31 Oct 2009 - Laboe (U-995), Germany
I've had a long interest in the u-boat war; the machines ands the men and it was to my great surprise and joy to learn that close to Hamburg is the U995. By 1943, with huge losses suffered by the Kriegsmarine, Germany's submarines were considered obsolete. Nonetheless, production of the Type VIIC continued whilst new types were developed. U995 is actually a Type VIIC 41 which features a thicker pressure hull than the standard version of the Type VIIC.
At the end of the war on 8 May 1945 U995 was damaged near Trondheim, Norway and captured by the British Considered to be too badly damaged to be towed to Britain, in October 1948 it was given to the Norwegians. In December 1952 U-995 became the Norwegian submarine Kaura and in 1965 damaged by the Royal Norwegian Navy. Finally, for a symbolic price of one Deutsche Mark, it was sold to Germany to became a museum ship at Laboe in October 1971.
Thousands of men endured fearsome hardship, fought and died in these cramped boats. Seeing and walking through the U995 gives a good insight into what it would have been like to serve on board.
Laboe - U995, bow I
The menacing looking Type VIIC from the bow. The Type VIIC submarine looks a purposeful killing machine but by the end of the war, these hunters became very much the hunted.
Laboe - U995, bow II
568 Type VIIs were commissioned from 1940 to 1945. The first VIIC boat commissioned was the U-69 in 1940. The Type VIIC was an effective fighting machine and was seen almost everywhere U-boats operated, although their range was not as great as that of the larger Type IX. The VIIC came into service as the 'Happy Time' at the beginning of World War II was almost over, and it was this boat that saw the final defeat by the Allied anti-submarine campaign in late 1943 and 1944.
Laboe - U995, side view I
The Type VIIC was a slightly modified version of the successful VIIB. They had very similar engines and power, but were larger and heavier which made them slightly slower than the VIIB. Many of these boats were fitted with the Schnorchel in 1944 and 1945 as Allied air dominance meant that these boats were vulnerable when they surfaced to recharge their batteries.
Laboe - U995, side view II
To counter Allied air power, the concept of the U-flak began on 31 August 1942, when U-256 was seriously damaged by aircraft. Rather than scrap the boat, it was decided to refit her as an anti-aircraft boat intended to stop the losses in the Bay of Biscay inflicted by Allied aircraft. Six months later all U-flaks were converted back to normal attack boats as the U-flaks had not been successful. With massive anti-aircraft firepower, a U-boat on the surface was still very vulnerable and her best bet was simply to dive.
Laboe - U995, side view III
Many wonder why a submarine had to operate on the surface and why it would do this when doing so would make it so vulnerable. Submarines in World War II were powered by diesel and had to operate on the surface. When it submerged it used electric batteries that quickly drained and whilst under water the submarine's performance was drastically reduced. Therefore in reality these generation of submarines were really boats that had the capability of submerging.
Laboe - U995, aft
What was needed was a true submarine; one with great underwater speed and endurance. The designated successor was the Type XXI 'elektroboote'; a bigger submarine that represented a new generation of submarine. The war ended before these could be delivered in any great number. In this photo the door to the rear of submarine and stairs up to it can be seen. The visitor can walk through the submarine and exit at the front. Originally, the entrances were only through hatches on the top of the sub.
Laboe - U995, aft torpedo room and electrics
The Type VII uboat generally had only one torpedo tube in the aft section. A spare torpedo was kept under the deck plating.
Laboe - U995, diesel engine room
Walking through the submarine you are struck by how small and complicated it is. This is without all the extra provisions that were packed in especially for a long patrol. Photos from the period show sausages hanging from the ceiling. Now imagine this with 44+ men on board.
Laboe - U995, crew quarters
I think that these narrow bunks were for the officers. Again, note how little space there is.
Laboe - U995, forward torpedo room
Type VII submarines held 14 torpedos arranged 12 in the bow section and 2 aft. This room would have looked very different with torpedos, crew and food packed in. Note the bunks for the crew.
Laboe - U995, the control room
This is from where the submarine was commanded. I am on one of the depth controls which operates either the forward or aft dive planes.