German Submarine at Great Barrier Island 1945

Between the 10th and 13th January 1945 U-862 was close in to Mangati Bay just north of Whangaparapara. There was no moon during this time.
The following letters and newspaper clipping were supplied to me by John Da Silva of Whangaparapara. Thanks John.
   U-862 leaving Germany.      Click on image to enlarge

                                                30 Lang St

                                                Mosman NSW 208

                                                1 February 1994

Sir Rochford Hughes

24 Scenic Heights



Dear Sir Rochford,

                             An article has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald concerning your article in the ‘Review’ about the visit of a German submarine to the coast of New Zealand in the latter part of world war 2.

            Our family has long held land on Great Barrier Island on the coast north of Whangapara Harbour. The land runs down to the water at Mangati Bay.

            I recall one of my Uncles often recounting a story of being camped on the land alone, in a period towards the end of the war. He was disturbed by loud noises one night and upon investigating, found a submarine he took to be a German laying on the surface in Mangati Bay with its diesel engines running and all deck hatches open.

            Because of the remoteness of the location there was nothing he could do to raise an alarm that night, and the submarine departed before dawn.

            I am unaware whether he made a subsequent report to the authorities.

            The Uncle in question is long since deceased so we may have difficulty putting a date to this event. I pass it on to you as an item of interest, following your article.
                                                Yours sincerely


                                                John Hans.  


Sir Rochford Hughes                                   24 Scenic Heights

                                                                     Acacia Bay


                                                                     7th Feb 1993 [1994]

Dear Mr Hans,

                        Your letter dated 1st February concerning my report about the German ‘U’ Boat which came down the NZ Coast in 1945 was most welcome and interesting. My innocent reply to a man who wrote asking for any information about ‘U’ Boats around our coast (in the R.S.A. Review of Oct I think) has like a delayed fused bomb, caused quite an explosion of interest!

            I left NZ in 1938 on transfer to the RAF and did not return to the Dominion until 1967 so I have been surprised by the uproar!

            Your story concerning your uncle’s account of the submarine in the quiet bay north of Whangapara on Gt Barrier Is is fascinating & ties up with what the German Kapitan Timms recounted to me away back in 1958/9 at Jeyer in N Germany!

            He said he visited some quiet & beautiful bays! He was a “cheeky” ----- German Naval Sqn Cmdr and I am sure what he said was true! I understand he died some 15 years ago.

            A keen yachtman myself in recent past years I know the Barrier well and even now a submarine could sneak in, in the dark, & recharge batteries & no one would know. I think a few Russian ones may well have done this in more recent years!!

            We always liked the Barrier & only wish we, like you, had some family property there! A heavenly place away from it all.

            Thank you again for writing & I will pass your story on to the R.S.A. journal as it will be of great interest now.     Best Wishes

                                    Rochford Hughes.

Nazis popped in for NZ milkshake

Wellington, Sunday: It has taken 49 years for the news to come out, but in seems New Zealand was invaded by Germans during World War II.

            It was only a minor case but it has all the elements [of] a dramatic war story: a U-Boat, its daring kapitan, spies, a clandestine night landing by inflatable dinghy - and the secret milking of cows.

            There is evidence that sailors  from a German U-Boat crept ashore in Hawkes Bay on the east coast of the North Island in 1945, did their milking, then returned to their submarine with the welcome fresh milk.

            The U-Boat was on an extended ocean patrol from Japanese-held Singapore, says one of New Zealand’s most honoured servicemen, Air Marshall Sir Rochford Hughes. He mentions the German landing in the latest issue of the ex-servicemen’s newspaper Review.

            Speaking from his Taupo home today, he said he met the U-Boat’s commander, a Kapitan Timms, in the late 1950s.

            By then Britain and Germany were NATO allies and Sir Rochford commanded an RAF base near Germany’s Wilhelmshafen naval base. Sir Rochford said the alleged landing was in early 1945.

            He said that Kapitan Timms  told him he had been patrolling the Australian coast and was sent to Napier after an intelligence report that a freighter was loading meat there for the war effort.

            But the freighter had engine trouble so the submarine waited three days and nights before giving up.

            “Among the crew were several young men brought up on farms in Germany. According to Kapitan Timms, fresh milk was a welcome change, though they complained about doing it all in the dark. I don’t think we were invaded, but it seems we had some milk taken which wasn’t paid for.

            “Kapitan Timms was the sort of chap I believed implicitly. His knowledge of the coast and admiration for the country was also impressive.”

            The NZ Ministry of Defence said it couldb find no record of a German landing but noted that the 1956 Official History of the Royal New Zealand Navy (by S.D.Waters) provided some circumstantial evidence.

            The book says: “The final venture of a submarine [possibly German] into the Tasman Sea appears to have been made about the end of 1944.

            “On December 24 of that year the American steamer Robert J. Walker was torpedoed and sunk 200 miles [320 kilometers] south-east of Jervis Bay, NSW.”


Source: Unknown NZ newspaper, presumably from 1993 or 1994, probably the NZ Herald..


In January, 1945, the German submarine U-862 under Capt. Heinrich Timm, came east to NZ, where it skirted Great Barrier Island by night being guided by the full-flashing Cape Brett Lighthouse. The submarine investigated Gisborne Harbour where Guenther Reiffenstuhl records in his diary: "During the day you can see through the periscope people walking down the street. At night the docks are brightly illuminated, but there were no worthwhile steamers at anchor or in the dock to sink."  Shortly after this U-862 was recalled They intended to seek targets at Wellington, but German Naval Command ordered the U-boat back to base. (If you want to read more about U-862, then read

'U-Boat Far From Home: The Epic Voyage of U862 to Australia and NZ' by David Stevens.



The German submarine U-862 sailed down the east coast of New Zealand in January 1945. U-862, under the command of Korvettenkapitän Heinrich Timm, entered New Zealand waters on 1 January 1945 after operating off Australia. The boat rounded the tip of North Island on 7 January and proceeded down the east coast. She encountered a merchant ship off Cape Brett on 10 January but was not able to intercept it. The U-boat continued south and failed to reach firing position on another merchant ship off East Cape on 13 January.

On 15 January U-862's Timm took his submarine very close to Gisborne in search of viable targets. While the submarine was not detected, Timm did not find any worthwhile ships to attack. Timm also sailed close to the shore of Napier on 16 January and attempted to torpedo a small merchant ship off the city. This attack was not successful, with the torpedo missing its target. Timm believed that U-862 had been sighted during this attack and left the area. This belief was not correct, however, and the New Zealand government remained unaware of the submarine's presence.

Shortly after the attack off Napier U-862 received orders to return to her home base at Batavia. Timm immediately ceased his patrol and proceeded along the east coast of the South Island. U-862 rounded Stewart Island/Rakiura on 21 January and the submarine left New Zealand waters shortly thereafter.  


 NIWA Weather records for the 11th and 12th of January 1945 from Cuvier Island

The Cuvier Island meteorological station was a rainfall/synoptic site, which means it recorded primarily rainfall with limited observations of other elements as required for forecasting purposes.

 The following are the observations we have available for 11 & 12 January 1945: 
11 Jan 1945
Rainfall = 14.0 mm between 9am on the 11th & 9am on the 12th; intermittent moderate rain noted at sunset on the 11th
Wind @ 9am = east-north-east (approx. 070 degT), Beaufort force 3 (12-19 km/h)
Cloud @ sunrise = 7/10's; @ 9am = 9/10's cover; @ sunset = overcast (full cover)
Visibility @ 9am = good/10 km
12 Jan 1945
Rainfall = 1.0 mm between 9am on the 12th & 9am on the 13th; rain noted in the distance but not at the station, at sunrise on the 12th
Wind @ 9am = east-north-east (approx. 070 degT), Beaufort force 4 (20-28 km/h)
Cloud @ sunrise = overcast (full cover); @ 9am = 9/10's cover; @sunset = 7/10's cover
Visibility @ 9am = good/10 km
NIWA is the trading name of the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd.

U-Boat Far from Home

By Stevens, David
1997, Allen & Unwin
ISBN 1864482672
Paperback, 286 pages, maps, photos

Descripton: This book covers in excellent detail and pace the exploits of U-862, under the command of Heinrich Timm through the Far East and all the way into Australian waters off Sydney and New Zealand. The book also covers Timm's naval career from his start on minesweepers to his eventual capture in 1945 and imprisonment which lasted until 1947. Excellent book!

U-862, the subject of this book, was one of the German Monsun boats operating in the Far East. This ultra-long-range type IXD2 boat holds the distinction of being the only German U-boat to operate in the Pacific, patrolling as far as the east coast of New Zealand and sinking two Liberty Ships in Australian waters. This book covers in great detail its operations in those waters.

It covers the career of U-862's commander, Heinrich Timm, career from his roots in the anti-submarine escorts to his first U-boat command of U-251 in the Arctic Sea fighting against the Russia convoys. Most of U-862's crew came from U-251 after she was decommissioned during extensive refit in 1943. U-862, its commission, training and inner workings are given a very good overview as are its crew.

The passage through the Arctic Sea and later the South Atlantic to the Far East bases is given in great detail. On this patrol U-862 sank several ships and also shot down a RAF Catalina aircraft on 20 August, 1944. There is included an amazing photo of that incident. He escaped the immediate search for him after that victory and headed east again.

U-862's second and last patrol from 18 Nov, 1944 until 15 Feb, 1945 is also covered. It was on this patrol that Timm navigated the southern and eastern coasts of Australia, while being tracked and hunted by the Australian forces. It was on this patrol he sank the SS Robert Walker south of Sydney and then escaped, patrolling right around New Zealand. On Feb 6, while on the return leg, he sank his last ship, the SS Peter Silvester before heading back to base in Singapore.

The book includes an appendix covering the German U-boats allocated to the Far East and their fates. It also contains an extensive section dealing with notes supporting the main text.

Another very interesting appendix is the complete history of U-862 on a day-to-day basis dealing with everything from its commission, training and working up through its operational career.

This is a really well written book using careful research among the very best sources available. Furthermore the author lets the reader decide if the U-boat crew in question simply did their duty or something else which is a big plus.




Click on image to enlarge.






 U862 after it had become the I152 - Click on image to enlarge.



An article by Air Marshall Sir Rochford Hughes in the RSA's December, 1993 issue of their journal 'Review'.












Subject:  German U Boat U862 off the New Zealand Coast 1945


A German U-Boat penetrated Gisborne Harbour, and later fired a torpedo at a New Zealand vessel off Napier in the closing months of World War II. This vessel was the submarine U862 which entered New Zealand territorial waters on 9 January 1945. Unterseeboot 862 (U862), also known as the Japanese submarine I-502, was a Type IXD2 submarine. . It was the only German submarine to operate in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.

U862 was laid down on August 15, 1942 by AG Weser of Bremen. She was commissioned on October 7, 1943 with Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Timm in command. Timm commanded U862 for her entire career in the Kriegsmarine, receiving a promotion to Korvettenkapitän on July 1, 1944.U862 conducted two patrols, sinking seven ships totaling 42,374 tons.

U862 was one of the most traveled of all U-boats. She sailed from Germany in May 1944 and eventually reached Penang, in Japanese-controlled Malaya, in September 1944. Penang was the base for U-flotilla 33, code-named Monsun (”Monsoon”).

On the way there, she launched a T5/G7es Zaunkönig I acoustic homing torpedo at a tanker. The Zaunkönig came around full circle to home in on U862 itself. Only an emergency crash dive saved the U-boat from its own torpedo. She also shot down an Allied PBY Catalina aircraft on August 20, 1944 and then escaped an intense search for her. She sank several merchant ships in the Mozambique Channel between Africa and Madagascar.

U862 departed for her second war patrol from Jakarta in the Japanese-occupied Netherlands East Indies in December 1944. Assigned the task of operating off Australia, she sailed down the west coast of Australia, across the Great Australian Bight, around the southern coast of Tasmania and then north towards Sydney where she sank the U.S.-registered Liberty Ship Robert J Walker on December 25, 1944. She then crossed the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.


The first sight of New Zealand was the Cape Reinga lighthouse from which the submarine took bearings. On 11 January, the U862 moved south again and sailed into the outer Hauraki Gulf. At dawn on January 12 the submarine dived to pass Great Barrier Island and by nightfall it was just a single nautical mile off Cape Colville. On 14 January U862 rounded East Cape and spotted a small 600-ton steamer just out from Gisborne Harbour but decided not to attack. The captain (Kommandant Henrich Timm) decided the ship was not worth a torpedo. If the ship’s company had used its gun it would have given its location away. On the 15 January, U862 went to the entrance of Gisborne Harbour and surfaced and was able to see the brightly light town. However there were no boats to sink in the harbour. It then sailed toward the Mahia Peninsula and the entrance to Hawkes Bay and surfaced within sight of Napier Harbour.


On the night of the 16 January, U862 had a target in its sights which was the 1000-tonne coaster Pukeko. The U862 fired a torpedo which missed. The Kommandant felt it had been detected and therefore took the vessel south and on 19 January 1945 surfaced in the Cook Strait. A message was received from Indonesia ordering it to return to Batavia. U862 made its way across the Indian Ocean and on the 5 February 1945 about 1,520km (820 nm) southwest of Fremantle sighted and sunk the 7000 tonne Peter Sylvester with three torpedoes. U862 arrived back in Batavia on the 15 February.

U862 was also a trial boat for the FuMo 65 Hohentwiel radar system. This was cranked out of a casing on the port side of the conning tower and rose on a mast. The aerial was hand trained onto targets whilst the U-boat was at the surface. The radar had a range up to 7 nautical miles and was very effective where there was little risk from air attack on the U-boat.

When Germany surrendered on May 6, 1945, she put into Singapore and was taken over by the Imperial Japanese Navy. On July 15, 1945 she became the IJN submarine I-502. I-502 surrendered at Singapore in August 1945 and was scuttled there by the Allies on February 13, 1946. Kommandant Timm and his crew were captured in Singapore and later repatriated to Germany.

The German crew of U862 suffered no casualties, and some returned to Germany several years after the war. Others having been interned at Kinmel Camp, Bodellwyddan North Wales were to remain in Wales and settled in the neighbouring communities of Rhyl, Rhuddlan and Prestatyn. This was due to the risks of returning to the Soviet occupied areas of Germany after the war. Two of the crew are buried at the new cemetery at Rhuddlan North Wales on nearby plots.

 Kindly suppied by the RNZN Museum