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  Inside Out - North East & Cumbria: Monday September 8, 2003


German submariners
Is the German submarine mystery about to be solved?

Divers have discovered the wartime graves of 58 German submariners on two wrecked submarines in the North Sea. It's a mystery waiting to be solved.

For the last ten years, teams of divers have scoured waters off the North East and Yorkshire Coast looking for the last few missing German U-Boats from World War I.

Eight of the German submarines were sunk off north Yorkshire between 1917 and 1918 and until last summer two remained lost.

But divers Andrew Jackson and Carl Racey uncovered the two wrecks within two days.

Undisclosed Location


The Royal Navy’s first submarine was Holland I. It was launched in 1901.

During World War 1, German submarines sank 6.5 million tons of allied merchant shipping.

It is estimated that 50% of the 74 Royal Navy submarines lost during World War I fell prey to mines.

By the end of the World War II, British submarines had sunk two million tons of enemy shipping and fifty seven major war vessels.

The exact locations of the wrecks are closely guarded secrets, shared only with the U-Boat archive in Germany.

The German government is now planning to officially declare them war graves.

Curator Horst Bredow from the U-boat Archive in Cuxhaven, Germany, was amazed to hear of their discoveries.

He says, "It is important for the relatives and for our records to know where these U-boats are."

It could mark the end of 90 years of speculation about the whereabouts of the U-boats

Iron Coffins

UB41 was found first. Her last sighting was by the SS Melbourne on October 5 1917 off Scarborough. The divers were unable to tell whether she’d struck a mine or suffered an internal explosion.

German submariners
Submariners aboard a German U-boat

UB75 was found later, upright and intact with very little evidence of damage.

She left Borkum on November 29, 1917 for the Whitby area. She succeeded in sinking four ships but never made it back home.

Carl explains the large amount of wrecks in the North Sea.

"During World War One, the North Sea was more like what the Atlantic was to World War Two, a hunting ground for U-boats".

"The early submariners of World War One were true pioneers of submarine warfare, especially on this scale. These vessels were hard mistresses to the crew and officers alike, often referred to as ‘iron coffins’ or ‘sisters of sorrow," says Andrew.

Deep Water

The wrecks lie in more than 60 metres of water and can only be examined by highly trained divers for 15 minutes at a time.

They are 30 miles away from where they were thought to have gone missing and within one mile of each other.

Carl Racey
Diver Carl Racey discovered the wrecks with Andrew Jackson

The first discovery, the UB41, was found when Andrew and Carl targeted a wreck off Robin Hood’s Bay that had been updated to more appropriate size in a recent hydrographic survey.

Because they did not have the equipment to film the wreck at that time, the divers tried a different target the following day.

It turned out to be UB75 - a remarkable discovery.

Be A Deep Sea Explorer

Why not become a deep sea explorer yourself?

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, Hampshire, has a variety of wartime exhibits.

The museum’s exhibits include the original Holland I, recovered after 70 years on the seabed, and HMS Alliance, a World War II diesel submarine.

Further details and archive material can be viewed on their website (see links below).

You might even make a discovery as important as that made by Carl Racey and Andrew Jackson.

See also ...

BBC History: World War One
BBC History: Battle of the Atlantic

BBC North Yorkshire: Sunken U-boats

On the rest of the web
U-boat Archive
BBC Liverpool: Battle of the Atlantic
Royal Navy Submarine Museum
Royal Navy
U Boat Bases

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

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keith riley
It would have been better to have remarked that the remains of these boats would be as war graves and protected as such.

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