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Friday, May 16, 2008

Hitler's lost fleet in the depths of the Black Sea

The submarines had been carried 2,000 miles overland from Germany to attack Russian shipping during the Second World War, but were scuttled as the war neared its end. Now, more than 60 years on, explorers have located the flotilla of three submarines off the coast of Turkey.


The vessels, including one once commanded by Germany's most successful U-boat ace, formed part of the 30th Flotilla of six submarines, taken by road and river across Nazi-occupied Europe, from Germany's Baltic port at Kiel to Constanta, the Romanian Black Sea port.

In two years, the fleet sank dozens of ships and lost three of their number to enemy action. But in August 1944, Romania switched sides and declared war on Germany, leaving the three remaining vessels stranded.

With no base and unable to sail home - the Bosporus and Dardanelles were closed to them because of Turkish neutrality - their captains were ordered to scuttle the boats before rowing ashore and trying to make their way back to Germany. However, all three crews were caught and interned by the Turks.

Now the submarines' hulls have been discovered by a team led by Sel├žuk Kolay, a Turkish marine engineer, who will present his findings to a shipwreck conference in Plymouth this week.

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