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The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43» Forums » Sessions

Subject: The Tale of Ludwig Rasch rss

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Phil Davies
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Ludwig Rasch had led an unremarkable life but had always been dependable. 'A man who gets things done' was how he was described by his superiors. If something needed to be done Rasch was always happy to oblige and willing to serve his Fatherland. Dependability was something the Reich appreciated and so Rasch found himself in command of one of the invisible wolves of the sea, the U-31, fighting for the Kreigsmarine under the waves.

His war started in September of 1939. German High Command wanted to break the spirit of the British and therefore shipping around these islands was receiving special attention. True to his nature, Rasch carried out his instructions diligently and attacked a convoy. Three tankers and a small freighter. Escorted of course, but a fitting start to Rasch's wartime career!

He chose to ignore the smaller prey and fired two torpedoes at each of the larger tankers. The 8100t Cairndale detonated and slipped away. British Fame was listing but still mobile. The escort, clearly surprised, couldn't find the u-boat. Not a man to leave a job unfinished Rasch stalked the damaged tanker and it's ever present escort. Another hit and the little tanker was sitting lower in the water, the escort once again was frustrated in it's own efforts.

As though feeling Rasch's own frustration at being unable to finish the job, the torpedo he ordered to be fired the following day tore the 8400t British Fame apart. The u-boat, undetected, disappeared and later still came upon a sole small freighter. After the antagonism of his last engagement this time the u-boat closed in and sunk the Cassequel with it's deck gun.

On returning for refit and repair, Rasch wrote in his journal:
3 ships sunk- 21,300t. He underlined this. He liked underlining things. It felt like a conclusion. A job finished.

Second patrol was mine laying in the shipping lanes of the British Isles. Other u-boat commanders felt this type of patrol was taking them away from the real work. 'Wolves don't lay eggs!' they would say, but Rasch didn't mind the work. He was dependable and having done what was asked of him he went hunting. A small freighter with escort avoided his two torpedoes and although the escort missed finding the u-boat, the British weather confounded his men and he lost his target.

'Verdammt!' Rasch was upset. Dependable? How could a small freighter have slipped past him? His antagonised crew found another convoy- two small and two large freighters. He ordered the u-boat close not wanting to fail in this duty, the escorts failed to pick up on the killer in their midst. Rasch picked out the largest freighter and sent 3 precious torpedoes toward it. 2 hits, but 1 dud! Ach! The failings of others. His annoyance was short lived as the periscope showed him the 9200t freighter sinking, destroyed by the other torpedoes.

The escorts retaliated. Depth charges took out the fuel tanks and hydro phones. They began diving below test depths and the hull creaked around them. 'Diesel engine out! Hull damage! We're taking on water! came the reports as further charges found their mark. Despite protests from the hull and crew he continued pushing the U-31 downwards. Still the charges found them 'batteries damaged! Forward torp doors jammed!' and then...nothing...Rasch risked a look through the scope. Nothing. The onboard engineer fixed the batteries and they limped back into the docks for repair. Rasch updated his journal:
1 ship sunk- 9,200t

A lengthy time in dock whilst the U-31 was repaired meant patrol number 3 took place in April 1940. When assigned weather reporting duty around the British islands another man may have seen this as an admonishment for Rasch's carelessness during his last patrol but to Rasch it was a job that needed doing. He was dependable. A passing Luftwaffe patrol reported sighting a single ship, a small freighter called the Lucretia. Business-like in its attention the u-boat's deck gun tore the little ship up and, almost mournfully, it sank away.

Although Rasch was an aloof and distance mentor, it appeared to be an environment in which his crew flourished. The 1WO was more than capable of taking Rasch's place in command. Where Rasch was dependable, he was ambitious. Whilst the 1WO was celebrating a safe return with the crew Rasch wrote in his journal:
1 ship sunk- 2600t

June 1940 and Rasch was patrolling the British Isles for what would be the penultimate time. After an uneventful transit he fell upon the Hurunui. An unescorted nighttime engagement would mean an easy kill. The crew of the doomed freighter may have thought the u-boat was toying with them. But a man such as Rasch was just striving for efficiency. The deck guns damaged the ship, aft torpedo missed but the fore torpedoes finished the job. 9200 tonnes sank.

'Capital ship sighted!' and despite himself, Rasch felt excited. The opportunity to take out one of these big ships got his heart pounding even as he tried to maintain his usual level-headedness. Approaching from a safe medium range, under darkness, 3 torpedoes left the tubes. 2 found their mark and caused minor damage. The u-boat pushed below it's safe range in a successful effort to escape the capital ship's protective escort.

A further 4 torpedoes struck out toward the Audacity, this time he used the temperamental electrics. Rasch was unable to find out if these were the often reported duds as each missed it's mark. 'Mein Gott!' Came the shout and, as if in reply, the thump-thump-thump of depth charges. The hull creaked. But held. Further charges fell around the u-boat and the radio died in a shower of sparks. Not wanting to risk pushing the hull past breaking point Rasch kept within tested pressure levels.

Whether the escort thought the u-boat destroyed or wanted to help the Audacity escape was unclear, but Rasch found that his pursuer and quarry had left. If he'd found his crew's poor marksmanship frustrating, this unfinished job was doubly so and his crew were pleased when a passing patrol carrying parts provided some relief from their commander's festering mood. The log book held it's customary concluding remark:
1 ship sunk- 9300t

At Rasch's promotional hearing he was proud to have been described as both a good officer and an effective and efficient officer. Dependable. He took his promotion with modesty. The U-31 struck out for Atlantic waters. Following an aerial attack and successful crash dive he came across a convoy.

A spread of torpedoes sank the 7000t British Reliance, but the torpedo that struck the small freighter, Star Cross, appeared to be another dud. Although undetected by escorts, he lost immediate contact with the convoy.

The convoy was rediscovered and this time Rasch singled out larger quarry. Three tankers and a small freighter. Frustrated at his previous inability to sink larger prey, Rasch risked engaging at close range. He planned on damaging the two large tankers in the hope they fell behind and lost their escort. He passed these escorts easily and caused light damage to both the Svend Foyn and the City of Benares. The ground work done the u-boat plummeted beyond test depths to avoid detection. He shadowed the two damaged tankers into the next night and was dismayed to see their escorts remained in place. Not wanting to take too much of a risk he attacked from a more comfortable medium range. A heavy hit from a steam torpedo sank the Svend Foyn. The City of Benares suffered no further damage. Once again the U-31 was undetected.

The following morning the escort left maybe it's capitan thought that the u-boat that had been hounding them would have been satisfied with the death of the Svend Foyn. Rasch was not the man to leave a job unfinished. Deck guns sent the City of Benares to the bottom of the sea.

The easy kills continued when Rasch found the Ville D'arlon sailing unescorted. Once again the deck guns brought about the end of another ship. Once back in port Rasch allowed himself a small smile. It wasn't the tonnage that pleased him, but the 4 ships sank. A job well done he thought as he wrote up his journal:
4 ships sunk- 40,200t

High command were clearly pleased with his performance in the Atlantic as following a 2 month refit he returned. This time, had it not been for another ship spotted by the Luftwaffe he would have returned without scoring a single kill. As it was the Alexander Macon served to save Rasch from returning with disappointment souring his mood. He wrote up his journal accordingly:
1 ship sunk- 7200t

March 1941 and Rasch was patrolling the warmer seas off the Spanish coast. Either the seas here had been picked clean or the allies were becoming wise to the activities of the u-boats and their commanders. All he saw were enemy planes and although the U-31 successfully crash dived and avoided the first assault, a subsequent attack damaged the hull and injured crewmen. Return fire from the onboard flak cannon damaged the plane and it broke off it's attack. Rasch wrote for the first time in his journal the following words:
O ships sunk- 0t

It seemed that his disappointments were to continue. To think he used to like to think of himself as reliable! Dependable! A man who gets things done! For the second time in 3 months Rasch found himself writing in his journal:
O ships sunk- 0t

And so in August 1941 the fated final voyage began! Having gone up against numerous escorts it was to be the firepower of the aeroplane, not the depth charge that would be the end of the U-31 and her crew. Rasch was back out in his beloved Atlantic. The seas that saw his greatest success. This time was different though. An aerial attack had already caused damage to the hull of the u-boat. Rasch attacked a small freighter but was almost undone when one of the torpedoes that struck the ship proved to be another accursed dud! Allied escorts had found Rasch and his men and pounded the u-boat. The hull took further punishment and the 2WO was seriously injured as he was thrown around his station.

Once satisfied that the only successful torpedo had caused enough damage to sink the freighter Rasch escaped to find a final unescorted freighter. The Sheaf Mead was sunk with the deck gun. Another ship sunk. Another, final, job done. Aware of the damage his u-boat was suffering Rasch finished his patrol and was heading for port when the fated aircraft attacked. The hull split and spilt Rasch and his crew into the same sea he had previously sent so many.

At an office, in a ledger, Rasch's accomplishments were recorded as follows:
K. Kpt L. Rasch. U-31 9 Patrols. 13 Ships sunk. 99,200t
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John Kranz
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Okay, we obviously have some closet novelists out there. Awesome stuff!
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Phil Davies
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consimworld wrote:
Okay, we obviously have some closet novelists out there. Awesome stuff!


Thank you modest and a bigger thank you for providing the game that drove the narrative in the first place!
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Ryan Mayes
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Well done. The was very fun to read. Everything just comes alive. I can imagine both the game being played and the sub stalking around the Atlantic.

Man, I have to get this game!
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