U 534 at Birkenhead-renewed threat to future?

Discussion in 'WW2 Museums. Events, & places to see.' started by Mark Hone, Dec 16, 2015.

  1. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Another possible twist in the convoluted story of the preserved submarine U 534 emerged today. Merseytravel announced that they are considering changes to the Mersey Ferry service to cut costs and secure its long term future. One possibility is the closure of the Woodside ferry terminal, where the 'U Boat Experience' is located. As related on another thread, the U Boat was purchased by Merseytravel after the museum where it was originally housed, the excellent Birkenhead Historic Warships, was forced to close in 2006. Following the closure of the museum, there were several months of uncertainty about the future of the U Boat and it was very good when Merseytravel stepped in and set it up in an excellent display at Woodside. Now its future appears in doubt again. The two Falklands vessels at Historic Warships, HMS Plymouth and HMS Onyx, which I have fond memories of visiting with my pupils, sadly ended up being scrapped after new homes could not be for be for them.
  2. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    I can’t say I’m too bothered that the future of the U534 display at Woodside is in doubt. As I’ve said on a previous thread, I think it was a travesty that it was ever put there in the first place.

    While Merseytravel was busy saving this German submarine a few years back, less than a mile away in the Birkenhead docks, the last British tank landing craft from D-Day, LCT 7074, was shamefully left to rot.

    It had been intended to restore LCT 7074 as part of the Historic Warships collection on the docks. The collection also included U534. But when the collection was forced to close, it was the U-boat that was saved.

    LCT 7074 was left languishing on the dockside, falling further into disrepair. The two other main vessels of the collection, the submarine Onyx and the frigate Plymouth – both of Falklands fame – were eventually taken away and scrapped.

    It always struck me as bizarre that huge sums - £5million was mentioned - were forked out to preserve a vessel of the wartime enemy fleet, while one of the last remaining ships that helped liberate Europe from the Nazis was abandoned.

    For me, a further irony was that the U-boat was placed at Woodside, just across the Mersey from the Pier Head in Liverpool. On the Pier Head stands the Liverpool Naval Memorial, commemorating 1,400 merchant seamen who served under Royal Navy discipline and who have no grave but the sea. Many of these men would have been victims of U-boats.

    So I can’t agree that it was a good idea bringing the submarine to Woodside, no matter how popular a visitor attraction ‘The U-boat Experience’ may be.

    How much better it would have been if LCT 7074 had been restored and placed there. I’m sure youngsters would have found the story of Operation Overlord at least as interesting as the story of a German submarine.

    Fortunately, in October 2014 the landing craft was finally salvaged – it was by now semi-submerged in the docks – following a £916,000 grant from the National Memorial Heritage Fund. However, it was lost to Merseyside. It is now being restored in Portsmouth, where it will be incorporated in the D-Day Museum.

    As for the possible closure of the Woodside ferry terminal, nothing would surprise me. There has been an organised ferry service at or near this spot at least since the Middle Ages, when boats were operated under royal charter by the monks of Birkenhead Priory.

    Today – thanks mainly to Gerry Marsden and his 1960s song and film Ferry Cross the Mersey – Woodside is arguably the most famous ferry in the world. But, as we have seen, history and heritage don’t seem to count for much in some places these days.
  3. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Thanks for that interesting contribution. It was a shame that the excellent Historic Warships collection closed, full stop. Personally, I don't think that the Woodside display of U534 is a travesty as it does allow people to see the inside of the vessel and there is an informative accompanying display. Getting into the intact boat when it was preserved at Historic Warships ( which I did) was incredibly interesting but impractical for large numbers of visitors and the vessel was steadily decaying. You are of course fully entitled to your view on the ethics of preserving the U Boat at the expense of the landing craft and the Falklands vessels. Incidentally, I do mention Plymouth and Onyx in my original post, which you don't seem to have noticed. I am pleased that, as you note, the LCT has eventually been saved.
  4. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Have there been any further developments? Mersey Travel were supposed to be making a further announcement following a meeting in January but I couldn't find anything online about this.
  5. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Sorry to hear this, hope that the vessel is not in danger of being lost. Liverpool was central to the defat of the U Boat arm and has a rich naval history , this U Boat can only add to it.
    Peter Clare likes this.
  6. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    von Poop likes this.
  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    An update on U534:
    From: Condoms to secret documents: Nazi U-boat items to go on display for first time

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