I have an elderly neighbor who served in WWII.
He was on a battleship when the news came from the radio room that Germany surrendered.
In the midst of the celebrations onboard, the sea broke, and they found that they had been followed and semi surrounded by U-boats.
The submarines were also listening for news, and their commander had said not to torpedo the ship until they know if the war continues.
It hard to imagine the feeling of victory and relief combined with the feeling that one was almost sunk, and only for the goodness of the German commandeer that wasn't looking to kill indiscriminately..
He told me this emotionally, so I take his word for this, but am open to hearing from those more knowlegable about the facts if his story makes sense.
a) To listen to the radio, the German sub would've needed to keep an aerial above water; this would create a wake which could've been observed, with obvious consequences for the sub. I doubt a commander would have taken that risk.
b) I also doubt he'd risk surfacing near a foe armed to the teeth so shortly after cessation of hostilities - what if the battleship hadn't been notified yet? Or, just as bad - if they had, but assumed the sub hadn't been, and acted accordingly, just to be safe?
c) Further, in the last days of the war, Dönitz (head of the Kriegsmarine) ordered all vessels scuttled, rather than having them fall in enemy hands. I have no idea how many submarines were still operational and on patrol come V-E Day, but presumably most would have been scuttled or headed for South America by then.
So, while I find it unlikely, I wouldn't rule it out, and would love to know more about the incident.
The Cruel Sea ends with a corvette passing some tied up U-boats - given that Nicholas Monsarrat served in corvettes (as described the in Three Corvettes) I don't think he'd have got that detail wrong.
My presumption (and I don't know, I'm guessing) would be that most uboat crews would want to go home and would surrender to the (preferably non-Russian) forces.
South America might be an option if you've been a war criminal (think: concentration camp commandant), but I'd imagine not so much if you're a regular German soldier.
b) "I also doubt he'd risk surfacing near a foe armed to the teeth so shortly after cessation of hostilities"
Ok. This. I would say, yes, they would risk it on the German side. Germans were known to run to American troops for safety. The 'bad war' wasn't between the US and the Germans. The Germans weren't dumb they knew if they surrendered to the US they would have international rights and be treated like POWs.
c) Sure. But that left each vessel to their own devices. I would imagine many surrendering to the US (but still have arms on board).
"I have no idea how many submarines were still operational and on patrol come V-E Day"
I would say not many. Many due to gasoline restrictions. Being a Uboat wasn't hard, it was being an axis allied gasoline tanker that was hard.
Also, the fact that your home also has an insane chance of being your coffin..
Edit: here it is: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a3/DS...
The downside to this, of course, being that you'd announce your presence to any competent lookout on the ship you were following.
b) If I was German, I'd definitely prefer to surrender to a western power; I do think it may have been a bit rash to announce my presence in such a spectacular fashion with all the risk that entails, when I could as well have slipped a couple of miles away, surfaced, draped some table linen from the conning tower and radioed my intent to surrender and request instructions; much better than getting rammed or blasted out of the water for my trouble.
c) Three out of four U-boat crewmen got killed during the war, so it could be argued that being on a U-boat had its own risks - besides, this late in the war, the tankers would hardly have had any fuel to ship anyway - the Germans lost their oilfields (primarily in Ploesti, Romania and Maikop, Russia) prior to the endgame and largely relied on synthetic fuels, available in limited quantities.
That being said, I agree with your assessment that the U-boat force had ceased to be a serious threat way before the spring of 1945 - fuel shortages definitely being a major factor.
I saw a programme a couple of years ago about a port in Northern Ireland which had quite a few U boats moored after the war.
There is a picture here from Lisahally
There were also over 30 which surrendered in Loch Eriboll, Sutherland. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/7479898/Mas...
That war could have been prevented in so, so many ways it is not even funny. Anyone here could have done it, just by not being able to speak German, or by not getting the Czar involved, etc.
We did some research for him, and the guy had fought at Ypres twice, been part of the first gas attack, and got shipped off to Mesopotamia.
A week before the war ended, negotiations were underway but the generals decided they had to kill a bunch of Ottomans before it was too late. So our guy got sent to his death to win a war that was already won.
I just think of the waste of life. Wilfred Owen, the poet who wrote about the war, also died at the very end of the war. His stuff has done much to affect the mood surrounding WWI.
It's a shame that war memorials site doesn't have a copy of the inscription on the memorials - it would be interesting to do a frequency analysis of the terms used.
To a friend who’s currently deployed I sent the following message (we’re both Americans for context):
> I’ve always thought the civil war was a long time ago - it finished a bit over 100 years before I was born. I never thought that to our parents, they probably considered what their grandparent’s childhood was like - those were their grandparents first memories after all. For our kids, that’s about the same for WW1.
It was only on 14 November 1918 that the German commander in East Africa Gen von Lettow-Vorbeck was informed under a ceasefire flag by Lt-Gen van Deventer, the South African commander of all allied forces in East Africa, of the armistice signing. His formal surrender only occurred some days later, on 25 November.
The Chambesi Monument in Zambia commemorates the moment the news was communicated and thus the final cessation of hostilities of WWI.
“As [Friedrich] Feuchtinger’s regiment reached the Russian trenches, the Russians turned to flee. One of them, being closely chased, and apparently without his rifle, stopped all of a sudden, turned round, held out his right hand, and put his left hand into his tunic pocket. As he did so, Feuchtinger plunged in his bayonet. ‘I see his blood redden his uniform, hear him moan and groan as he twists with the bayonet in his young body. I am seized with terror. I throw myself down, crawl to him, wanting to help him. But he is dead. I pull my blood-stained bayonet from the dead body. Wanting to fold his hands, I see in the left hand a crumpled photo of his wife and child.”
News travelled slow
https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/arts/imperial-war-museu... (more information)