Ship ClassType II-class Submarine
BuilderDeutsche Werke Kiel
Yard Number255
Ordered17 Jun 1937
Laid Down21 Sep 1937
Launched3 Sep 1938
Commissioned26 Nov 1938
Decommissioned3 Apr 1945
Sunk3 May 1945
Displacement291 tons standard; 341 tons submerged
Length144 feet
Beam13 feet
Draft13 feet
MachineryTwo MWM RS 127 S 4-stroke 6cyl diesel engines (690bhp), two Siemens-Schuckert PG VV 322/36 double-acting electric motors (400shp), two shafts, two propellers
Speed12 knots
Range3,800nm at 8 knots surfaced, 1,900nm at 12 knots surfaced, 35-42nm at 4 knots submerged
Armament3x53.3cm bow torpedo tubes, 1x2cm C/30 anti-aircraft gun, 5x torpedoes or 12 TMA mines or 18 TMB mines
Submerged Speed7 knots


ww2dbaseU-56, a Type IIC submarine, was commissioned into German Navy service in Nov 1938 under the command of Kapit√§nleutnant Wilhelm Zahn. She completed two patrols in the North Sea during her training period, the second of which was after the start of the European War, but she did not attack any hostile shipping. During her third patrol, on 30 Oct 1939, she was able to maneuver around a guarding force consisted of HMS Hood and ten destroyers to approach flagship HMS Rodney and HMS Nelson. The attack resulted in two hits on HMS Nelson, which would not sink. The destroyers converged to counterattack, but U-56 was able to escape the area. After the action, however, Zahn was so depressed that he was unable to sink the high-value target that Admiral Karl D√∂nitz felt it was necessary to replace him with Oberleutnant zur See Otto Harms; valuing Zahn's experience, D√∂nitz named him an instructor while he recovered from depression. The submarine's fourth war patrol saw her damaging British merchant ship Eskdene in the North Sea and sinking neutral ship Rudolf (Master Bertil Persson). After several patrols, most of which rather uneventful, she relocated to Lorient, France in Jul 1940. In Aug 1940, during her eleventh patrol, she sank British merchant ship Boma and British auxiliary warship HMS Transylvania in two separate attacks northwest of Malin Head, County Donegal, Ireland. In Oct 1940, Kapit√§nleutnant Werner Pfeifer was made the new commanding officer. Beginning in Nov 1940, she began serving in a training capacity, a role that she would maintain for the remainder of the war. In that role, she would have several commanding officers through the remaining of the war: Wolfgang R√∂mer, G√ľnther-Paul Grave, Hugo Deiring, Werner Sausmikat, Heinrich Miede, Walter K√§ding (acting), and Joachim Sauerbier. On 3 Apr 1945, she was badly damaged by US aircraft, and she was decommissioned from service as the result. She was scuttled at Kiel, Germany on 3 May 1945 to prevent Allied capture. Soon after the war the wreck was raised and broken up.


Last Major Revision: Dec 2021

Submarine U-56 Interactive Map

U-56 Operational Timeline

17 Jun 1937 The order for U-56 was issued to Deutsche Werke, Kiel, Germany.
21 Sep 1937 The keel of U-56 was laid down at Deutsche Werke, Kiel, Germany.
3 Sep 1938 U-56 was launched at Deutsche Werke, Kiel, Germany.
26 Nov 1938 U-56 was commissioned into service with Kapit√§nleutnant Wilhelm Zahn in command. She was assigned to the 5th Flotilla for training.
25 Aug 1939 U-56 began her first patrol in the North Sea.
8 Sep 1939 U-56 ended her first patrol.
12 Sep 1939 U-56 began her second patrol in the North Sea.
19 Sep 1939 U-56 ended her second patrol.
23 Oct 1939 U-56 began her third patrol.
30 Oct 1939 U-56 fired three G7e (TII) torpedoes on HMS Rodney near the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom; all three missed the target, but two of them hit HMS Nelson situated directly behind HMS Rodney.
13 Nov 1939 U-56 arrived at Kiel, Germany, ended her third patrol.
27 Nov 1939 U-56 began her fourth patrol.
2 Dec 1939 U-56 damaged British merchant ship Eskdene 130 kilometers northeast of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom.
3 Dec 1939 After following the target for about 45 minutes, U-56 sank neutral ship Rudolf (Master Bertil Persson) with one G7e torpedo in the North Sea about 60 kilometers east of May Island at 0013 hours. Six survivors were picked up by British trawler Cardew later in the day; they were landed at Dundee. Eight other survivors remained in lifeboats. 9 were killed.
5 Dec 1939 U-56 ended her fourth patrol.
27 Dec 1939 U-56 began her fifth patrol in the southern North Sea.
1 Jan 1940 U-56 was assigned to the 1st Flotilla.
11 Jan 1940 U-56 ended her fifth patrol.
21 Jan 1940 Finnish merchant ship Onto (Master Ivar Str√∂m) struck a mine in the North Sea 40 kilometers northeast of Great Yarmouth, England, United Kingdom at 2213 hours. The mine was laid by U-56 on 8 Jan 1940. The ship sank, and all 20 aboard survived in two lifeboats. One lifeboat, with 14 aboard, was rescued by a Greek steam merchant; the other was rescued by HMS Auckland.
22 Jan 1940 Oberleutnant zur See Otto Harms was made the commanding officer of U-56, relieving Wilhelm Zahn.
27 Jan 1940 U-56 began her sixth patrol.
17 Feb 1940 U-56 ended her sixth patrol.
14 Mar 1940 U-56 began her seventh patrol.
20 Mar 1940 U-56 ended her seventh patrol.
4 Apr 1940 U-56 began her eighth patrol west of Scotland, United Kingdom; off the Norwegian coast; and off the Shetland Islands, Scotland.
26 Apr 1940 U-56 ended her eighth patrol.
21 May 1940 U-56 began her ninth patrol north of the Hebrides west of Scotland, United Kingdom and in the Shetland Islands area further north.
14 Jun 1940 U-56 ended her ninth patrol.
29 Jun 1940 U-56 departed Wilhelmshaven, Germany and began her tenth patrol.
12 Jul 1940 German submarine U-56 attacked British transport ship Dunera with a torpedo in the North Channel between England, United Kingdom and Ireland; the torpedo glanced off the ship without exploding; the commanding officer of U-56 did not realize that Dunera was carrying, among others, Italian and German prisoners of war bound for Australia.
21 Jul 1940 U-56 arrived at Lorient, France and ended her tenth patrol.
25 Jul 1940 U-56 began her eleventh patrol.
5 Aug 1940 German submarine U-56 fired two torpedoes at Allied Convoy OB-193 northwest of Malin Head, County Donegal, Ireland at 2138 hours, scoring one hit on British merchant ship Boma; 3 were killed and 50 survived; Boma would sink on next day
10 Aug 1940 U-56 seriously damaged British auxiliary warship HMS Transylvania with one G7e torpedo hit 40 miles northwest of Malin Head, County Donegal, Ireland at about 0100 hours. An attempt was made to tow Transylvania, but she would founder and sink. 36 were killed during the attack, 300 survived.
14 Aug 1940 U-56 ended her eleventh patrol.
19 Aug 1940 U-56 began her twelfth patrol.
6 Sep 1940 British submarine HMS Tribune discovered German submarine U-56 about 28 kilometers northeast of St Kilda, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, United Kingdom and fired several torpedoes at the German boat. All torpedoes missed. The Germans were unaware that they were under attack.
15 Sep 1940 U-56 arrived at Kiel, Germany and ended her twelfth patrol.
14 Oct 1940 Kapit√§nleutnant Werner Pfeifer was made the commanding officer of U-56, relieving Otto Harms.
1 Nov 1940 U-56 was assigned to 24th Flotilla for training.
19 Dec 1940 U-56 was assigned to 22nd Flotilla to serve as a school boat.
22 Apr 1941 Kapit√§nleutnant Wolfgang R√∂mer was made the commanding officer of U-56, relieving Werner Pfeifer.
20 Jan 1942 Oberleutnant zur See G√ľnther-Paul Grave was made the commanding officer of U-56, relieving Wolfgang R√∂mer.
15 Nov 1942 Oberleutnant zur See Hugo Deiring was made the commanding officer of U-56, relieving G√ľnther-Paul Grave.
28 Feb 1944 Oberleutnant zur See Werner Sausmikat was made the commanding officer of U-56, relieving Hugo Deiring.
1 Jul 1944 Oberleutnant zur See Heinrich Miede was made the commanding officer of U-56, relieving Werner Sausmikat. She was assigned to 19th Flotilla to serve as a school boat.
9 Jan 1945 Oberleutnant zur See Walter K√§ding was made the acting commanding officer of U-56.
5 Feb 1945 Oberleutnant zur See Walter K√§ding stepped down as the acting commanding officer of U-56.
23 Feb 1945 Oberleutnant zur See Joachim Sauerbier was made the commanding officer of U-56, relieving Heinrich Miede.
3 Apr 1945 While at Kiel, Germany, U-56 was seriously damaged by US aircraft, leading to her decommissioning from service.
3 May 1945 U-56 was scuttled at Kiel, Germany to prevent capture.

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