Saturday 27 December 2014

Town to honour WWII U-boat crew for saving 28 sailors' lives

Published 18/09/2009 | 00:00

IT was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry of World War II.

In the early days of the war, a U-boat crew escorted 28 Greek sailors to safety on a Kerry beach -- one of only two instances when a German submarine crew risked its own safety to protect the crew of a vessel they torpedoed and sank.

And next month a plaque commemorating the U-35 and her captain, Werner Lott, will be unveiled by the German Ambassador to mark the chivalrous act by the so-called 'Sea Wolves' of the Battle of the Atlantic.

On October 4, 1939, locals in Ventry and Ballymore were astonished to see a German submarine easing into the Kerry bay.

The U-boat launched a dinghy and began bringing ashore 28 Greek sailors from the 4,900-tonne freighter MV Diamantis, which the sub had intercepted off the Skelligs.

The MV Diamantis was taking iron ore from Freetown to Barrow-on-Furness -- and deemed to be carrying war material. But the U-35's skipper ordered that the crewmen be escorted to a safe landing.

Ventry in Co Kerry was chosen because of its proximity and its isolation.

In 1984, Lott visited both Ventry and the Tower of London, where he was briefly held as a POW after his U-boat was sunk.

While in Kerry, he was astonished to meet locals who witnessed his sub escorting the Greeks to safety back in 1939.

"In the rough weather I would not have been able to examine the ship's papers, so I gave a signal to follow me. I wanted to go to the Irish coast where I knew there would not be such rough weather," he said.

"It did not follow me so I fired a shot from my gun at the bow of the boat. This had the result that the crew panicked and jumped into the small boats. One could foresee that with the rough seas that they would overturn."

The commemoration will take place on October 17.

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