German WWI submarine remains resurface on French coast

The remains of a German UC-61 submarine have reappeared near a French seaside resort. The submarine was used to sink merchant ships during the First World War. Parts of the U-boat have been visible since December.

The wreckage of a German submarine used in World War I has reappeared on a beach in northern France after being buried under the sand for decades.

[Miscellaneous] | 06.01.2019

The UC-61 submarine sank more than a century ago, with the 20-member crew abandoning the vessel then scuttling it.

The rusty remains of the submarine have been visible at low tide off the coast of the seaside resort town Wissant since December. Two sections of about eight meters (about 26 feet) and three meters (about 10 feet) in length have now resurfaced, Vincent Schmidt, a local tour guide, told the Agence France-Presse news agency

"All the citizens of Wissant know that there is a submarine here," Schmitt said. "But the wreck mostly lies in the sand and therefore cannot be seen. It's the first time it's been exposed so far."

Locals knew the sub was there, but could never get such a clear view of it

The U-boat was originally about 50 meters long. It was deployed in the English channel in July 1917 off the French Opal Coast in the English channel.

Historians say the submarine was tasked with attacking merchant ships. It is credited with sinking at least 11 ships, which it did by laying mines and firing torpedoes. 

Authorities do not want to recover the whole submarine, and Wissant's prefecture says the remains are not dangerous.

dv/sms (AFP, local media)

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

What is unexploded ordnance?

Unexploded ordnance (UXO or sometimes also abbreviated to UO), unexploded bombs (UXBs), or explosive remnants of war (ERW) are explosive weapons such as bombs, shells, grenades, land mines, naval mines and cluster munitions that did not explode when they were deployed. Unexploded ordnance still poses the risk of detonation, even decades after they were used or discarded.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

Why does Germany have a bomb problem?

Between 1940 and 1945, US and British forces dropped 2.7 million tons of bombs on Europe. Half of those bombs targeted Germany. Experts estimate that close to a quarter of a million bombs did not explode due to technical faults. Thousands of these bombs are still hidden underground, sometimes a few meters down and sometimes just below the surface.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

How big is the issue?

The industrial Ruhr area and the Lower Rhine region were heavily bombed, as were the cities of Dresden, Hamburg and Hanover. So this is where most of the unexploded ordnance is found. Bombs are usually unearthed during construction work or are discovered during the examination of historical aerial images. Experts say it could still take decades to clear all of the remaining unexploded ordnance.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

What happens when an unexploded bomb is found?

When confronted with the discovery of an UXO, UO or a UXB, bomb disposal experts have to decide whether to defuse it or to carry out a controlled explosion. Many have lost their lives on the job. German authorities are under pressure to remove unexploded ordnance from populated areas. Experts argue that the bombs are becoming more dangerous as time goes by due to material fatigue.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

How many bomb disposal experts have died?

Eleven bomb technicians have been killed in Germany since 2000, including three who died in a single explosion while trying to defuse a 1,000-pound bomb on the site of a popular flea market in Göttingen in 2010.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

Which was the biggest evacuation?

A 1.8-ton bomb dropped by Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) was found in the city center of Augsburg on December 20, 2016. The find prompted a large-scale bomb disposal operation and consequently the evacuation of over 54,000 people on December 25. To date, this remains the biggest evacuation for the removal of World War II unexploded ordnance in Germany.

Unexploded ordnance in Germany - a legacy of the Allied Forces

What’s the latest?

Authorities conducted another big bomb disposal operation in May 2017, with 50,000 residents in the northwestern city of Hanover forced to evacuate their homes. Thirteen unexploded ordnances from the 1940s were removed. Hanover was a frequent target of Allied bombing in the latter years of the war. On October 9, 1943, some 261,000 bombs were dropped on the city.