Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why new U-boat plan may sink or swim


By Joe Riley
October 25, 2007

FOR just ONE euro, better value – even as junk – than anything in a charity shop, Merseytravel has taken delivery of its strangest mode of transport: a rust-bucket German U-boat about to be booted out of Birkenhead docks to make way for houses.

But what is to become of the iron hulk, salvaged off the coast of Denmark in 1993, and then loaned as prize exhibit to the now defunct Wirral-based Historic Warships Museum?

Merseytravel chief Neil Scalextric wants to chop the vessel into four bits and re-arrange it, like Lego, into a new visitor centre at Woodside ferry terminal.

Using the giant floating crane Mersey Mammoth the home removal could be managed for a tenth of the £2.5m said to be needed to shift the Nazi sub in one piece.

Reliable calculations? It is costing just £1m to bring sole surviving U-boat destroyer HMS Whimbrel back to the Mersey – all the way from her present Egyptian base in Alexandria.

Also, a sister ship and exact replica of the German U-boat, was successfully transported from Africa, across the Atlantic, through the North American Great Lakes, and finally through the streets of Chicago – all in one piece – to the city’s museum of science and technology.

The Birkenhead U-boat (U534) is unique as the only such vessel raised from the seabed.

The crew were not on board at the time of the sinking. All other torpedoed U-boats have remained untouched, deemed war graves.

But before history overwhelms reason, I can reveal that a formative Mersey Maritime Museum turned its nose up at dry-docking U534, leaving it to prototype super-quango Merseyside Development Corporation to earmark a berth next to the former Pier Head floating roadway.

That plan came unstuck when the U-boat’s Danish owners came to Liverpool to offer U534 as a gift ( to tie in with Liverpool’s Battle of the Atlantic heritage), but were then sent a £150 hotel bill by over-zealous municipal mandarins.

You can imagine what the Danes said the council could do with the U-boat.

And the bottom line?

Rather than arranging a Mersey chainsaw massacre solution to an expensive relocation problem, just melt the whole thing down.

History may be learned in chunks. But it never looks good cut into bits.

Imagine hacking HMS Victory into cubes and turning it into a ferry terminal?



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