Daily Record and Sunday Mail
5 July 2015
A HISTORIAN has shed new light on how the pride of the German navy gave up the fight in a Highland wilderness at the end of World War II.
David Hird discovered that a tiny loch was the scene of the mass surrender of Nazi U-boats in 1945. It was the biggest gathering of the German submarine fleet.
The surrender of the subs – the wolf pack that terrorised the north Atlantic shipping lanes – in Loch Eriboll was one of the strangest episodes at the end of the war.
The Sutherland sea loch was the perfect spot. Its deep anchorage was isolated – limiting the chance of a last show of defiance by commanders.
At a time when the phrase “loose lips sink ships” was all too common, it was easy to swear the locals to secrecy.
It was often assumed that only a handful of crews gave themselves up in the sheltered inlet.
David’s tireless research has shown that some of the most feared U-boat commanders of the war gave themselves up there.
They included men such as Fregattenkapitan Ottoheinrich Junker, whose vessel took part
in the infamous wolf pack patrols that sank Allied ships and killed thousands of sailors.
Former local government officer David, 70, a Yorkshireman who lives in east Sutherland, tells the story in his book, The Grey Wolves of Eriboll.
He said: “Junker was commander of the ocean-going U-532 submarine and one of the most senior officers present at the surrenders in Loch Eriboll.
“He commissioned U-532 in November 1942 and stayed with the boat until the surrender. He sank eight Allied ships and damaged a further two.
“He was part of the north Atlantic wolf pack patrols and spent two years in the Far East and Indian Ocean.
“At the capitulation, Junker and U-532 surrendered in accordance with the broadcast instructions and put in at Loch Eriboll. He made something of a nuisance of himself.
“Junker was a somewhat arrogant individual with extreme right-wing views.
“On surrender, he demanded that he be sent to London immediately – and a corner seat on the Flying Scotsman no less – as the capitulation was merely a ruse to enable Germany and the Allies to wage war on Russia together.
“As a result, he and his boat were escorted to Liverpool rather than Ulster, which gave rise to spurious notions that he surrendered there. Again, he did not.”
The 10-mile-long sea loch, close to Cape Wrath, was the only Scottish rendezvous point for U-boats, which had been the linchpins of Hitler’s plans to starve the UK of food, equipment and raw materials.
Between May 10 and May 25, 1945, the loch became the scene of the biggest surrender of German submarines. Thirty-three U-boat commanders gave up their vessels.
David’s book – which is being updated with his new research in coming months – shines a light on this forgotten story.
He has pieced together the details of every U-boat that surrendered at Loch Eriboll. The total left him “staggered”.
One of the vessels, U-1231, was the fleet’s “off-licence”, loaded up with wine.
Junker’s boat, U-532, had returned from the Far East with a haul of raw rubber, quinine and other war supplies.
David’s research has recently focused on the men aboard the U-boats.
He added: “There are some really interesting stories.
“Radioman Albert Arndts was on board U-293. He surrendered on May 11, 1945, and was repatriated three years later to East Germany.
“He had to flee the feared Stasi because of his suspected involvement in the attack on a Russian vessel in 1945 by U-293.
“He eventually escaped to the British zone of Germany in 1949 and made his return to the UK, becoming a British citizen in 1954.”
More than 300,000 tons of Allied shipping had been sunk by the vessels that surrendered – 59 merchant ships and 14 warships. The U-boats were disarmed within hours of arrival – explosives, shells and any other weaponry were tipped into the loch. Then the subs were sent on to locations including Lochalsh, Wester Ross, where the crews were arrested.
Eventually, 121 of the 154 surrendered subs were scuttled in deep water off Lisahally, Northern Ireland, or Loch Ryan, Wigtownshire, in late 1945 and early 1946.