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U-47 Insignia

Versions of the 'Snorting Bull' post-Scapa

During the course of U-47's career, the boat went into a shipyard for repairs after each patrol. In most cases the boat spent some of the refit time in dry-dock. The boat would usually be repainted during these refits, and start each patrol with a fresh coat of paint. The exception to this was when the boat was in the shipyard for only a short time; a fresh coat of paint may not have been applied in these circumstances.

When U-47 was repainted, the snorting bull insignia would also benefit from a makeover. Since a stencil was not used when painting U-47's bulls, each snorting bull would differ slightly from previous examples. These variations are very useful to us as they can help us ascertain the time period during which a photo of U-47 was taken

If photos showing the tower of U-47 at the start or end of each patrol were in general circulation, we would be able to say with certainty just how many versions of the bull were applied. With the photos that are available to us, we can be sure that there were at least 8 versions. Separate bulls were definitely present during patrols 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. In the period at the start of 1940, during which the sortie and patrols 4 and 5 were undertaken, there were either one, two or even three bull versions. This equates to a total of at least 8 bulls, and perhaps as many as 10. In addition, the bull present during patrol 6 was retouched towards the end of the patrol.

The photos in general circulation do allow us good views of 5 of these bulls (for patrols 2, 6, 8, 9 and 10). However, until more photos come to light we will not know what the other versions looked like.

Third Patrol

U-47 spent the period between 24 October and 13 November 1939 in the Germaniawerft shipyards in Kiel. One of the modifications made during this refit was that a railing bar was added on either side of the tower, directly over the centre of the bulls. The original bulls were also repainted during this refit. Having originally both faced to the left, the new bulls were both repainted facing forward (starboard bull facing to the right, port bull facing to the left). This second version of the snorting bulls was present during U-47's third patrol. All subsequent bulls also faced forward.

The revised 'snorting bull' insignia, November 1939Schematic of the revised 'snorting bull' insignia, November 1939

Left: Taken in early to mid November 1939, before U 47's third patrol, this photo allows a view of the starboard bull. All that can be determined is that the starboard bull faced to the right (faced forward) at this time, rather than to the left (aft) as the original starboard bull did. Right: a schematic of the refined starboard bull insignia during November 1939.

Fourth and Fifth Patrols

After its third patrol, U-47 spent the period between December 1939 and February 1940 in the Germaniawerft shipyards in Kiel. During this lengthy refit, extensive modifications were made to the tower. It is extremely likely that the boat was repainted and new bulls applied during this refit. This third version would have been present during the sortie between 29 February and 5 March 1940.

After this sortie, U-47 only spent two days in a shipyard in Wilhelmshaven. The boat was not dry-docked at this time. Due to the short length of time in the shipyard, it is very likely that neither the boat nor the bull were repainted at this time. If so, then the third version of the bull was present during patrol 4, which lasted from 11 March 1940 until 29 March 1940.

After the fourth patrol, U-47 was dry-docked in Wilhelmshaven's Westwerft shipyards between 30 March and 1 April 1940. The boat departed on its fifth patrol shortly afterwards on 3 April 1940. It is unclear whether the boat would have been repainted, or the bulls touched up, within the short time frame between the fourth and fifth patrols. The fifth Patrol then lasted from 3 to 26 April 1940.

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