Tiesenhausen, Freiherr von, Hans-Diedrich

Date of birth:
February 22nd, 1913 (Riga, Latvia)
Date of death:
August 17th, 2000 (Vancouver, Canada)
Nationality:
German (1933-1945, German Reich)

Biography

Hans-Diederich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen joined the Kriegsmarine as a cadet in 1934. As a Leutnant zur See, von Tiesenhausen served on the light cruiser Nürnberg, taking part in security patrols in Spanish waters in 1937, as well as spells with the 5th Marine Artillery Battalion in Pillau. He was promoted to Oberleutnant zur See on 1 April 1939, and reported for a training course at the Unterseebootschule in October that year. His career as a U-boat officer began in December 1939, served as Second Watch Officer on U-23, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Kretschmer. Together they completed three successful patrols and sank five ships for a total of 27,000 tons, as well as one destroyer.
After his fourth patrol on U-23, under Commander Beduhn, he was posted as First Watch Officer to the new U-93 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Klaus Korth. Thereafter, he was given his own Type VIIC boat, U-331, on March 31, 1941.
Tiesenhausen’s first war patrol began in July 1941. Although he made approaches to Allied shipping off the Azores he was detected by the convoy escort and driven off. After making the difficult passage through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean to operate from the Italian base of La Spezia. His third patrol, in November 1941, saw Tiesenhausen tasked with landing a group of commandos of the Brandenburg Division behind British lines near Ras el Gibeisa. Once this was done he was free to search for enemy shipping. On November 25 the sailer manning the hydrophones heard a group of ships off the coast of Bardia (Libya). He spotted about midday three Royal Navy battleships with a heavy destroyer escort; he was able to identify HMS Queen Elizabeth, Barham and Valiant. U-331 closed to within 450 meters of the Royal Navy battleship HMS Barham and fired a spred of four torpedoes. Three of the torpedoes struck the Barham. The 31,000-ton battleship sank; and 862 British seamen lost their lives. There were 449 survivors. For this success Tiesenhausen was decorated with the Knight’s Cross on January 27, 1942.
U-331 remained in the Mediterranean, but without achieving anything spectacular; her next six patrols, operating out of La Spezia and Salamis, brought no successes.
On November 9, 1942 von Tiesenhausen attacked a convoy supporting the Allied ‘Torch’ landings in North Africa, and sank the 9,135-ton USS Leedstown off Algiers.
On November 17, 1942, in the waters north of Algiers, U-331 was attacked by a Lockheed "Hudson" bomber and left it unable to submerge. A torpedo from a Swordfish aircraft of the carrier HMS Formidable ended the affair. U-331 was sent to the bottom, taking 32 crew wit her; Kapitänleut Von Tiesenhausen and fifteen members of his crew were rescued and made prisoners of war. He spent time as a prisoner, first in England and then transferred to a POW camp in Canada for three years. He was released in 1947 and returned to Germany, where he lived for four years before returning to settle in Canada permanently. He lived in a small town on the west coast of Canada for the rest of his life, working as an interior designer, and achieving some note as a nature photographer. He died in Vancouver on August 17, 2000.

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Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
April 8th, 1938
Dienstauszeichnung der Wehrmacht 4.Klasse, 4 Jahre
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberleutnant zur See
Unit:
U-23, 1.Unterseebootsflottille, Kriegsmarine
Awarded on:
January 30th, 1940
Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberleutnant zur See
Unit:
U-23, 1.Unterseebootsflottille, Kriegsmarine
Awarded on:
February 26th, 1940
U-boot Kriegsabzeichen (ohne Brillianten)
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
June 25th, 1940
Medaille zur Erinnerung an die Heimkehr des Memellandes
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
September 6th, 1940
Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 1. Oktober 1938
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberleutnant zur See
Unit:
U-331, 23.Unterseebootsflottille, Kriegsmarine
Awarded on:
November 1941
Medaglia de bronzo al Valore
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
November 26th, 1941
Action:
As previously announced by special bulletin, the British Navy in the past few days has again suffered heavy losses. In addition to the damage inflicted to a major British warship by aerial torpedo hits, which was announced in yesterday's armed forces report, a German submarine under the command of Captain Lieutenant Freiherr von Tiesenhausen attacked a British battleship near Sollum and imposed a heavy torpedo hit.
Wehrmachtbericht
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Oberleutnant zur See
Unit:
U-331, 23.Unterseebootsflottille, Kriegsmarine
Awarded on:
December 7th, 1941
Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
Unit:
U-331, 23.Unterseebootsflottille, Kriegsmarine
Awarded on:
January 27th, 1942
Action:
Tiesenhausen was belatedly awarded for sinking of the British battlesship HMS Barham in the Mediterranean on November 25, 1941.
The actual sinking was not reported, since Tiesenhausen had not witnessed Barham's destruction, only heard the detonation of the torpedo. He could not be sure whether she had sunk, or had merely been damaged and left the scene by the time he had surfaced. It was not until several weeks later, once the British had admitted her loss, that Tiesenhausen could finally confirm that his victim was indeed the Barham.
Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Awarded on:
January 27th, 1942
Action:
As announced in the Army report of 26 November attacked a German submarine, under the leadership of Captain Lieutenant Freiherr von Tiesenhausen before Sollum a British battleship and damaged it severely with torpedo hits. As has been determined by now, it is the battleship "BARHAM", which sank after three torpedo hits.
Wehrmachtbericht
Period:
Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank:
Käpitanleutnant (Lieutenant)
Unit:
U-331, 23.Unterseebootsflottille, Kriegsmarine
Awarded on:
March 25th, 1942
Medaglia d'argento al Valore Militare

Sources

  • Photo: Wilco Vermeer
  • - Die Ordensträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht (CD), VMD-Verlag GmbH, Osnabrück, 2002
    - Fellgiebel W.P., Elite of the Third Reich, The recipients of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939-1945: A Reference, Helion & Company Limited, Solihull, 2003, ISBN 1-874622-46-9
    - Knight’s Cross Holders of the U-boat Service by Franz Kurowski
    - Knight’s Cross and Oak-Leaves Recipients 1941-45 by Gordon Williamson
    - deutsche-marinesoldaten.de
    - uboat.net
    - sharkhunters.com