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.
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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.
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
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:
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:
4. DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR NAVAL SHIPYARDS IN FRANCE
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 16 April 1942 the situation with the 2. Sicherungsdivision was described. During the course of an air attack on Le Havre in the night 14/15 April 2 boats were sunk and one damaged. In a further attempt to secure the entrance to the ports the Admiral Frankreich blocked the entrance to ports at night: Dunkirk (Trossensperre), Fécamp (Drehbrücke), Trouville (Prahmsperre), Cherbourg (Balkensperre). The entrance to Calais was even blocked day and night. Requests to access ports were to be directed to the Hafenkommandant. In the entire area of Belgium there had been intense enemy air activity. The increased bombing activity on ports showed the enemy's determination to destroy the strongpoints for submarine and security forces. The Führer der Torpedoboote reported that the 2. S-Flottille had been conducting minelaying operations during the night. Operations for the coming night were cancelled due to bad weather.
On 17 April 1942 the 2. Sicherungsdivision saw only limited action due to bad weather. Also on this day, it was reported that the Luftwaffe had reorganized the allocation of the Ju 52 Mausi aircraft (which could magnetically detonate mines). Luftflotte 3 was allocated 7 such aircraft. However, the number of available aicraft was still seen as insufficient. The FdT reported ni operations planned due to the bad weather.
On 18 April 1942 the 2. Sicherungsdivision saw only limited action due to bad weather. The FdT reported that no operations were planned due to the bad weather. The 4. S-Flottille was transferred to Oostende, thus returning to its current port of operations after having been moved to Rotterdam. Also the torpedo boat Jaguar was to undergo maintenance. and would be replaced as of 1/5 by T19. Further on this day the OKM responded negatively to the earlier requested strengthening of the Vp-Flottillen.
On 19 April 1942 the 4. S-Flottille was reported as having made the move to Oostende. Also Jaguar had been transferred to Dunkirk. On this day, the 2. Sicherungsdivision managed to clear 3 ground mines. The FdT reported that the 2. S-Flottille had been conducting mine-laying operations. Further on this day the Marinegruppenkommando West requested Admiral Frankreich and BSW to newly divide the HS-Boote and thier positions, to divide the extracted HS-Boote over the Vp-Flottillen and to formulate plans for the execution of the reinforced outer defences.
On 20 April 1942 the 4. S-Flottille reported that it had laid 30 mines during the night, operating from Oostende. In the area of the 2. Sicherungsdivision there had been no activity to report. The convoy escort service was running as planned without incidents. The 2. S-Flottille reported that it had also laid 24 mines, operating from Ijmuiden. One boat was damaged in the operation. On this day the Marinegruppenkommando requested a change in the northern boundary of its area of operations to the effect that the northern boundary would coincide with the northern boundary of the area of the Oberbefehlshaber West. Discussions on this were going on in Den Haag. Also on this day it was reported that the Sperrbrecher Dresden had successfully been extracted from the area of operations.
On 21 April 1942 Gruppe C of the 38. MS-Flottille managed to sweep some mines. Nothing special was to be reported from the convoy escort service. The commander of the Schnellboote asked permission for the 2. S-Flottille, with only 3 active boats, to use the surprise moment to again lay mines. This was granted by the Marinegruppenkommando. The commander of Schellboote later reported that both the 2. and the 4. S-Flottillen had laid mines. Later that day, the commander of the 2. S-Flottille that 1 group would leave Ijmuiden that night with three boats. In the evening the 4. S-Flottille reported that 5 boats were soon to leave Oostende. Just before midnight the 2. S-Flottille reported that it had left Ijmuiden with three boats at 7pm.
On 22 April 1942 at 8am the commander of the 4. S-Flottille reported on the deployment that night. The five boats had run into 3 British boats. The ensuing fight resulted in damage to 1 boat and 3 wounded. Two boats then returned to Oostende. The three remaining boats continued their mission but were then forced to break off the minelaying. On the way back to Oostende the 3 boats ran into 2 British boats. The latter were fired at but did not return fire. The mission again showed the unfavourable location of Oostende as a deployment base, since the narrow passage at the Nordhinder sand bank was well-known to the British on the basis of a captured German map. The Führer der Schnellboote was requested to offer his stance. On this day, a report from the BSW was also mentioned which said that further construction of R-Geleitboote had been discontinued and that another solution would have to be found to deal with the S-Bootsgefahr. He requested that 8 old S-Boote would be refitted and rearmed to function as S-Bootsjäger in the area of the 2. Sicherungsdivision. Interestingly, the Marinegruppenkommando then remarked that it had known nothing about this and therefore inisted with the OKM that fast and well-armed boats would be made available. Also, the Marinegruppenkommando argued that, to its knowledge, all old S-Boote had already been converted to Flakjäger and were operating in the North sea and Norway. Further in the morning the BSW reported that the 2. Sicherungsdivision had deployed only little activity due to the weather. It was also reported that during the night the 38. MS-Flottille had been involved in a firefight with British M-Gunbooten, resulting in 3 wounded but the destruction of 1 and damaging of 2 British boats. The convoy escort services ran as planned. In late morning the commander of the 2. S-Flottille reported that 3 ships had left Ijmuiden that night and had successfully laid 18 mines. In the afternoon the BSW reported on the firefight mentioned above with more details. The fight had taken place southwest of the Cap d'Alprech. One German Gruppe detected 4 British boats on which it opened fire, heavily damaging 2 of them. The other Gruppe, operating closer to the land, discovered one enemy boat and probably destroyed it. After a short break, both Gruppen were again attacked from all sides, but the British then withdrew. It haf become clear the next morning that the enemy had attempted a landing, which had failed. In late afternoon the Marinebefehlshaber Kanalküste reported that during the night an enemy landing attempt had taken place near Hardelot and that it had failed. Position 36 for HS-Boote had not been occupied since it was only occupied during the day. The Admiral Frankreich was asked for his opinion.
Shortly after midnight on 23 April 1942 the Gefechtsstand West reported a sea fight off Calais. Presumably it hed been a contact between the Geleit Sperrbrecher 4 secured by boats of the 2. R-Flottille and the 8. MS-Flottille.with British boats. At 2.42am the commander of the 3. R-Flottille reported that the Begleitschiff von der Groeben had entered Boulogne with 5 boats. This was the security for the Geleit Sperrbrecher 4. In the early morning the BSW reported that activities had been limited due to fog. At 1.50pm the Führer der Schnellboote reported that minelaying was planned for the night by the 2. and 4. S-Flottillen. At 5.50pm the commander of the 2. S-Flottille reported the planned deployment with 4 boats from Ijmuiden. At 5pm the Marinegruppenkommando received the order for the transfer of Schiff 23 from Germany to the Gironde. At 5.25am the commander of Schnellboote reported that deployment of the 4. S-Flottille was not planned due to bad weather. At 6.45am the same commander reported that due to bad weather the S-Boote would not be deployed. At 6.55pm the Führer der Schnellboote reported that the 4. S-Flottille would be transferred to Rotterdam. At 11.25pm the enemy was heard communicating that German ships would depart Boulogne. This was the Geleit Sperrbrecher 4. Attacks on this convoy were to be expected.
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.
On 1 October 1943 the 5. Torpedobootsflottille left Le Havre with the T26, T27 and Kondor for Cherbourg.
On 2 October 1943 an enemy 250t landing boat was destroyed off Boulogne by shots fired by the naval batteries Mont de Couple, Crèche II and Flugplatz. It was thought that the boat had planned to put ashore a sabotage group. Further on 2 October the steam ship Lividia was transferred from le Havre to Dieppe accompanied by 14 security ships. Finally on this day boats of the 6. MS-Flottille and the T19 on the one hand and boats of the 2. A. Flottille clashed in a friendly fire accident; resultinvg in 4 killed and 40 wounded.
On 3 October 1943 the Lividia convoy was moved from Dieppe to Boulogne. Further on this day, T19 was transferred from Boulogne to Vlissingen accompanied by boats of the 6. MS-Flottille, leave the area of command for overhaul in Germany.
On 4 October 1943 the steamer Lividia left Boulogne for Oostende. However, along the way it was damaged by British land artillery and eventually sunk. Various English coastal towns were fired at in response with some explosions visible in Folkestone and Dover.
On 5 October 1943 the ship Nordvaard, accompanied by 7 M-Boote left Cherbourg for Le Havre. However, due to enemy movements in the area the commander of the 2 Sicherungsdivision was advised to make the ship return to Cherbourg.
On 6 October 1943 a secont attempt was made to transfer the ship Nordvaard from Cherbourg to Le Havre. Also on this day, the Marinegruppenkommando permitted the Sicherungsdivision to use the torpedos of the T-Boote when subordinated to them on missions.
On 7 October 1943 the ship Nordvaard was successfully transferred from Cherbourg to Le Havre. Also on this day a new tactic against enemy S-Boote was introduced. In addition to the close-range defence, an escort ahead and to the rear of the convoy was introduced.
On 8 October 1943 the 2-4-6-8. S-Flottillen performed minelaying operations off the English coast.
On 9 October 1943 the R-Bootbegleitschiff von der Lippe sank one enemy S-Boot. Further on this day the navy was informed by the Luftwaffe that England was first and foremost to be attacked with bombs, not mines. The Marinegruppenkommando regretted that the long preparation for the planned mining offensive had been umsonst. Sole responsibility for minelaying again fell to the navy, which lacked a sufficient number of boats and dependence on the weather. Further on this day the navy was informed that Luftwaffe fighter units of the IX Fliegerkorps had been withdrawn to Germany, further reducing available air cover.
On 10 October 1943 the command was informed that instead of the ZH1 and the Z34, the Z27 and Z30 of the 8. Zerstörerflottille would be transferred to the West. However, as the Seekriegsleitung forbade the transfer of the Z30, only the Z27 and Z34 would be transferred to the West towards the end of October.