(Image: Paul Adams.Â U-534 while stored at Birkenhead Docks)
Only a handful of World War Two German submarines survive today and U-534 makes for a rare attraction, preserved in sections at the Woodside Ferry Terminal on Merseyside. Before that, her rusting hull cut an impressive and ominous form at Birkenhead Docks on the Wirral.
(Image: Nigel Cox)
Entering service with Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine in 1942, U-534 was built in Hamburg by the Deutsche Werft shipbuilding company. The 251-foot-long Type IXC/40 vessel, which could reach a maximum speed of 18.3 knots on the surface and 7.3 knots submerged, was commissioned in December of that year and captained by Oberleutnant zur See Herbert Nollau.
(Image: Chris Allen. Salvaged submarine preserved at Woodside Ferry Terminal)
Despite the terror of the Second World War U-boat scourge, U-534 sank no allied ships herself, and was instead used primarily for training duties. In that role she tested the new “ZaunkÃ¶nig” G7es (T5) acoustic torpedo. The vessel was later redesigned, her main gun removed and a flak gun fitted in its place.
(Image: David Bagshaw. The U-boat wreck prior to restoration)
Her patrols finally came to an end on May 5, 1945 when U-534 was attacked by two Consolidated B-24 Liberator anti-submarine bombers of RAF Coastal Command. The aircraft, operating out of Tain and Leuchars in Scotland, attacked the U-boat with depths charges, who returned fire and managed to down one of the aircraft.
But a direct hit scored by the second Liberator (G/86 George) caused U-534 to slip beneath the waves. Her 52 man crew all escaped the striken sub, though three men were killed in the aftermath. The radio operator, 17-year-old Josef Neudorfer, escaped through the forward torpedo hatch but didn’t exhale as he swam for the surface, causing fatal damage to his lungs. Two other men died from exposure before help came, though four crew members who had been trapped along with Neudorfer survived the 220 foot ascent.
(Image: Chris Howells)
The wreck of U-534 would remain quietly on the seabed for the next 41 years, a haunting a tragic reminder of that terrible conflict. But in 1986 the submerged Type IXC/40 submarine was found by Danish wreck hunter Aage Jensen and salvaged amid the now familiar rumours of legendary Nazi gold.
Raised in 1993, U-534 was transported to Merseyside found a new home among the collection of the Warship Preservation Trust at Birkenhead Docks on the Wirral Peninsula in Northwest England. She was later bought by Merseytravel and transported to the Woodside Ferry Terminal. Due to financial constraints the submarine wreck had to be cut into five large sections, in a month-long process using a diamond wire cutter.
U-534 now forms the centrepiece of the U-boat Story. Two of the sections were rejoined, but the others remain separate, allowing visitors a glimpse of the internal workings and the cramped, claustrophobic world of a wartime submarine.
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