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Maritime tales – Nowhere to hide

26 March 2008 by stepheng

A childhood game left me claustrophobic so I cannot abide crowds of people in enclosed, windowless spaces.

The popular Liverpool school playground activity in the 1950s involved a group of lads piling on top of you until you screamed for mercy. As a result, submarines are not for me.

Germany’s U-boats waged an underwater campaign against the transatlantic convoys bringing vital supplies to Britain during the Second World War.

But once the Allies had gained advantage in the Battle of the Atlantic there was no escape for the U-boats and it was only a matter of time before they were routed.

Although the Germans developed new U-boat weapons and equipment, they came too late. Renewal of the U-boat offensive was ended by Allied advances in Europe.

German naval commander Admiral Karl Donitz issued the ceasefire order on 4 May 1945. The U-boat crews were elite seafarers who were proud of their achievements. At the end of the war, more than 200 U-boats were scuttled by their crews so they would not fall into the hands of the Allies.

There is a display of U-boat exhibits at Merseyside Maritime Museum.  A U-boat issue grey leather jacket, made in Vienna, hangs next to a German-issue sweater with zip-up collar.

A pair of binoculars was taken from a captured U-boat commander. A Kriegsmarine ensign emblazoned with a swastika is believed to have come from a surrendered U-boat.

A wooden heart decorated with flowers has the humorous inscription in German: “The cunning of women is endless”. Kriegsmarine badges and personal effects were “liberated” from German naval barracks at Emden, north west Germany, by a British soldier.

A photo shows the crew of a U-boat standing with heads bowed as the sub docked at Wilhelmshaven naval base following the German ceasefire.

Photograph of a shipyard with a row of men

Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo

An aerial view reveals more than 60 surrendered U-boats at Lishally, near Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

A number of German submarines arrived in Liverpool and the surrendered U1023 is seen in the Mersey.

On display is the painted emblem from the conning tower of the U249, the first German submarine to surrender at sea to the Royal Navy at the end of the war. On 9 May 1945, following orders from German High Command, U249 surrendered to HMS Magpie and HMS Amethyst.

The emblem was the gift of Mrs P Symonds of Dorset in memory of her late husband, Capt George Symonds, in command of HMS Magpie at the time of the surrender.

Merseyside Maritime Museum is open seven days a week, admission free. A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo.

  1. Linda Calhoun says:

    To our friends and allies across the pond,
    With all due respect, sir, the U 249 actually surrendered to a Liberator (my father in law (ret) Lt. Commander Truman D. Calhoun spotted it.) He is still living and recalls the events quite vividly.) They flew around the U boat with their bomb bay doors open until the British Navy arrived to take her in. For verification, please note front page of NY Times May 11, 1945. Thank you for the opportunity to make this observation.
    With kindest regards,
    Linda Calhoun

  2. Stephen Guy says:

    Dear Linda,

    Thank you for your additional information about this incident.

    Best wishes,

    Stephen Guy

(Comments are closed for this post.)

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