Birkenhead - U 534

The U-534 is a German IXC/40 submarine launched in early September 1942. The U-534 belonged to the 4th submarine flotilla and was stationed in Stettin (now Szczecin in Poland) and was used until May 1943 only for exercises and trainings. In June 1943, the U-534 was transferred to the second submarine fleet based in Lorient on the French Atlantic coast. In May 1944, the U-534 was transferred to the base in Bergen and the same month the U-534 embarked on its first mission. In August, the U-534 was attacked by British aircraft but escaped and managed to escape to the base in Bordeaux where the U-534 was equipped with a snorkel. That same month, the U-534 ran out again but faced technical problems and was forced to surface where the U-534 was discovered by British aircraft. During the battle that followed, the U-534 managed to shoot down two British planes and escaped.

In October 1944, the U 534 reached Kiel and became part of the 33rd submarine flotilla. However, the U 534 was in need of extensive repairs that lasted until May 1945. In early May 1945, the U 534 (and two more submarines) were en route to the Kattegat but were discovered by British aircraft and attacked. U 534 managed to shoot down one of the planes with was damaged difficult to sink bombs and began to sink. The crew was forced to evacuate and of 53 crew members only 3 died while the others survived.

Current status: Partly preserved/demolished with museum (2023).

Address: Woodside Ferry Terminal, Birkenhead CH41 6DU.

Get there: Metro to Hamilton Square station.

My comment:

In 1986, the wreck of the submarine was discovered at a depth of just 70 meters and in 1993 the submarine was salvaged and brought in 1996 to Birkenhead’s port area (part of Liverpool) where it became part of the Warship Preservation Trust until it the museum closed in 2006. The submarine was then taken over by the Merseytravel transit authority, which opened the museum The Uboat Story in 2009. The submarine had then been split into four parts and exhibited at the port of Birkenhead as an outdoor museum. You can think and think what you want about splitting a preserved submarine in this way, that it is in a way to destroy a historical artifact, but it may have to do with the fact that there was no room to fit an entire submarine and that one then had to compromise with history.

However, the submarine was exposed to both weather and wind, and in 2021 the submarine was taken over by the Western Approaches Museum, which will restore it and closed the submarine to visitors in 2022. Therefore, when I visited the submarine in 2023, I could only see it from the outside of the fence because the work of making a more sustainable solution of the submarine conservation was ongoing. The U-534 is one of four surviving German submarines from the Second World War, the other three being the U-505, Chicago, U-995, Laboe and U-2540, Bremerhaven.

Follow up in books: Blair, Clay: Hitler’s U-Boat War: The Hunted: 1942-1945 (1996).