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Operation Deadlight

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Operation Deadlight was the planned scuttling of the German U-Boat fleet, surrendered to the Allies at the end of World War II.

The operation commenced on November 25, 1945, lasting until February 12, 1946. The selected location was referred to as Point ZZ, and lay some 120 miles north west of Ireland. The various numbers quoted in the many reports of the operation do not tally, therefore the figures that follow are given for illustration only, and are not intended for comment or revision.

  • Of 154 U-Boats sent, 121 were actually scuttled.
    • 33 were used for other purposes, including:
      • 5 commandeered by Japan, being in the Far East at the time.
      • a number that survived as museum ships.
      • those used for testing, sinking during explosives testing, or sunk thereafter.
  • 57 said to be lost to winter gales while en-route (53 in another account).
  • 119 scuttled off Malin Head, Ireland; Lisahally, Ireland; and Loch Ryan, Scotland.
    • 35 used for other purposes and discarded later.
  • 115 scuttled off the coast of Ireland.
    • 39 used for various task, then sunk.

Point ZZ is also not defined precisely, and the point shown on the map is an approximation, made from the reports, intended only to illustrate the general area.

In fact, the true locations of many of the scuttled U-Boats have been recorded in the course of dive surveys carried out in the period 2001 to 2002, and shows that their scattered remains lie in a steadily widening pattern, beginning in the area of the North Channel between England and Northern Ireland, and expanding as it approaches the area of Point ZZ. This dispersal has been attributed to the winter weather, severe enough to have caused the loss of some boats due to the use of inadequate towing vessels, and breakage of tow-lines. While some would have been lost as a result of these problem, others would have require assistance, and been sunk by gunfire or torpedo. Those that arrived at Point ZZ would have been scuttled by explosive charges fixed to their fore and aft torpedo tubes, and their hatches. In some cases, naval guns, aircraft, torpedoes, and missiles were used, including the Shark Ship to Ship missile, a new development at the time.

Reference is also made to use of the Squid to sink some of the boats. Built to launch depth charges in a specific pattern, from three mortar tubes, they were intended for use in pairs, laying six depth charges around a target. When detonated, the combined pressure pulse was designed to crack the boat's hull. Since the U-Boats had no crews on board to submerge them, and were being scuttled from the surface anyway, references to use of this particular weapon would appear to be incorrect.

Clean steel

The seas around Scotland are one of the remaining sources of relatively accessible Clean Steel.

Since the detonation of the first atomic bomb in 1945, radioactive fallout from such explosions has resulted in contamination of the atmosphere by traces of radioactive elements previously not found there. The process of steelmaking consumes vast quantities of air, leading to the concentration of such trace elements in the final product. Modern, high-sensitivity instrumentation, such as that used for nuclear radiation monitoring, is susceptible to the signal produced even by these trace elements, and requires material free from such contamination for its manufacture.

World War I provided one such source, when the German fleet was scuttled at Scapa Flow on June 21, 1919, to prevent its capture by the British.[1] Fifty-one ships sank with a loss of nine lives, the last casualties of that war. Because the fleet was deliberately scuttled by Rear Admiral Ludwig Von Reuter, rather than sunk in battle, the vessels were not classed as War Graves, permitting their later salvage.

Such recovered material is not re-processed or melted down, which would result in its becoming contaminated by modern atmospheric impurities, but is cut and reshaped to suit its final application.

Such sources are limited, and many of them have been used. As a result, sources such as the U-Boats scuttled during Operation Deadlight can become viable, even if associated with high recovery costs. Although there was announcement in 1995 that the MoD awarded salvage right to these boats, nothing appears to have happened since. Subsequent reports of objections received from Russia and America suggests the boats may never be salvaged.

09 April 1997 An interesting story out of Dublin

A plan is being finalized to raise the first of 116 German U-boats scuttled more than 50 years ago off the northwest coast of Ireland, British company Masters Marine Salvage (MMS) which as been granted salvage rights to the submarine graveyard said here Sunday. Commander Mark MacIntyre, managing director of MMS, said they hoped to begin work off County Donegal in mid-May in what will be the biggest salvage operation of its kind in the world in terms of volume. The company had planned to move on site during last year's summer "weather window" but only managed to survey the dive sites which stretch for about 150 miles northwest of Malin Head almost to the edge of the Continental Shelf. The submarines are at depths of 50to 200 metres (150 to 600 feet). The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary body has sought safety guarantees from the salvagers. A subcommittee report said there was no evidence that the raising of the U-boats would be a danger to the public. The company's team will largely be ex-British navy divers and they will be attempting to reverse the work of colleagues who scuttled the U-boats 52 years ago. They estimate the hulks will each contain recoverable metals. There is also a plan to preserve some of the most famous submarines for museums. About 100 of the submarines may be salvageable and the work may take up to eight years. The North Atlantic U-boat fleet surrendered to the allies and were assembled in Lough Foyle between Donegal and LondonDerry. They were sunk in "Operation Deadlight" in December, 1945. The original plan had been to town them out to the deep water Rockall Trench and scuttle them there. Bad weather disrupted the operation and many parted their tows and were sunk by gunfire rather than opening the seacocks and sinking them.

- Diving and Submersibles: Last paras at foot of page.[2]

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Approximate distribution of surveyed U-Boat remains:


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