The Nazi submarine U-966 sunk at Estaca de Bares

The Nazi submarine U-96 sunk in Estaca de Bares in 1943 remains at the bottom of the waters since the terrible battle of that November 10. Allied bombers sank her and her captain Eckehard Wolf ended up tying his life, and with it his death, to the north of Galicia.

Type of submarine

This Type VIIC U-Boot submarine was the most widely used by the Nazis when fighting the Allies in the Battle of the Atlantic. The type of submarine was so widely used that more than five hundred units were launched.

It was built at Blohm & Voss, the Hamburg shipyard, and commissioned in the same year it was sunk for good.

While the Allies possessed sonar systems with which they equipped the escort ships and patrol planes with radars, it was when they managed to decipher the codes that would allow them to know the Nazi actions.

History of the battle of the Nazi U-966 subamrine sunk in Estaca de Bares

Eckehard Wolf was in command of the submarine. The German ensign had been third officer aboard another U-boat, the U-560. From there he was promoted to second officer and moved to the U-459 sub. The «old man», as he was nicknamed, was a strict yet paternal commander who at the age of twenty-five was in charge of a crew that barely reached the age of twenty.

Gut Holz, the nickname of the U-966 U-boat.

From this dynamic, which Wolf applied to his crew, the nickname for the ship was born. Gut Holz means good wood. So it made sense that the U-966 U-boat’s emblem would be an image of a bolo shot down by a ball.

«That way they will never become the sailors they could be, maybe good bowling wood, but never good sailors!»
Eckehard Wolf. Wolf (March 11, 1918 – March 26, 1978).

The Nazi submarine U-966 sunk at Estaca de Bares

U-966 during the air raid on Estaca de Bares (USAF/Wikimedia Commons).

From Brest to the United States, via the Faroes.

The Nazi submarine U-966 had completed training in the Baltic and was destined for the base at Brest, France, but instead headed for the east coast of the U.S. During a storm, U-966 was spotted by British destroyers as the submarine was en route to the Faroe Islands.

U-966 runs out of radio

The order was clear. Eckehard Wolf determined to emergency submerge the ship as more than eighty depth charges rained down on them. They managed to escape the explosives, but were left without radio contact. They were reported missing when they did not respond to calls, and Ensign Wolf decided to return to Brest before running out of autonomy.

Route back to Brest via the Bay of Biscay

Despite being a dangerous route, as it was controlled by Allied bombers, Wolf decided to return via the Bay of Biscay. They needed to surface to recharge the batteries of the electric motors using their diesel engines, it was the sound of those combustion engines that alerted a bomber.

The RAF Wellington GR Mark XI bomber sensed that because of the darkness of the night and the roar of the U-966 U-boat’s diesel engines it would not be detected. The surprise of the submarine’s crew was when they saw the six depth charges raining down on them.

Hull damage and no starboard engine

The bombs did not hit it squarely, but the Nazi submarine U-966 was left without a starboard engine and with damage to the hull from the explosions.

As she began to dive, the submarine did not stop at 150 meters depth; she descended to 240 meters which was far more than she could withstand.

The Wellington bomber flew over the area and missed the submarine, but alerted the US Navy Liberator, another American bomber. U-966 had to stay submerged and at first light Wolf ordered to surface to try to recharge the batteries again. They were just over 80 miles from the coast.

First battle of U-966 and Liberator

Upon becoming aware of the Liberator’s aerial presence, the U-966’s machine guns began to charge at it, an action that forced the aircraft’s pilot to return to his base.

Wolf then ordered to set course for a safe harbor and chose Ferrol. When they were less than twenty miles from the coast, the Liberator repositioned them and dropped five charges on the Germans. The speed of the German sailors, with Wolf in the lead, was not enough and then another Liberator appeared and managed to heel.

Towards the port of Cariño

The state of the submarine made it unfeasible to reach the port of Ferrol, but there was the possibility of entering the port of Cariño, which was glimpsed before the eyes of the crew with the prominent tower of San Bartolomeu. They entered the estuary and were surrounded by small local fishing boats. It was at that moment when another Czech Liberator appeared and decided not to use depth charges, as it was likely to damage the fishermen.

The U-966 in the Ortigueira estuary.

Therefore the Czechs decided to use rockets, launching a total of four that hit below the waterline and opened holes in the case of the submarine, which was moving with great difficulty. Wolf, we presume, thought it was not his day when he suddenly sighted what looked to him like a British corvette.

By the reality was different, since the corvette was not a British corvette, but the Spanish Coast Guard cutter Arcila, which was on its way to Ferrol to transport a torpedo of German origin that had appeared off the coast of Santander.

The clock showed three o’clock in the afternoon, they had been trying to hold the battle for six hours, but Wolf decided to activate the timer of the sinking charge and ordered to destroy the secret documentation that the U-966 was carrying. The crew immediately abandoned the submarine.

Fishermen from Puerto de Bares and O Barqueiro to the rescue

As can be imagined, the desperation of the crew abandoning the submarine in lifeboats and even swimming, was fulfilled with the explosion of the U-966 that sank definitively. At that moment a Short Sunderland III of the RAF, which was flying over the area, assisted them by launching a raft with which they could reach land. Bad luck followed this event, to the point that at that moment three German Ju-88R-2s appeared and attacked the RAF aircraft, which fell into the sea.

Several fishing boats from the ports of Bares and O Barqueiro went out to look for the survivors, as well as the Guardia Civil, without knowing for sure if there was any life left in that inferno of oil, fire and a jumble of iron.

The Nazi submarine U-966 remained at the bottom of the sea and its crew, half a hundred men, several of them died during the attacks. In the desperate escape some of them drowned. The crew of the Sunderland perished.

Their bodies were initially buried in the cemetery of O Barqueiro with military honors, although they were later transferred to the Deutscher Soldaten Friedhof in Cuacos de Yuste (Cáceres) for the Germans and to the British Cemetery in Bilbao for the British.

Survivors of the Nazi submarine U-966 sunk at Estaca de Bares

The Hotel Venecia in Viveiro was used to accommodate the survivors. Other wounded stayed in O Barqueiro, some more were sent back to Germany and the rest were transferred to Ferrol where they were interned in the base A Graña.

In the middle of 1944 the Germans decided that one of the commanders should return to the front and Eckehard Wolf was chosen because of his youth. The question was how to get him out of Spain without it being known. The plan was that Wolf manifested a lung problem and was transferred to Madrid where he was treated without success. Officially Wolf died in the Madrid hospital, but the reality is that he was given a false identity in order to fly in a commercial plane to Germany under the name of Erich Wever.

Wolf’s death and his ashes on the Estaca de Bares Coast

In 1945 Wolf was promoted to lieutenant captain, although he never commanded a submarine again. With the command of infantry in a company that defended Hamburg until its fall at the feet of the British, the war ended and with it his new normality that did not forget his Galician journey.

He had married and started a family, two children. He decided to travel with his family to O Barqueiro, where he spent a few days of vacation and this trip was like a ritual for him, as it became a family tradition. From those visits, one of Wolf’s sons married a young woman from the village.

Wolf could see the wreck of his submarine when the tide went out. Subsequently the U-966 was almost completely scrapped.

How the fate of a man’s life can change the reality he lives. Eckehard Wolf died in 1978 and his last wish was that his ashes would be left on the coast of Estaca de Bares.

Where is the Nazi submarine U-966 sunk in Estaca de Bares?

For more than half a century, the exact spot where the U-966 submarine is sunk was officially unknown. But in 2018 it is discovered by two divers, who reported it to the authority.

The Nazi submarine U-966 sunk at Estaca de Bares. It is known that the wreck of U-966 is around the area of Punta Maeda, nothing more.

Divers find the Nazi submarine U-966 sunk in Estaca de Bares.

<«.. Two divers from Viveiro and an archaeologist have located what remains of the U 966 Gut Holz, sunk in 1943. «.. Eduardo Losada, from Mergullo Viveiro, and Yago Abilleira, naval historian, completed an underwater expedition that found the first remains of the Gut Golz at about 14 meters depth.»…>

Related contents

You may be looking for more information about Estaca de Bares Galicia

Guest Houses in Estaca de Bares

Be our guest! The best guest houses in Estaca de Bares

The Cliffs – Withesand Porto do Bares

Bares 2 km from centre

Located in Bares, just a few steps from Bares Beach, The Cliffs – Withesand Porto do Bares provides beachfront accommodation with a garden and free WiFi.

Casa en Puerto de Bares

Bares 2 km from centre

Situated in Bares, within 80 metres of Bares Beach, Casa en Puerto de Bares is an accommodation offering mountain views.


Bares 2.1 km from centre

PORTO MAR is set in Bares. Free WiFi is available throughout the property and Bares Beach is 100 metres away. At the guest house, each unit comes with a private bathroom.

Cabañita en Playa Caolin

O Vicedo 5.3 km from centre

Close to both Caolín Beach and Arealonga Beach, Cabañita en Playa Caolin is set in O Vicedo and has a garden. This beachfront property offers access and free private parking.

Stunning Apartment In Maon With Wifi And 2 Bedrooms

Mañón 5.4 km from centre

Situated in Mañón and only 1.8 km from Arealonga Beach, Stunning Apartment In Maon With Wifi And 2 Bedrooms, free WiFi and free private parking.

Esteiro Surf Lodge

Santa Marta de Ortigueira 5.5 km from centre

Set in Santa Marta de Ortigueira, this detached holiday home features a terrace and a garden with a barbecue and a sun terrace. Free private parking is available.

Maybe you are looking for other accommodations