14 April 1945 80 in 86 metres
Built: 1943 by F Schichau GmbH, Danzig
Construction: steel 769 t (displacement, surfaced), type VIIC/41 u-boat, length 67.1 mtr, beam 6.2 mtr, draught 4.74 mtr
Propulsion: twin screw, 2 x 6-cyl diesels 1600 HP each, 2 x electric motors 750 HP each
Armaments: 4 bow & 1 stern 533mm torpedo tubes, 14 torpedoes, 1 x 37mm anti-aircraft gun, 2 x twin 20mm anti-aircraft guns
U-1206 was launched in December 1943 and commissioned in March 1944 under command of Oblt. Gunther Fritze, it spent the following ten months with 8th Training Flotilla during which a snorkel was fitted and command transferred to Kptlt. Karl-Adolf Schlitt. In February 1944 U-1206 transferred to 11th Combat Flotilla based in Bergen.
U-1206 commenced its first and only war patrol when it left Kiel on the 23rd March, calling at Horten, then Kristiansand before departing on the 6th March for the UK East Coast. Having arrived off the Buchan coast U-1206 had to effect mechanical repairs to the diesel engines, during which the bow section started flooding releasing chlorine gas from the batteries. Ballast tanks were blown and loaded torpedoes fired to improve buoyancy, the submarine surfaced but the diesel engines failed. As it was obvious that the boat was lost, secret equipment was destroyed and the boat allowed to sink. The crew abandoned in four inflatable liferafts.
Two naval trawlers, HMT Nodzu & HMT Ligny, approached and saw the U-1206 roll over and sink. Just before midnight, the Nodzu recued twenty-three men from two rafts and took them to Aberdeen. Fourteen men on another raft were picked up by the Peterhead lobster boat Reaper, skippered by Alec John Stephen, and the fourth raft was washed ashore south of Boddam where six made it ashore but three crew were drowned. The six scaled the sea cliffs south of Boddam, they came up in an area known as the Guite (pronounced gwyte) where they were seen by a local lad, Sandy Bain. Sandy ran the two miles to the only phone in the area at the shop in Tillymaud to call the authorities.
Meanwhile, the traumatized young sailors were kept in the outhouses of a local farmer, called Pratt where they were cared for by the farmer’s wife until the authorities picked them up in a bus. Capt. Schlitt was taken to the Peterhead police station where he handed in his weapon. Apparently, on his train journey to London for interrogation, by mistake he was given his briefcase back which contained his loaded weapon – he had to return it once again.
The boat has gained some undeserved notoriety for the cause of her sinking. Official loss logs at the time and taken soon after the war state it was a toilet malfunction which caused the leak that ultimately resulted in the evacuation and sinking of the boat. Some stories go further to claim that it was the captain himself who caused the leak. While this may be true, a relative of a crew member has been in touch to state that his father was told, long after the war, by Capt. Schlitt himself, that the officers decided to surrender and created the leak as a cover story to protect them from the reprisals they would suffer in prison camp if the truth was known. We prefer to believe this version of the story.
We spent many years trying to find the U-1206. We knew she was in the area because she had been found in the 1970's during a seabed survey commissioned by BP to investigate a possible route for the planned Forties field oil pipeline. When she was found, BP tracked down and contacted Capt. Schlitt and brought him to the UK to meet his rescuers from Reaper. He presented them with a plaque to thank them and commemorate the meeting. We found copies of the articles written at the time but could not find any details or positions. We found and dived around 6 marks looking for the wreck before we finally found her in 2012.
After the war Capt. Schlitt became a district administrator for the region of Oldenburg in Holstein. Karl-Adolf Schlitt died on April 7, 2009 at the age of 90, he outlived all of his crew. We have been in touch with his widow, she told us that Karl-Adolf was proud of his time as a U-boat captain and loved to talk about it. Unfortunately we were unable to get in touch with him before his death, we are sure he would have some great stories to tell.
The U-1206 lies in 86 metres with a 45 degree list to port on a flat sandy seabed, orientated 160/340 degrees. Given her age she is in remarkably good condition and the only major damage is that the wintergarden, anti-aircraft guns and periscopes have been trawled off the wreck - however they lie on the seabed just off the port side along with the tangled trawl net which did the damage, rising in a twisted column to a height of around 20 metres.
All the deck framework and outer hull remains intact, even some of the wooden decking remains in places. The snorkel is intact and in its stowed position, the forward three life-raft hatches are closed and the fourth one is open with a half-removed life-raft in place. The forward hydroplanes are intact and all four forward torpedo tube outer and inner doors are open, all tubes are empty apart from the upper port tube which still contains a torpedo. The conning tower is intact, stumps of both periscopes remain along with the targeting compass, the main hatch looks shut but may just have dropped to closed position. Immediately aft of the conning tower the large engine air inlet and air-treatment inlets protrude. The stern hydroplanes, rudders and propellers are intact - the hydroplanes are level and the rudders set dead ahead. Between the rudders, the stern torpedo tube is open and empty.
the wreck today
upper port torpedo tube with torpedo loaded
stern torpedo tube
top of conning tower
lower port torpedo tube
crew on the U-1206, Capt. Schlitt has his back to camera
Capt. Karl Adolf Schlitt
record of statement given by Capt. Schlitt
U-1206 crew on conning tower
preparing for the dive, smooth seas but fog patches
ascent from the wreck
happy team, having found the wreck after 12 years of searching
article from the BP magazine The Oil Producer detailing the find and re-union
Capt. Schlitt (left) with the crew of the Reaper John Smith and skipper Alec John (right)