At the end of 1945 Britain had in its possession 110 German U-boats, based at Loch Ryan, Scotland and Lisahally, Northern Ireland. The British Government made a decision that all these boats were to be sunk by various means in deep water. Some say this was meant to be a terrible retribution for the damage that U-boats had done to the Allies. Orders issued on 14th November 1945 outlined the fate of these vessels and "Operation Deadlight" began.

Those vessels that were to be scuttled had explosive charges placed in the forward and aft torpedo tubes and various hatches. These were to be detonated by use of a physically set fuse, or in the event that men were unable to board, an electrical fuse, detonated by the towing ship. The other U-boats where to be sunk by aircraft, gunfire, torpedoes and the then top-secret "Squid" ship-to-ship missile.

Operation Deadlight's D-Day was to be 25th November 1945 and would continue until 12th February 1946. The U-boats were to be towed to an area approximately 120 miles northwest of Ireland known as Position ZZ. Due to the onset of winter gales and unsuitable towing vessels, 57 U-boats never made it to Position ZZ.

U-boat types sunk in Operation Deadlight

U3514 (Type VIIc) was the last U-boat to be sunk in Operation Deadlight. On the morning of Tuesday 12th February HMS Loch Arkaig sent five 4'' shells towards U-514. Only one shell hit the casting forward of the conning tower. She then straffed the U-3514 with close range weapons, but the U-3514 was still afloat. HMS Loch Arkaig then fired six "Shark projectiles". Two hit amidships and one ricocheted off the conning tower without exploding. The commander of HMS Arkaig ordered the ship to break away and prepare for another run using "Squid" missiles. Whist the Arkaig was getting into a reasonable attacking position, the bows of U-3514 began to sink. She hung there vertically for a moment, then slid underwater. HMS Arkaig finally loss contact with the U-boat at 600 feet. U-3514 had, in her last action, demonstrated many of the reasons why the Allies had found it so difficult to deal with the U-boat menace during WWII.

German WWII Insignia

Heinrich Schroteler, commander of U-1023

Heinrich Schroteler, commander of U-1023


In the late nineties an approach was made to the British Ministry of Defence for salvage rights on the Operation Deadlight U-boats by a firm who planned to raise up to a hundred of them. Because the wrecks were constructed in the pre-atomic age, they contain metals which are not radioactively tainted and which are therefore valuable for certain research purposes. No salvage award was made due to objections from Russia and the USA, and it is now probable that the U-boats will remain under the sea.