Scuttled U-boat found off coast
A GERMAN U-boat which was scuttled after a toilet malfunction has been found off the coast of Scotland after 70 years.
U-1206 had to surface in the North Sea after a faulty “WC” filled the boat with chlorine gas.
This led to it being spotted by Allied planes, forcing Captain Karl Schlitt to order his 40 crew to scuttle the vessel.
Three of his crew drowned, though the rest made it to safety on life rafts, and the incredible story was recorded on the log of a British vessel which witnessed the incident.
The ship surfaced in April 1945, just weeks before the end of the war.
The discovery marks the end on an 11-year search for the boat by the Buchan Divers group.
Jim Burke, a 48-year-oldn IT engineer who led the diving expedition, said: “The feeling on seeing it was one of elation and excitement.
“We found ourselves looking at a unique piece of Second World War history.
“The buzz was amazing. This was a significant piece of history.
“We spent so much time and energy looking for her. It was great that we could finally see this boat we had spent so much time researching.”
He added: “Most dives we do involve discovering a wreck and then finding out her story.
“This was the first one where we have known all of her beforehand, but finding her remained elusive until now.”
Historians believe U-1206’s complicated high-pressure valve toilet system, which allowed it to dive deeper underwater, led an unfortunate crewman to initiate the blunder.
After activating the wrong valve, the contents of the toilet flooded the submarine’s batteries underneath, and produced chlorine gas.
Captain Schlitt was recorded as saying I was in the engine room, when, at the front of the boat, there was a water leak.
“What I have learned is a mechanic tried to repair the forward WC’s outboard vent.
“The engineer who was in the control room at the time I managed to make the boat buoyant and surfaced, despite severe flooding.
“Meanwhile the batteries were covered with sea water. Chlorine gas started to fill the boat.
“We were then incapable of diving or moving.
“At this point, British planes and patrols discovered us.
“I let the boat sink.”
But Mr Burke has said he has heard a differing but uncorroborated explanation for the boat’s sinking.
He said: “Apparently, Captain Schlitt and some of his senior officers, deciding that the war was lost and having no desire to face the almost certain death which befell most of the U-boat crews at the tail end of the war, staged the toilet flooding event so they could deliberately scuttle the boat without appearing to desert.
“I heard this from the grandson of one of the crew.
“They had to preserve the myth or they risked being murdered by fellow prisoners of war.”
German U-boats menaced Allied shipping throughout the Second World War.
U-1206 entered service in March 1944, and is not recorded to have sunk any Allied ships.
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