Divers exploring the depths off the coast of Shetland in Scotland have identified a World War One German U-boat that sank during the conflict.
The submarine in question is the SM UC-55, a Type UC II mine-laying U-boat that was part of the German Imperial Navy’s fleet during WWI. The wreck, lying at a depth of 341 feet, was spotted near the Shetland Islands, offering a haunting glimpse into the past.
The SM UC-55 submarine met its tragic fate in 1917, about eight miles southeast of Lerwick, after being sunk by the Royal Navy.
It had been engaged in laying mines in the convoy channel between Orkney and Shetland before encountering a technical fault that forced it to surface. Upon surfacing, it came under attack by two Royal Navy destroyers, HMS Tirade, and HMS Sylvia, which opened fire and eventually caused the submarine to sink.
While the site of the wreck was initially detected by scanning equipment in the mid-1980s, it was only recently that divers from the Stromness boat Valhalla, led by ship captain Hazel Weaver, were able to conduct a thorough exploration. Weaver and her team meticulously planned the dive for over a decade, finally confirming the identity of the long-sought-after UC-55.
Jacob Mackenzie, one of the divers who visited the wreck, described the experience as eerie, considering the tragic fate of some of the crew members who perished along with their vessel. He pointed out that approximately 15 crew members managed to escape, but the majority remained trapped inside, turning the site into an underwater grave for about 20 men.
The dive team was able to ascertain the identity of the U-boat because details of the damage had been recorded in the logbooks of the Royal Navy destroyers involved in sinking it.
The SM UC-55 was part of Germany’s pioneering naval submarine program during WWI, which played a pivotal role in both the First and Second World Wars. These U-boats posed a significant threat to merchant ships and military vessels, leaving a lasting impact on naval warfare during the conflicts.
Despite their extensive use at the time, only four intact U-boats remain today, with many others resting on the ocean floor as silent reminders of the past.
As a testament to the significance of the site, the British government has designated the wreck as an official war grave, ensuring its preservation and respecting the memory of the crew members who lost their lives. A spokesman for the Royal Navy emphasized that the site should be left undisturbed, serving as a somber reminder of the casualties of war.