U-3004, U-2505 and U-3506 were buried along with their Elbe II base

The three World War II submarines that are buried under the port of Hamburg

During World War II, Germany devoted much effort to building a powerful submarine fleet.

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To house this fleet, submarine bases were built in various places in Germany and the occupied countries. One of those bases was Elbe II and was located in Hamburg, on the banks of the Elbe River. This bunker had two large galleries to house submarines. The German website Geschichtsspuren.de points out that its construction was started in December 1940 and completed a year later.

The Elbe II submarine base during World War II (Photo: Jak P. Mallmann Showell).

Like other German submarine bases, this bunker was a target of Allied bombing raids during the war. Several attacks, one of them using a large Tallboy seismic bomb, managed to reach this building, leaving it damaged or unusable. The resistance of these bases to attacks with such powerful bombs is explained by their formidable construction. In fact, they were fortified positions so resistant to attacks that some German submarine bases in France managed to resist the war until the end, remaining isolated.

A German Type XXI submarine, U-3008, photographed in Kittery, Maine (USA) on August 30, 1946 (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command).

On May 3, 1945, three days after Hitler's suicide and within the framework of Operation Regenbogen (ordered to sink all German submarines to prevent them from being captured by the Allies), the crews of the submarines U-3004, U-2505 and U-3506 sank them in the western gallery of the Elbe II. Another submarine, U-2501, was sunk at the entrance to the bunker.

The remains of the Elbe II submarine base in a photo taken in 1981 (Photo: Dietmar Rabich).

These submarines were Type XXI, 76.7 meters long, 8 meters wide and with a surface displacement of 1,621 tons. They had six 533 mm torpedo tubes, and could carry up to 23 G-7 type torpedoes on board, and two 20 mm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft machine guns. U-3004, U-2505 and U-3506 never saw action during the war and were only used as training ships.

The submarines trapped in the Elbe II in a photo probably taken in the mid-1980s (Photo: War History Online).

A few months after the end of the Second World War, in November 1945, the British Army Royal Engineers blew up the Elbe II bunker, using a large number of aviation bombs transported by rail. Due to the powerful detonation, the roof of the bunker collapsed on one side, crushing the submarine U-3506. U-3004 and U-2505 were left relatively intact, but trapped in the remains of the bunker.

The submarines U-3004, on the left, and U-2505, in the center. U-3506 was buried when it collapsed on the roof, on the right, in November 1945, due to an attempt to blow up the bunker by the Royal Engineers of the British Army (Photo: Geschichtsspuren.de).

In 1949, local authorities, under the supervision of the British Army, examined the remains of the bunker to check whether it could be safely removeddue to the possible presence of explosives inside the submarines. Finally, the only thing that was done was to remove the batteries and copper cables from the ships, as well as some parts of the sail of U-3506. After that, the bunker remained abandoned for years, until some of its parts were demolished in the mid-1960s to make way for the port of Hamburg.

The interior of the Elbe II in a photo from 1985. Below you can see the U-3004 (Photo: Geschichtsspuren.de).

In 1985 the HDW shipyard in Hamburg ceased its activity and closed. The old Elbe II bunker was within the perimeter of this shipyard. When the security elements that guarded that perimeter disappeared, the old submarine base began to become the target of urban explorers and searchers for war relics. It was then that some photos of the three submarines that had been forgotten for decades inside that semi-destroyed bunker came to light.

Another image of the interior of the Elbe II in 1985. In the foreground we see the U-3004. In the center of the photo is U-2505. In the background, crushed, is U-3506 (Photo: Geschichtsspuren.de).

Due to the very high cost that would have entailed demolishing the bunker and removing the three submarines, in October 1995 the Elbe II was filled with sand. Despite everything, the plans to demolish that old submarine base did not cease. In 2001 there was a new attempt to blow up the bunker using 150 kilograms of dynamite, but despite its condition and the time that had passed, the fortification withstood the explosion quite well. Small blasting and other attempts to demolish the structure were subsequently carried out.

A photo from 2003 of the place where the Elbe II is buried, after the area was covered with earth (Photo: Geschichtsspuren.de).

Finally, given the great resistance that the old bunker from the Second World War offered to all attempts to destroy it, Elbe II ended up being literally buried, leaving the surface as if there had never been anything in that place . The site where the bunker is buried, at coordinates 53°31'43"N 09°57'08"E, is part of the port of Hamburg. It is a few meters from the dock where large merchant ships moor and is owned by a company that uses it to store containers.

The location of the Elbe II in the port of Hamburg (Photo: Google Maps).

Today, the former submarine base is inaccessible. A special permit is required to access the place where it is located. Maybe one day someone will carry out archaeological excavations in that area and will find the three submarines that are buried there...

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