German submarine U-534

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U-534 at Birkenhead Docks
U-534 at Birkenhead Docks in March 2007
Career (Nazi Germany)
Name: U-534
Ordered: 10 April 1941
Builder: Deutsche Werft AG, Hamburg
Yard number: 352
Laid down: 20 February 1942
Launched: 3 September 1942
Commissioned: 3 December 1942
Fate: Sunk by aircraft, 5 May 1945
Status: Salvaged, 1993
Museum ship, February 2009
General characteristics [1]
Type: Type IXC/40 submarine
Displacement: 1,144 t (1,126 long tons) surfaced
1,257 t (1,237 long tons) submerged
Length: 76.76 m (251 ft 10 in) o/a
58.75 m (192 ft 9 in) pressure hull
Beam: 6.86 m (22 ft 6 in) o/a 4.44 m (14 ft 7 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.6 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draft: 4.67 m (15 ft 4 in)
Propulsion: 2 × MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged 9-cylinder diesel engines, 4,400 hp (3,281 kW)
2 × SSW GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors, 1,000 hp (746 kW)
Speed: 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) surfaced
7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph) submerged
Range: 13,850 nmi (25,650 km; 15,940 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
63 nautical miles (117 km; 72 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Armament:
Service record
Part of: 4th U-boat Flotilla
2nd U-boat Flotilla
33rd U-boat Flotilla
Commanders: Kptlt. Herbert Nollau
Operations: One training patrol, two combat patrols.
Victories: No ships sunk. Two British aircraft shot down

German submarine U-534 was a Type IXC/40 U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine built for service during World War II. She was built in 1942 in Hamburg-Finkenwerder by Deutsche Werft AG as yard number 352. She was launched on 23 September 1942 and commissioned on 23 December with Oberleutnant zur See Herbert Nollau in command.

The U-boat is one of only four German WWII submarines in preserved condition remaining in the world, the only other IXC boat being U-505 in Chicago, United States.[2] This boat was used mainly for training duties, and during her life sank no other ships. A Royal Air Force bomber sank her on 5 May 1945 in the Kattegat some 20 kilometers northeast of the Danish island of Anholt. U-534 was salvaged in 1993 and since February 2009 has been on display in Birkenhead as part of the U-boat Story.

Wartime history[edit]

After commissioning, U-534 was assigned to the 4th U-boat Flotilla, based in Stettin, for training purposes and weapons testing, including the new acoustic torpedo Zaunkoenig T-5, until February 1943. She was then reconfigured (main gun removed, flak added) and in June 1943 transferred to the 2nd flotilla based in Saltzwedel.

May 1944[edit]

U-534 heads for Bergen and arrives on 6 May 1944. Two days later she leaves on operational duty, along with U-853 and U-857, for weather reporting duty off the coast of Greenland. Her first war patrol was plagued by an oil leak and bad weather in the North Atlantic.

August 1944[edit]

On 11 August she was attacked by an aircraft but escapes undamaged. Two days later she, along with U-857 and U-437 are attacked by two Halifax bombers. The aircraft suffer heavy flak damage, and U-534 arrives safely at Bordeaux. On the second patrol, from 25 August 1944 to 24 October, the boat had to escape the Allied blockade of Lorient in France get back to a friendly port. Again, no ships were sunk, but an attacking Vickers Wellington bomber of 172 Squadron RAF was shot down on 27 August.

October 1944[edit]

On 25 October U-534 leaves Bordeaux and the new Schnorchel is used for the first time. However, exhaust gases leak into the boat and several crew members collapse. Surfacing for air, she is spotted and attacked by a Wellington bomber, which it shoots down. On 28 October, she was then transferred to the 33rd U-boat Flotilla and undergoes an extensive refit in Stettin, which puts her out of duty until 1 May 1945. While in harbour she shoots down a Heinkel 111 by mistake.

May 1945[edit]

In the early hours of 4 May 1945, the order to surrender is sent to all U-boat commanders from Admiral Dönitz.[3] However, she continues her patrol, together with U-3523 and U-3503, none of them flying the black surrender flag.[4]

Incidents leading to sinking[edit]

On 5 May 1945, for unknown reasons, the captain of U-534 ignored the surrender order and set course for Norway instead. To this day, mystery still surrounds U-534 '​s refusal to surrender, although numerous theories exist. What seems to be established fact is that U-534 was sailing on the surface of the Kattegat, together with three other U-boats, when British Liberator aircraft attacked. The crew managed to shoot one bomber down, and nine depth charges from the bombing runs missed, but then the boat received a direct hit. U-534 began to take on water as a result of the damage to her aft section by the engine rooms, and sank north-east of Anholt. The shot-down B-24 must have come down nearby; all crew on board the plane were lost.

U-534 under attack by an RAF Liberator, from 86 Squadron

U-534 had a crew of 52 men, all of whom escaped and 49 survived. Five were trapped in the torpedo room as she began to sink but escaped through the torpedo loading hatch once the boat had settled on the sea bed. One of these crewmen, 17-year old radio operator Josef Neudorfer, failed to breathe out as he was surfacing from depth and died from damage to his lungs. The other two deaths were caused by exposure.[3][4]

One plausible explanation for U-534 '​s refusal to surrender lies in the discovery of three experimental T11 torpedoes found in the aft section of the vessel.[5] Only 38 of this type were built, and they were unique in that they had acoustic homing systems which were developed as a countermeasure to the British Foxer decoy system.

The vessel's commander, Kapitänleutnant Herbert Nollau, committed suicide in 1968.

Armament[edit]

FLAK weaponry[edit]

U-543 was mounted with the rare Twin 3.7 cm Flakzwilling M43U on the DLM42 mount. This was one of the best AA weapons used by Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. The DLM42 mount was mainly used on the Type IX as it was rather heavy for the Type VII U-boats. The 3.7 cm Flak M42U was the marine version of the 3.7 cm Flak used by the Kriegsmarine on Type VII and Type IX U-boats.

Anti-submarine counter-measures[edit]

U-543 was also fitted with a Pillenwerfer.

Fitted just above the propeller shaft on the starboard side was the exit chute of the Pillenwerfer. What came out of this chute was an anti-sonar decoy called Bold, named after Kubold which was a goblin in German folklore. The purpose was to create a false target for the enemy's sonar by creating a screen of bubbles from the chemical reaction of calcium hydride with sea water.

Salvage[edit]

U-534 lay on the sea bed for nearly 41 years until she was found in 1986 by the Danish wreck hunter Aage Jensen. Shortly after the leader of the owners group presented the idea to Danish media millionaire Karsten Ree who then sponsored the raising of the submarine amid rumours of Nazi gold and intense media coverage. Hopes of gold treasure proved unfounded, as the ship contained nothing extraordinary.[6]

She was raised to the surface by Dutch salvage company Smit Tak on 23 August 1993.

Museum ship[edit]

Transported to Birkenhead, England, in 1996, the vessel formed part of the Warship Preservation Trust's collection at Birkenhead Docks until the museum closed on 5 February 2006. On 27 June 2007, the Merseytravel transit authority announced that it had acquired the submarine to display at the Woodside Ferry Terminal.[7]

For technical reasons and to facilitate economical transportation to its new site, the vessel was cut into five sections, two of which were subsequently re-joined. It is now displayed in sectioned form to allow visitors better visibility without entering the U-boat.[8] Merseytravel said that preserving the hull intact would have created prohibitive transport costs.[9] Engineers began a month-long operation to cut up U-534, using a diamond wire cutter, on 6 February 2008. Beginning on 10 March 2008, the sections, each weighing up to 240 tonnes, were transported by floating crane over several days.

The U-Boat Story exhibition opened on 10 February 2009.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Media related to German submarine U-534 at Wikimedia Commons

Surviving U-Boats[edit]

Other[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Gröner 1985, pp. 105-7.
  2. ^ Engineers breaking-up WWII U-boat, BBC News, 6 February 2008, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  3. ^ a b U-534, Lexikon der Wehrmacht, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  4. ^ a b U-534, uboat.net, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  5. ^ The Story of U-534, Merseytravel, 2009 
  6. ^ U-534 can now be seen in Liverpool, Diveship Ternen, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  7. ^ Woodside Ferry to be new home for rescued U-boat, Liverpool Daily Post, July 2007, retrieved 4 July 2009 
  8. ^ U-Boat Story, Mersey Ferries, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  9. ^ U-boat's future is secured, Liverpool Daily Post, 22 October 2007, retrieved 4 July 2009 
Bibliography
  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German) IV (Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler). ISBN 3-8132-0514-2. 
  • Gröner, Erich (1985). U-Boote, Hilfskreuzer, Minenschiffe, Netzleger, Sperrbrecher. Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815-1945 (in German) III (Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe). ISBN 3-7637-4802-4. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°23′42″N 3°00′34″W / 53.3950855°N 3.0093312°W / 53.3950855; -3.0093312