That Time a WWII German U-Boat Sank as a Result of Flushing a Toilet

In the 1970s, BP oil pipeline workers came
across a curious item about 12 miles southwest of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire sitting about
86 meters under the surface- an old German U-Boat. In fact, one of the last U-Boats ever sunk
in WWII. Unlike so many of its fellow subs, however,
this one’s demise came about owing to a sequence of events all stemming from someone flushing
the toilet incorrectly… So what exactly happened here? U-1206, a Type VIIC submarine, was officially
ordered on April 2, 1942 and ultimately launched on December 30, 1943. About a year and a half later, On April 6,
1945, the shiny new craft with its crew of 50 men departed from Kristiansand, Norway
on its first non-training patrol machine. Pertinent to the topic at hand is that while
most submarines at the time used a storage tank to stow the product of flushing on board
toilets and other waste water, with stereotypical German engineering efficiency, U-boat designers
went the other way and decided to eject the waste directly into the ocean. On the plus side, this saved valuable space
within the submarine while also reducing weight. The downside, of course, was that ejecting
anything into the ocean required greater pressure inside than out. As a result, U-boats had long required that,
in order to use the toilets, the ship would have to be near the surface
Of course, being so close to or on the surface is generally to be avoided when on patrol
if a sub captain wants to see his ship not blown up. This resulted in crewmen who needed to purge
their orifices while submerged needing to do so in containers, which would then be stored
appropriately until the sub needed to surface and the offending substances could be ditched
over board. As you can imagine, this didn’t exactly improve
the already less than ideal smell of the air within the sub while it was plodding away
down under. But there was nothing much that could be done
about this… That is, until some unknown German engineers
designed a high pressure evacuation system. As to how this system worked, in a nutshell,
the contents of the toilet were piped into an airlock of sorts. Once the offending matter found its way into
said airlock, this would be sealed and subsequently pressurized, at which point a valve could
be opened which would eject the fecal matter and fluids into the sea. This all brings us to eight days into the
patrol mission, on April 14, 1945. Now, before we get into this, it should be
noted that there are two versions of the story of what happened next- one version is stated
by literally every single source we could find discussing this event on the interwebs,
as well as repeated on the show QI and found in countless books on the subject. As for the other version, if you dig a little
deeper, thanks to the good people at the Deutsches U-Boot Museum Archive, you can actually find
the official account from 27 year old Captain Karl-Adolf Schlitt, who, minus a couple letters
in his last name, couldn’t have been more aptly named for what was about to occur. All this said, in both cases, the root cause
of the sub’s sinking were the same- improper use of the toilet’s flushing mechanism. That caveat out of the way, as the vessel
was cruising along at around 70 meters below the surface and about eight miles from Peterhead,
Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the popular version states that Captain Schlitt had need of evacuating
his bowels and so, no doubt with dignity befitting a man of his stature and rank, did his business
in the toilet. That done, he was now left to try to flush
the thing. Unable to figure out the complicated contraption,
Captain Schlitt called in help from the “W.C. Waste Disposal Unit Manager”- literally the
only guy on board officially trained in how to flush the toilet, apparently also known
among the crew as (translated), “the shit-man”. Unfortunately for the men that would soon
die as a result, for whatever reason the crewman who was supposed to know how to flush the
toilet made a mistake and turned the wrong valve… That’s the popular version to which we could
not find any primary document to support it, despite it being widely parroted. As for the official version, Captain Schlitt
himself claimed, In April 1945 U-1206 was in the North Sea
off Britain. On board the diesel engines were faulty. We could not charge our batteries by the snorkel
any more. In order to get the diesels working again
we had put down about 8-10 miles from the British coast at 70mts, unseen by British
patrols… I was in the engine room, when at the front
of the boat there was a water leak. What I have learned is that a mechanic had
tried to repair the forward WC’s outboard vent. I would say – although I do not have any proof
– that the outer vent indicator either gave false readings or none at all. As to why said mechanic was attempting to
work on the toilet’s outboard vent while deeply submerged, that’s every bit as much of a mystery
as to why an engineer trained in how to properly flush the toilet would have screwed it up
so badly in the Captain Schlitt pooping version of the story. Of course, it is always possible that the
good Captain made up his version of things to avoid personal embarrassment and perhaps
the other version came from crew members giving a very different account, but we could not
locate any crew member’s version of events to verify that. Whichever story is true, the result in either
case was the contents of the toilet, if any, and the ocean outside shooting like a jet
stream into the submarine. Things were about to get a whole lot worse. You see, as alluded to in Captain Schlitt’s
account, the U-1206 was a diesel electric sub, featuring twin Germaniawerft F46 four-stroke
engines, which charged a bank of batteries which, in turn, powered two electric motors
capable of producing 750 horsepower combined. The problem was that the batteries were directly
below the toilet area. According to Captain Schlitt, when the water
rushed in, “…the batteries were covered with seawater. Chlorine gas started to fill the boat.” As this was all happening, Captain Schlitt
ordered the vessel to be surfaced. He then states, “The engineer who was in the
control room at the time managed to make the boat buoyant and surfaced, despite severe
flooding.” So here they were, diesel engines down for
maintenance, batteries soaking in seawater, having taken on a significant amount of said
water, chlorine gas filling the ship, and on the surface just off the coast of enemy
territory. The nightmare for Captain Schlitt was about
to get worse. As he noted in his account of events, “We
were then incapable of diving or moving. At this point, British planes and patrols
discovered us…” With few options available, Captain Schlitt
ordered various valves on the U-1206 be opened in order for it to fill with water, after
which the crew abandoned the sub, with it shortly thereafter sinking. The crew made their way to the Scottish coast
on rubber rafts, but things didn’t go well here either. Schlitt states, “In the attempt to negotiate
the steep coast in heavy seas, three crew members tragically died. Several men were taken onboard a British sloop. The dead were Hans Berkhauer, Karl Koren,
and Emil Kupper.” Ultimately 10 crewmen did make it shore, but
just like their surviving compatriots at sea, were promptly captured. In the aftermath, thankfully for just about
everyone, just 16 days later, on April 30, 1945, Hitler bravely, and with no regard for
his own personal safety, infiltrated the Führerbunker and single handedly managed to rid the world
of one of the most notorious individuals of all time by putting a bullet through his own
brain. About a week after that, Germany finally surrendered. As for what happened to Captain Schlitt after,
this isn’t clear, other than he appears to have lived to the ripe old age of 90, dying
on April 7, 2009. Bonus Facts:
• The practice of calling the toilet the “head” was originally a maritime euphemism. This came from the fact that, classically,
the toilet on a marine vessel, or at least where everyone would relieve themselves, was
at the front of the ship (the head). This was so that water from the sea that splashed
up on the front of the boat would wash the waste away. The first known documented occurrence of the
term used to describe a toilet area was from 1708 by Woodes Rogers, Governor of the Bahamas,
in his work “Cruising Voyage Around the World.” • Despite toilet paper having been around
since at least the 6th century AD (initially in China), it wouldn’t be until the late
19th century when toilet paper would first be introduced in America and England and it
wasn’t until the 1900s, around the same time the indoor toilet became common, that
toilet paper would catch on with the masses. So what did people use for wiping before toilet
paper? This depended greatly on region, personal
preference, and wealth. Rich people often used hemp, lace, or wool. The 16th century French writer Francois Rabelais,
in his work Gargantua and Pantagruel, recommended using “the neck of a goose, that is well
downed”. The goose is kind of getting the crappy end
of that deal. *crickets*Poor people would poop in rivers
and clean off with water, rags, wood shavings, leaves, hay, rocks, sand, moss, sea weed,
apple husks, seashells, ferns, and pretty much whatever else was at hand and cheap/free. For seaman, the common thing was to use old
frayed anchor cables. The Inuit’s and other peoples living in
frigid regions tended to go with clumps of snow to wipe with, which, other than the coldness
factor, is actually one of the better options it seems compared to many other of the aforementioned
methods.Going back a ways in history, we know the Ancient Roman’s favorite wiping item,
including in public restrooms, was a sponge on a stick that would sit in salt water and
be placed back in the salt water when done… waiting for the next person…Back to America,
one extremely popular wiping item for a time was corn cobs and, later, Sears and Roebucks,
Farmers Almanac, and other catalogs became popular. The Farmers Almanac even came with a hole
in it so it could be easily hung in bathrooms for just this purpose… reading and wiping
material in one, and no doubt boosting their sales when said magazine needed replaced! Around 1857, Joseph Gayetty came up with the
first commercially available toilet paper in the United States. His paper “The greatest necessity of the
age! Gayetty’s medicated paper for the water-closet”
was sold in packages of flat sheets that were moistened and soaked with aloe. Gayetty’s toilet paper sold for about 50
cents a pack ($12 today), with 500 sheets in that package. Despite its comfort and superiority at cleaning,
this wasn’t terribly popular, presumably because up to this point most people got their
wiping materials for free from whatever was at hand, and humans hate change and newfangled
innovations. Around 1867, brothers Edward, Clarence, and
Thomas Scott, who sold products from a push cart, started making and selling toilet paper
as well. They did a bit better than Gayetty; their
original toilet paper was much cheaper as it was not coated with aloe and moistened,
but was just rolls of somewhat soft paper (often with splinters). As the indoor flushable toilet started to
become popular, so did toilet paper. This is not surprising considering there was
nothing really to grab in an indoor bathroom to wipe with, unlike outdoors where nature
is at your disposal. The age old Farmers Almanac and similar such
catalogs also were not well suited for this purpose because their pages tended to clog
up the pipes in indoor plumbing. Even once it became popular, wiping with toilet
paper still doesn’t appear to have been painless until surprisingly recently. The aforementioned splinter problem seems
to have been somewhat common until a few decades into the 20th century. In the 1930s, this changed with such companies
as Northern Tissue boasting a “splinter free” toilet tissue. As for today, toilet paper is still extremely
popular, though wet wipes, similar to Gayetty’s, have made a major come back in recent years,
much to the chagrin of sewer workers the world over. Much like our forebears who shunned Gayetty’s
innovation, vastly superior toilet seat add-on bidet systems that take 10 minutes to install
and cost only around $30, literally paying for themselves in drastic reduction of toilet
paper usage relatively quickly and providing significantly better cleaning, are still largely
shunned for some reason. If you’d like such a toilet seat add-on bidet
and would like to support our show, feel free to click our amazon affiliate link in
the description below:

100 thoughts on “That Time a WWII German U-Boat Sank as a Result of Flushing a Toilet

  1. Thank you Crossout for making this possible! Check out Crossout and get extra weapons for free here:

  2. The deepest spot in the world's oceans is the Challenger Deep (about 6.8 miles). Perhaps you meant 8600 feet?

  3. Supposedly there was modern DNA testing done on the "So called" Hitler skull (with the self inflicted gunshot wound), and it wasn't Hitler. Here's also FBI records stating that the U.S. knew Hitler escaped to Argentina with his wife. Plus it never made any sense, to those who studied the end of WW2 and Hitler's "so called" suicide. Hitler was too much in love with himself and besides being a monster, he had a huge ego, and suicide isn't what high level psycho's like that, do to "check out".

  4. I used to think you knew what you were talking about. But the "head" refers to the catheads, beams located near the bow of the ship, projecting out over the sea and used to handle the anchors. Sailors could sit on the catheads to defecate, this being less messy than filling a chamber pot which would have to be cleaned.

  5. maybe it was a self destruct button or they made a toilet that would shoot shit to enemy

  6. Pretty sure Hitler made it to Argentina. Project paper clip is well known. I think you’d be more popular with surgical procedures to bring those ears back against your head a bit.

  7. 86 miles under the surface ?
    Let's just say: Near earths iron/nickel core.
    Or just a little below my comment … that I just read … about 86 miles … below .. my comment.

  8. "Grandpa, what did you do in the war?" "Ich bin ein scheißemann." "It was a shitty job".

  9. Someone invented Chuck Norris toilet paper but it didn't work because it wouldn't take shit from anyone.

  10. Needing to always comment. . . Blog roll.

    Needing to wipe my pooey bum on a sinking submarine. . .
    Bog roll

  11. wet wipes must go in to the rubbish, if you are a wet wipe person get a rubbish bin with a bag next to your toilet, otherwise you will need a plumber eventually who will have to flush out all your wet wipes. All they need is a snag in the pipe to start building a clog. Or even a improper fall of the pipe.

  12. can you imagine living in a time when "splinter-free" was an advertising point for toilet paper?

  13. You know what… Lots of YouTube channels shill for a living, it's part of the game, but damnit Simon does it the best. 👍

  14. A side note. According to scholars or SNL cebataurs use aubesians to wipe their ass

  15. The toilet paper list almost sounded like someone quoting the monty python bit of things that float for weighing a witch

  16. What did they use before toilet paper?
    Wool, Cotton, Pinecones, etc…
    "The neck of a goose that is well down"
    Goose: "Oh come on! Just fucking cook me dude!"

  17. Here's another story about German u-boats that might be interesting to read:
    In World War II a distant relative of mine served as a sailor on one of said boats, who were the pride of the German navy. One night when he was home on a leave he had had a few beers to many with his mates and on his way back from the pub, he stumbled and fell face forward into a puddle of rain-water where he drowned.
    As soon as he had been found, his family received a visit from Gestapo warning them to never tell anyone about the circumstances of his death or they might end up in a concentration camp for "Wehrkraftzersetzung" (undermining of military morale).
    I was told this story many times when I was a kid. Unfortunately I do not know on which boat my relative saved, but for many years I had a ring in form of a Lion's head that had been part of his possessions.

  18. could you do some demonstrations in your videos, like, explain things with scale models and stuff.

  19. Hmmm. I'm no mechanical engineer, but would it be feasible to just have the septic tank connected with inlet and outlet valves that let sea water flow in and flush the waste out naturally while the U-boat moves forward? (Obviously have to first seal tight the toilet hole to prevent sea water gushing into the hull)

    Building high air pressure inside seems like a time bombing waiting to explode.

  20. Can I name my Crossout car "The Schlitter"? Also, I can't imagine wiping my ass with a rock…

  21. Can you please explain the 3 seashell method. I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one who would really like to see that video.

  22. That thing about Hitler going after Hitler's life and ending WWII….I mean, I guess it's all about perspective. The U-Boat's either half filled with s**t sea water or half filled with chlorine gas. In the same kind of perspective, the same man that propagated WWII also ended it…..

  23. Also also, did Germany Russia meme before we had Russia meme? You know, "In mother Russia, you don't X. X does you." or whatever it is…. X don't give it to you…. You give it to X? Anyways. In German U-boat, you don't flush toilet. Toilet flush you.

    Or is it a This is that the scheissewerfer wunderwaffe I've heard rumors about? It werfs scheisse. Just like how nieblewerfers werf niebles and flammenwerfers werf flammens.

  24. $30 bedit:

  25. So, wait, when Jesus was thirsty on the cross and they put vinegar on a sponge on a stick for him to drink from…….. wow, learning all kinds of new things.

  26. I still remember as a 90's kid in the UK, public toilets had this tissue paper type bog roll, it wasn't pleasant 😬

  27. 10:13 ahhh the long forgotten sea shell technology, until demolition man era, of course…

  28. It was 86 miles under the surface?! That's pretty good since the deepest we know of is only a little over 6.5 miles…

  29. If improperly using a toilet can sink a sub, that's one hell of a badly designed toilet.

  30. Items that save lives:

    Duct Tape
    Toilet Paper
    Ramen Soup

    Add onto the list if there are others.

  31. that is to say the figure head of the ship… also it is of note that the front of the ship (all the more in those days without winged sails) was down wind.

  32. Happy to live in a world of toilet paper, so I can lick a girl's ass without fear.

  33. Jennifer Lawrence for instance wipes her butt with sacred Hawaiian rocks…so have i heard.

  34. 86 miles under the surface? Challenger deep is only 36,200 feet, that's almost 7 miles. Either you got your numbers wrong or your phrasing.

  35. LOL – Nice description of Hitlers death. But heck – you really slaughtered the German names 😀

  36. That illustration of the turd at 1:22 is far too realistic for my liking, there’s even a pube sticking out of it!

  37. I doubt he was trying to retell the story to make himself look better if he wrote it in his diary, a place nobody was going to look until his death. Most would be trying to shift an embarassing story like that a long time before they were dead and gone.

  38. Ive noticed y'all rehash a bunch of other peoples videos on random topics..
    Just waiting a couple years to remake your own versions?😕

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