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WW1 German U-Boats

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 One.


German U-boats in Kiel in May 1914

Eight of the German submarines were sunk off north Yorkshire betwen 1917 and 1918 and until summer 2002 two remained lost. 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"

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. 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.

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'.

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.

Diver Carl Racey discovered he 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.


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