In 1945, a German U-boat was destroyed in action close to shore off the Durham coastline. Do you remember the engagement . . . ?
During another unrelated search, Merlindown came across photographs showing the destruction of what turned out to be a German U-boat at a location near Seaham in the county of Durham. At first it was not clear as to what had actually occurred, but after careful study of the images a mystery began to emerge which will be of interest to many.
We decided to take a closer look at this event with the evidence we had to hand. The Merlindown system can be used in conjunction with any photographic media and in this particular search the images used were the photographs alluded to above. These were taken in 1945 from the attacking allied aircraft as it flew away and clearly show a huge explosion at sea, not far from the coast near Seaham. Other naval vessels appear on some of the photographs examined (not shown here), although these were far too small to be identifiable.
This photograph shows a vessel being destroyed with depth bombs. The explosion, which would have reached a height of more than 200 feet, has just subsided. The destroyed boat can be seen as a dark speck within and to the upper left of the white foam explosion aftermath. Closer examination with more detailed images revealed that the vessel being destroyed was indeed a German U-boat.
This terrific explosion left its mark on the sea floor. Merlindown has scanned the exact location to find that the U-boat is now much degraded and lies scattered in many parts over the sea floor. This image shows the coastline, visible as a band down the left-hand margin, together with the crater formed by the explosion, which can be seen as a dark circular area at the centre of the image.
Other, more detailed images, using our deepscan facility, show the U-boat to have been using its snorkel (a device allowing the diesel engines to be used whilst the submarine is underwater). A snorkel of similar type is shown on this photograph of another U-boat.
Records do not mention a U-boat operating so close to Seaham at this late stage of the war. So, does anyone remember the event or know of any oral accounts or of any written reports in local newspapers or announcements on the radio describing what happened? Taking place so close to the shore, and in daylight hours, the event would have been very dramatic and unforgettable for those who witnessed it.
In an effort to solve the mystery we contacted the Northern Echo, this being a newspaper that serves the area in question. Durham reporter Mark Summers wrote a feature which was published on 2nd October 2014. A link to the item is here:
Almost immediately we were contacted by the Darlington-based military historian Robert Jackson who has tentatively identified the U-Boat as being U-398. Using additional information supplied by Robert we will now look into the event further and update this posting as and when we can.