U-Boat Hunter Dr Innes McCartney: discovery of U637

The wreck is a very intact VIIC, which under normal circumstances would be difficult to tell from any other VIICs sunk during Operation Deadlight. However, it had one feature, which makes it very special indeed – a ring-float schnorchel head. U637 was photographed with one prior to being disposed of.

All other features of this wreck, were as per normal late-war VIIC. Life raft canisters on bows.

As to the real identity of the one we dived on DAY 8 – We suggested it was U637, because of its proximity to the sinking position of this U-boat – we were wrong – Our Deadlight photo album proves this. So the nearest type VIIs are U281 and U 1010. The presence of the 88mm gun mounting suggests that U281 is a possibility. However, we are learning that the positional information from official reports of Operation Deadlight is far from accurate. In fact, much of it seems, by today’s standards to be highly unreliable.

Much more work is required to guarantee the identities which we have tentatively given to some of the U-boats we have dived. The one we dived on DAY 7 – is now thought to be U778, thanks to Axel Niestlé’s continued assistance.

An interesting day, with at least one mystery surrounding the identities of these submarine wrecks definitely cleared up.


1044545_274193809387872_1703831374_nU637 foundered on on 21 Dec 1945 during Operation Deadlight. It was among the first tranche of Deadlight U-boats I found in 2001. A classic U-boat dive in fantastic visibility (Innes McCartney)14796_194194167387837_30038305_n

Life raft containers have fallen through the superstructure onto the pressure hull (Innes McCartney).23384_193864844087436_401877687_n

46087_193864857420768_991182933_n Sky periscope with lovely anemone growth (Innes McCartney)75085_193864840754103_1190737275_n

148925_193864820754105_1888091105_n Rare ring-float snorkel head. I seem to recall this was the first time I encountered this feature on a wreck (Innes McCartney)150624_194945943979326_934001982_nShot of U637’s stern317909_193856260754961_1972870409_n U637 was fitted with this feature when it surrendered. The location of the wreck and the presence of this feature made the attribution. But there are questions (Innes McCartney).320962_193864794087441_202610817_n Foredeck and conning tower intact (Innes McCartney)398046_193864777420776_1689297898_n Swimming over the conning tower soon revealed the features of a late-war type VIIC U-boat (Innes McCartney)400143_194194190721168_1014837765_n

Very rare to see a gun mount still attached. This one was the base of the 37mm flak gun (Innes McCartney).409620_193864804087440_623368293_n Interesting to see that the compass has been unbolted from the repeater binnacle, presumably as a souvenir in 1945 (Innes McCartney)542136_194553854018535_614323283_n

Completely intact stern (Innes McCartney). 543434_194194194054501_1595047909_n Close up of the gun mount (Innes McCartney)553251_193864797420774_892287433_nInitially the shotline took us down on the underside of the wreck, which lies at 80 degrees over on its starboard side (Innes McCartney)
582429_193864834087437_78287222_n The diameter of the head is different than in the archive photo. It seems that the outer “jaumann” coating has fallen off, although no trace of it can be seen. Alternatively this is another boat – but which one? We will probably never know (Innes McCartney). 603031_194194170721170_702032490_n The foredeck of U637 (Innes McCartney)

Dr. Innes McCartney – Nautical Archaeologist, Naval Historian and 26 years a Wreck Diver.



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Innes McCartney

Innes McCartney is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE