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Hans-Diedrich von Tiesenhausen

Hans-Diedrich von Tiesenhausen

German U-boat commander
The basics
Occupations Korvettenkapitän Submariner
Countries Germany
Gender male
Birth February 22, 1913 (Riga)
Death August 17, 2000 (Vancouver)
Hans-Diedrich von Tiesenhausen
The details

Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen (22 February 1913 – 17 August 2000) was a Kapitänleutnant with the Kriegsmarine during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Early lfe

Von Tiesenhausen was born on 22 February 1913 in Riga, at the time part of the Governorate of Livonia of the Russian Empire, as a member of the Baltic German nobility family Tiesenhausen and son of Gerhard von Tiesenhausen.

Naval career

He joined the Reichsmarine (renamed the Kriegsmarine on 1 June 1935) on 8 April 1934. After undergoing basic military training in the ship core division of the Baltic Sea in Stralsund, he was transferred to the training ship Gorch Fock on 15 June 1934. Promoted Lieutenant, von Tiesenhausen served on the cruiser Nürnberg, taking part in security patrols in Spanish waters in 1937. He then had served with the 5th Marine Artillery Battalion in Pillau.


Promoted to Oberleutnant zur See on 1 April 1939, he reported for submarine training in October 1939, after the outbreak of World War II. On graduation, from December 1939 he served as Second Watch Officer on U-23, commanded by Otto Kretschmer. During his tour on U-23, he completed three successful patrols during which the boat sank five ships for a total of 27,000 tons, as well as one destroyer. His fourth patrol on U-23 was under the command of Commander Beduhn, after which he was posted as First Watch Officer to the new U-93, commanded by Klaus Korth.


HMS Barham exploding, 25 November 1941.

On 31 March 1941, he was given command a of new Type VIIC boat, U-331. The boat left Kiel on 2 July 1941, patrolling out into the mid-Atlantic Ocean as far the Azores, before arriving at Lorient, France on 19 August.

After sailing from Lorient on 24 September, and making the difficult passage into the Mediterranean Sea, on 10 October the boat engaged three British tank landing craft off Sidi Barrani, Egypt. Inflicting slight damage with her deck gun, the attack was broken off after being hit by 40 mm shells, which wounded two men (one fatally) and damaged the conning tower. The following day the boat arrived at Salamis, Greece.

Departing Salamis on 12 November 1941, the boat was tasked with landing seven men of the Lehrregiment Brandenburg east of Ras Gibeisa, on a mission to blow up a railway line near the Egyptian coast. After completing this important task, von Tiesenhausen was given free movement to patrol and attack Allied targets along the Egyptian coast. On 25 November 1941, north of Sidi Barrani, U-331 fired three torpedoes into the British Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Barham. As the ship rolled over, her magazines exploded and she quickly sank with the loss of 861 men, while 395 were rescued. U-331 returned to Salamis on 3 December, where von Tiesenhausen was promoted to Kapitänleutnant and awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.

Her next five patrols passed without incident or further sinkings, as she patrolled from Salamis to La Spezia, Italy. On her tenth patrol, U-331 was sunk on 17 November 1942, north of Algiers, during "Operation Torch". She had been badly damaged after being attacked by a Lockheed Hudson bomber and signalled surrender, but was attacked and sunk by a Fairey Albacore torpedo-bomber from the British aircraft carrier HMS Formidable. Of her crew 32 were killed and 17 survived, including von Tiesenhausen.

Later life

As a prisoner of war, Tiesenhausen was initially moved to England, he then spent the rest of the war as a PoW in Canada, until his release in 1947.

Returning to a West Germany, he worked as a joiner, but in late 1951 he returned to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where he became an interior architect and a nature photographer.


  • Dienstauszeichnung 4th Class (8 April 1938)
  • The Return of Memel Commemorative Medal (25 June 1940)
  • The Return of Sudetenland Commemorative Medal of 1 October 1938 (6 September 1940)
  • Iron Cross (1939)
    • 2nd Class (30 January 1940)
    • 1st Class (7 December 1941)
  • Medaglia di bronzo al Valore Militare (November 1941)
  • Medaglia d'Argento al Valor Militare (25 March 1942)
  • U-boat War Badge (1939) (26 February 1942)
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 January 1942 as Kapitänleutnant and commander of U-331
  • Mentioned twice in the Wehrmachtbericht on 26 November 1941 and 27 January 1942
  • Busch & Röll 2003, p. 190.
  • ^ Busch & Röll 2003, p. 191.
  • Scherzer 2007, p. 745.
  • Fellgiebel 2000, p. 423.

Combat career

Date U-boat Name of Ship Nationality Tonnage Fate
10 October 1941 U-331 HMS TLC-18  Royal Navy 372 Damaged
25 November 1941 U-331 HMS Barham  Royal Navy 31,100 Sunk
9 November 1942 U-331 USS Leedstown  United States Navy 9,135 Sunk

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