The submersible was used to spy on the French coast during World War II. How is is found among the marine museum collections?
“This is probably the most impressive part of the museum,” said Jean-Yves Besselièvre, Marine Museum administrator of Brest. Being eleven meters long, six tons and two torpedoes - “false, of course” - it is true that the German submarine imposes, in the castle, just in front of the Madeleine tower.
At the cutting edge of technology
Yet this version “pocket” could only accommodate two soldiers during World War II … “The German Army was at the forefront of technology in the field of submarines” , says Jean-Yves Besselièvre.
In 1944, the institution is making 700 copies of the Seehund, ‘seal’ in German, for performing espionage operations on the French coast, “especially in the English Channel towards English ships” .
“Life was not easy …”
Inside, a pilot and a technician share a few square meters, for up to one week, the autonomy of the submarine. “Life was not easy there …” says the administrator. Indeed, without sleeping, soldiers must be content to their seats, reclining slightly, to sleep. And sometimes bear the exhaust gases that invade the submarine.
With a diving ability down to thirty meters deep, the submarine is especially designed to navigate on the surface, “and observe the surroundings, using a periscope” .
Recovered by the French Navy
In the summer of 1945, the copy paper in the castle is located by the Navy, in Dunkirk, with three other Seehund. They are painted black and adorned with an “S” red, “the colors and symbols of the French Navy” . Then, they are, in 1946, a fleet based in Toulon, used for testing “in the United States, including San Diego, and above all over Europe” .
In total, they realize 858 jorneys, before retiring in 1953 with the dissolution of the unit. Ten years later, the Navy gives the building to the Marine Museum. In 1990, it was installed in the castle, after being restored, stripped and repainted, and “long presentation into three pieces at the entrance of the pier No. 8 of the base in Lorient” says Bruno Calvès in Brest secret unusual (1).
(1) Brest Secret et insolite, de Bruno Calvès, published by éditions Les Beaux Jours.