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U-534 is a U-boat that was sunk by RAF Coastal Command B-24 Liberator KH347 on 5 May 1945, just days before the Allied Victory in Europe was declared. U-534 had already shot down one B-24 with the loss of all but one crew member, before KH347 dropped a depth charge on her.

The U-boat sank, but all on board managed to escape, though 3 died of exposure before they could be picked up.

After 48 years on the sea bed, U-534 was raised at great cost, cleaned up and put on display at Birkenhead. More recently, the U-boat acquired new owners who decided the best thing to do with this rare vessel – one of only 3 in the world – would be to chop her into pieces and display like cuts of meat in a butcher’s shop.

Those who defend the action say that the U-boat can now be viewed by disabled people or that the boat would otherwise still be on the sea bed. Others argue that it is the only way to show the interior of the vessel. I can’t help but feel, as with people recovering aircraft wreckage from hillsides, it would have been better left where it was until such time and funds were available to do something other than this.

As such the museum, which is by the Mersey Ferry terminal at Woodside, is the only way to get close to a U-boat in the UK. It is an interesting exhibition and I left feeling pleased I had visited a U-boat but sad that they did this to her.

From a photographer’s point of view, it can be a struggle to get an angle that doesn’t show the damage done.


Clip from the movie Das Boot of a U-boat surface attack on an Atlantic convoy at night. No subtitles but you won’t need ’em.

In the video clip from Das Boot above, the frame at 6 seconds in is taken from this position in the U-boat; note the dial on the left and the engines beyond.


U-534 at Birkenhead before she was sliced into sections.


Photo from wikipedia commons by Paul Adams.

32 comments on “U-534
  1. bill_fawcett says:

    Nice angle on conning tower Ian, and as usual, a very interesting narrative. Sad to see a WWII relic like this chopped up, but, as you say, money talks.

  2. Reflective Kiwi %-) says:

    Another great story shared with such detail Ian! %-)
    i hope all is well with you… will catch up with an email when i get the chance! %-0

  3. Richard Tierney says:

    Agree Ian but this is better than leaving her on the sea bed.. at least a new generation ( including the handicapped and wheelchair bound ) can see her.. Shame they could not have a B24 ( if it was only a plastic replica ) along side her. There is a one of the X type submarines at the Imperial War Museoun at Duxford in a similar state, along side parts of one of the original subs lost on the attack on the Tirpitz… Very striking when you see the size of them…

  4. Ian D B says:


    Just wish I had visited this U-boat while on display at Birkenhead. There are numerous ways this could have been presented, for everyone. The technological means to have a virtual walk through are there. The general consensus is that she should have been left as she was for the 11 years preceding. There was even a petition to the Prime Minister to prevent U-534 from being cut up! I agree, it is better this than not at all, but still it made me sad.

  5. Tech Owl says:

    When we did our tour of Liverpool a couple of years ago, we saw this on the dock side but didn’t alight (we were just crossing the Mersey!) Shame – we should have gone when we had the chance

  6. C J Paul (chris) says:

    man a live very cool ian.
    i would love to see it mate.
    well done ian thanks for sharing.

  7. mick cooke says:

    great work ian ,

  8. Tim Spicer Photography says:

    Interesting a shame that it was butchered though.

  9. nondesigner59 says:

    Fabulous angle, great info. Well done.

  10. SolarScot. says:

    i remember at Eden Camp they had what was supposed to be a look into a U Boat and as you went near a jet of water hit the glass giving the effect i thought of some Jerry peeing against the glass ! this reminds me Ian do you remember those big red and white depth charge mine thingys that used to be on seafronts and used as collection boxes? they seem to have all gone now

  11. gastephen says:

    Nice shot, Ian. It does seem a shame that it has been cut up.

  12. **Hazel** says:

    Very sad Ian, but glad you managed to get a photo of what was available to capture!! Great strong Image and love the colour tones!!!:-)

  13. redrocker_9 says:

    Pretty fabulous capture Ian, I love the reds of the rust popping out.

  14. IANLAYZELLUK says:

    Very Nice with great information. Atmospheric Capture.

  15. mickb6265 says:

    jeez,ian..love the shot but cant agree as to why it got ruined..imagine if they chopped up just jane lancaster so people could stand and stare at some bits..or the hendon 137 op sugar one..?..modern pc shouldnt slaughter mesmorising historical rarities…

  16. Hotpix [LRPS] Hanx for 1.5M Views says:

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/bill_fawcett] I agree. A great shame. Another victim of the PC brigade!

    A bit like historic buildings, once they are gone they are gone sadly.

    Very good my friend. 😎

    Seen in my contacts photostream……{.?.}

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  17. jr55 (John Richardson) says:

    A very strong image Ian, can’t believe what they’ve done.

  18. Mark McKie says:

    That’s the way the world’s going mate. Nice pic though!

  19. amyrey says:

    Superb photo, but a shame about the theme-park mentality that robbed future generations of an intact specimen.

  20. f3liney says:

    Great shot and a great write-up.
    Glad I had a chance to see this U boat in one piece back in ’03.
    I was upset when the Historic Ships Museum closed for good.
    That was the most enjoyable museum visit I ever had.
    Most of their ships are now rotting away and in particular HMSs Plymouth & Bronington are at risk of total loss.

  21. cgullz says:

    impressive and forboding shot.
    for aforementioned reasons i have elected to not to stay and look too much, but please not i have been suitably impressed and foreboded.
    keep up the bl**dy great work 🙂

  22. Testchamber says:

    Good shot, also good to see the shot of her in one piece. I tried to get to this then but they moved it the day I turned up.
    I’ve a few shot of this myself you might like to see ( in my’Misc’ set).

  23. het broertje van.. says:

    Wow Ian………………such beauty here man!!!


  24. Ian D B says:

    Many thanks everyone.

  25. mojo_black says:

    Great composition, looks very imposing.

  26. Benoit Foisy says:

    As always, love the picture and explantions.

  27. pasujoba says:

    You used to be able to go in it for a small extra fee , when the warships museum was open , it is a tragedy that the museum had to close .
    Great work Ian !

  28. Martyn Fordham says:

    Most interesting…..

    Seen on your photo stream. ( ?² )

  29. bazylek100 says:

    It’s a shame to see the historical vessel, and one of the very few saved, mutilated like that!
    Two Pieces of U-534
    Why not to cut some architectural monuments to pieces to make them easy accessible.

  30. Tom says:

    It is indeed true that you used to be able to go on a tour inside the intact U-boat for an additional fee (and, if I recall correctly, a waiver – it wasn’t exactly dangerous in there; the whole thing was pretty much structurally sound, but I can still think of a lot of ways of getting injured whilst clambering about inside a rusty shipwreck). I was lucky enough to do so once, and it was quite an experience. Walking among the slices now wouldn’t have anything like the same impact. It’s true that disabled access would be non-existent without cutting the thing up, but I’d say that that’s not worth the mutilation of a unique historical artifact.

    • Ian D B says:

      Thanks for your comment Tom. Never knew it was at one time possible to get on board the U-boat. That’s something I will almost certainly never get the opportunity to do.

      I like museums where you can come to some harm; was in a Canberra cockpit section once and banged my head getting into the bomb aimer’s position and felt pleased that in this H&S conscious world it was still possible to bang your head in a museum display.

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