German Mine Sweeping Administration
The German Mine Sweeping Administration (GMSA) was formed from former crews and vessels of the Nazi German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

for the purpose of mine sweeping after the Second World War, predominantly in the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 and Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, and existed from June 1945 to January 1948.


The GMSA was formed on 21 June 1945 under allied supervision, specifically that of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, to clear naval mines in the North Sea and Baltic. It was made up of 27,000 former members of the Kriegsmarine on nearly 300 vessels.

The allied command was well aware of the problem caused for commercial shipping by the over 600,000 naval mines laid in the seas of Western, Northern and Eastern Europe and had asked that the German mine sweeping formations not be dismissed after the surrender in May 1945. For this reason, Vice Admiral Sir Harold Burrough
Harold Burrough
Admiral Sir Harold Martin Burrough GCB, KBE, DSO was a senior Royal Navy officer and Assistant Chief of Naval Staff to the Royal Navy during World War II.- Early career :...

, British Naval Commander-in-Chief, Germany, undersigned the instruction for the GMSA in June 1945. The British Admiralty preferred to risk German sailors rather than their own to do the dangerous work. The GMSA was originally under the command of Commodore H.T. England; below him, as the highest ranking German officer, was Konteradmiral Fritz Krauss, who had been in charge of mine sweeping operations during the war.

The German sailors initially served in their Second World War uniforms, with the German Eagle and the Swastika
The swastika is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing form in counter clock motion or its mirrored left-facing form in clock motion. Earliest archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of Ancient...

 removed, and under the same rules and regulations as were valid in the Kriegsmarine. The sailors were paid a moderate wage and had the right to take local leave, unlike other German POW's, but service was not voluntary. Still, the daily, dangerous operations and the resulting high esprit de corps lead to increasing uneasyness about the GMSA, especially among the Soviet Union.

The service was sub-divided into six mine sweeping divisions (German: Räumbootdivisionen). The German headquarters of the service were located in Glückstadt
Glückstadt is a town in the Steinburg district of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is located on the right bank of the Lower Elbe at the confluence of the small Rhin river, about northwest of Altona...


On 25 May 1946, the GMSA was equipped with new blue work uniforms and special rank insignia
Insignia or insigne pl -nia or -nias : a symbol or token of personal power, status or office, or of an official body of government or jurisdiction...

, worn on the sleeve.

The headquarters of the GMSA were moved to Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 in December 1947 and disbanded in January 1948, despite US objections. The reason for its disbanding was primarily pressure from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 who feared the GMSA was an attempt by the western allies to re-form the German Kriegsmarine, something the Royal Navy bitterly opposed themselves. The Reichsmarine
The Reichsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Weimar Republic and first two years of Nazi Germany. It was the naval branch of the Reichswehr, existing from 1918 to 1935...

had used mine sweeping operations after the First World War to preserve a talent pool of officers and the Royal Navy wanted to avoid a repeat of this experience.

The "German mine sweeping formation Cuxhaven", a civilian organisation, replaced the GMSA, still under British control and using equipment and personnel of the previous organisation.

One of the few large surface ships of the Kriegsmarine to survive the war, the light cruiser
Light cruiser
A light cruiser is a type of small- or medium-sized warship. The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck...

Leipzig class cruiser
The Leipzig class was a class of light cruisers of the German Kriegsmarine, consisting of two ships named after German cities, Leipzig and Nürnberg.-History:...

, in fairly bad condition, served as an accommodation hulk for the GMSA.


The GMSA was sub-divided into six regional divisions of varying strength:
  • 1st Division: Schleswig Holstein
  • 2nd Division: West Germany
    West Germany
    West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

  • 3rd Division: Denmark
    Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

  • 4th Division: Norway
    Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

  • 5th Division: Netherlands
    The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

  • 6th Division: Bremen
    The City Municipality of Bremen is a Hanseatic city in northwestern Germany. A commercial and industrial city with a major port on the river Weser, Bremen is part of the Bremen-Oldenburg metropolitan area . Bremen is the second most populous city in North Germany and tenth in Germany.Bremen is...



  • Area cleared:
    • North Sea: 5628 sqnmi
    • Baltic Sea: 450 sqnmi
  • Naval Mines cleared: 2721

  • Losses:
    • Vessels lost: 10
    • Crew killed: 348


As of early 1947, the service consisted of the following ships and vessels:
  • 84 Minehunting boats
    Minehunters are mine countermeasure vessels that actively detect and destroy individual naval mines. Minesweepers, on the other hand, clear mined areas as a whole, without prior detection of mines...

     (German: Minensuch-Boote) Type 35, Type 40, Type 43
  • 63 Minesweeper boats
    Minesweeper (ship)
    A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to counter the threat posed by naval mines. Minesweepers generally detect then neutralize mines in advance of other naval operations.-History:...

     (German: Räum-Boote) partial with Voith-Schneider
    The Voith Schneider propeller , also known as a cycloidal drive is a specialized marine propulsion system . It is highly maneuverable, being able to change the direction of its thrust almost instantaneously...

     propulsion systems
  • 62 War fishing cutters (German: Kriegsfischkutter) 6 Mine barrage breaker (Sperrbrecher)
  • 5 Auxiliary Minesweeper (former fishery trawlers)
  • 110 Auxiliary ships

Similar formations

  • The 4th Mine Sweeping Group (German: 4. Minensuchgruppe) in Lorient
    Lorient, or L'Orient, is a commune and a seaport in the Morbihan department in Brittany in north-western France.-History:At the beginning of the 17th century, merchants who were trading with India had established warehouses in Port-Louis...

    , France
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

    , was made up from crews of French sailors and German POWs.
  • Deutscher Minenräumverband Cuxhaven (German mine sweeping formation Cuxhaven), based in Cuxhaven, Germany, a civilian formation under control of the British Customs
    Her Majesty's Customs and Excise
    HM Customs and Excise was, until April 2005, a department of the British Government in the UK. It was responsible for the collection of Value added tax , Customs Duties, Excise Duties, and other indirect taxes such as Air Passenger Duty, Climate Change Levy, Insurance Premium Tax, Landfill Tax and...

    , replaced the GMSA, active from January 1948 to June 1951
  • Labor Service Unit (B) (LSU/B), based in Bremerhaven
    Bremerhaven is a city at the seaport of the free city-state of Bremen, a state of the Federal Republic of Germany. It forms an enclave in the state of Lower Saxony and is located at the mouth of the River Weser on its eastern bank, opposite the town of Nordenham...

     and under control of the US Navy, the formation was active until 1957, many of its members continued to serve in the German Bundesmarine after that.

Further reading

  • The Royal Navy and German Naval Disarmament, 1942-1947, by Chris Madsen, publisher: Routledge
    Routledge is a British publishing house which has operated under a succession of company names and latterly as an academic imprint. Its origins may be traced back to the 19th-century London bookseller George Routledge...

External links


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