The Royal Netherlands Navy says it has found a World War One German submarine off the island of Terschelling and will designate it a war grave. The Dutch Ministry of Defence says U-106 was found by a Dutch naval vessel in October 2009 but the news was not disclosed earlier because the German authorities first had to confirm the information and descendants of the crew had to be informed if possible.
In October 2009, the hydrographic survey vessel HNLMS Snellius found an unidentified object lying 130 feet (40 m) underwater, 40 miles (60 km) north of the island of Terschelling in the Wadden Sea off the northern Netherlands.
The Dutch naval vessel was charting shipping lanes in the area. The discovery of what appeared to be a shipwreck rekindled hopes of finally finding the Dutch submarine O-13, which went missing on 18 June 1940. A series of investigation missions resulted, which have now been completed.
First, the minehunter HNLMS Maassluis investigated the area at 40 metres’ depth in December 2009, using a wire-guided underwater camera, the Seafox. This showed the contours of a submarine and 2 months later, in February 2010, HNLMS Hellevoetsluis made a more elaborate attempt, involving a diving team and the wireless underwater robot Remus. Divers of the Navy’s Diving and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group succeeded in bringing a cylindrical air tank measuring 300 by 44 centimetres, which would have been used for diving and surfacing, to the surface.
The air tank has a copper plate bearing the serial number and the submarine number. It turned out to be the German U-106, which had sunk during the First World War. Commander Jouke Spoelstra, the expedition leader of the identification project, said: “This type of discovery almost always happens by chance. Some ten years ago, one of the ships of the Hydrographic Service passed by the exact same location, but then the boat was under a layer of sand.”
After German experts had confirmed the find, the search for descendants began. That search was recently completed, after which the German authorities gave permission for the discovery to be announced. Spoelstra: “The submarine will be left where it is and will be made an official war grave. A commemoration ceremony could be held at sea, but that will only be done at the instigation of the families.”