issue dfiscussed on this day was that of the Flankensperren Kanal. The boats Greif, Kondor, T19, T26 and T27 had been equipped with mine rails, so that a Minensperre  could be laid on the northern part of the Vergoyer bank in the night 26/27 September. After the arrival of the Livadia convoy in Cherbourg, Greif and Kondor would be transferred to Le Havre, thus arriving in Le Havre in the night before the minelaying operation. During the mine-laying operation carried out by the 5. Torpedobootflottille, a diversion was planned by the 5. Schnellbootflottille from Boulogne along the English coast.

Also discussed on this day was mine protection of the Straits of Dover. The planned laying of UMB-mines to protect the transfer of ships to Germany would be carried out by Räumboote in 3 Sperrstücken. These could not all be laid in tile for the passing of Maladi. However, the Livadia would be protected along its flank by all three UMB. Further on this day, an in reply to his request, the admiral was allocated the destroyers ZH1 (a former Dutch destroyers) and Z34.

Further on this day the fate of the landing boats still lovated in France was also also discussed. The landing boats located north of the city of Chalons-sur-Saone would be transferred via Gent - Belgium- Holland - Germany to the Black and Agean seas. The number mentioned was some 150. The admiral, at the same time, protested against this transfer, wanting to keep the boats in France for the transporting of goods. Further on this day, it was reported that the Seekriegsleitung requested detailed information in order to be able to draw up plans for the possible laying of ground mines as protection against an allied landing.

On 22 September 1943 the Livadia together with the boats of the 6. Minensuchflottille were heading for Cherbourg. Due to the bad weather the diversionary action by the 5. Schnellbootflottille could not be carried out. Instead  Rotte Kondor and Greif moved to Cherbourg where it remained in Sofortbereitschaft.

On 23 September 1943 Livadia arrived in the port of Cherbourg. Later that evening Livadia left Cherbourg for Le Havre, accompanied by 3 M-Booten and 3 Vorposetnbooten under the overall command of the Chef 6. MS-Flottille.

On 24 September 1943 Livadia arrived in Le Havre as planned.

During the night of 24/25 September 1943 the first Sperrstück was laid with UMB mines northwest of Calais by 14 boats of the 2. and 4? Räumflottillen. The boats were fired on by English coastal artillery, whereupon the Gernan batteries Lindemann and Todt returned fire. Also in the same night, 30 boats of the 2., 4. 6.  and 8. Schnellbootflottillen laid the first mines with detonator MA 2 along the English coast near Orfordness. During this action the force was attacked by MGB boats, which sank S96. After the action it transpired that 6 boats would be pout of action for some time.

During the night of  25/26 September 1943 Greif and Kondor transferred from Cherbourg to Le Havre as planned for the planned minelaying on the Vergoyer bank.

In the evening of 26 September 1943 3 boats of the 15. Vorpostenflottille left Le Havre.

During the night of 26/27 September 1943 the 5. Torpedobootflottille was supposed to lay mines on the Vergoyer bank. However, this was not possible as the mines had not yet arrived in Le Havre. In order not to draw attention to the collection of torpedo boats in Le Havre, the transfer to Le Havre of Greif and Kondor was cancelled.

On 27 September 1943 the ship Madali accompanied by 2 Vorpostenbooten, 2 R-Bootsbegleitschiffen and 3 modern M-Booten left Le Havre for Boulogne. In the early morning hours the covoy was attackd twice by enemy ships. The R-Bootsbegleitschiff Jungingen and the Madali itself were sunk by torpedo hits. 3 enemy boats were sunk, two of these by the nearby Artillerieträgerflottille. During the rescue operation further attacks were repulsed. 96 of a total of 1408 men were rescued. After this action was completed the Sicherungsboote and Artillerieträgerflottille returned to Boulogne.

In the early morning of this day the 3 boats of the 15. Vorpostenflottille which had left Le Havre the previous evening were attacked by English boats near the Cap d'Antifer. After having destroyed 2 enemy boats VP150 was sunk. 26 men, including the boat commander and the flotilla commander were rescued, but 39 sailors were missing. On the other 2 boats 4 sailors were killed and 11 injured.

Further in the KTB this day, the admiral disagreed with the reasons provided by the commander of the 2. Sicherungsdivision for the success of the British attack today. Finally, the Marinegruupenkommando West order that minelaying on the Vergoyer bank by the torpedo boats was to be carried out in bad weather OR protected by at least 6 Schnellboote. Also the Führer der Schnellboote was ordered to move all KB-Boote of the 5. Schnellbootflottille to Le Havre. Consequently, the 5. Schnellbootflottille moved with 6 boats from Cherbourg to Le Havre.

During the night of 27/28 September 1943 the 2. UMB-Sperre was laid as planned north of Calais by boats of the 4.  and 8. Räumbootflottillen.

On 28 September 1943 it was also reported that 2 Personalbatterien (Griz Nez with 1 canon of the Batterie Sangatte and Hundius) were ready to be sent to Greece.

In the night of 29/30 September 1943 the 5. Torpedobootflottille laid mines as planned on the Vergoyer bank with the Greif, Kondor, T19, T26, T27, protected by 6 boats of the 5. Schnellbootflottille; The boat Greif was damage during the operation. Further during this night the 3. UMB-Sperre was laid as planned northeast of Calais by boats of the 4.  and 8. Räumbootflottillen. Finally during this night the D-Gruppe of the 38. Minensuchflottille (6 boats), en route from Dieppe to Boulogne, ran into 6 British boats 8 sea miles southwest of Berck-sur-Mer. One british boats was set on fire and 2 own boats were damaged.

In the morning of 30 September 1943 the 5. Torpedobootflottille returned to Le Havre and the 5. Schnellbootflottille to Cherbourg.

 

The Kriegstagebuch  for this period was completed with a Lageübersicht for the month of September. We focus on the comments given for the Channel sector. Firstly, the enemy minesweeping activity combined with attacks on the coast near Boulogne were judged to be a divrsion, coinciding with the allied Salerno landings. Second, it was noted that the number of combat contacts with the enemy had greatly increased, from only 3 in August to 14 in September. During these combats the following ships were lost: Madali, 1 Räumbootsbegleitschiff, 3 M-Boote, 1 Vorpostenboot. 9 enemy S-boots were sunk, 2 probably sunk and 4 damaged.

Next, enemy air attacks on ships were discussed. In the Channel area 10 such attacks led to the los of 1 Vorpostenboot and 2 Hafenschützboote, in addition to which 2 further boats were damaged. Human losses were 30 dead or missing and 56 injured. Nine aicraft were shot down.

Other ships were lost/damaged through other causes. Thus, 3 M-Boote and 1 R-Boot were lost to mines, 1 Vorpostenboot to sabotage and 1 M-Boot, 1 tug and 1 landing ship as a result of running aground. Enemy coastal guns fired 3 times on German convoys. The overall situation was assessed as having worsened, to such an extent that every convoy was likely to suffer losses. Also because of losses, practice firing towards sea targets towed by ships hade been cancelled. The Vorpostendienst was assessed as still being possible only on dark nights and to be insufficient to signal or prevent enemy landings. Complaints were also formulated regarding the apparent inability of German radar to spot and locate the smaller enemy boats closer to the shore. Enemy landings were expected in the Boulogne - Cherbourg sector and along the east coast of the Cotentin. This assessment was based on the absence of enemy minelaying operations in this sector and the absence, as yet, of larger air attacks on the ports of Le Havre and Cherbourg. An actual large-scale landing was only expected in the spring of 1944. Amazingly, in the report the Marinegruppenkommando also warned against having too great expections about naval artillery coastal defences. This was due to to the constant pulling out of troops, bad canons, a deficient ammo supply situation, and delays in construction programmes). The only large-scale action that the navy in the West was currently able to fulfil was the laying of defensive minefields. The earlier mine flank defence system or Flankensperrsystem was assessed a snot having paid off. Own mine obstacles were onlu useful if covered by own artillery. Also noted was the complete enemy air superiority both by day  and night, leading to ever greater difficulties and bigger losses for own forces.

In the month of September 99 Grundminen and 85 Ankertauminen were laid. German destroyers (4 of them being present in the West) were not used operationally in September. Of the 13 torpedo boats available, an average of 11 were serviceable in September. Boats of the 4 and 5 Torpedobootflottillen carried out mining and protection operations. During the intense enemy naval activity near Boulogne the S-Boote were mainly used in the role of Küstenvorfeldüberwachung. After the acute risk of enemy landings had passed, all but one of the flottillas were transferred to the Holland area, from where they started a new minelaying offensive against enemy convoys on the British East coast. In September 455 ships were destroyed by U-Boote  in 166 sorties. Of the naval coastal artillery 14 batteries fired on 32 occasions. The long-range batteries fired a total of 38 shots towards Britain on 3 occasions. In addition to the mines laid by the T-Boote (see above) four other minefields were laid by other ships.