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Re: UC-61: Who fired the shell?
Posted by: chrisheal ()
Date: July 24, 2016 06:03PM

Hello Michael

I have just returned from a trip to France. I was able to meet with Alain Richard (an old acquaintance of yours, I believe) and to visit with him the UC-61 wreck site near Wissant. The remains which sank again beneath the sand in 2014 have (again) reappeared - not much to show, but it is there.

By comparing the site of the stranding with many contemporary pictures of the beached u-boat, we were able to conclude definitively that UC-61 stranded almost parallel to the shoreline and was pointing west towards Cap Gris Nez, the end of which was at 120 degrees to the boat's centre line. UC-61 was able to reach this far up the beach at this odd angle only because by absolute chance it found in thick fog at high tide a very narrow and short channel (which shows today on the SHOM charts). This is what trapped it when the tide began dropping almost immediately.

The shell hole trajectory is at a further sixty degrees from this line, meaning that if the shell was fired after stranding it would have come from a vessel at sea somewhere off Cap Gris Nez (not as I conjectured previously from inland because I anticipated that the vessel would have come to rest roughly pointing up the beach). By the time the fog had cleared and the vessel could have been seen from the west, the beach was crowded with people. The first French patrol vessels (which did not fire) came from the east.

However, after further research on the same trip at the Pas-de-Calais archives in Arras and Dainville, I have found several other contemporary (1917) reports stating that the u-boat was hit at sea before stranding. It seems the only reason that this occurrence does not appear in the conventional story is because it was omitted from Albert Chatelle's 1929 account upon which so much recent material is based. Even Chatelle, I now find, in a 1921 account, mentions the shell damage occurred before stranding.

I have one conjecture on who fire the shell. The day UC-61 sailed from Zeebrugge (25 July) was also the day the Dover Patrol began to lay the deep mines for the new Folkestone / Gris Nez barrage (more checking to be done). There would have been a lot of unusual activity, unexpected by UC-61, from minelayers and support ships. UC-61 did not get as far as the intended new barrage line.

Any further thoughts are most welcome.

Chris Heal

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Subject Written By Posted
UC-61: Who fired the shell? chrisheal 06/29/2016 12:20PM
Re: UC-61: Who fired the shell? Michael Lowrey 06/29/2016 09:12PM
Re: UC-61: Who fired the shell? chrisheal 06/30/2016 07:02AM
Re: UC-61: Who fired the shell? chrisheal 07/24/2016 06:03PM

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