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U534 - sunk by the RAF - Destroyed by Mersey Travel

by John H. Luxton 2007

Some final views of U534 in one piece on November 24, 2007. The presence of the scaffold and rubble chutes indicate that work to destroy this unique maritime artefact has now begun

Mersey Travel's Artists Impressions of the dissected U534

The dissected U534's new home.
 

 

Sunk by an RAF Liberator at the close of World War II, U534 survived in one piece to be raised by Danish interests in 1993 and brought to Birkenhead to be cared for by the Historic Warships Trust.

As with the other vessels in the care of the Warship Preservation Trust, U534's future became somewhat uncertain after the trust went into liquidation early in 2006.

Now, just over a decade after her arrival on Merseyside this historic submarine is to be dismembered by Mersey Ferry proprietors Mersey Travel.

It has been no secret that Mersey Travel planned to section the vessel much to the dismay of many - there have been letters in the local press on the matter.

These proposals led the head of Mersey Travel responding that Mersey Travel were the only organisation to step in to save the vessel which has been languishing at Birkenhead since the Historic Warships Collection closed in February 2006.

However, thoughts that the sectioning may be tastefully done have been shattered by a promotional leaflet which has now been released. - Images from this leaflet are reproduced above.

The leaflet, shows U534 located close to the south side of the Woodside Ferry Terminal in a completely dismembered state.

The sections of the boat have the appearance of having been blown apart. Is that the intention ?

Perhaps I had been too ready to assume the sectioning to allow internal viewing would have meant the sections being drawn apart for internal viewing not being dissipated in a higgledy-piggledy manner on a relatively small site.

Given the amount of land available at Woodside on the site of the former floating roadway cut - currently occupied by the uncared for water / decking feature one wonders why the U-Boat could not have been displayed intact?

Instead U534 is being placed very close to the attractive terminal building - which does the building no favours - but also appears to result in a good chunk of the Woodside Ferry Car Park being swallowed up as well! 

This really is a dreadful state of affairs and those who have sanctioned this wanton destruction of a priceless relic of the Battle of the Atlantic really have a lot to answer for. This vessel should be preserved as a whole.

We should remember the sailors serving both the allied and German navies during WWII were exceedingly brave people and many thousands lost there lives. 

To serve in one of these steel coffins as depth charges rained down must have been a terrible experience - perhaps one that has been somewhat trivialised by some jingoistic war films - and only really captured in Wolfgang Petersen's excellent 1982 film 'Das Boot'.  

Of the 40,000 German submariners that served during WWII 30,000 did not return.

In this enlightened age, with peace and unity in Europe, U534 should be treated not just as a memorial to the German submariners who died in WWII, the three crew members who died in the attack which led to her sinking,  but also all the other seafarers who died on both sides during the conflict.

There are only five preserved WWII U-boats in the world - two in Germany, one in the USA, on in Finland, and U534 in Birkenhead.

The remaining WWII examples are:

  • U995 - Type VIIC - built by Blohm & Voss, preserved at Laboe, Germany

  • U2540 - Type XXI - built by Blohm & Voss, preserved at Bremerhaven, Germany

  • U505 - Type XIC - built by Deutsche Werft, preserved Chicago, USA

  • U534 - Type IXC 40 - built by Deutsche Werft at Birkenhead, UK

  • Vesikko - German Prototype IIA class - built for Finnish Navy, preserved Finland.

As can be seen U534 is a unique survivor of her class Type - IXC 40.

One must ask should such a unique vessel be cut into four pieces and displayed in such a disrespectful manner?

Are Mersey Travel's intentions really driven by a desire to provide a reason for more people to use the Mersey Ferries to travel to Birkenhead, Woodside than a real desire to preserve a unique example of maritime heritage? - You can make your own mind up.

If you are a member of the Irish Sea Ships Yahoo Group you can express your opinion in an online poll which closes on December 07, 2007. [click here]

There are many online resources with information on U-boats - and U534 - however one site - www.uboat.net is particularly recommended.

 

Visit www.jhluxton.co.uk for Transport, Industrial Heritage & Regional Photographs from the UK and beyond

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