Hitlers lost fleet, found
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    Dec 2004
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    Hitlers lost fleet, found

    After 60 years, final resting place of ‘Hitler’s lost fleet’ is discovered
    By Adam Forrest
    Turkish engineer pieces together ‘one of the most fascinating stories of the second world war’.
    THEY BECAME known as "Hitler's lost fleet", three notorious U-boats that wreaked havoc in British waters during the second world war, but which disappeared overnight in 1944. Now, more than 60 years later, their whereabouts have been discovered at the bottom of the Black Sea.

    Turkish marine engineer Selcuk Kolay made the discovery after interviewing surviving German officers - including a former U-boat commander - and then surveying the seabed off the Turkish coast using sonar technology. Kolay presented his findings to the International Shipwreck Conference in Plymouth yesterday, and explained how he had established the position of the three ships.

    The three submarines - U-19, U-20, U-23 - were part of the six-strong 30th flotilla which sank dozens of Allied ships off the North Sea. But in 1941, the Germans decided they needed to halt Russian shipping in the Black Sea so they moved the submarines across land to the Romanian sea port of Constanta. In three years, the U-boats sank 45,000 tonnes of Soviet cargo. In 1944, their reign of terror ended when Romania joined the Allies.

    "It appeared to me one of the most fascinating stories of the second world war," Kolay told the Sunday Herald. "These submarines were transported across Europe, all the way from Hamburg, down the Danube, to Constanta. Hitler had no other option. But when Romania switched sides in the war, the boats became stuck."

    The three "lost" boats that survived Soviet attacks in the Black Sea were stranded when Romania declared war on Germany in August 1944. Unable to sail home and without a safe land base, their commanders were ordered to scuttle the boats and row ashore. Though the crews were interned by the Turks, the location of the submarines remained a mystery since they were sunk silently, intact, and out of sight.

    The attempt to find the lost fleet began in 1994, after the Turkish navy reported difficulty in conducting mine-sweeping operations a few miles off the coast.

    Kolay's team have now completed successful dives around the wreck of U-20, but bad weather has delayed a dive to U-23 until spring. Kolay believes the hull of U-19 can be pinpointed around 300 metres below the surface, three miles from the Turkish city of Zonguldak.

    The U-23 became known to British forces early on in the second world war when it successfully sunk a merchant ship off the Shetland Islands. It's infamous commander Otto Kretschmer was known as "Silent Otto". He sunk his first ship, a Danish tanker, in the Moray Firth.

    But it was another former U-23 commander, Rudolf Arendt, who helped Kolay find the second of the three vessels, by sharing personal memories of his Black Sea voyages from more than 60 years ago. "He told me all about his story and we went from place to place together. He's still got a brilliant mind, remembers everything in great detail. It was a pleasure to work with him and we became good friends."

    Kolay said he was looking forward to exploring the remains of the U-23 and U-19 after finding the U-20 eerily preserved. "It's in wonderful condition, still fully intact."

    Amateur divers are still finding sunken war ships off the British Isles. Steve Roue, one of the organisers of the International Shipwreck Conference, said: "The seas around the UK are littered with wrecks, particularly around the Devon and Cornwall coast. Some of the shallow ones are found by sports divers and fisherman bumping into a wreck. There's still more U-boats to be found."

    Last month, the wreck of the first world war U-boat U-12, which has evaded searchers for nearly 30 years, was found off Eyemouth, in Berwickshire. The seven-strong local dive team found the wreck in 50m of water.

    kenb

 

 

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