LEROS BATTLE WRECK – PIONEER GERMAN LANDING CRAFT
The great pioneer-Landing Craft 41 was 19.3 m long, 5.93 m wide and had a loaded draft of 1.00 m. The curb weight was 35 tons. It was driven by two Deutz SA M-6 engines with 120 hp, which accelerated the boat for up to 19 mph. The boats were constructed in two mirror-symmetrical halves lengthwise split in order to be loaded on to wagon trains.
This design mean that an amphibious landing force could be deployed overland-and indeed “Hitlers Lost Fleet” –an ill-fated attempt to cut off the supply routes to Russia via the Black sea-utilized the “prefabricated” design, both in landing craft and U boats. ( Authors note: we found several of these storm boats which had been scuttled during our Black Sea Expedition of 2009).There were many variants of the basic design, some used as anti- aircraft platforms , others filled with artillery to aid in close quarter infantry support. The version mentioned here was a personnel carrier,
lightly armed with an anti- aircraft machine gun.
After a long period intense bombing, the first attempted landings took place on November 12th 1943.
The attack had the code name “Enterprise Taifun” and it included 4 teams of battle, that each one brought the name of its leader’ and had given points of disembark. The team Von Saldern, which included the 11/16 battalion of grenadiers of the 22th constitution of Luftwaffe was targeted to land at the gulf of Kryfo. Team Schadlich, that included the 1 company Kustenjager disembarked at Pitiki. Team Doerr, included forces of the 440th constitution of grenadiers that disembarked in the gulf of Vagia’s. Team Aschoff disembarked forces of the 440th constitution of grenadiers in southern utmost of the Gulf of Goyrna. A fleet of 5 troop transport vessels capable of transporting 150/170 men each one, 13 landing crafts ( PIONIERLANDUNGSBOOTE) able to carry 70 men, 5 barges for transport of materials and 9 speedboats of 30 men each.
The German invasion fleet left Kos around 22:00 the previous day, from the harbour of Mastihari and from Kalymnos. Between Telendo and Kalymnos they encountered the English minesweeper BMYS – 72 which they captured and taken to Kalymnos. In the region of Easterly Leros MJ 456,spotted the Germans. Returning to the gulf of Alinta it notified the Guard but because of problems in communication the information was not transmitted to all artillery. The Italian side reports that the fleet war noticed from the Us 555 together with the Us 559. In any case in 3:00 English MJ 456 informed the guard for the Eastern formation.
The western formation: the real reaction of defence began the first hours where the ships were seen from the artillery in the south, the ” Ducci ^at Katsoyni, and the Saint Georgioy at Skoymparda against the western hostile formation that went for landing at Goyrna and achieved to force them to turn back.
The Eastern formation. It was separated in three parts. The first fires from the Italians in the Eastern formation from the artillery 127 at Merovigli.
However around 6:00 and under continuous fire began the landing. The landing crafts that transported III/440th battalion after the intense fire of artillery 899 at Mplefoyti were forced to turn back to Farmakonisi, apart from one that sank at the island Strogili and 35 surviving men swam to the island and later were caught by Italian boats. The LC was hit and caught fire, out of control it kept hitting the rocks at Strongili. Then a direct hit split her in two and she sank with many casualties.
The wreck lies in two halves in 18 mtrs. on the south side of Strongili, in very clear water. Swimming along the entire length of the wreck indicates just how big these storm boats were. All of the wooden flooring has long since disappeared due to the marine organisms, torrido worms eating through the saturated wood. This leaves an iron framework which is both photogenic and fun to swim through and explore.
The starboard half of the wreck still bears her anti-aircraft gun and this can be found at the stern, where the wheelhouse deck would have been.
Just in front of tis her diesel engines can be found, along with bilge pumps and all the relevant pipework. All around and inside the wreck are artefacts of personal effect-magazine clips, helmets, guns and water bottles. Much lies hidden beneath the sand
If you are at least an Open Water diver (wreck at 16 – 18) , book your dive with Hydrovius in Leros.