An update of sorts to a story which was first broadcast in January on the BBC [Realplayer file], Belfast Telegraph report, and which got some attention locally when the Derry Journal noted the Derry City Council’s discussion. As I said, an update of sorts as little headway appears to have been made apart from the note that “A tripartite agreement between Britain, the US and Russia requires permission from all three former allies before any salvage work is done”… but it’s an intriguing and ambitious idea to raise a U-boat from the Atlantic ocean and put it on display to mark the city’s role in World War II as well as it being the site of the official surrender of the remaining U-boat fleet at the end of the war – the U-1231 also surrendered on 14th May 1945. As the Guardian report notes – “The city’s main port at Lisahally was the command post for British naval patrols on convoy and anti-submarine duty.” U-778 has been singled out but only two other U-boats have been raised from the seabed, including one in 1993, the U-534, at a reported cost of £3million, which is currently on display in Birkenhead… and only 4 are on display in various countries.
From the Guardian report
The wreck of U-778 which lies 16 miles north-west of Malin Head, the most northerly tip of the Irish Republic, has been identified as the best candidate for recovery from among the estimated 116 U-boats that litter the ocean floor off the northern Irish coast.
U-778 was built at the end of the war and had never seen action before being sunk.
“It’s about 70 metres down,” said Geoff Millar, a deep-sea diving specialist who is awaiting instructions to descend to the wreck and film it. “It’s not stuck in the mud but sitting on a gravelly bottom. Any recovery operation would take a large salvage platform out to the site and lower slings down to the sea bed that could be slid underneath the submarine and then used to raise it up.”
also quoted is a Derry City Council spokesperson
A Derry city council spokesperson said: “The Museum and Heritage Service is … consulting with statutory agencies in relation to maritime and archaeological legislation with regard to the removal of [a U-boat]. The council is also working to identify funding sources to assist this project.”
The Battle of the Atlantic, a term coined by Winston Churchill, was the most protracted but decisive campaign of the second world war. “The only thing that ever really frightened me,” Churchill confessed in his memoirs, “was the U-boat peril.” The first German submarine attack came on September 3 1939 – the day Britain declared war – when U-30 sank the liner Athenia off north-west Ireland, mistaking it for an armed merchant cruiser. Operating from France’s Atlantic ports and directed to their targets by long-range Kondor aircraft, the U-boat fleet threatened to throttle Britain’s war effort. In July 1942, 143 ships were sunk in a single month. But improved anti-submarine tactics and the entry of the US into the war tilted the advantage. The turning point came in March 1943 when the cracking of German naval codes used by the Enigma machines enabled the Royal Navy to hunt U-boat packs. Around 3,500 merchant vessels and 175 warships were sunk overall. The Germans lost 783 U-boats.
More on the sinking of the SS Athenia
and on Operation Deadlight which provides the following map of where some of the U-boats were sunk.