The U-Boats that Surrendered - The U-Boats Allocated to the UK in 1945

by Derek Waller

On 9 Oct 2011 a new and heavily revised version of this article was published.

The 1945 post-war Potsdam Agreement, which included the requirement to allocate 10 U-Boats to each of the 3 Allies (USA, UK and USSR), led to the creation of the Tripartite Naval Commission (TNC), which was charged with determining exactly which U-Boats would be allocated to each country. Thus, representatives of the TNC visited the UK in August and September 1945 to inspect all the surrendered U-Boats held at Lisahally and in Loch Ryan. As a result, they decided which U-Boats should be recommended to the Commission for formal allocation and therefore transfer to each of the three Allies.

The initial allocation to the UK, which was agreed on 10 October 1945 at the 13th Meeting of the TNC, was as follows:

U-712, U-953, U-975, U-1108, U-1171, U-1407, U-2326, U-2348, U-2518 and U-3017

It was however accepted that there should be a degree of flexibility, and the minutes of the 13th Meeting record that bi-lateral exchanges of individual ships and craft [could be] made as desired. Thus, a number of mutually agreeable changes were effected, and there are therefore differences between the original lists of the 10 U-Boats allocated to each of the three Allies and those that were finally implemented.

In respect of the UK, there was just one change, with U-190 (which was located in Canada) being allocated to the UK, and with U-975 (which had originally been allocated to the UK) then being added to the list of the unallocated U-Boats which were to be sunk (in Operation Deadlight). This very last-minute amendment to the UK allocation list was only proposed and agreed in late January 1946, and the final list of the 10 U-Boats which were to be allocated to the UK therefore comprised the following:

U-190, U-712, U-953, U-1108, U-1171, U-1407, U-2326, U-2348, U-2518 and U-3017

There had also been a certain amount of competition between the Allies concerning U-1105, which had been allocated to the USA at the 13th TNC Meeting in October, despite both the UK and the USSR being keen to acquire it. U-1105 had surrendered from sea on 10 May in Loch Eriboll, and then been moved via Loch Alsh to Lisahally. This U-Boat's hull was covered with a rubber coating in order to avoid radar detection, and it had been transferred to the UK Royal Navy Submarine Base at Gosport on 5 August where it was used for experimental purposes with a British crew. However, the USA did not wish to see it re-allocated to either the UK or the USSR, and it was therefore handed over to the US Navy on 15 December, leaving Gosport on 19 December and arriving at the US Navy Yard in Portsmouth, NH on 2 January 1946.

Eight of the U-Boats allocated to the UK were moored at Lisahally, one of them (U-190) was already in the possession of the Royal Canadian Navy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the remaining one (U-1407) was in the Vickers Shipyard at Barrow in the UK.

U-190 Surrendered from sea on 14 May in Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, Canada. Transferred to Halifax on 25 May.
U-712 Surrendered on 9 May in Kristiansand(S), Norway. Transferred to Loch Ryan on 31 May. In Lisahally 31 December 1945.
U-953 Surrendered on 9 May in Trondheim, Norway. Transferred to Loch Ryan on 29 May. In Lisahally 31 December 1945.
U-1108 Surrendered on 9 May in Horten, Norway. Transferred to Lisahally on 27 May.
U-1171 Surrendered on 9 May in Stavanger, Norway. Transferred to Lisahally on 27 May. In Lisahally 3 February 1946.
U-1407 Surrendered in Cuxhaven on 5 May, but then scuttled on 7 May. It was raised on 1 July and towed via the Kiel Canal to the Howaldt-Werke shipyard in Kiel. At the end of August it was towed to the Vickers Shipbuilding Yard in Barrow-in-Furness by the ex-Kriegsmarine tug Fohn (under the command of Captain J Harvey, RN), where it was refitted with a new and complete set of machinery (captured in Germany). It was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 25 September 1945 as HMS Meteorite.
U-2326 Surrendered from sea in Dundee, UK on 14 May. Moved to Loch Eriboll, arriving on 18 May. Transferred to Loch Alsh on 18 May, and then moved to Lisahally by 23 May.
U-2348 Surrendered on 9 May in Stavanger, Norway. Transferred to Loch Ryan on 27 May. In Lisahally 30 December 1945.
U-2518 Surrendered on 9 May in Horten, Norway. Transferred to Lisahally on 3 June.
U-3017 Surrendered on 9 May in Horten, Norway. Transferred to Lisahally on 3 June.

After U-190 had surrendered from sea in Newfoundland and been moved to Halifax, it had been commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy as its first-ever submarine. Its initial task in summer 1945 was to undertake a publicity tour of the ports and communities along the St Lawrence River and in the Gulf of St Lawrence. It was then inspected by the Tripartite Naval Board for the Western Hemisphere but, unlike the other U-Boat that surrendered in Canada (U-889), it was not included in the USA's allocation.

Whilst the TNC formally allocated U-190 to the UK as one of its 10 retained U-Boats, it was immediately gifted back to Canada by the UK in recognition of the part played by the Royal Canadian Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic, thus accounting for subsequent confusion as to why U-190 remained in Canada after the war. Thereafter, operating out of Halifax, it was used by the RCN as an anti-submarine training vessel.

In the course of debates which led to the Potsdam Agreement, France had been keen to be allocated a share of the surrendered German fleet, but whilst the UK had considerable sympathy with the French request, it was vetoed by the USSR. Also, during the same debates, the French Navy had indicated informally that it was anxious to obtain the 16 partially completed U-Boats found in the Deschimag AG-Weser shipyard in Bremen, a survey of which indicated that the majority could be launched within two months, and that they could all be completed within six months. However, this suggestion also failed to gain Allied support. Thus the French Navy was allocated no U-Boats by the TNC.

Nevertheless, after the formal transfers to the Allies had taken place in late 1945, the UK decided that it did not need all 10 of the U-Boats that it had been allocated by the TNC, 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) could 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, but eventually the loan was never called-in.

The move of U-2326 and U-2518 from the UK to France was code-named "Operation Thankful". The two U-Boats left Lisahally on 5 February 1946 and arrived in Cherbourg on 13 February, where they were handed over to the French Navy.

The seven U-boats which remained in the UK were used for a variety of trial and experimental purposes by the Royal Navy between 1946 and 1948 until they were sold for scrap in 1949.

Their ultimate disposal was as follows:

U-712 Arrived at the Thomas Ward shipyard at Hayle, Cornwall on 28 June 1949, and broken up during 1950.
U-953 Broken up by Clayton and Davie ship-breakers at Dunston on the River Tyne in June 1949.
U-1108 Arrived at the Thomas Ward shipyard at Briton Ferry, Glamorgan, S Wales on 12 May 1949, and broken up during 1949.
U-1171 Sold for scrap to Thomas Young’s shipyard, Sunderland in April 1949.
U-1407 Broken up by Thomas Ward Ltd in the Vickers Yard at Barrow, in December 1949.
U-2348 Sold for scrap to John Leigh and Co, Belfast in April 1949.
U-3017Broken up by J Cashmore and Co in Newport, S Wales in late 1949.

This article was published on 13 Dec 2010.

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