In early May of 1945, U-boats were leaving their patrol areas at sea for the last time and heading for ports around the coasts of Europe and Great Britain in compliance with the order of unconditional surrender contained in last signals from Submarine Command.
U1171, known as White Puma, was one of these boats of the surrendered fleet. As her number suggests, she entered service later in the war and was comparatively new. Other units had been captured but none as up to date as U1171.
Operation Deadlight carried out during 1946 was to see all of these U boats take their last plunge to the bottom of the sea. Before this should happen, U1171 was destined for sea trials to check upon her performance and ascertain any changes which may have taken place since those early days of the war.
So it was that with most of her armaments already removed, White Puma was commissioned at Fort Blockhouse in the latter part of 1945.
I joined U1171 as killick LTO wearing rather shiny badges on both arms. This was my second boat, the first having been a training boat after submarine training at Blyth. Having stumbled around the layout of the electrical parts of that boat to some satisfaction, I now had to do it all over again in U1171, but this time in the German language.
After a shakedown at Fort Blockhouse, we eventually sailed for Forth at Rothesay with everyone peering closely at labels, desperately trying to discover something remotely familiar in translation. Underseaboten was about the easiest I recall, but this wasn't much help in a technical situation. German to English dictionaries became the essential kit of many of the crew.
Needless to say, we had surface escort whenever we sailed in case even at this point, someone might get too excited at the prospect of a loose cannon.
For a couple of months we carried out regular sea trials from Rothesay and if there was a slight delay in diving and surfacing who could blame the Outside ERA for that?
White Puma was a Class V11C boat with four forward torpedo tubes and one aft. This type having proved itself a very stable seaboat in the wolf packs of the stormy seas of the North Atlantic had experienced little change in design since those times. Comparing her performance after service in several older T boats, I recall she operated very smoothly at sea.
Parts of the layout of the boat made daily life more difficult for the crew, sections being isolated by the employment of small round hatches between compartments. It became almost like an obstacle course going from one end of the boat to the other. Another difficulty was the way in which the centre gangway seemed to bisect many parts of the boat, including the galley, the wardroom and after messes. The ERA's mess was located forward of the engine room and immediately after the galley and directly over No. 2 battery. This caused some upheaval at the end of the morning watch, when battery readings had to be taken at lunchtime in the Tiffies Mess. Many words were spoken and none of them in German!
After the open type switch gear of our boats, the Motor Room in U1171 looked quite clean and sterile. The switch gear was enclosed in cream coloured, light metal panels, above which traversed starting switches and group switches. These panels bore a close resemblance to the frying vats in a fish and chip shop. As you moved the switch to group up, you half expected the whole panel to move up, revealing chips frying underneath.
There still remained evidence of the boat in patrol condition with emergency supplies of food stashed away in all sorts of stowage's. Quite often, before working on the cover of a motor starter, tins of sauerkraut, German sausages etc, had to be moved out of the way.
Early 1946 found U1171 with all performance figures collated, sailing up the river Foyle towards Lisahally, following the course many of her sister boats had taken on the last voyage a few months previously, when Admiral Sir Max Horton formally accepted the surrender. There was such an array of U-boats of Type V11C and Type XX1 secured in trots beside the long jetty there. Safely secured, and for the first time in months looking not out of place in a trot, U1171 was finally decommissioned.
At Lisahally, most of the U-boats had small maintenance crews of German U-boat men that each
day were brought down to the jetty to carry out maintenance routines to batteries and machinery. The crew of U1171 became
part of this Reserve Group supervising the maintenance of the surrendered fleet until, one by one, we would take them out
to the mouth of the Foyle, evacuate the boat, secure the tow and watch them start their last voyage into the Atlantic.