Wilhelm Bauer - U-2540
Written by Jonathan Manuel.
U-2540s history is a complicated one, and one of great interest. The Type XXI U-Boat of which U-2540 was a part of can be considered one of the most advanced U-Boats constructed during the Second World War. The Type XXI Class was nicknamed Elektroboot due to its primarily electric propulsion system which allowed the Type XXIs to be great Stealth Submarines. Most Type XXI U-boats had a displacement of 1,621 tons surfaced, and 1,819 tons submerged. Most had a total length of 76.70 m (251 ft 8 in), a beam of 8 m (26 ft 3 in), and a draught of 6.32 m (20 ft 9 in), however the Type XXIC was Longer at a Length of 83 meters (263 ft), The Type XXIs were powered by two MAN SE supercharged six-cylinder M6V40/46KBB diesel engines each providing 4,000 metric horsepower (2,900 kilowatts; 3,900 shaft horsepower), two Siemens-Schuckert GU365/30 double-acting electric motors each providing 5,000 PS, and two Siemens-Schuckert silent running GV232/28 electric motors each providing 226 PS. The Type XXI U-Boat had a maximum surface speed of 15.6 knots and a submerged speed of 17.2 knots. However, when running on silent the boat could only operate at a speed of 6.1 knots. When submerged, they could operate at 5 knots for 340 nautical miles; when surfaced, she could travel 15,500 nautical miles at 10 knots. The Type XXI U-Boats were fitted with six 53.3 cm torpedo tubes in the bow and four 2 cm C/30 Flak 30 anti-aircraft guns. They could carry twenty-three torpedoes or seventeen torpedoes and twelve mines. The complement of the submarine was five officers and fifty-two men. Three Variants of the Type XXI Were Built, The Base XXI (Sometimes called XXIA), the XXIB, and the XXIC they all differed primarily in armament with the exception of the XXIC as it was longer than the other variants. Three Further Variants (XXID, XXIE, and XXIF) were proposed but not built. The Type XXIs in terms of attack where radically different than most submarines, once a target had been sighted the attack maneuver commenced by Running at full speed on a direct collision course with the target no mater the type of ship while remaining at attack depth. Without the periscope in use the distance and bearing of the target could be accurately (most of the time) calculated by a fire control center inside the submarine. Upon completion of the attack run the Type XXI would turn escape at flank speed at depth as most allied sonars were unable to pic up the boats high speed of 13 knots. While exceptional these boats had many flaws, the worst being their very poor seakeeping, nevertheless these boats are considered the Best submarines of the second world war by many historians and served as the basis for many post war submarines especially soviet ones.
U-2540 was laid down on the 28 of October 1944, and only commissioned in February of 1945. She Served the German Kreigsmarine for only under three months as a training ship, however due to fuel shortages she never left for patrols. Instead U-2540 was towed to Swinemünde before being scuttled near the Flensburg lightship on 4 May 1945 along with many other ships including the Aircraft Carrier Graf Zeppelin to prevent their capture by the advancing Red Army. U-2540 spent the next 12 years underwater, until she was salvaged in 1957 by the Bundesmarine (West German Navy) who refitted her as a research vessel. Upon her Relaunch she was striped of the Name U-2540 and renamed Wilhelm Bauer after Germany’s first U Boat designer and builder of the first German submarine Brandtaucher of 1850 (Now a Museum ship). Wilhelm Bauer was given the Class number 241 and served as test boat from 1960 to 1968 when she was decommissioned for the first time. In 1970 she was recommissioned as a training submarine and a technology test boat with a civilian crew and served as a testbed for the technical innovations of the 206 U-boat class. After an underwater collision with the German destroyer Zerstörer 3 (D172) (ex USS Wadsworth (DD-516) Fletcher class) on 6 May 1980 Wilhelm Bauer was discharged from use at Eckernförde on 18 November 1980 and finally decommissioned for the last time on 15 March 1982.
Wilhelm Bauer (Ex U-2540) was put on sale by the German Ministry of Defence and later acquired by the board of trustees of the German Maritime Museum Association and the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum (German Maritime Museum) in Bremerhaven. The boat was restored to its original World War II configuration after its transfer in August 1983 to the Seebeck yard, while there her armament was restored with mock up 2cm Flak 30 AA Guns, and without her glazed bridge from the Bundesmarine, her propellers were also removed and placed at the entrance of the museum. The Wilhelm Bauer (Now U-2540 as well) Opened to the public on 27 April 1984 as a museum ship in Bremerhaven, now sponsored by the Wilhelm Bauer Technology Museum association. She is the Last Type XXI afloat and the last U Boat afloat and unmodified for ease of access by the public. She is amongst only 4 WWII U Boats left on display, the others being U-505 and U-534 Type IX and IXC/41 respectively and U-995 a Type VIIC/4.
Wilhelm Bauer's website