Claus von Trotha

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Claus von Trotha
Claus von Trotha.jpg
Birth name Claus Thilo Walter Max von Trotha
Birth date 25 March 1914(1914-03-25)
Place of birth Cologne, Rhine Province, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Death date 31 October 1943 (aged 29)
Place of death Atlantic Ocean (46° 19' North 20° 44' West)
Allegiance  National Socialist Germany
Service/branch  Kriegsmarine
Years of service 1936–1943
Rank Lieutenant Captain
Commands held U 554
U 306
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Iron Cross
German Cross in Gold
Relations ∞ Karin von Bamberg

Claus Thilo Walter Max von Trotha (25 March 1914 – 31 October 1943) was a German naval officer, U-Boot-Kommandant and recipient of the German Cross in Gold in WWII. During three enemy patrols (Feindfahrten) he sank the British Motor merchant Amerika (10,218 tons; 86 dead and 54 survivors) and severely damaged the British Motor merchants Silvermaple[1] and Kaipara[2] (11,195 tons).[3]


The city of Kassel took over the sponsorship of the Unterseeboot U 306.

After school education and Abitur in Kassel, Claus von Trotha, nephew of Vice Admiral Karl Wolf Gebhard Bernhard von Trotha, began his career as a merchant ship officer (Handelsschiffsoffizier) before he was sure he wanted to join the Kriegsmarine in 1937. Because of his previous experience, he was retroactively assigned to the 1936 Crew – the famous "Olympia Crew" with his cousin Wilhelm von Trotha, but also Georg von Rabenau among others.

The Crew of 1936 chose the Olympic rings as their symbol (the 1936 Olympic games were held in Berlin). It was the largest Crew, and produced more U-Boot commandants than any other – of the 164 who graduated, 140 took command of a submarine during the war. He received the typical training for a naval officer candidate on land and at sea on bord different ships.[4]


In 1939 and 1940, he served as 3rd Watch Officer on board a destroyer and a Torpedo interceptor boat. In autumn 1940, he was transferred to the U-Boot weapon, was trained extensively and was appointed Watch Officer on U 81 in April 1941. In February 1942, he was commanded to the Kommandanten-Lehrgang (course for U-Boot commandants). From 18 March to September 1942, he was commandant of U 554 (training, no war patrols) and since 21 October 1942 commandant of U 306. During the 1st war patrol, he sank (at least) one ship and damaged another. During the 2nd war patrol, he damaged one ship.

3rd war patrol: U 306 left Brest on 7 October 1943. After a defect in the exhaust pipe, the boat had to go back to Brest. After repairs and sailing again on 14 October 1943, the boat operated in the North Atlantic and north of the Azores Islands. On this mission it belonged to the Schill submarine group. After 24 days, U 306 was sunk by British warships.


U 306 was lost on 31 October 1943 in the North Atlantic northeast of the Azores Islands. It was sunk by the destroyer HMS Whitehall and the corvette HMS Geranium of the Royal Navy. The Boat was operating against the combined enemy convoys MKS 28 and SL 138 when it was spotted and targeted by British ships with Huff-Duff and then sunk with Hedgehog depth charges. It was still hoped that the crew had been able to get out of the boat or at least some of the crew had been able to save themselves, but the hope did not come true. U 306 was reported missing from 1 November 1943, but by now, all 51 men of the crew had fallen.[5][6]



Claus was the son of Maximilian Thilo von Trotha (b. 3 September 1878 in Spandau; d. 22/23 October 1943 during the RAF raid on Kassel), German Major (among other things service with the Schutztruppe) and businessman, and his wife Gertrud Irmgard Klara Freiin von Rheinbaben (1890–1916).[7] Claus' mother died on 17 October 1916, only weeks after having given birth to her second son, Claus' brother:

  • Dietrich Thilo Paul Wolf (b. 26 September 1916 in Köln; d. 7 August 1938)

In 1919 (o¦o 1932), Claus' father married Ingeborg Maria Cäcilie von Tettenborn (b. 18 August 1898 in Schweidnitz). This marriage produced two further children:

  • Horst-Erich Friedrich Maximilian (b. 13 June 1921 in Kassel), officer in the Artillerie-Regiment 22 in Verden
  • Gisela Hedwig Katharina Luise (b. 18 January 1925 in Kassel)


Claus von Trotha married his fiancée Karin Sibylle von Bamberg (b. 2 March 1916 in Rosenthal, Kreis Habelschwerdt, Province of Silesia), daughter of jurist Günther Emil Rudolf Wilhelm von Bamberg (1929 administrative director of the Charité; d. 30 July 1931) and his wife, the painter Sibylle, née von Ascheberg (1888–1966). Claus and Karin had one (known) child. After the war, widow Karin married Prof. Dr. Robert Hans Günther Havemann in 1949 (o¦o 1966), with whom she had three further children.


  • 4.5.1937 Seeoffiziersanwärter (Sea Officer Candidate)
  • 14.5.1937 Fähnrich zur See (Officer Cadet)
  • 1.7.1938 Oberfähnrich zur See (Senior Officer Cadet)
  • 1.10.1938 Leutnant zur See (2nd Lieutenant at Sea)
  • 1.10.1940 Oberleutnant zur See (1st Lieutenant at Sea)
  • 1.4.1943 Kapitänleutnant (Lieutenant Captain)

Awards and decorations

  • Iron Cross (1939), 2nd and 1st Class
    • 2nd Class in 1939
    • 1st Class on 23 September 1941
  • U-boat War Badge 1939 (U-Boot-Kriegsabzeichen) on 23 September 1941
  • German Cross in Gold on 5 January 1944 (posthumously) as Käpitanleutnant and Commandant of U 306/1. Unterseebootsflottille


  1. At 15.10 hours on 23 Apr 1943, U 306 (Trotha) fired a spread of four torpedoes at the convoy HX-234 southwest of Iceland and heard two detonations. The Silvermaple en route from Matadi to Liverpool via Halifax with general cargo and military stores was hit in 59°05N/35°40W, but managed to reach her destination on 29 April without casualties among her crew of 55 men. On 26 February 1944, U 66 attacked convoy STL-12 about 130 miles west of Takoradi and reported one ship sunk and another damaged. The master Silvermaple (Master William Candlish Brydson), five crew members and one gunner were lost. 47 crew members, nine gunners and one passenger were picked up by HMS Kildwick (Z 06) and landed at Takoradi on 27 February.
  2. On 16 July 1943, U 306 shadowed convoy SL-133 from grid EK79 to EK49. The first attack was carried out at 03.52 hours, firing five single torpedoes. The Kaipara was damaged in this attack. At 08.01 hours, the U-boat attacked a second time and fired two spreads of two torpedoes and two minutes later the stern torpedo. Trotha observed three hits and could not see the targets anymore.
  3. Claus von Trotha,
  4. Claus von Trotha,
  5. U 306,
  6. U 306,
  7. Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch der Adeligen Häuser, Teil A, 1941, p. 566