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The cutting edge U-boat that sunk in 1945 was raised in 1957 & returned to service – today you can go aboard yourself

Sam Dickson
Here she is in all her glory. Type XII introduced streamlining in U-Boat design, resulting in a quantum leap in underwater performance. All submarines before this one were basically designed to submerge and stay under the surface in one place (sans minor pedestrian manoeuvres using electric power). Type XXI could easily steam in circles around any Allied convoy - all under water. source

Here she is in all her glory. Type XII introduced streamlining in U-Boat design, resulting in a quantum leap in underwater performance. All submarines before this one were basically designed to submerge and stay under the surface in one place (sans minor pedestrian manoeuvres using electric power). Type XXI could easily steam in circles around any Allied convoy – all under water. source

U-2540 was an advanced submarine which entered service on 24th February 1945. Less than 3 months later, on 4th May, she was scuttled by her own crew.

In 1957, she was raised and returned to service on 1st September 1960 as the research submarine Wilhelm Bauer. She served in a civilian role under various research projects before decommissioning on 15th March 1982.

On 24th April 1984, she was transferred to the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum (German Maritime Museum) as the Technikmuseum Wilhelm Bauer.

 

The entrance to the museum is adorned by two propellers, one of which is shown here. I'm quite certain that these are the original propellers of this U-boat. source

The entrance to the museum is adorned by two propellers, one of which is shown here. I’m quite certain that these are the original propellers of this U-boat. source

In the spring of 1943, Germany was clearly losing the battle of the Atlantic. Improvements in Allied escort material and tactics, combined with cracking the German military code dramatically increased the U-Boats´ losses, rendering them near useless.

The German high command saw its best reaction in the speedy development of improved submarines.

These were meant to overcome the shortcomings of the current types VII and IX, especially their low speed and little underwater endurance. A future submarine would have to be fast, silent and able to operate submerged for any given time to evade enemy aircraft.

In the long run, the Germans saw their biggest potential in a propulsion independent from surface air, made possible by the Walter turbine (we aircraft modellers know Mr. Walter for his RATO pods used to bolster the thrust of German aircraft on take-off).

It utilised Hydrogen peroxide as fuel; this system would give the boat a hitherto impossible underwater speed of more than 20 knots, yet only limited range. Sources wiki /wiki /uboataces 

Two submarine hulls were in the developing stage that would make use of the system. The larger one, the Type XVIII, was designed for long-range operations.

It combined a diesel-electric powerplant for long-range duty (getting into the operations area and back) with a Walter turbine (for underwater attack use only).

Thus, the hull grew rather large, yet was designed with a streamlined perfection hitherto unknown. The smaller craft, the Type XXII, would be used near the shore and was much smaller.

 

Here she is in all her glory. Type XII introduced streamlining in U-Boat design, resulting in a quantum leap in underwater performance. All submarines before this one were basically designed to submerge and stay under the surface in one place (sans minor pedestrian manoeuvres using electric power). Type XXI could easily steam in circles around any Allied convoy - all under water. source

Here she is in all her glory. Type XII introduced streamlining in U-Boat design, resulting in a quantum leap in underwater performance. All submarines before this one were basically designed to submerge and stay under the surface in one place (sans minor pedestrian manoeuvres using electric power). Type XXI could easily steam in circles around any Allied convoy – all under water. source

The project was delayed by the complicated and largely untested power plant: It was felt that it would take several years for it to achieve sufficient reliability for combat use.

Moreover, the current production of Hydrogen peroxide was much too small for the projected needs of a large submarine fleet; so adequate capacities would have to be built up beforehand.

In this situation in the spring of 1943, with dozens of boats lost to Allied forces, as an interim solution it was decided to mate the hulls of the projected Walter boats with conventional powerplants, although with three times the battery capacity than hitherto.

This were the types XXI and XXIII which should help turn the tide of the war. Until their deployment, the current types, successively equipped with snorkels, had to soldier on despite staggering losses and somehow bind Allied forces.

The Type XXI was a bigger boat than the Type VII; it was well designed and resembled in no way a stopgap construction.

The new boat’s hull was designed for high underwater speeds; its shape reflected a change in design: All earlier submarines had essentially been surface vessels that submerged for short spells – this would be a real submarine for the first time.

The streamlined shape of the hull and the conning tower produced less noise and made detection by acoustics harder.

Moreover, the engines´ efficiency was nearly doubled, giving the Type XXI a top submerged speed of nearly 18 knots for short periods of time.

The vessel’s detectability by Sonar or ASDIC could not be altogether eliminated, but in the event it turned out that the new boats were much harder to detect than their predecessors on account of their optimised shape and silent engines. They were also able to sail much faster in silent mode than hitherto.

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