Vivian Head has another anecdote about the Culebra, this one set in war-time Cardiff, Wales, in 1940: “I have been making a study of the policing history at Cardiff Docks and I talked to Vic Jones… when he recalled his own boyhood experiences. In the midst of all the wartime activity of 1940, routine duties still formed an important part of police work at Cardiff Docks. Fourteen-year-old Vic Jones ran away from his Ely home, intent on going to sea. He climbed over the dock wall and found a ship prepared to take him on. But his mother guessed his intentions and telephoned the dock police.”
“…They searched every ship until they came to the 10,000 ton SS Mount Kylene, the night before it was due to sail. They found young Vic on board and promptly took him back home to his mother. A few months later, Vic found his way to the docks once more. This time he signed on a British ship, the SS Culebra berthed at the Queen Alexandra Dock. But before the vessel sailed he was once again out maneuvered by the combination of his mother and the docks police. He was taken back home a second time!”
40° to starboard a steamer in sight. Our Sunday roast. His course 220°, speed 9 knots. Overtaken, let him have it!
We are ahead, running towards it. It is a small steamer with a frame around the bow for the use of minesweeping equipment. Heavily loaded, with deck cargo in crates. one gun, about 50 mm with protective shield. [text illegible]
On the 27th of January Hardegen vectored in the Greek ship Mount Etna to retrieve survivors of the Pan Norway which he had sunk two days previously. Since Hardegen’s incursion off Bermuda occurred on 22 January 1942, just over one and a half months following the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and the US entry into the war, this makes Hardegen’s brush with the greater Bahamas region the first such patrol there. It also renders any “SSS” or “submarine sighted” Morse code signals from Allied vessels or shore stations in the region before that date without credibility, since we know that no subs entered the area until end-January 1942.
Hardegen, who is still alive in mid 2014, achieved the rank of Korvettenkapitän, though at the time he was Kapitänleutnant. Over his career he sank 21 ships for a total of 112,447 GRT and damaged four others for 32,516 GRT – he also sank one warship and damaged another. On 23 April 1942, following this patrol he was awarded the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves, and later the U-boat badge with Diamonds. A member of the crew of 1933 at the Naval Academy (Marineschule) in Mürwik, eastern Germany, he was only 30 at the time.
Hardegen actually began his career in the naval air force, but injuries sustained when he crashed as a pilot brought him to the U-boat arm in November 1939, at the outset of the war. His total command experience of five patrols of 240 days at sea on two submarines plus his longevity and accessibility have made Hardegen somewhat of a “darling” of U-boat research into attacks on the Americas, or at least the United States.