Foreign Voices Heard in Darkness

German U-boat being investigated by Royal Navy divers.

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The remains of the First World War U-boat which sank off the Lizard peninsula were investigated last year

The treacherous sea off the coast of Cornwall has claimed many victims over the centuries. One haunting episode off the Lizard peninsula left a German U-boat lying on the seabed about 75 metres deep, where it came to rest after being sunk during the First World War.

Reports from 1918 tell how the crew perished in the bitterly cold January sea and that their “foreign voices” could be heard in the darkness. In June last year, a group of divers braved the high-risk waters off the peninsula to confirm the identity of the submarine.

Working with US-based resting historian Michael Lowrey, the team of British divers organised by Steve Mortimer investigated the wreck and confirmed it was the U 95 submarine, one of four U-boats which disappeared in 1918.

There had been considerable debate about the identity of this German submarine. The Royal Navy believed that it was U 93 submarine and that it had been rammed and sunk by merchant ship SS Braeneil on January 7, 1918. But that was later questioned as the U 93 was assigned to operate off Brittany and subsequently sank two ships.

Diver and photographer Dominic Robinson took part in the dives last June to identify the mysterious boat. He told CornwallLive: “During the first and second world war, there were a number of ships sunken – more during World War One. The Germans lost a lot of their submarines as well during this time so there are lots of wrecks.

“The submarine off the Lizard was first dived in 2006. It’s quite difficult to identify it. You can look at the side of it, how many guns it has and identify what type it is. This was a U 93 type of submarine – which is not to be confused with the submarine called U 93. There are two unidentified ones. One is off France, and one off the Lizard.”

The typical way of identifying a submarine is to look at the numbers on its big brass propellers. “The propeller on the submarine off France was scrubbed in 2004,” Dominic explained. “People thought it was the U 95, because of the date on the propeller.”

Diving off the Lizard from Atlantic Scuba’s dive boat Moonshadow and constrained by the depth and notorious currents, the team scrubbed one of the propellers and found an inscription of the U-boat series and an attachment date.

Comparing the dates on the two submarines’ propellers revealed that they were fitted after launching – which is new information to historians, who believed propellers were fitted before launching. The dates and new information confirmed that the Lizard wreck is U 95 and the one in France is U 93.

All other U-boats from the U 93 – U 98 type were either surrendered at the end of WWI or their location is known.

Dominic previously wrote on his Facebook page: “Although there is damage to the port side it wasn’t particularly conclusive but we did find open hatches in the conning tower and engine room.

“As these couldn’t have been opened underwater we think this confirms that it was sunk by ramming which destroyed the submarine’s buoyancy system whilst concurrently pushing it under.

“Bitterly cold January sea water flooding into the open hatches must have been unimaginably horrendous for the crew and even those who managed to escape wouldn’t have lasted long in the water. Reports from the steamer told of foreign voices in the darkness but in a period of unrestricted submarine warfare I can’t imagine there was much sympathy for them.”

This story was originally published on June 19, 2021.

Original article found here ‘Foreign voices heard in the darkness’ as German submarine sank off the coast of Cornwall – Cornwall Live

U-95 German u-boat highlighted underwater.