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15 October 2014
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GERMAN U-BOAT SURRENDER AT BARROW-IN-FURNESS

by BBC Cumbria Volunteer Story Gatherers

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Archive List > Royal Navy

Contributed by 
BBC Cumbria Volunteer Story Gatherers
People in story: 
Alexander McKenzie
Location of story: 
Barrow-in-Furness
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7097899
Contributed on: 
19 November 2005

This story was submitted by Alan Welsh, a Radio Cumbria volunteer, on behalf of Alex McKenzie and has been added to the site with his permission.

During the war, Alex was a schoolboy living in Barrow-in-Furness. He recalls a lot of people lining Walney Channel to watch a captured German U-boat being towed into Barrow harbour.

The U-boat had been brought to the surface by a British destroyer in the Atlantic. To surrender, the U-boat commander rowed across to the destroyer. Meanwhile, his second-in-command was supposed to be getting the crew safe AND scuttling the submarine; he didn’t manage the latter!

The whole crew were captured. The officers were sent to an officers’ Prisoner of War camp, Grizedale Hall in the Lake District. Shortly after their arrival, the Germans convened a court for the second-in-command to explain his inaction. To redeem his honour, the "court" set him the challenge of escaping, going to Barrow and destroying the U-boat. He did manage to escape, but was shot and killed by the Home Guard.

Meanwhile, the U-boat was held in the graving dock at Barrow and stripped down for parts. The graving dock is now the site of the popular Dock Museum.

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Message 1 - U-570

Posted on: 19 November 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Alexander

I read your account with interest. However, the U-Boat, U-570, wasn't brought to the surface and captured by a destroyer.

The U-boat was sighted on the surface, miles from any ships, by Squadron Leader J. H. Thompson in a Hudson of No. 269 Squadron. He dropped four depth charges which damaged the U-boat making it impossible for it to submerge. The crew surrendered at that point.

HMS Northern Chief, a naval trawler, arrived early in the evening, a signal having been sent previously to the U-boat that if the boat was scuttled the crew would not be picked up. The captain agreed to this and he and the crew remained on board.

On the morning of the 28th two destroyers and three more trawlers arrived. At great risk, in heavy seas, the crew were transferred to HMS Kingston Agate and the U-Boat was towed to Thorlakshafn, Iceland. There is was examined and damage repaired. Renamed HMS Graph, she was then towed to Vickers shipyard in Barrow.

The 'Council of Honour' was held as you say, and Lt Bernhard Berndt was found guilty and ordered, as you say, to destroy the boat. He escaped in civilian clothes dressed as a Dutch fisherman but was captured by the Home Guard the next day, hiding in a sheep shelter. He apparently satisfied his captors with his cover story, but they decided to take him to Grizedale Hall for identification. It was as he was being marched there that he made a run for it and was shot. He was buried with full military honours.

Later, the captain, Kapitänleutnent Hans-Joachim Rahmlow, also faced a so-called 'Council of Honour' and it was at this point that the authorities learnt of this and stopped it.

In fact the crew had done their duty, and all secret equipment and codes had been destroyed. As to the renamed Graph, she sank while being towed to the Clyde on 20 March 1944. She was raised and scrapped in 1947.

Kind regards,
Peter Ghiringhelli

 

Message 2 - U-570

Posted on: 27 November 2005 by BBC Cumbria Volunteer Story Gatherers

Hello Peter, Alexander and Alan,

I've just been reading through your contributions about U-570, and found them most interesting. I'd previously heard about the escaped submarine officer getting away from Grizedale Hall, but not the other parts of this account.

Peter, yet again you've done another great job in filling in the exact details about what happened to U-570. It is often extremely difficult to find out the fine details of many of these kind of of events in WW2. Alexander will find it fills in a lot of the gaps of one of his personal memories.

Best wishes to you all,
Joseph Ritson

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