German submarine U-534

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U-534 at Birkenhead Docks
U-534 at Birkenhead Docks in March 2007
Nazi Germany
Name: U-534
Ordered: 10 April 1941
Builder: Deutsche Werft AG, Hamburg
Yard number: 352
Laid down: 20 February 1942
Launched: 3 September 1942
Commissioned: 3 December 1942
Fate: Sunk by aircraft, 5 May 1945
General characteristics
Class & type: Type IXC/40 submarine
  • 1,144 t (1,126 long tons) surfaced
  • 1,257 t (1,237 long tons) submerged
  • 6.86 m (22 ft 6 in) o/a
  • 4.44 m (14 ft 7 in) pressure hull
Height: 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)
Draught: 4.67 m (15 ft 4 in)
Installed power:
  • 4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
  • 1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
  • 18.3 knots (33.9 km/h; 21.1 mph) surfaced
  • 7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph) submerged
  • 13,850 nmi (25,650 km; 15,940 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 63 nmi (117 km; 72 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Service record
Part of:
Commanders: Kptlt. Herbert Nollau
Operations: One training patrol, two combat patrols.
Victories: No ships sunk. Two British aircraft shot down

German submarine U-534 is a Type IXC/40 U-boat of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine built for service during World War II. She was built in 1942 in Hamburg-Finkenwerder by Deutsche Werft AG as yard number 352. She was launched on 23 September 1942 and commissioned on 23 December with Oberleutnant zur See Herbert Nollau in command.

The U-boat is one of only four German WWII submarines in preserved condition remaining in the world, another being the IXC boat U-505 in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.[1] This boat was used mainly for training duties, and during her service she sank no other ships. A Royal Air Force bomber sank her on 5 May 1945 in the Kattegat some 20 kilometers northeast of the Danish island of Anholt. U-534 was salvaged in 1993 and since February 2009 has been on display in Birkenhead as part of the U-boat Story.


German Type IXC/40 submarines were slightly larger than the original Type IXCs. U-534 had a displacement of 1,144 tonnes (1,126 long tons) when at the surface and 1,257 tonnes (1,237 long tons) while submerged.[2] The U-boat had a total length of 76.76 m (251 ft 10 in), a pressure hull length of 58.75 m (192 ft 9 in), a beam of 6.86 m (22 ft 6 in), a height of 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in), and a draught of 4.67 m (15 ft 4 in). The submarine was powered by two MAN M 9 V 40/46 supercharged four-stroke, nine-cylinder diesel engines producing a total of 4,400 metric horsepower (3,240 kW; 4,340 shp) for use while surfaced, two Siemens-Schuckert 2 GU 345/34 double-acting electric motors producing a total of 1,000 shaft horsepower (1,010 PS; 750 kW) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 1.92 m (6 ft) propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 230 metres (750 ft).[2]

The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 18.3 knots (33.9 km/h; 21.1 mph) and a maximum submerged speed of 7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph).[2] When submerged, the boat could operate for 63 nautical miles (117 km; 72 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph); when surfaced, she could travel 13,850 nautical miles (25,650 km; 15,940 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). U-534 was fitted with six 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 22 torpedoes, one 10.5 cm (4.13 in) SK C/32 naval gun, 180 rounds, and a 3.7 cm (1.5 in) as well as a 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of forty-eight.[2]

Service history

After commissioning, U-534 was assigned to the 4th U-boat Flotilla, based in Stettin, for training purposes and weapons testing, including the new acoustic torpedo Zaunkoenig T-5, until February 1943. She was then reconfigured (main gun removed, flak gun added) and in June 1943 transferred to the 2nd flotilla based in Saltzwedel.

May 1944

U-534 headed for Bergen and arrived on 6 May 1944. Two days later she left on operational duty, along with U-853 and U-857, for weather reporting duty off the coast of Greenland. Her first war patrol was plagued by an oil leak and bad weather in the North Atlantic.

August 1944

On 11 August she was attacked by an aircraft but escaped undamaged. Two days later she, along with U-857 and U-437, was attacked by two Halifax bombers. The aircraft suffered heavy flak damage, and U-534 arrived safely at Bordeaux, where she was fitted with a Schnorchel. On the second patrol, from 25 August 1944 to 24 October, the boat had to escape the Allied blockade of Lorient in France get back to a friendly port. Again, no ships were sunk, but an attacking Vickers Wellington bomber of No. 172 Squadron RAF was shot down on 27 August.

October 1944

On 25 October U-534 left Bordeaux and the new Schnorchel was used for the first time. However, exhaust gases leaked into the boat and several crew members collapsed. Surfacing for air, she was spotted and attacked by a Wellington bomber, which her gunners shot down. On 28 October, she was then transferred to the 33rd U-boat Flotilla and underwent an extensive refit in Stettin, which put her out of duty until 1 May 1945.

May 1945

In the early hours of 5 May 1945, a partial surrender ordered by Admiral Dönitz of German forces in Denmark, Germany and other areas went into effect. U-534 was informed by the harbor master at Oresund Elsinore that the ceasefire was in effect south of the 56th parallel.[3][4]

Incidents leading to sinking

U-534 under attack by an RAF Liberator, from 86 Squadron

On 5 May 1945, the U-534 was 2 nautical miles (3.7 km) north of the 56th parallel, and Nollau decided to form a convoy with two Type XXI U-boats, namely U-3523 and U-3503, and continue sailing north on the surface of the Kattegat sea in an area too shallow for crash diving, when two British RAF Liberator aircraft attacked (G/86 George from Tain and E/547 Edward from Leuchars). The crew managed to shoot one bomber down, and nine depth charges from the bombing runs missed, but then the boat received a direct hit by a depth charge from G/86. U-534 began to take on water as a result of the damage to her aft section by the engine rooms, and sank north-east of Anholt. The shot-down Liberator crashed 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) away; all crew on board the plane were lost.

U-534 had a crew of 52 men, all of whom escaped the sub, and 49 survived to be rescued. Five were trapped in the torpedo room as she began to sink but escaped through the torpedo loading hatch once the boat had settled on the sea bed. These five men planned their escape the way that they had been trained, and exited via the forward torpedo hatch once U-534 had settled on the seabed; swimming up from a depth of 67 metres (220 ft). One of these crewmen, 17-year-old radio operator, Josef Neudorfer, failed to breathe out as he was surfacing from depth and died from damage to his lungs. The other two deaths were caused by exposure.[3][4]


FLAK weaponry

Twin 3.7 cm Flak M42U guns on the DLM 42U mount

U-534 was mounted with the rare Twin 3.7 cm Flakzwilling M43U on the DLM42 mount. This was one of the best AA weapons used by Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during World War II. The DLM42 mount was mainly used on the Type IX as it was rather heavy for the Type VII U-boats. The 3.7 cm Flak M42U was the marine version of the 3.7 cm Flak used by the Kriegsmarine on Type VII and Type IX U-boats.

Anti-submarine counter-measures

Fitted just above the propeller shaft on the starboard side was the exit chute of a Pillenwerfer. What came out of this chute was an anti-sonar decoy called Bold, named after Kubold which was a goblin in German folklore. The purpose was to create a false target for the enemy's sonar by creating a screen of bubbles from the chemical reaction of calcium hydride with sea water.


U-534 lay on the sea bed for nearly 41 years until she was found in 1986 by the Danish wreck hunter Aage Jensen. Shortly after the leader of the owners' group presented the idea to Danish media millionaire Karsten Ree who then sponsored the raising of the submarine amid rumours of Nazi gold and intense media coverage. Hopes of gold treasure proved unfounded, as the ship contained nothing extraordinary.[5]

She was raised to the surface by Dutch salvage company Smit Tak on 23 August 1993.

Museum ship

Transported to Birkenhead, England, in 1996, the vessel formed part of the Warship Preservation Trust's collection at Birkenhead Docks until the museum closed on 5 February 2006. On 27 June 2007, the Merseytravel transit authority announced that it had acquired the submarine to display at the Woodside Ferry Terminal.[6]

For technical reasons and to facilitate economical transportation to its new site, the vessel was cut into five sections, two of which were subsequently re-joined. It is now displayed in sectioned form to allow visitors better visibility without entering the U-boat.[7] Merseytravel said that preserving the hull intact would have created prohibitive transport costs.[8] Engineers began a month-long operation to cut up U-534, using a diamond wire cutter, on 6 February 2008. Beginning on 10 March 2008, the sections, each weighing up to 240 tonnes, were transported by floating crane over several days.

The U-Boat Story exhibition opened on 10 February 2009.


See also

Media related to German submarine U-534 at Wikimedia Commons

Surviving U-Boats



  1. Engineers breaking-up WWII U-boat, BBC News, 6 February 2008, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Gröner 1991, p. 68.
  3. 3.0 3.1 U-534, Lexikon der Wehrmacht, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Helgason, Guðmundur. "The Type IXC/40 boat U-534". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 5 July 2009. 
  5. U-534 can now be seen in Liverpool, Diveship Ternen, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  6. Woodside Ferry to be new home for rescued U-boat, Liverpool Daily Post, July 2007, retrieved 4 July 2009 
  7. U-Boat Story, Mersey Ferries, retrieved 5 July 2009 
  8. U-boat's future is secured, Liverpool Daily Post, 22 October 2007, retrieved 4 July 2009 


  • Busch, Rainer; Röll, Hans-Joachim (1999). Deutsche U-Boot-Verluste von September 1939 bis Mai 1945. Der U-Boot-Krieg (in German). IV. Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn: Mittler. ISBN 3-8132-0514-2. 
  • Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4. 

External links

Coordinates: 53°23′42″N 3°00′34″W / 53.3950855°N 3.0093312°W / 53.3950855; -3.0093312