Among others, the biggest problems for Gerlach and his crew were the lack of oxygen and battery power. Finally, after about twenty-five hours submerged, Gerlach surfaced in the darkness, aired the boat, and tried to creep away on his diesels while charging his batteries. Four British destroyers (BLENCARTHA, HAMBLETON, LAFOREY, and TUMULT) detected U-223 and opened fire with guns. Thus trapped, Gerlach shot a T-5 at LAFOREY; which hit and blew her up. The other ships rescued only sixty-nine of the LAFOREY crew; 189 men perished.
Concluding that U-223 was doomed, Gerlach ordered the crew to assemble on deck in life jackets and abandon ship. The engineer, Ernst Sheid, age twenty-one, who set the scuttling charges, was the last man out of the boat. Skipper Gerlach told Sheid that he, Gerlach, was "no good without his boat" and elected to go down with her. While the boat was under way at full speed, Sheid and the others leaped over the side. As the destroyers hammered the U-boat with gunfire, it suddenly circled back through the men in the water. Her propellers and the gunfire killed almost half of the German crew. BLENCATHRA, HAMBLETON, and TUMULT found only twenty-seven of the the fifty Germans, included was engineer Sheid.