SM UB-65

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For other ships with the same name, see German submarine U-65.
German Empire
Name: UB-65
Ordered: 20 May 1916[1]20 May 1916
Builder: Vulkan Werke, Hamburg
Yard number: 90
Launched: 26 June 1917[2]
Commissioned: 18 August 1917[2]
Fate: Lost to unknown cause off Padstow, Cornwall after 14 July 1918.[3]
General characteristics [2]
Class and type: German Type UB III submarine
  • 508 t (500 long tons) surfaced
  • 639 t (629 long tons) submerged
Length: 55.52 m (182 ft 2 in) (o/a)
Beam: 5.76 m (18 ft 11 in)
Draught: 3.70 m (12 ft 2 in)
  • 13.3 knots (24.6 km/h; 15.3 mph) surfaced
  • 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) submerged
  • 8,420 nmi (15,590 km; 9,690 mi) at 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph) surfaced
  • 55 nmi (102 km; 63 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 50 m (160 ft)
Complement: 3 officers, 31 men[2]
Service record
Part of:
  • V Flotilla
  • (30 September 1917 – 18 April 1918)
  • II Flotilla
  • (18 April – 14 July 1918)
  • Kptlt. Martin Schelle[4]
  • (18 August 1917 – 14 July 1918)
Operations: 6 patrols
  • 6 ships sunk (6,197 GRT)
  • 6 ships damaged (11,443 GRT)
  • 1 warship sunk (1,290 GRT)

SM UB-65 was a Type UB III U-boat of the Imperial German Navy during World War I. Ordered on 20 May 1916, the U-boat was built at the Vulkan Werke shipyard in Hamburg, launched on 26 June 1917, and commissioned on 18 August 1917, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Martin Schelle.[5]

Service history[edit]

During her active career she sailed on six war patrols, sinking six merchant ships and damaging six more. She also sank the British Anchusa-class sloop HMS Arbutus.[5]

The U-boat was lost off Padstow, Cornwall on or after 14 July 1918 with the loss of all her 37 crew.[5]


An expedition mounted in 2004 as part of the Channel 4 Wreck Detectives underwater archaeological TV series to survey a previously unidentified U-boat wreck that had been located earlier at 50°36′40″N 5°00′18″W / 50.611°N 5.005°W / 50.611; -5.005Coordinates: 50°36′40″N 5°00′18″W / 50.611°N 5.005°W / 50.611; -5.005, during a routine survey by the Royal Navy, confirmed the identity of the boat as UB-65. Inspection of the wreck by nautical archaeologist Innes McCartney and U-boat historian Dr. Axel Niestlé (through identification of design features such as the type of deck gun, and identification numbers that were stamped on one of her propellers) proved conclusively that the wreck was that of UB-65. A survey of the wreck showed no obvious indication of weapon attack being the cause of loss (although this could not be ruled out; damage assessment expert David Manley determined that shock damage from a depth charge attack could have caused loss through failure of internal seawater systems and hull penetrations that would not be obvious from an external examination). The aft hatches are open indicating a possible attempt by at least some of the crew to escape from the vessel. Consideration of the various observations of the wreck, along with historical observations regarding depth control and handling difficulties on diving experienced by other boats of the class, led to a conclusion that she was most likely lost through accidental causes on or after 14 July 1918, the date of the sinking of a Portuguese vessel in the Padstow area. All of her crew of 37 were listed as lost.[6] Having been identified as UB-65 the wreck was given protected place status under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 on 1 November 2006.[7]

Previous beliefs regarding loss[edit]

The identification of the Padstow U-boat wreck corrected the earlier accepted version of UB-65's loss. According to official German Naval records the boat was presumed lost following a premature explosion of one of her own torpedoes on 10 July 1918, south of the Irish coast.[2]

According to United States Navy records it was reported that, whilst returning from patrol and near Fastnet Rock, the U.S. submarine L-2 observed what the captain (named Forster) first took to be a buoy on the horizon. Moving closer, Captain Forster found that it was actually a German submarine, only later to be identified as UB-65. It was listing heavily on the water's surface, seemingly disabled. Forster guided his sub around it, hoping to line up a torpedo shot. But before he could do so, the crippled vessel was torn apart by a huge explosion. UB-65 rose up on its bows and sank. There were no survivors and no bodies were ever recovered. The sound of small propellers and an underwater signalling device could be heard for a short while after the explosion. The cause of the explosion was not known.

PG 61825 58 TA-17-D

Admiralstab der Marine, Abt. A, KTB, Band 1, U.B.65 der V.U.Flottille und der II. U. Flottille.

Kommandant: Kaptlt. Schelle.
U.B.65 conducted operations in the Irish Sea, the western Hebrides, and St George's Channel.
U.B.65 sank among other vessels an unidentified British armed vessel (probably the sloop HMS Arbutus) on 15 December 1917; the Norwegian steamer "Havana" (1,150 t), 5 March 1918; and the British steamer "Pensilva" (4,316 t), 4 May 1918.
U.B.65 departed from Heligoland 2 July 1918, for war operations and was accidentally sunk on 10 July 1918.

National Archives and Records Service, U.S. General Services Administration, Washington: 1984

Allegations of haunting[edit]

It is the subject of many tales of a ghost, said to be the second officer, Lieutenant Richter, who was killed when a torpedo exploded fairly early in the U-boat's career. Indeed, the building of the ship was plagued by disaster, including of asphyxiation of three crew members by diesel fumes in the engine room and the crushing of two more by a falling girder. While UB-65 was being tested for seaworthiness, one of the crew members was swept overboard when he was inspecting the hatches. He was never seen again. During the first test dive of UB-65, a fracture occurred in a ballast tank, causing the submarine to sink to the bottom of the sea. The crew lacked any means of renewing the oxygen in the vessel and after 12 hours the crew finally managed to raise the submarine to the surface of the ocean. These incidents may have given rise to a belief among the crew that the ship was cursed. As no-one wanted to board or be stationed on the ship, it is believed that the German Imperial Navy called a priest on board to exorcise the ship.[8][9][10] In his book "Tales of Real Haunting", Tony Allan quotes "According to one source, the American officer thought he saw someone on deck just before UB-65 went down. It was a figure in a German officer's overcoat, standing near the bow with folded arms. If this can be believed, Lieutenant Richter may have put in a final appearance".

According to researchers George Behe and Michael Goss the stories about hauntings from UB-65 were invented by the journalist Hector Charles Bywater who wrote about the subject. They speculated that Bywater was a good story teller who had invented some of his references such as a post-war pamphlet written by a "Dr. Hecht". Behe and Goss concluded "Official documents make it extremely difficult to believe that UB-65 was haunted... The responsibility for that rumor-like legend in all its dramatic detail cannot be traced back with any certainty before Hector C. Bywater."[11]

Summary of raiding history[edit]

Date Name Nationality Tonnage[Note 1] Fate[12]
31 October 1917 Margrete  Denmark 1,277 Damaged
12 December 1917 Bellville  Sweden 992 Sunk
12 December 1917 Charleston  United Kingdom 1,866 Sunk
14 December 1917 Nor  Norway 1,418 Sunk
16 December 1917 HMS Arbutus  Royal Navy 1,290 Sunk
2 March 1918 Havna  Norway 1,150 Sunk
4 May 1918 Pensilva  United Kingdom 4,316 Damaged
5 May 1918 Pandora  United Kingdom 85 Damaged
5 May 1918 M. J. Hedley  United Kingdom 449 Damaged
8 May 1918 Elizabetta  United Kingdom 335 Damaged
8 May 1918 Thoralf  Denmark 586 Sunk
13 May 1918 Esperanza De Larrinaga  United Kingdom 4,981 Damaged
14 July 1918 Maria Jose  Portugal 185 Sunk



  1. ^ Merchant ship tonnages are in gross register tons. Military vessels are listed by tons displacement.


  1. ^ Rössler 1979, p. 60.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gröner 1991, pp. 25-30.
  3. ^ Innes McCartney (2015). The Maritime Archaeology of a Modern Conflict: Comparing the Archaeology of German Submarine Wrecks to the Historical Text. New York: Routledge. pp. 119–123. ISBN 978-1138814356. 
  4. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "WWI U-boat commanders: Martin Schelle". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine - Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Helgason, Guðmundur. "WWI U-boats: UB 65". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine - Retrieved 29 September 2010. 
  6. ^ Innes McCartney (2015). The Maritime Archaeology of a Modern Conflict: Comparing the Archaeology of German Submarine Wrecks to the Historical Text. New York: Routledge. pp. 119–123. ISBN 978-1138814356. 
  7. ^ "The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 (Designation of Vessels and Controlled Sites) Order 2006". Retrieved 29 September 2010. 
  8. ^ Donahue, James. "Haunting of German Submarine U-65". Retrieved 9 October 2008. 
  9. ^ UB-65 - A German submarine
  10. ^ Digest, Reader's (1975). "Ghost on the prow". Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. Reader's Digest. p. 384. 
  11. ^ Behe, George; Goss, Michael. (2005). Lost at Sea: Ghost Ships and Other Mysteries. Prometheus Books. pp. 152-166. ISBN 1-57866-147-1
  12. ^ Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by UB-65". German and Austrian U-boats of World War I - Kaiserliche Marine - Retrieved 4 February 2015. 


  • Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4. 

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