German WW1 submarine emerges from French beach

A World War One-era German submarine has started to emerge from a beach in northern France. Historians say the UC61 was sunk by its crew after being caught laying mines in July 1917.

The submarine started to become visible at low tide on the beach in Wissant, near Calais, in December. One tour guide, Vincent Schmitt, was lucky enough to stumble upon it at the right time.

Schmitt believes the winds and tides could lead to even more of the UC-61 being exposed. “All the residents of Wissant knew there was a submarine here, but the wreck is mostly silted and therefore invisible,” he said.

“Pieces reappear from time to time, but this is the first time we discover so much.” German submarines, known as U-boats, targeted Allied shipping during World War One, sinking hundreds of vessels.

Historians say the UC-61 was credited with sinking at least 11 ships, either by laying mines or by firing torpedoes. The U-boat had left Zeebrugge in Belgium and was heading to Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre to lay the mines.

According to the local newspaper, the crew was forced to flood and abandon the vessel in Wissant after sea levels dropped.

But just as the 25 crewmembers were caught and surrendered to authorities, they detonated the mines inside the submarine, blowing it underwater until its latest resurgence.

It is now becoming a tourist attraction again, although the local mayor warns it may only be a fleeting visit.

Since December, two sections of the submarine have been visible at low tide about 330ft (100m) from the dunes.

“The wreck is visible briefly every two to three years, depending on the tides and the wind that leads to sand movements, but a good gust of wind and the wreck will disappear again,” said Mayor of Wissant Bernard Bracq.

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