The Loch and The U-Boats
Loch Eriboll (Scottish Gaelic: "Loch Euraboil") is a sea loch on the north coast of Scotland, which has been used for centuries as a deep water anchorage as it is safe from the often stormy seas of Cape Wrath and the Pentland Firth. It is named after the village of Eriboll on its eastern shore.
And for 65 years the residents of the remote Scottish village of Eriboll have paid heed to the wartime warning that “loose lips sink ships”.
However, after all this time they have spoken out to tell the astonishing story of the biggest ever surrender of Nazi U-boats.
The surrender of German submarines in Loch Eriboll in Sutherland was one of the strangest episodes at the end of World War II. Locals were sworn to secrecy and it has often been assumed that only “two or three” crews gave themselves up in the sheltered inlet.
No fewer than 33 U-boat commanders surrendered in the space of 12 days in the 10-mile long loch.
The Highland fjord in the far north-west of Scotland, close to Cape Wrath, was the only Scottish rendezvous point for U-boats. In the space of two weeks, from May 10 to May 25, 1945, it turned into the biggest single gathering of the German submarine fleet anywhere in the world. The U-boats — nicknamed grey wolves — were part of Hitler’s plan to starve Britain of food, raw materials and equipment. The U-boats included U-1231, which was used as the fleet’s “off-licence” and was laden with wine, and U-532 which had just returned from Japan and was carrying raw rubber, quinine and other war supplies.
The vessels that surrendered were responsible for sinking or damaging 59 merchant ships and 14 warships — 300,000 tonnes of Allied shipping.
Fifteen U-boats were brought under convoy from Norway by Canadian warships and all were disarmed within hours. Explosives and other armaments were dumped over the side and they were then re-routed to locations including Lochalsh in Wester Ross, where the crews were arrested.
As part of Operation Deadlight, the U-boats were scuttled in the Atlantic, with 121 of the 154 U-boats that surrendered being sunk in deep water off Lisahally, Northern Ireland, or Loch Ryan, in the west of Scotland, in late 1945 and early 1946. Loch Eriboll was chosen because of its isolation and deep anchorage.
It also limited any opportunity for a last show of defiance from the U-boat commanders. Mr Hird’s research uncovered just one such incident, when U-295 rammed a Canadian escort ship, HMCS Nene, punching a hole in the starboard side. The U-boat captain claimed it was an accident. Each U-boat had between 30 and 50 crew. The crews were happy to surrender in Scotland, it was the Russians they were worried about. They just didn’t want to give up to them.
It is also believed that the crews dumped stuff over the side. And it is believed that the loch’s seabed to this day is littered with explosives and armaments.
Looking now at the Loch, it is strange to think what went on all hose years ago, now its peaceful and scenic, a far cry from those days gone by when it was A Loch and the U-Boats U-Boats surrendered all over the World for different reason.
A Map showing you where is available here