Control room of the U-Boat submarine

Control room of the UB-110 German submarine, ca. 1918 2

This photograph shows the U-Boat 110, a German Submarine that was sunk and risen in 1918. It shows the control room in the submarine, including the manhole to the periscope well, hand wheels for pressure gear, valve wheels for flooding and blowing and the air pressure gauges.

The UB-110 was rammed after attacking a merchant shipping convoy near Hartlepool in July 1918. She suffered from depth charges, when coming to the surface she was rammed again by British H.M.S. Garry, a torpedo boat destroyer, and eventually sunk. In September she was salvaged and placed in the admiralty dock, with an order to restore her to fighting state but this time to the British side. The Armistice, that ended the World War One, caused work on her restoration to be stopped. She was towed on another dock and was subsequently sold as scrap.

Imagine having to be in there during combat, being on a U-Boat was the most dangerous place in the war. Also not many good ways to die in a submarine. Drowning, instant decompression if you sink in deep water or if you sink in shallow waters you’d probably sit on the seabed until the oxygen is gone. During WW1 Germany had 351 operational boats, sunk in combat: 178 (50%), other losses: 39 (11%), completed after Armistice: 45, surrendered to Allies: 179, men lost in U-boats: 5,000 killed.

How the sailors identified those valves and wheels? Actually these photos were taken after the submarine was recovered from the bottom of the ocean. The control room was covered with rust and slime. Many of the gears and wheels were color coded, some of them had numbers. Usually the sailors learned pretty well maneuvering on the control room, for them wasn’t difficult at all.

Interesting fact:

  • A unsettling discovery during her salvage was that some of her torpedoes were fitted with magnetic firing pistols – the first such to be identified properly by the British. Luckily, these early examples were proving problematic, often detonating their weapons prematurely if at all. Magnetic pistol is the term for the device on a torpedo or naval mine that detects its target by its magnetic field, and triggers the fuse for detonation. A magnetic pistol on a torpedo allows the torpedo to detonate underneath the ship, instead of upon impact with the side of the ship. The explosion will lift the ship out of the water and may break the back of the ship, splitting it in two.

( Images: Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.)

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