Magazine article History Today

The Hidden Photographs of U-564

Magazine article History Today

The Hidden Photographs of U-564

Article excerpt

FIFTY-FIVE YEARS AFTER THE END of the Second World War in Europe a unique time capsule from that turbulent period was unearthed in Yorkshire. Three hundred and sixty-one photographs showing a single war patrol of U-564 were discovered among the possessions of ex-Royal Navy diver Foster Appleyard.

Appleyard had been a member of the extensive team of naval personnel involved during 1944 and 1945 in clearing the massive amount of battle debris from Brest. The Breton harbour was one of five French ports taken over in 1940 by the conquering German Wehrmacht with the express purpose of their conversion to U-boat base. Four years later in September 1944 Brest's German defenders succumbed to American ground at lack.

During his work in the shattered city, Appleyard stumbled across the collection of photographs within the cavernous U-boat bunkers. These he 'liberated', returning with them to Yorkshire in his haversack. Eventually, after Appleyard's death the collection found its way to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum where it is housed today within the photographic archive.

An entire collection that charts the course of a single U-boat patrol is a rare find indeed, the only comparable examples are the photographs of war correspondent Lother-Gunther Buchheim, taken aboard U-96, a journey later immortalised fictionally in book and film as Das Boot.

The photographer who recorded U-564's patrol, Maat Haring, was employed by the French-based naval branch of the Propaganda Kompanie, part of Goebbels' ministry. One of the commanders here was Wolfgang Frank, the journalist subsequently famous for his books on the U-boat war. Haring was temporarily assigned to U-564 as a war correspondent to document the elite service and the new generation of German U-boat heroes, epitomised by U-564 commander Reinhard 'Teddy' Suhren.

Haring's pictures provide a unique insight into the duties and life of the crew aboard the medium-sized U-boat. Taken during the summer of 1942 they show a U boat in action in the Atlantic and Caribbean. In hindsight, we know that this represents a moment when the German submarine service was teetering on the brink of defeat.

A thrilling aspect of these photographs is that U-564 was commanded by Suhren, one of the most dynamic men from Karl Donitz's U-boat service. …

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