View Full Version : UK BBC2 Timewatch "The Hunt for U-864" Review

01-05-2007, 03:33 PM
Sorry! If you're reading this then you've just missed it, but I thought I'd share what I thought of it. It was purely by chance I flicked over the TV channel as it started.

Radio Times write up:

"A new series of BBC2's history strand begins with a tense tale of submarine warfare. Timewatch has a thing about submarines, but then again, this story is arguably a bit special - the only time in naval warfare that two submarines have duelled to the death underwater. It was February 1945 off the coast of Norway when HMS Venturer managed, by some brilliant manoeuvres, to hunt down and torpedo the German U-boat U864. Sweaty reconstructions capture the atmosphere of the duel ("Commander, port side! Another torpedo!"), while in the present day a salvage team sends cameras down to the whiskery wreck"

From Wiki:
"Unterseeboot 864 (U-864) was a German Type IXD U-boat sunk on February 9, 1945 by the British submarine HMS Venturer. It is the only declassified instance in the history of naval warfare that one submarine sank another while both were submerged. All 73 crewmen went down with the U-864. The shipwreck is located in the North Sea, not far from the Norwegian island Fedje.

As part of Operation Caesar (a late-in-the-day attempt by Germany to prop up their flagging ally by providing them with advanced technology), the submarine was en route to Japan with jet engine parts, missile-guidance systems, and about 70 tons of weapons-grade mercury for the Japanese war effort. Cryptographers at Bletchley Park learned of the plan and the British submarine HMS Venturer was sent to intercept before the submarine reached the open sea. According to a BBC Timewatch documentary, U-864 was attempting evasive maneuvers upon realizing they were being followed by the British submarine. The U-864 was sunk with all hands when the British commander, Jimmy Launders (25), who had been playing a silent cat-and-mouse game for three hours, fired a quick volley of four torpedoes.

Three of the torpedos missed, but the fourth split the U-864 in two. It came to rest more than 150m (500ft) below the surface on the seafloor. There it lay until the Royal Norwegian Navy, alerted by local fishermen, found the wreck in early 2003.

The mercury, contained in rusting metal bottles located down in the vessel's keel, has started to leak and currently poses a severe environmental threat (see mercury poisoning and Minamata disease), although so far the only contamination that has been found is to fish living inside the submarine. The delicate condition of the 2,400-ton wreck, the rusting mercury bottles, and the live torpedoes on board would make a lifting operation extremely dangerous, with significant potential for an environmental catastrophe. To deal with the problem, a proposal has been made by the Norwegian Coastal Administration to entomb the wreck in sand, with an armoring layer on top. This is being proposed as a permanent solution to the problem, and the proposal notes that similar techniques have been successfully used some thirty times worldwide"

I enjoyed it immensley, even though I knew the rough story, I felt I learnt a lot, especially about the individual characters involved, and the real life survivors from HMS Venturer were totally absorbing in what they said, describing how normally the tension that followed the 'Action Stations!' call normally lasted only a few minutes, whereas this time inside the Venturer it lasted at least 45 minutes.

Some of the computer graphics really reminded me of SH3! especially the shots of U-864 looming up to the camera and sliding past - the camera running the length of the hull, and the aerial shot of Venturer's topredo's steaming away from their bow tubes. The interiors of both boats looked convincing too, especially the dials in the control room of U-864 - again, reminded me of SH3 a lot. I wonder if they used it for reference?

Only two criticisms, it's only 50 minutes long and the acting was pretty wooden, and if I was pushed I'd say the Venturer's crew were very clean cut, smartly dressed and clean shaven, whereas the crew of U-864 looked anything but! perhaps, given the late time in the war and the secrecy and urgency of the mission, it was a deliberate thing. All in all, if you see it'll be on, every SH3 Kaleun will enjoy it. Absorbing, factual and informative.<div class="ev_tpc_signature">

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01-05-2007, 03:54 PM
A RealPlayer preview is available:Realplayer Clip (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes/timewatch/launch_vid_timewatch.shtml)<div class="ev_tpc_signature">


01-05-2007, 04:01 PM
That's excellent Minoos! Thanks my friend!<div class="ev_tpc_signature">

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01-05-2007, 04:31 PM
Yes i enjoyed it as well.
Could have been a bit longer as you say though.