Was a German WWII submarine destoryed because of an encounter with a sea monster?

The Submarine and the Sea Monster

There are enough tales of giant sea creatures from sailors over the centuries to fill many books, rarely do we get an account of a sea monster from the crew of a submarine. According legend, however, we get just a story from the Captain of the German submersible UB-85 after it was supposedly attacked by a sea monster in 1918 .

The story starts in the middle of WWI. The German U-boat, UB-85 was launched on October 26th of 1917 and put under the command of Kapitänleutnant Günther Krech. The UB-85 was a Type UB III submarine and carried 10 torpedoes and, at the time of its sinking, a 105-mm deck gun. The submarine had an unremarkable history until its second patrol in April of 1918. According to records on April 30th the British patrol boat Coreopsis II found it floating off the coast of Belfast, Ireland and was able to capture the crew with ease, though the boat itself was scuttled by the German officers as they left it.

According to the Legend:

The crew abandoned the sub and was picked up by the British. The U-boat commander, Captain Krech was questioned about why he had been cruising on the surface and he told this tale:

The sub had been recharging batteries at night on the surface when without any kind of warning a "strange beast" began to climb aboard from the sea. "This beast had large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull. It had a small head, but with teeth that could be seen glistening in the moonlight." The animal was so large that it forced the U-boat to list greatly to starboard. The captain feared an open hatch would drop below the waterline, flooding the sub and sinking it.

The UB-184 in this photo, was similar to the UB-85.

"Every man on watch began firing a sidearm at the beast," Krech continued. The animal had hold of the forward gun mount and would not let go.

The battle continued until the animal dropped back into the sea. In the struggle, though, the forward deck plating had been damaged and the sub could no longer submerge. "That is why you were able to catch us on the surface," the Captain concluded.

The UB-85 Found?

This story remained just an odd tale until the year 2016. In October the energy firm Scottish Power announced that while using a sophisticated sonar to chart the bottom of the sea off the coast of Scotland in preparation for laying cables, they had come across the profile of a submarine that appeared to be a Type UB III. A close examination of the sonar image led marine archeologist and historian Innes McCartney, from Bournemouth University, to believe that it is either that the wreck of UB-85 or UB-82. Both were sunk during a period where the Type UB III's carried a heavier 105mm deck gun which is what McCartney thinks that the sonar image shows.

While the sonar image can't confirm that the submarine was attacked by a sea monster, it did lead to a reexamination of the records that had been sitting in storage in vaults of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C.. At the end of WWII the U.S. Military captured the records of the German Navy dating back to 1850, an along with it the official documents concerning the loss of the UB-85.

The HMS Coreopsis which captured the crew of the UB-85.

Official Story

Nothing in the record says anything about a sea monster. In an interview Krech relates that the sub spotted the approaching British patrol boat and attempted to dive. For some reason the hatch to the conning tower did not secure properly and water started pouring into the ship. To make matters worse, related one of the crew, the Captain had ordered a set of cables strung between the conning tower and the control room below it to accommodate a heater in the officers' compartment. These kept the water tight door between those room froms being sealed, turning what would have been a minor problem (the flooding of the conning tower) in the a disaster where the whole boat was nearly sunk.

As water poured into the vessel, the crew had no choice but to blow the boat's ballast tanks and surface again, causing them to be captured.

The UB-28 Sea Monster

On July 31, 1915, the UB-28 torpedoed the British merchant steamer SS Iberian. As the ship sank a huge explosion occurred and reportedly a "gigantic aquatic animal," resembling a 60 foot-long crocodile, was thrown 80 feet into the air. After it hit the water it remained on the surface for 15 to 20 seconds before sinking, according to accounts reportedly from the UB-28's crew.

As with the UB-85 incredible story, this tale is suspect also. The official log of the UB-28 does not mention the creature nor do the accounts of the members of the Iberian's crew or its passengers that survived the sinking.

Is it possible the Captain made up the odd story of sea serpent attack just to avoid telling his British captors that he lost his command just so he could have a heater in his quarters? Without a written record of the story, it hard to say.

According to McCartney in an interview given to the Live Science, the story "falls into a longer trend going back at least to the 1930s of these outlandish sea tales being appended to First World War German submarines," McCartney said. "I don't know why it is, but the first U-boat war just attracts these stories - you get haunted submarines, like UB-65 which [supposedly] had a dead crewmember who haunted the boat, and then UB-28 - another sea monster is supposed to have attacked that one."

So unless some future diving expedition on the U-85 finds claw marks on the forward gun mount that can't be explained, it likely this legend is just another wild sea monster tale.

Copyright Lee Krystek 2019. All Rights Reserved.