20 December 2015
In Aberlady Bay – which, incidentally, was designated in 1952 as the UK’s first Local Nature Reserve – rest the wrecks of two World War II midget submarines 1 km out from the Mean High Water line on the intertidal flats of Gullane Sands. In May 1946 these two XT-Craft – training versions of the X-Craft submarine – were moored one each 100 paces to the north and to the south of a set of five concrete anti-tank blocks (four forming a base with the fifth placed on top) positioned close to the low tide mark. Two aircraft – a Supermarine Seafire (the folding-wing, aircraft-carrier version of the Spitfire) and a de Havilland Mosquito then used the mini submarines floating at high tide as targets in a trial on the effects on X-Craft hulls of 20mm cannon shells. The wrecks of the two vessels were subsequently left abandoned in situ.
Built by Vickers-Armstrong, the X-Craft submarine was 15 metres long and was manned by a crew of four. The midget submarine was designed specifically for use in the 1943 attacks, codenamed Operation Source, on the German fleet in Norwegian fjords. The German Bismarck-class battleship Tirpitz was put out of action for at least six months after sustaining damage from demolition charges placed below her by two X-Craft. (The Tirpitz finally met her end the following year when she took two direct hits from Lancaster bombers.)