Kapitänleutnant Herbert Uhlig on the Type IXC boat U-527 sailing from Lorient opted to utilize the long-dormant Northeast and Northwest Providence channels when he proceeded inbound south of Bermuda starting June 1st 1943. He arrived off Abaco on the 5th of June and over the following 24 or so hours steamed around Hole in the Wall Light, past Nassau to the South, Bimini and Hard Bargain, Moore’s Island to the left and right respectively, and then between Great Isaacs Light and Grand Bahama before breaking into the Straits of Florida and heading south. U-527 sailed south against the Gulf Stream for two days before exiting the region to prowl in the US Gulf on the 8th of June.
On the way out the submarine had encountered a storm-damaged Allied ship which was being towed to the UK, but was chased away by escorts (Wynn, Vol. 2, p.15). Uhlig was to return on the last day of the month for the boat’s final passage, back towards Europe. Going up the Straits of Florida Uhlig again chose the Northwest and Northeast Providence channels, and again passed the colony’s capital – this voyage through the area just as fruitless as the laSaint
On the 3rd of July the boat and its commander burst free of the channels, gulfs and islands and headed into the open Atlantic and its destiny off the Azores Islands where it was sunk by combined Allied efforts. U-527’s last day in the larger Bahamas territory was to be the 7th of July 1943. West of the Azores U-527 was surprised by an aircraft which bombed the sub twice and damaged its fuel tanks. This is a near-fatal blow since the oil leaking from the tanks gives the boat’s position away to following Allies. This damage resulted in a nineteen-hour attack by destroyers, however Uhlig managed to escape.
U-648 was ordered to assist the damaged U-boat and they met on the 23rd of July. While they were sharing equipment and fuel an Allied Avenger aircraft captained by Lt. R. L. Stearns from the USS Bogue attacked. Uhlig dashed to a nearby fog bank and determined to fight it out on the surface, while U-648 managed to escape. The Avenger dropped six depth-charges on the boat, whose anti-aircraft gun had jammed. U-527 began to sink, with the spot marked by smoke floats. Only thirteen men, Uhlig among them, managed to escape and were picked up by the USS Clemson and later landed in Casablanca by the Bogue. Forty men drowned (Wynn, Vol. 2, pp.15-16).
Accountable for sinking one ship of 5,242 tons, plus a warship of 291 tons and another ship damaged for 5,848 tons, Herbert Uhlig was 27 years of age at the time of this patrol which he undertook in the Tenth Flotilla of Lorient. A member of the Crew of 1935, he achieved Kapitänleutnantin June of 1943. Uhlig underwent 138 patrol days on just two patrols. During his career he received no decorations. He went on to live 81 years, passing in 1997, having served the balance of the war as a captive of the Americans.
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