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Home   Kent   News   Article

German U-boat believed to be UB122 discovered at Humble Bee Creek off mudflats at Medway after First World War duty

30 December 2013
by Rachael Woods

A German U-boat from the First World War that lies encased in the mudflats of the Medway is causing quite a stir.

Experts believe that the U-boat, which is the only visible wreckage in the UK, may be the UB122.

Launched in February 1918, the vessel was surrendered nine months later, having undergone just two unsuccessful patrols.

Remains of U-boat abandoned on the Kentish marshes. Picture Damian GradyEnglish Heritage

Remains of U-boat abandoned on the Kentish marshes. Picture: Damian Grady/English Heritage

Mark Dunkley, from English Heritage, said: “Everything has been taken out of the U-boat that would lead to its identification, but our best hunch is that it is the UB122.”

He added: “We know that some U-boat engines were re-used at a cement works at Halling and the Medway U-boat does show that her engines were cut out.”

Mr Dunkley believes that it is well protected in situ. He said: “The U-boat is not under threat of deterioration and is being preserved where it is.”

Maritime expert Wilf Lower said: “At the end of the First World War, the German U-boat fleet formally surrendered at Harwich, then Britain’s principal British submarine base, and within a few months, some 150 U-boats were moored on the River Stour.

Remains of U-boat abandoned on the Kentish marshes. Picture Damian GradyEnglish Heritage

Remains of U-boat abandoned on the Kentish marshes. Picture: Damian Grady/English Heritage

“Some of the submarines were then handed over to the French, US, Italian and Japanese navies, but most were sold for scrap and taken to ports and rivers throughout Britain. Reports suggest that up to 26 submarines may have been brought to the Medway and moored off the marshes at Stoke.”

Eight of the vessels were bought by businessman Albert Batchelor, who owned the Halling Cement Works.

Any equipment that was useful was removed from the submarines, including the powerful diesel engines and generators.

Mr Lower said the engines were clearly valuable. Two were installed at the Halling Cement works to replace the old steam engines and a further two were sold to the Holborough Cement Works.

Engines were sold to Southend Corporation for the towns’ power station (one was later sold to India), and another to the Gillingham Municipal Power Station whilst it’s recorded that two went to New Zealand.

“The U-boat is not under threat of deterioration and is being preserved where it is” - Mark Dunkley

He added: “There were the empty carcases to be disposed of. The empty vessels were sold to a ship-breaking company based at Upnor and one by one the submarines were towed downriver to the breaker’s yard.

“But with the end of the war creating a massive surplus of metals, the price of steel plummeted, and the ship-breaking company went bust before they could accommodate the last three of the submarines.”

These were moored – or dumped - at Slede Ooze, adjacent to Humble Bee Creek where their remains still lie.

Humble Bee Creek is on the Grain marshes, but people are advised that the area is difficult and dangerous to reach.

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