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Gerrit Fritzen – Baltictech divers discovered amazing German shipwreck from WWII

Published: September 15, 2023 - 12:20
Updated: September 15, 2023 - 12:39
Gerrit Fritzen – Baltictech divers discovered amazing German shipwreck from WWII

Polish technical divers from the Baltictech group have found and identified the wreck of the World War II German ship Gerrit Fritzen.

The Gerrit Fritzen steamer remained until very recently one of the last undiscovered wrecks of the vessels that sank while carrying out, the evacuation of the Germans from East Prussia as part of Operation Hannibal. However, everything has just changed thanks to the Polish technical diving group Baltictech.

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Gerrit Fritzen
The wreck is heavily covered with ghost nets, Photo: Maciej Honc/Baltictech Group

A few years ago, we set a goal as Baltictech to find the wrecks of the last five missing vessels that took part in Operation Hannibal, the largest naval evacuation in history.

The evacuation, which took place as part of Operation Hannibal, lasted from October 10, 1944 until the end of World War II on May 8, 1945. Led by Kriegsmarine Commander-in-Chief Karl Dönitz, the evacuation was a huge success. Despite losses of about 20,000 human beings, it allowed more than 2 million Germans to be safely transported to the West.

A total of 1,080 ships were used in this operation, of which as many as 247 were sunk by the Soviets. About 150 of the lost units were recovered immediately after the war, while the other 100 still rest on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Some of them remained undiscovered until recently, but thanks to the Baltictech group’s work, the number is constantly decreasing.

Three years ago the fate of the steamers Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Orion, Gerrit Fritzen and Baltenland remained unknown. In 2020 we found the Karlsruhe, a year later the Frankfurt, and on Friday, September 8 – 30 Nm from Wladyslawowo we dived on a large wreck resting at a depth of 92 m…

As divers from the Baltictech group report, the very first structural elements seemed to confirm the identity of the wreck. However, it wasn’t until a ship’s bell with the name “TERNE 1922 was found that the ship could be identified with 100% certainty.

TERNE 1922 – this was the first historical name of the ship placed before the year of its production.

On March 12, 1945, Gerrit Fritzen sailed from Lipawa to Lübeck and was sunk by Soviet aircrafts at 12:00 a.m. on the same day.

Of the five steamers mentioned above, it was the history of this ship that was the least known. The only thing we know for sure is that no one died on it. Today, the wreck lies far from the coast and very deep, in addition, it is heavily covered with fishing nets, but diving on it is like going into space!

German WWII era wreck
Ship was sunked by Soviet aircrafts on March 12, 1945, Photo: Tomasz Stacbura/Baltictech Group

SS Gerrit Fritzen

The 78-meters-long ship was built at the Ouse Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. shipyard in Goole, England, from where she set sail in 1922 under the name SS Terne. The first owner of the vessel was the Norwegian company Bergen Lloyd – Bjørnstad & Brækhus. However, as early as 1923, the ship’s was sold to another Norwegian company, Lehmkuhl Kr. – Det Norske Russiske D/S A/S. With the change the owner ship was renamed to D/S Severoles.

Another change of the owner (and name) occurred in 1939. At that time, the ship was acquired by the Swedish company Trapp J.R. of Gothenburg and renamed SS Bohus. In 1940, the last owner of the steamship became the German company Fritzen Johs. & Sohn from Emden in northwestern Germany, where the ship operated for five years under the name SS Gerrit Fritzen.

Baltictech

The article is based on informations and materials collected and suplied by the Baltictech Group.

The Baltictech Group brings together experienced Polish technical divers, hydrographers and history enthusiasts who share a common goal – to discover the mysteries of the Baltic Sea. Since its founding, the group’s members have contributed to the discovery, identification and conservation of many wrecks. In addition to exploration efforts, educating people about wrecks and diving in the Baltic Sea is also an important part of their activities.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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