Capture of U852



Capture of U852


First article attributed to Manchester Guardian, 18 October 1945, covers trial of five members of crew of U852 who were involved in firing on the survivors of a Greek ship Peleus. The second (non attributed) states that three officers were sentenced to death for firing on survivors of Greek ship Peleus. The third article details award Distinguished Flying Cross to the pilot and Distinguished Flying Medal to the front gunner of Oliver Gomersal's Wellington for the attack on the submarine. Annotated 'Daily Express, June 19, 1944. My pilot Roy Mitchell sadly did not survive as he died in an air crash in Dec 1945'.



Temporal Coverage





Photocopy of three newspaper cuttings mounted on an album page


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Officer’s Admission

Hamburg, October 17.

A German U-boat officer in a statement read to an Allied war crimes court here to-day described how he took a machine-gun from a leading seaman and fired at survivors of the Greek ship Peleus, which had been torpedoed by the U-boat, as they were struggling in the water.

“I was not in agreement with the order to fire,” the statement said, “but I realised that it had to be carried out. I fired two bursts, then our boat continued on its course.”

The German officer, Captain Hans Richard Lenz, is one of the five members of the crew of the U-boat 852 who are now on trial before a court composed of British Army officers charged with murdering British and Allied seamen after sinking their vessel, the Greek ship Peleus, in the Atlantic in March, 1944.

Colonel Richard Halse, prosecuting, said that later in 1944 a U-boat was attacked by an Allied ‘plane and forced to beach on the east coast of Africa. Her log was found, showing that she had sunk a boat in the position in which the Peleus was sunk. The crew of the U-boat were brought to Britain, and one of the accused, Captain Heinz Eck – also on trial – declare [sic] that he had decided to eliminate all traces of the sinking. “I went to the Captain.” Captain Lenz’s statement continued, “and told him I [missing letters]approved, but he said he was determined to eliminate all trace.” – Reuter.


Long Terms for Others

From our Special Correspondent

Hamburg, October 20.

The captain and two officers of the German submarine U 852 were sentenced to death by a mixed Anglo-Greek military court here to-day for being concerned in the slaying of the survivors of the Greek ship Peleus in March, 1944. Another officer and rating were sentenced to imprisonment for life and for fifteen years respectively.

Those sentenced to death were Kapitän Lietaunt Henz Eck, captain of the submarine; Leutnant August Hoffman, first lieutenant; and Marine Oberstabsarzt Walter Weissphennig, the submarine doctor. The boat’s engineer officer, Kapitän Leutnant (I) Hans Richard Lenz, was sentenced to imprisonment for life, and Gefreiter Schwender to imprisonment for fifteen years.

It had been stated in evidence that when the U 852 sank the Peleus she then surfaced and attacked the survivors in boats and on rafts with hand grenades and tommy-guns. The defence pleaded that it was essential that the submarine’s presence should not be made known by the discovery of survivors.

The president announced that the findings of the Court were subject to revision. This was translated, and then he read Eck’s full name and rank and said, “The Court sentences you to death by shooting.” Eck did not move a muscle. Then the President sentenced Hoffman and Weissphennig to death one after the other. Neither flickered for a moment. Then came the two lesser sentences, and the guards took the prisoners away. British soldiers and sailors filed out of the court quietly, overawed.


A Reuter message from Hamburg yesterday said that the five accused had lodged an appeal which will be directed to the court’s convening officer.

[inserted] This was a classic trial for War Crimes and a lawyer wrote a book about it called “The Peleus Trial”

A sad end for a naval officer who never gave up the fight and who manoeuvred his ship with Considerable Skill in taking evasive action. [/inserted]

They caught a U-boat

For a successful attack on a U-boat the D.F.C. has been awarded to Flying-Officer Roy-Howard Mitchell and the D.F.M. to Sergeant Walter Raymond Stevenson.

They were pilot and radio operator of the aircraft. Sergeant Stevenson sighted the U-boat fully surfaced some miles away and warned his pilot.

In the run-in Sergeant Stevenson used his guns to good effect and, as the U-boat attempted to submerge, Flying-Officer Mitchell straddled it with depth charges, forcing it to the surface.

Flying-Officer Mitchell’s home is Gillingham, Kent. Sergeant Stevenson comes from Durham, and before enlisting was a blacksmith.

[inserted]Daily Express

June 19th, 1944

My Pilot Roy Mitchell Sadly did not survive War Service as he died in an air crash in Dec 1945

[signature] [/inserted]



“Capture of U852 ,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 4, 2023,

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