The patrol of U-103 under KapitänleutnantWerner Winter lasted for thirteen days in the area both inbound and outbound, but resulted in no sinkings in the immediate vicinity. The tally of ships sunk before and after Winter’s transit was impressive – the Stanbank with a rich cargo of military supplies destined to fight Rommel in North Africa via Suez was sunk northeast of Bermuda on the 5th of May 1942. Having left Saint Nazaire on the 15th of April, the boat was refueled by U-459 500 miles northeast of Bermuda in early May.
After entering the zone midway between Bermuda and Savannah on the seventh, U-103 headed first southwest in the direction of the Straits of Florida and then south along the eastern Bahamas – Abaco, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Acklins, and through the Crooked Island Passage north and west of Inagua to exit the region via the Windward Passage on the thirteenth of May. Winter would return two weeks later after devastating attacks on eight other ships, mostly in the Yucatan Channel and the western and southwestern tips of Cuba.
U-103’s victims included the Ruth Lykes on the 17th, Ogontz two days later, both Clare and Elizabeth two days after that and on the 23rd and 24th the Samuel Q. Brown and Hector. On the 26th he dispatched the Alcoa Carrier and on the 28th the New Jersey, for total tonnage (including Stanbank) of 42,169 tons sunk. All but the British Stanbank and the Dutch Hector were American ships.
On the return voyage Winter again transited the Windward Passage – this time on the 31st of May – and opted to steam east of Inagua and through the Caicos Channel on the first of June. For the next four days he steamed northeast, exiting the area south of Bermuda on the 5th of June and heading for Biscay, which he had left on the 15th of April. The trajectory of his patrol looks like a large V with Bermuda equidistant between the two pinchers in the middle, and the apex lying in the Windward Passage.
On the very day that he passed south of Bermuda Winter was awarded the Knights Cross via radio for an exceptionally successful patrol. Before that his highest award was the Iron Cross First Class. Winter’s career haul amounted to fifteen ships sunk for 79,302 tons – he appears to have been a thorough skipper, as none of his victims escaped merely damaged: all were finished off. The boat returned to Lorient (having left St. Nazaire) on the 22nd of June 1942.
This is also a reflection that allied counter-attacks must have been either non-existent or less threatening than, say in a convoy action in the North Atlantic, providing the U-boat with critical time to complete the job rather than just submerging and running as soon as the torpedoes left the tube. Winter would be promoted to Korvettenkapitänin March of 1943. His total of five war patrols amounted to 209 sea days.
A member of the crew of 1930, Winter had served on the light cruiser Emden before joining U-boats in 1935. The previous skipper of U-103 was the ace skipper Viktor Schutze. Winter had been in a staff position between command of U-22 and U-103 and returned in July 1942 (following this patrol) to that role, in command of the First Flotilla in Brest. In that capacity he would have sent out and welcomed home many of the patrols of his Flotilla from the Bahamas area, and been intimately involved in both instructing and debriefing the skippers, and reporting to Admiral Dönitz. Captured in Brest in 1944, he was released in 1947. After a few years in the Bundesmarine he retired as a Kapitän zur See, and lived a further two years until 1972 when he passed away in Kiel.
SOURCES: Gudmundur Helgason, Rainer Kolbicz, www.uboat.net, 2011, Kenneth Wynn, U-boat Operations of the Second World War, Volume 1 and Volume 2, 1997