This is the story of Captain Schlitt, a sunken submarine, and a very unfortunate bowel movement. In April 1945, just weeks away from Germany's unconditional surrender in World War Two, a soldier's trip to the toilet resulted in a Nazi submarine suffering a dramatic – and highly unpleasant – demise.
The U-boat 1206 was cruising beneath the waves of the Scottish coastline near Aberdeen. Germany’s U-boats, whose name is an abbreviation of Unterseeboot (undersea-boat), were ruthlessly effective at taking down ships and proved to be a formidable threat throughout the Second World War.
Among their many technological and engineering advantages, the U-boat also featured an impressively advanced toilet system compared to the Allied submarines.
The WCs of Allied submarines tended to involve a septic tank that would collect the crew’s poop and release it into the sea when the ship had reached the water’s surface. This system worked relatively well, but the tank would take up much-needed space on the cramped sub.
To overcome this problem, this model of Nazi U-boat used a high-pressure flushing system that would blast out the excrement directly into the sea, even when the vessel was submerged. Unfortunately, this space-saving technology was complicated to use, as Captain Karl-Adolf Schlitt learned the hard way.
So the story goes, Captain Schlitt paid a visit to the deep-sea bathroom on 14 April and somehow managed to mess up the flushing system by turning the wrong valves. He called over an engineer to help remedy the problem, but the situation went from bad to worse: seawater (and presumably human waste) started flooding into the room.
“I was in the engine room, when, at the front of the boat, there was a water leak,” Captain Schlitt's statement on the incident read, according to The Scotsman newspaper.
“What I have learned is a mechanic had tried to repair the forward WC’s outboard vent. The engineer who was in the control room at the time managed to make the boat buoyant and surfaced, despite severe flooding”, it continued.
“Meanwhile the batteries were covered with seawater. Chlorine gas started to fill the boat. We were then incapable of diving or moving. At this point, British planes and patrols discovered us. I let the boat sink.”
And just like that, it was game over for the U-boat. Four of the soldiers on board were believed to have drowned and the remaining crewmembers were captured as prisoners of war.
The wreck of the U-boat lay off the Scottish coast for some 70 years until it was reportedly discovered in 2012. The story of its undignified demise, however, shall live on forever.