Submarine cruiser U 139. This 1:100 scale model was masterfully built in 1995 by our dear friend Maurice Verhaaren. It is part of our section dedicated to the history of submarine warfare on deck 5 of the museum.
With a displacement of 1,930 t surfaced and 2,483 t submerged, a length of 92 m and a breadth of 9.2 m, „U 139“ was the largest submarine ever to serve in the German Imperial Navy – and even larger than the Type X submarines of World War II. For this reason, she and her sisters, „U 140“ and „U 141,“ were referred to as submarine-cruisers rather than submarines. Because of its dimensions and tasks, „U 139“ was even given a name, „Kapitänleutnant Schwieger,“ which was atypical for German submarines, which carried numbers.
The German Empire had launched unrestricted submarine warfare against the Allies in response to the blockade of the North Sea imposed by the British Royal Navy. The sinking of the ocean liner „Lusitania“ by the „U 20“ in early May 1915 drew diplomatic consequences, and Germany reverted to the application of the “prize rules” (norms created to protect merchant shipping and civilians at sea). Unrestricted submarine warfare resumed in early 1916, leading to the sinking of the French channel steamer “Sussex” and new diplomatic protests from the United States. The German Admiralty decided to abandon unrestricted submarine warfare again and ordered a new type of ship to conduct submarine warfare under prize rules. These were large „diving cruisers“ with reinforced artillery armament that served as offensive and defensive weapons. „Project 46“ led to the order of three submarines from the Germania shipyard in Kiel. These had a range of 12,000 nautical miles and carried two 15-cm guns. They were operated by a crew of 62 and had „Prisenkommandos“ (prize parties) on board. They were commissioned a few months before the end of the war, and their war patrols were not decisive in determining the outcome of the war.
The „U 139“ was commissioned in May 1918. After the war she served as „Halbronn“ in the French Navy until 1933 and was scrapped two years later.
This 1:100 scale model was masterfully built in 1995 by our dear friend Maurice Verhaaren. It is part of our section dedicated to the history of submarine warfare on deck 5 of the museum.