The publication of any images or informations related to nazism, fascism or any other totalitarian regimes must be understood as the reproduction of historical accuracy and not as apology to these regimes, leaders or symbols.
A publicação de qualquer imagem ou informação referentes ao nazismo, fascismo ou quaisquer outros regimes totalitários deve ser entendida como reprodução do rigor histórico e não como apologia a estes regimes, líderes ou símbolos.

Biber - German midget submarine - case report

Dive... dive... dive!!
      Today we will know this navy machine that came out of the drawing board as a desperate measure of the Germans to contain the Allied landings in Europe. The story of the Biber, the German midget submarine and its brave and lonely men that manned him.

Biber midget submarine - preserved at Technik Museum Speyer, Germany
      The Biber (German for "Beaver") was a German midget submarine of the Second World War. Armed with two externally mounted 53cm  torpedoes or mines, they were intended to attack coastal shipping. They were the smallest submarines in the Kriegsmarine.

      The Biber was hastily developed to help meet the threat of an Allied invasion of Europe. This resulted in basic technical flaws that, combined with the inadequate training of their operators, meant they never posed a real threat to Allied shipping, despite 324 submarines being delivered. One of the class's few successes was the sinking of the cargo ship Alan A. Dale.
      Eight have survived in museums, including one example (Biber 105) that has been restored to operational condition.
Biber 105 after restoration being erected for the sea test.

In the sea, finally...after many years...

Sailing !!!

Biber's happy and satisfied test pilot Tom Heron
And after restored, the Biber 105 resting at
Royal Navy Submarine Museum
      Construction of the first prototype began in February 1944 and was completed in less than 6 weeks. The initial prototype, officially titled Bunteboot (but better known as Adam), was heavily influenced by the British Welman submarine.
Welman British midget submarine - notice the absence of periscope...
      It differed from the final design in a number of respects such as being nearly 2 meters shorter. Following testing on the Trave river on 29 May twenty four Bibers were ordered.

     The hull was built in three sections composed of 3mm thick steel with an aluminium alloy conning tower bolted to the top.
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    The conning tower contained armored glass windows to allow the pilot to see out.
Biber's conning tower: the masts are, from forward to aft: container for magnetic compass,
the non-revolving front facing periscope and air induction mast.
Behind the tower is the exhaust pipe, tank and valve from the gasoline engine.
      The stern planes and rudder were made of wood and trying to control them while tracking the depth gauge, compass and periscope made the craft hard to handle.
     Adding to the pilot’s difficulties, the craft lacked compensating and trimming tanks, making staying at periscope depth a near impossibility. 
The pilot in the tower. He's using the primitive periscope, a very
hard task to do...
        The Biber had two diving tanks (ballast tanks), one in the bow section and one in the stern.

     The submarine could be armed with either torpedoe and/or mines. The preferred weaponry was the torpedoes.
   She carried two T-IIIc (G7e) special torpedoes with neutral buoyancy (1.343 Kgs - achieved by eliminated of the foward battery). The torpedoes G7a could also be carried, but by this time they were being replaced by the more efficient G7e.

      When armed with mines, the Biber could carry 2 mines type TMB (British designation, GS), which had the same diameter as the torpedoes, but much less weight.
     The TMB mines was designed especially for submarine use. This was an unearthed "seabed" that utilized a magnetic pistol. It was 2,83m long and carried an explosive charge of 567kg, in the total weight of 760 Kgs. The warhead was twice that of the torpedoes of the time. It was laid on the bottom in shallow seaways and was detonated when a big ship passed over its position. Not many ships survived such a blast under their keel.

     The midget submarine could also carry a torpedo and a mine, but it affected the already precarious balance of the submersible. The torpedoes or mines were accommodated in semi-circular recesses in the side of the hull. These reduced the overall width of the loaded craft, making land transport easier and also reduced drag in the water, but at the cost of weakening the hull.
Biber waiting repairs - Notice the recess for torpedo/mine in the hull side.
France - 1944.

Biber - Notice the recess for torpedo/mine in the hull side.
     The Biber was powered on the surface by a 32 hp (24 kW) Opel Blitz petrol engine, which was used despite concerns about the risks posed by the carbon monoxide the engine gave off. The engine had the advantage of being cheap and available in large numbers.
Biber's Opel engine installed in the aft section of the hull.
    Propulsion while submerged was provided by a 13 horsepower (9.7 kW) torpedo electric motor, supplied by three Type T13 T210 battery troughs.
Biber's mid-ship battery.

     Biber operations were carried out under the auspices of the K-Verband, a German naval unit which operated a mixture of midget submarines and explosive speedboats. The training of Biber operators was originally planned to take eight weeks, but the initial group of pilots was rushed through in just three weeks. Planning also called for flotillas of 30 boats and pilots with just under 200 shore support crew. See the movie below:

     Operations generally lasted from one to two days with pilots either using a drug like Pervitin or  D-IX to stay awake on longer missions or caffeine-laced chocolate (Scho-ka-kola).
Drugs and stimulants used by Nazi Germany
      The poor quality of the Biber's periscope meant that night attacks had to be carried out on the surface.
Fécamp harbour:
      The first Biber operation was launched by K-Flotilla 261 on 30 August 1944 from Fécamp harbour against the Allied ships near Normandy landing area. Twenty-two boats were launched but only fourteen were able to leave the harbor and of those fourteen only two managed to reach their operational area. 
This Biber "Sharkmouth" was rescued in Dover, 1945, after being captured and towed to the beach.
The pilot was found dead at the controls, probably poisoned by gasoline engine gases.
The minisub still carried an active magnetic torpedo. The torpedo was deactivated and the submarine recovered.
The history of this rescue can be appreciated here:

The same Biber, after the torpedo have been removed...
The hulk of destroyer HMS Codrington can see in background

The same Biber, being prepared for transportation...

Another angle of Biber "Sharkmouth"
     The Bibers from Fécamp were then withdrawn to Mönchengladbach.

Operations in the Scheldt Estuary:
      In December 1944 it was decided to deploy Bibers against traffic to Antwerp in the Scheldt Estuary. The force was based at Rotterdam with forward bases at Poortershaven and Hellevoetsluis. The first attack took place on the night of the 22/23 of December. Eighteen Bibers were involved of which only one returned. The only allied loss caused by the operation was the ship Alan A. Dale. Further operations between the 23rd and the 25th achieved no success and none of the 14 submarines deployed survived.
Bottle testing a camouflaged periscope like a floating clump.
This was sometimes used for attacks on estuaries or rivers. Baltic Sea, 1945.
     On the 27th the accidental release of a torpedo in the Voorneschen resulted in the sinking of 11 Bibers (although they were later recovered). The three undamaged Bibers later sailed again; none returned. An operation on the night 29/30 January resulted in damage to (much of it due to ice) or loss of most of the remaining Bibers.
The pilot of Biber observing the conditions of the ice sticking
to the turret. The midget sub was very fragile ...
    Losses combined with RAF bombing prevented attacks from being mounted in February 1945. The bombing had damaged the cranes used to move the Bibers into and out of the water.
Biber being lowered to the sea fully armed by a pier's crane

  Reinforcements allowed operations to continue until April 1945 but no successes were achieved and the Biber flotillas continued to take a very high rate of losses.
A Biber captured by the British Army near Arras, France, after being abandoned by the retreating Germans.
The midget sub is almost intact in his burnt trailer. Jabos!!!
Notice that the Biber is being transported with the torpedoes attached to the hull ...
   The last Biber mission was an attempt at mine laying and took place on the night of 26 April. Of the four Bibers that took part, one ran aground and three were attacked by Thunderbolts, which sank two of them.
A Biber, suspended in cranes,  with severe damaged in the port midship in a Dutch bunker. 1945.
Attempted attack on Vaenga Bay
     In January 1945 an attempt was made to mount an attack on Vaenga Bay in the Kola Inlet. The hope was either to attack one of the convoys that stopped there to refuel and take on ammunition or to attack the Soviet battleship Arkhangelsk (HMS Royal Sovereign on loan to the USSR).
Royal Sovereign as Arkhangelsk in Soviet service
    As it happened neither the battleship nor a convoy were in the port at the time of the planned attack. The plan was for U-boats to carry the Bibers within range of the harbour. U-295, U-318 and U-716 set off from Harstad on 5 January with Bibers mounted on their casings. Vibrations from the U-boats’ engines caused the Bibers stern glands to leak allowing water to reach the machinery space and as a result the mission was abandoned.
Biber on his big brother's back ... But the vibrations were damaging to the fragile submersible ...
   With a loss rate of 69 per­cent, the Biber mid­get sub­marine can truly be described as a sailor’s coffin. Planning for two man versions (Biber II and Biber III) began but never got off the drawing board.

Biber in unarmed condition
Biber midget submarine
Operators:                                                             Kriegsmarine
General characteristics
Type:                Midget submarine
Displacement:  5.7 tonnes
Length:8.9 m 
Beam:1.6 m 
Height:1.6 m 
32 hp (24 kW) Opel petrol engine plus 13 hp (9.7 kW) electric torpedo engine
  • 6.5 knots (12.0 km/h) surfaced
  • 5.3 knots (9.8 km/h) submerged
Range:100 nautical miles (surfaced)
Test depth:20m maximum
Armament:2x G7e (TIIIc) torpedoes or 2x TBM  mines

The kit:
      This kit will be part of a project consisting of several kits. The idea is to place this Biber in a Faun L900 D567 tank transporter. The concept is based on the days following the Normandy invasion, when the tide of Allied ships and men flooded the shores of France. In those days, the urgency of transporting material for a counterattack was urgent, and any means of moving machinery and weapons to meet the enemy was valid. We will have a Faun D567 L900 hauling the Biber into its cargo area and using its trailer to haul blast mines for beachhead blocking operations. Something like this:
Conceptual design of the project.
     For this project, the choice fell on Italeri's excellent kit U-Boot Biber (#5609). The submarine is very well injected and easy to build. The kit comes with a PE sheet and a good sheet of decals, allowing the construction of various markings. Complete the kit with a stand and two figures.
Italeri's kit box
      Let's to the build!!
Cleaning the parts...Notice the Faun in background, under construction.
The kit comes with G7a and G7e torpedoes. The choice is the better G7e

Testing the kit's fit. Very good..
The interior is very crude...

The midget submarine and its transporter ...

I scratch the internal section of periscope...
The turret is now closed, with interior painted and with transparencies glued in place

The "internal" periscope in side view...

Like this...
The tail hidroplanes and propeller axis..

And the Biber ready for painting...The torpedoes are in dry-fit
Notice the Faun in background...

The midget submarine is soooo cute!!

The little girl waiting for paintings and markings

A well finished, simple and complete kit. Congratulations Italeri ...
Very well done !!!
Testing the composition with Faun L900 D567
       Time to paint the midget submarine... But I have a problem: whenever I buy Maskol, when I use it, it is "rubbery" and gooey (I use very little ...). So here's a trick for masking surfaces with home-made materials: Mix 50% PVA glue with 50% hair shampoo. Apply the mixture to the area to be isolated with a brush, allow it to dry and paint over it. Then just remove the plasticized layer with the tip of a scalpel and tweezers. Easy like slapping a drunk guy !!!
Maskol with home ingredients...

Applied in position... Now, time to painting the girl...

The ECM mines in dark gray...

The Biber, with upper hull camouflaged and torpedoes...

And the Biber in the composition, with painting...
Now, decals, weathering and characterizations...
Decal in the turret

The shark-mouth of the kit is very simple...The eyes are good, but the mouth...hmmm
Something like this:

Much better!!! A true predator!!

The Biber with torps...

Other side...


Turret without Maskol...

Notice the periscope...
       The mines after the weathering, being stored in the trailer transport area. I decided to use old tires to support the mines and wood logs to prevent the movement of this dangerous cargo ... I would do that if I were the driver of this Faun ...
Vinyl tires (Italeri Opel Blitz) from my scrap box are perfect for adjusting the load in position.
Notice the trailer and the truck, in background...

Wood logs to stabilize the load. The branches of pomegranate are perfect for this ...

Tires and logs prevent unwanted movement ...

And the final cargo lock is achieved with some fuel barrels.

Notice the vertical log in the rear...An elegant and simple solution ...

The Biber in his transporter: Faun L900  D567 6x4 heavy truck

The project is almost ready!!!
The proposed model ...
      And the Biber midget submarine was ready for transportation and action: Biber German midget submarine number 55 - K-Flotille 261. Fécamp, France. 28 August 1944.

Biber German midget submarine number 55 - K-Flotille 261
Fécamp, France. 28 August 1944.

Sd.Ah 115 trailer with mines

Biber German midget submarine in test fit on
Faun L900 D567 6x4 heavy truck - left side

Biber German midget submarine in test fit on
Faun L900 D567 6x4 heavy truck - right side

Biber German midget submarine number 55 - K-Flotille 261 being transported by
Faun L900 D567 6x4 heavy truck to Fécamp, France. August 1944.

The full composition with Kojak

Biber German midget submarine number 55 - K-Flotille 261 being transported by
Faun L900 D567 6x4 heavy truck to Fécamp, France. August 1944.
The truck 
is pulling a trailer Sd.Ah.115 with four German EMC naval mines

It's a long way to Tipperary, Kameraden!!!