Operation Deadlight

Operation Deadlight

U-Boats Sunk off Northern Ireland in Operation Deadlight

From November 1945 to February 1946, 116 German U-boats were scuttled off the northwest coast of Northern Ireland in Operation Deadlight.

AP Archive footage of scenes from Operation Deadlight showing the sinking of German U-boats by RAF Coastal Command off Northern Ireland.

During the Battle of the Atlantic the U-boat menace had plagued Allied shipping. As early as 1944 the British government had begun to draw up plans for the destruction of the German U-boat force following the end of the war. Following Allied victory in Europe, 156 U-boats surrendered either side of the Atlantic in early May 1945.

Forty-two surrendered U-boats moored at Lisahally, Northern Ireland, 12 June 1945. (Royal Navy photograph A 29241 from Imperial War Museum)

Of these 156 U-boats. 138 were transferred to Lisahally in Northern Ireland and Loch Ryan in Scotland to await their future.

At the 18th Meeting of the Tripartite Naval Commission on 29 October, it was decided that all unallocated submarines were to be sunk in open seas no later than 15 February 1946.

Of the 135 U-boats moored in Northern Ireland and Scotland, 116 were marked for destruction – 86 from Loch Ryan and 30 from Lisahally – ; while remaining 19 were divided amongst the Allied powers.

On 31 October the Royal Navy were given orders to began the disposal of the U-boats.

Formal orders were issued on 14 November for the scuttling in deep water off northwest of Northern Ireland of 86 U-boats from Loch Ryan and 24 from Lisahally to commence on 25 November with boats from Lock Ryan.

The U-boats were to be unarmed and towed 130 miles to a designated position and sunk by demolition charges. Weather permitting, a number of U-boats were to be sunk by the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm, while others were to be sunk by Royal Navy submarines.

Free Polish Navy destroyer ORP Krakowiak towing German Type XXIII U-boat U-2337 out to sea for scuttling from Lock Ryan on 28 November 1945. (Press Agency/Imperial War Museum)

As predicted the weather in November was bad, as a result 50% of the boats foundered under tow not making it to their designated position: either sinking or having to be sunk by gunfire. Only two U-boats were sunk by demolition charges, seven by submarines and 13 by aircraft.

The 28 of the U-Boats from Lisahally were sunk between 29 December 1945 and 9 January 1946, and the remaining two were sunk on 10 and 12 February 1946.

British Pathé footage of Operation Deadlight.

Posted in: Battle of the Atlantic, Northern Ireland, Royal Navy, Second World War, World War Two

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