U-Boats that Surrendered - "Operation Thankful"

The Re-Allocation of U-2326 and U-2518 from UK to France

by Derek Waller

This article is based on UK National Archives File ADM 1/19510

At the end of WW2 in Europe, the 3 Allies (UK, USA and USSR) decided, as part of the Tripartite Naval Agreement that, whilst: “The larger part of the German submarine fleet shall be sunk, not more than thirty submarines shall be preserved and divided equally between the USSR, the UK and the USA for experimental and technical purposes”.

At one stage in the Allied discussions it had been suggested that France should be allocated a share of the surrendered German warships, including U-Boats, but this was vetoed by the USSR.

However the UK decided that it did not need all 10 of the U-Boats that it had been allocated, and so the Royal Navy agreed that one of its type XXIII U-Boats (U-2326) and one of its type XXI U-Boats (U-2518) would be transferred to the French Navy.

A statement by the Foreign Office, reported in “The Scotsman” on 4 February 1946, indicated that the British Government was only lending the two U-Boats to the French for two years, after which they would revert to Britain.

The transfer of U-2326 and U-2518 from the Royal Navy to the French Navy took place in February 1946, and was code-named “Operation Thankful”.

The move to France began on 5 February when HMS Tremadoc Bay sailed from Lisahally in Northern Ireland as escort for U-2326, together HM Tug Bustler which was towing U-2518. Both U-Boats were crewed by RN personnel.

However, heavy weather in the Irish Sea, towing problems and defects caused a diversion into Dublin Bay, where the group went into Kingstown Harbour on 7 February for three days.

The transfer resumed on 10 February, with U-2326 also under tow, and the group arrived in Cherbourg on 13 February where the two U-boats were handed over to the French Navy.

U-2326 was lost with all hands in a diving accident off Toulon on 6 December 1946.

Despite the earlier hint that she was only on a 2-year loan, U-2518 was commissioned into the French Navy in 1951 as the “Roland Morillot” and used until 1967 when she was taken out of service. She was broken up in Italy in 1969.

This article was published on 10 Aug 2010.

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