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It is estimated that it sank on July 26, 1917 and authorities confirmed that its mission was to skirt the Gallic coasts to lay mines during the war.
A metal casing distinguishes itself in the sand of Wissant beach in northern France. They are the remains of a German submarine of the First World War that was stranded on the French coast in July 1917.
Since December during the low tide two pieces of eight and three meters s of the helmet of the submersible UC61 are visible.
“It was July 26, 1917, came from Zeebrugge (Belgium) and skirted the coast to put mines in Boulogne sur Mer and Herve “, two important ports in northern France, explains the local tour guide, Vincent Schmitt.
” Their mission was to sink merchant ships and even sank a warship, ” explains Isabelle Delumeau, specialist in maritime history.
But the 50-meter long submarine ran aground on the sand and before being stopped by customs officials, the crew disabled it with explosives.
” An extraordinary piece of the sea ,” says guide Schmitt as he watches the fragments.
And imagine the scene … “This huge technology monster, on the beach, with riders around, must have been Dantesque. The old world defeats the new world without firing a shot.”
“A very rare opportunity”
“All the inhabitants of Wissant know that there is a submarine here, but most of it is covered in sand, certain pieces reappear from time to time, but this is the first time that we discover so much, ” says Schmitt.
He thinks that, ” other pieces of the submarine can be discovered in the next months “.
“It takes a storm and a strong tide so that some forgotten remains reappear … It’s a complete field for archeology,” Delumeau enthuses.
“The remains of the submarines of the First World War are not very numerous and are little known, this is a very rare opportunity to approach a submarine”, clarifies the historian.
But according to her, ” for the good of the submarine ” it would be good for it to be covered with sand again because “that keeps it preserved and reduces erosion”. He also points out that there is a risk of looting, ” people could spoil it or want to take home a piece of this historical heritage “
For now, the submersible should stay there buried in the sand. “The submarine does not represent any risk and is part of the marine landscape of the area, the state services have not intervened,” says the prefecture of the department of Pas-de-Calais.
For the mayor of Wissant, Bernard Bracq, ” the submarine can be seen every two or three years, depending on the tide and the wind “. But warns that, “a good gust of wind and it will disappear again”.