Article in the Saturday Telegraph and also piece about the book that has been writen on the subject. Mass surrender of Nazi U-boats documented in new book
For 65 years residents of a remote Scottish village have paid heed to the wartime warning that “loose lips sink ships”.
By Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent
Published: 8:00AM GMT 20 Mar 2010
The Highland fjord in the far north-west of Scotland, close to Cape Wrath, was the only Scottish rendezvous point for U-boats. In the space of two weeks, from May 10 to May 25, 1945, it turned into the biggest single gathering of the German submarine flee
Now, however, they have decided to speak out to tell the astonishing story of the biggest ever surrender of Nazi U-boats.
The surrender of German submarines in Loch Eriboll in Sutherland was one of the strangest episodes at the end of World War II. Locals were sworn to secrecy and it has often been assumed that only “two or three” crews gave themselves up in the sheltered inlet.
But a new book marking the 65th anniversary of the incident reveals that no fewer than 33 U-boat commanders surrendered in the space of 12 days in the 10-mile long loch.
The Highland fjord in the far north-west of Scotland, close to Cape Wrath, was the only Scottish rendezvous point for U-boats. In the space of two weeks, from May 10 to May 25, 1945, it turned into the biggest single gathering of the German submarine fleet anywhere in the world. The U-boats — nicknamed grey wolves — were part of Hitler’s plan to starve Britain of food, raw materials and equipment.
David Hird, 65, a former local government officer, has spent two years researching The Grey Wolves of Eriboll.
He has identified and detailed every U-boat that came into Eriboll and said he was “staggered” to find 33 had surrendered in the loch.
They included U-1231, which was used as the fleet’s “off-licence” and was laden with wine, and U-532 which had just returned from Japan and was carrying raw rubber, quinine and other war supplies.
“It was covered in barnacles it had been in the ocean so long,” said Mr Hird, who lives in east Sutherland and is originally from Yorkshire.
“I have identified them all and have proved to my satisfaction there were 33 that came into Loch Eriboll.”
The vessels that surrendered were responsible for sinking or damaging 59 merchant ships and 14 warships — 300,000 tonnes of Allied shipping.
Fifteen U-boats were brought under convoy from Norway by Canadian warships and all were disarmed within hours.
Explosives and other armaments were dumped over the side and they were then re-routed to locations including Lochalsh in Wester Ross, where the crews were arrested.
As part of Operation Deadlight, the U-boats were scuttled in the Atlantic, with 121 of the 154 U-boats that surrendered being sunk in deep water off Lisahally, Northern Ireland, or Loch Ryan, in the west of Scotland, in late 1945 and early 1946.
Loch Eriboll was chosen because of its isolation and deep anchorage. It also limited any opportunity for a last show of defiance from the U-boat commanders.
Mr Hird’s research uncovered just one such incident, when U-295 rammed a Canadian escort ship, HMCS Nene, punching a hole in the starboard side. The U-boat captain claimed it was an accident.
“There were also considerable crew numbers,” said the author.
“Each U-boat had between 30 and 50 crew. The crews were happy to surrender in Scotland, it was the Russians they were worried about. They just didn’t want to give up to them.
“Stuff was just dumped there and then over the side. I am quite convinced that the loch’s seabed to this day is littered with explosives and armaments.
“I spoke to crew from both Canadian and British vessels who oversaw the operation and one or two locals who remembered seeing the U-boats, though they were very young at the time.”
Alan Hope, a sailor on HMS Byron, told him of the moment the first U-boat arrived.
He said: “U-1009 arrived on the surface flying a tattered black flag from its periscope as a sign that it was ready to surrender.
“The U-boat was boarded, guns and torpedo firing pistols were thrown overboard and log books and other documents were removed in preparation for the escorted passage to Lochalsh where the crew were to be taken into captivity.
“The U-boat captain read a message to his ship’s company telling them that they were leaving their boat and I think there were a few tears.”
at has been writen on the subject
Ships that pass in the night, seldom seen and soon forgoten