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Hitler's Lost Fleet

Cigdem Göle

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Hitler's Lost Fleet lies at the bottom of the Black Sea..


The submarines had been carried 2,000 miles overland from Germany

to attack Russian shipping during the Second World War, but were scuttled

as the war neared its end. Now, more than 60 years on, explorers have located

the flotilla of three submarines off the coast of Turkey.

The vessels, including one once commanded by Germany's most successful U-boat ace,

formed part of the 30th Flotilla of six submarines, taken by road and river across

Nazi-occupied Europe, from Germany's Baltic port at Kiel to Constanta, the Romanian

Black Sea port.

In two years, the fleet sank dozens of ships and lost three of their number to enemy action.

But in August 1944, Romania switched sides and declared war on Germany,

leaving the three remaining vessels stranded.

With no base and unable to sail home - the Bosporus and Dardanelles were closed to

them because of Turkish neutrality - their captains were ordered to scuttle the boats

before rowing ashore and trying to make their way back to Germany. However, all three

crews were caught and interned by the Turks.

Now the submarines' hulls have been discovered by a team led by Selçuk Kolay,

a Turkish marine engineer, who will present his findings to a shipwreck conference

in Plymouth this week.

Mr Kolay established the boats' positions through research in German archives,

interviews with surviving sailors and by sonar studies of the seabed.

He has already completed successful dives to the wreckage of one vessel,

U-20, two miles offshore in about 80ft of water. He believes he has discovered another, U-23,

at twice that depth, three miles from the town of Agva, but bad weather forced him to suspend

diving until the spring.

He thinks he is also close to pinpointing the third boat, U-19, thought to lie more than 1,000ft down,

three miles from the Turkish city of Zonguldak.

"It's one of the least well known stories of the war but one of the most interesting," said Mr Kolay.

"It is a quite incredible story. To get to the Black Sea these boats had to be taken across the land,

and once they got there they had no way out."

All three U-boats had been operating against British shipping in the North Sea. U-23

gained notoriety for scoring one of Germany's earliest successes, sinking a British ship

off the Shetland Islands days after war began. It was later commanded by Otto Kretschmer,

known as "Silent Otto", the most successful U-boat ace.

Edited by Cigdem Eksi
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