The Snorting Bull
The Laughing Cow of Lorient
When the crew of U-69, the fifth Type VIIC U-boat to be assigned to the 7th U-Flottille, received instructions from its skipper Kapitäleutnant zur See Jost Metzler to paint the snorting bull insignia on their boat's tower, no picture of the insignia was enclosed. The old hands who knew what the famous Bull of Scapa Flow looked like were, by chance, on leave. Consequently, nobody serving aboard U 69 knew exactly what the snorting bull should look like. Nor was anybody willing to enquire about what the insignia of their own flotilla should look like, lest they appear foolish.
The attempts of the U-69's First Watch Officer, Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Jürgen Auffermann, to design a bull drawing of his own were not successful. Instead he instructed a shipyard worker to copy the head of a laughing cow which appeared on the packages of a popular French dairy product firm. The shipyard worker faithfully copied the laughing cow from a crate lid, together with the words that were present upon the French milk containers beneath it: "La Vache qui rit". The words became synonymous with U-69, as did the laughing cow insignia - which naturally proved to be a source of great amusement. Instead of the aggressive symbol of the 7th U-Flottille - the raging, snorting "Bull of Scapa Flow" - U-69 was adorned with its alter ego: the "Laughing Cow Of Lorient"!
The Laughing Cow was applied to U-69 in Lorient between the end of the boat's 2nd patrol on 11 April 1941 and the beginning of the famous 3rd patrol to West Africa on 5 May 1941.
Left: U-69's "Laughing Cow" insignia. The three flags to the left of the Laughing Cow belong to U-69's original "Horridoh" insignia. The "La Vache qui rit" markings that previously appeared below the cow had been painted over at the time this photograph of U-69 was taken. (Source: Ubootwaffe 1939-1945 Cz.1 (Encyklopedia Okretow Wojennych, Number 10) by Waldemar Trojca, AJ-Press, 1998). Centre: A popular French poster for "La Vache qui rit" cheese, like the one copied by U-69's conning tower artists. Right: The "Laughing Cow", almost a spitting image of the "La Vache qit rit" poster, as seen on the guest book of U-514.
The net result of all this was that while Günther Prien was known as the Stier von Scapa Flow, Jost Metzler was thereafter dubbed the 'Laughing Cow' (Die lachende Kuh). Rather than take things too seriously like some in his position might have done, Metzler appears to have taken being the butt (haha!) of the joke in his stride; his adopted nickname was to also be the title of his postwar autobiography, published in 1954.
The 'Laughing Cow' was not only applied to U-69; when its original designer Hans-Jürgen Auffermann left the boat in August 1942 to take up his own command on U-514, he took the happy bovine with him. Unlike his former skipper however, Auffermann did not survive the war - having sunk and/or damaged eight victims for some thirty-eight thousand tons, U-514 was sunk in July 1943 following an air attack off the Spanish Coast.