Of all the hundreds of U-boats that were built, very few survive. One is the U-534, sunken only to be raised, displayed, abandoned again, and finally being repurposed as a sliced-and-diced tourist attraction on the Mersey River in the northwest of England.
This approximately 20 minute promotional video tells U-534’s story, from its last mission, to its last desperate fight with two Liberator bombers, to its recovery from the bottom of the sea, it’s abandonment to the elements, and finally, to its survival in Liverpool. The boat sank into a fissure deep in the Kattegat, yet all but two of the crew lived — the five or six of them who didn’t get out in time still managed to escape, like a handful of the survivors of the American sub Wahoo, from a torpedo-room escape trunk. A young radio operator was among the escapees, but did not exhale to equalize pressure as he rose, and died horribly as a result.
The attacking Liberators didn’t fare as well — one did sink the U-boat with depth charges, but not until after the gunners on U-534 had shot the other bomber down with the loss of its entire crew.
There is a great deal of information about this ill-fated submarine on the net. For instance, this page is the first of several that show some of the materials recovered from the boat, including documents that were readily restored to legibility. Here’s a report of what it was like to visit the boat during its near-abandonment on a quay in nearby Birkenhead. U-595’s armament was interesting, with lots of rapid-firing AA guns and three new homing torpedoes.
U-595 is one of only four U-Boats to survive. The others include sister Type VIIC/40 U-505 at the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology, which was captured during the war; near-sister Type VIIC/41 U-995, taken by Norway postwar and later acquired by German veterans as a memorial, on the water’s edge at Laboe; and the advanced Type XXI U-2540, which was raised a dozen years post-war (it had been scuttled) and served the Bundesmarine as Wilhelm Bauer. U-2540 has been restored to WWII condition as a museum ship, and is the only U-Boat still afloat.
There is one mystery remaining: why did U-534 fight? Despite the survival of most of the crew, this remains unclear. You see, the fight took place after Admiral Dönitz had surrendered to the Allies, and instructed all boats at see to fly white flags of surrender and to give themselves over to Allied forces. The captain committed suicide shortly after the end of the war. The most probable reason is prosaic: the boat hadn’t received Dönitz’s message.