Divers ask that maritime grave be respected


DIVERS WHO discovered a first World War German U-boat which was lost off the Cork coast in 1917 resulting in the death of all 27 crew members have asked that the maritime grave not be interfered with.

The UC42 was launched in September 1916 and was lost on September 10th the following year off Cobh, or Queenstown as it was known, in Cork after one of her own mines exploded, damaging the stern and killing all 27 crew. The vessel had been laying mines in the harbour.

On November 2nd, 1917, divers from the Haulbowline dockyard positively identified the U-boat as UC42, noting the stern damage to the submarine and the presence of the bodies of some of the German submariners.

Cork Institute of Technology chemistry student and amateur diver, Ian Kelleher, said he was intrigued by the story of a U-boat lost at his own “back door”. He and his fellow diver Niall O’Regan finally discovered the U-boat in 27 metres of water just off Roches Point in Cork on November 6th last after several years of searching for the vessel.

The divers found a 38-metre submarine in good condition with the inner pressure hull intact. It was positively identified by a stamp on the bottom of the propeller.

Mr Kelleher said the locating of the U-boat was the end of a “major adventure”. He urged members of the diving community to be respectful of the grave site.

“I do believe it will be a magnet for divers. But it is a grave. We have treated it as such, we have made a plaque for the crew. Anyone who dives it we would urge them to look but to not touch and to respect it as such.”

The dive team laid a plaque near the submarine’s propellers to act as a memorial to the submariners entombed in UC42. The plaque was donated by John O’Mahony of Complete Signs.

Prior to its loss in 1917 the UC42 sank 13 vessels and disabled a warship of 1,210 tonnes displacement.

In 1918 the submarine was dived by Haulbowline and American divers in an effort to disarm the mines and torpedoes still aboard. It was widely believed that in July 1919 divers using explosives from HMS Vernonhad destroyed the submarine.

Many divers have since searched for the remains of UC42 around Cork Harbour with no luck, until the recent dive by Mr Kelleher and Mr O’Regan.

A local team of five divers, including the two, had spent several years carrying out a methodical search of the greater harbour area determined to find the remains of the submarine. Their labours finally paid dividends when Mr Kelleher and Mr O’Regan identified the submarine. The dive team consisted of Mr Kelleher, Mr O’Regan, Philip Johnston, Eoin McGarry and Timmy Carey.

Over the past few weeks the divers have videoed and photographed the submarine and taken various measurements to record the wreck’s condition.