U-534, CH41 6DU
Postcode: CH41 6DU
Lat/Long: 53.395079N 3.010041W
Notes: Located in Birkenhead directly adjacent to the Ferry terminal (access to the attraction is via the ticket office). Numerous car parks (pay) are in the immediate vicinity.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
U-534 was salvaged in 1996 and has been cut into a number of sections to provide excellent views of the interior. Furthermore many items were successfully recovered from the inside of the submarine which were perfectly preserved and are now on display in the museum. The damage from the depth charge which sank the submarine is visible on the Starboard quarter.
Anti-Aircraft Guns. U-534 was fitted with twin Flak M42U anti-aircraft guns which shot down an RAF Wellington in 1944 and an RAF Liberator in 1945.
Damage. U-534 was sunk on 8 May 1945 by an RAF Liberator from 86 Squadron. The depth charge hit the deck, bounced off and exploded on the Starboard quarter flooding the aft torpedo room.
Resurgam Replica. Regurgam was one of the earliest submarines capable of (very) short periods dived. Built and tested at Birkenhead by a Reverend George Garrett it was made of iron and wood and displaced 330 tons. In February 1880 it was on route to Portsmouth for Royal Navy trials when it sunk in a storm. A replica is on display in vicinity of U-534.
The salvaged U-534, a Type IXC/40 U-Boat, is a rare surviving example of a German WWII submarine. Less manoeuvrable than the Type VII, which formed the bulk of the units used in the Battle of the Atlantic, U-534 was employed in weather reporting duties. She was sunk by an RAF Liberator on 8 May 1945 after defying the German surrender.
HISTORY OF U-534
U-534 was a German U-Boat (the 'U' deriving from unterseeboot, undersea) built by Deutsche Werft in Hamburg and commissioned on 23 December 1942. As a Type IXC/40 she was a long range (11,400 nautical miles) submarine capable of up to 18 knots surfaced (4 knots dived) and was armed with 22 torpedoes fired from forward (4) and aft (2) tubes. She was also fitted with a Flak M42U anti-aircraft gun and 4.1inch Naval Gun (later replaced with a second Flak gun). An anti-ASDIC counter-measure called Bold was also fitted. The vessel was commanded for her entire life by Herbert Nollau, an experienced Naval Officer who had previously served as First Officer on U-505 - a vessel of the same Type as U-534.
As the Type IXC/40 U-Boat was less manoeuvrable than the Type VII - which was the mainstay of the Battle of the Atlantic - U-534 was initially assigned to an equipment testing role operating from Stettin (now in north-west Poland).
By early 1944 the allied military build-up in the UK made it abundantly clear that an invasion of the continent was imminent. The ability to accurately predict the weather was key to determining when such an attack may come and, in May 1944, U-534 was deployed (along with U-857 and U-437) into the Atlantic to send weather reports back to Germany. With the prevailing winds blowing to the east, this data was intended to provide German meteorologists with the information they needed to predict the weather in the English Channel. U-534 sailed via Bergen and took station south of Greenland. The information provided proved inadequate however as the allies, aided by vastly more units collecting meteorological data, were able to predict a lull in the stormy weather on 6 June 1944 whereas the Germans could not. When the troops stormed ashore in Normandy, the Germans had not expected the weather to support an invasion - crucially the regional commander, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, was in Paris.
By the time U-534 returned alongside in Bordeaux in August 1944, U-Boat losses were at a critical level - in the Summer months of that year 84 had been lost as the allies perfected their Anti-Submarine techniques and technologies. U-534 was fitted with a snorkel but it was poorly adapted forcing her to surface during the sea trials. Spotted by a Wellington bomber from 127 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command, the submarine managed to shoot down the aircraft as it dived to attack.
U-534 was withdrawn from the Atlantic theatre and returned to Stettin (now in north-west Poland) where she commenced a refit. This was hastily interrupted as the Russian army approached with the boat moving west to the main German Naval Base at Kiel.
U-534 sailed from Kiel on 3 May 1945 in company with two of the latest Type XXI submarines (U-3503 and U-3523) - the last U-Boats to leave wartime Germany. Her orders, and the Captain's intentions, remain a mystery although speculation tends to gravitate around a plan to concentrate the remaining U-Boats in Norway as a bargaining chip in surrender negotiations. If so, it was not to be - Admiral Doenitz issued an order that all U-Boats at sea should surrender by 0800 on 5 May 1945. Surrendering submarines were instructed to fly a black flag from their periscope. For unknown reasons neither U-534 nor the accompanying submarines followed this order.
Allied intelligence quickly identified that the three submarines were not conforming to the surrender instructions and RAF Coastal Command deployed anti-submarine Liberators to intercept; G for George from 86 Squadron, Tain and E for Edward from 547 Squadron, Leuchars. The first attack was by E for Edward but the aircraft was shot down by the combined firepower of the three boats. The two Type XXI submarines then dived leaving U-534 alone on the surface where she was found and attacked by G for George. After missing on the first attempt, the Liberator scored a direct hit on the second - one of a salvo of four depth charges hit the deck of the submarine, bounced off and exploded on the starboard quarter. The explosion punctured the pressure hull in the aft torpedo compartment and U-534 started to sink.
Nollau gave the order to abandon ship and 47 of the 52 crew were able to escape before the U-boat sank. The remaining five were trapped in the forward torpedo room but, once the submarine was settled on the seabed, managed to escape. One failed to surface and a further two members of the crew died of exposure before they were rescued.
The wreck of U-534 was discovered in August 1986 by Aage Jensen just to the north-east of the Danish island of Anholt. As her crew had successfully escaped, the wreck was not classified as a war grave and salvage was considered. After overcoming extensive political and technical challenges, U-543 was finally brought back to the surface on 23 August 1993. The boat yielded a wealth of historical artefacts that had been preserved by the thick mud in which the submarine had settled. In 2008 the submarine was cut into five sections and placed on display in Birkenhead in recognition of the key role the area played during the Battle of the Atlantic.