U-boats That Surrendered - The Definitive List

by Derek Waller and Dr Axel Niestlé

A joint review of the U-Boats that surrendered at the end of the war in Europe in May 1945 has revealed that there is still widespread uncertainty concerning the surrender dates of the majority. There is even some uncertainty about the exact number of U-Boats that surrendered, as well as where and when U-Boats surrendered from sea, and about the ports in which some of the U-Boats surrendered.

Establishing the number of U-Boats that surrendered ought to be easy, but nothing is easy in relation to this topic. For instance, a US Navy document produced in 1946 says 160 U-Boats surrendered. However Roskill’s "War at Sea" (1961) gives a figure of 156, and a UK Navy Historical Branch list in 1963 said 154. Subsequent publications quote different figures, but all have generally been in the range of 150 to 160 U-Boats.

Most of the confusion relates to the dates on which the U-Boats in the Norwegian, German and Danish ports surrendered. This stems from the 1950's when the first accounts of the fates of the German U-Boats were written, and it has persisted to this day, even in the most respected publications.

We have therefore reviewed all the relevant data, and present here what we consider to be "The Definitive List".

The basis of our conclusions is that 156 U-Boats surrendered, of which 49 surrendered from sea, and 107 surrendered in port. However, whilst the number that surrendered in port has not been too difficult to establish, defining the locations has not been easy because almost all of the U-Boats which surrendered in German and Danish ports were transferred to Wilhelmshaven before being moved to the UK pending their final disposal.

The main challenge has therefore been to determine exactly when the 107 U-Boats located in the Norwegian (87), German (16), Danish (3) and French (1) ports surrendered, as compared with the more usually recorded "May 1945" or "5/45" or even no date at all.

The keys to our conclusions have been that there were two separate elements to the surrender process.

First, there was the surrender of all German armed forces in northwest Germany and Denmark to the 21st Army Group which was signed at 1830 hours on 4 May. The document included, in Field Marshal Montgomery's own hand, the words: "This to include all naval ships in these areas", and for the Germans, it was signed by Admiral von Friedeburg, who was the head of the Kriegsmarine, as well as by Admiral Wagner.

It came into force at 0800 hours on 5 May, and it is therefore logical to accept that the surrenders of all the U-Boats in the ports in northwest Germany and Denmark took place on 5 May, irrespective of whether or not there were Allied forces in place to formally accept such surrenders.

Second, there is the final unconditional surrender of Germany which was signed on 7 May, and which came into effect at 0001 hours on 9 May. The executive surrender instructions to the Kriegsmarine were broadcast by the Allies on 8 May, and applied to all the U-Boats still at sea, as well as to those located in the Norwegian and French ports.

On 9 May there were no Allied forces in Norway. Thus, the Allies used the German military infrastructure to facilitate the surrender process. This began in Oslo on 8 May with a meeting between a representative of the RN's Flag Officer Norway and the Kriegsmarine's Admiral Krancke, who had received instructions from Flensburg to cooperate fully with Allied naval representatives. As a result, the German naval authorities in Norway followed the Allies' surrender and disarmament orders, passed via the Kriegsmarine HQ in Oslo, in order to facilitate the surrender of all the U-Boats in Norwegian ports on 9 May.

In respect of the U-Boats which surrendered from sea, the dates we have used are the dates on which they arrived in Allied ports to undertake the formal surrender process, rather than the dates on which they were either first seen or located at sea flying their black surrender flags, or were intercepted by Allied naval forces prior to being escorted into port.

We therefore consider the attached list to be a true account of the places and dates of the surrender of the surviving U-Boats at the end of the war in Europe. We therefore commend this list to all those who are interested.

Finally whilst we have, perhaps arrogantly, called this "The Definitive List", let us be the first to acknowledge that we don’t know everything. There is still uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of the surrender of some individual U-Boats, and there will people throughout the world who may know the "real" stories better than us. We would therefore welcome any comments or alternative views, and stress that we are not wedded irrevocably to the facts described here. This should be a living list, and we will be happy to amend it where justified.

See the list of surrendered U-boats

This article was published on 2 Nov 2010.

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