During a previous visit to the bunker museum on Terschelling we already discovered the Udet Boje. Then it was photographically attractive to us because it was almost completely covered with a layer of rust. A small information board told more about the object and I recorded that information with digital photographs.
I now make a small jump forward in time to May 20, 2021, the day that my father died early in the morning from the consequences of a very rare form of peritoneal cancer, we were lucky that he was taken in and nursed at a hospice in Zwolle with loving hands. His last word before he went in to a deep sleep was ‘ajuus’ (Dutch word for: goodbye).
After his funeral we had to evacuate his house. I was looking forward to the many pictures he had taken during his life. Photograph was a big hobby of him. With a difference: in his time everything was still analog film and monochrome. We did not find the photographs in the house. Strangely enough they were all stored in a large box in the small barn next to his house. A damp room with only a thin tiled roof above them. Fortunately, the moisture didn’t get the time to affect the photos and so I was able to save all of them, store them properly and from there on make them all digital one by one with my scanner.
I had heard my father tell of a trip to the Wadden Island of Terschelling. But I had no idea if he had taken any photos. I discovered them only a few weeks later in one of his old albums, they were all neatly glued into the photo book and protected by thin layers of foil. A wonderful legacy of my parents life story.
Carefully leafing through the books I discovered his vacation on Terschelling in the year 1953. Together with two friends on a bicycle having their adventure to the island. Enjoying the peace, exploring the island, nature, dunes and beer on a terrace. He took his camera everywhere they went and so I have lots of pictures of his journeys.
On a few photos he had taken photos on the beach near a wreck, something struck me. At first I could not get an idea of what they had climbed there, but not much later I came across a picture I made of the Udet Boje while browsing through my photo archive and then I knew immediately: the three men had discovered the wreck of the Udet Boje in 1953.
The Udet Boje’s were a series of buoys spread out in the North Sea and anchored by the German Navy. Each Udet Boje was hollow inside, was fully furnished with beds and lots of resources to survive for a short time. They also had access to a radio in order to alert the coast guard. In this way the pilots could be rescued.
Presumably the three men never knew what they were standing on top of: I never heard my father tell about it. The photographs were silent witnesses to their discovery at pole 24 on Terschelling in the year 1953. All three in white pants, a jacket, my father wearing a cap and all with sunglasses.
Hille van Dieren of the Wreck Museum on Terschelling also ran with his friends back and forth over the beach between the wrecks at that time. Hille told me that they often went to the wrecks looking for pieces of metal or aluminum and broke them off to collect some scrap metal and earn some money. At that time they were happily demolishing all those old wrecks. How special is, that years later they did exactly the opposite by founding the Bunkermuseum The radarstation ‘Tiger’ to rescue all the wrecks they can find.
Sixty years after the visit of the men to Terschelling, the people of the Bunkermuseum together with two contractors on Terschelling made several attempts to excavate the Udet Boje. This eventually succeeded and it can still be found on the grounds of the Bunkermuseum.
At its current location, the hull has been given a black layer of paint to better protect it from rust. The top of the buoy was entirely rebuilt at a shipyard in Harlingen and then transferred to the island where it was secured on top of the bottom. From what I understand they are going to do their best to restore the Udet Boje in its entirety to its original condition. The interior will also be completely rebuilt as it once was.
Several buoys are still lying on the bottom of harbors or the North Sea rusting away. The buoys also served as ‘target practice’ for the British pilots. For them they were clearly visible in the middle of the North Sea a bright yellow tower with a large cross on it. Several may have been sunk like this.
Today, August 31, 2021, a video was published on Youtube by Calum Gillies with the complete history of the Udet Boje. A wonderful short documentary showing the history with images:
We were able to complete the story about the Udet Boje with a visit to the Bunkermuseum on Terschelling where I was able to take pictures of the restored buoy. The old top from 1953 was no more, but it gave me a good idea of where they stood on top. The photos were sent to members of the museum and may be included in the exhibit.
During our visit I also submitted the images together with a text to Terschelling magazine, which arrived a week later. This concluded the adventure for a large part, but it is not finished yet. In the future we will go back to look at the progress of the restoration and we will also do a tour of the museum. I have heard that Peter is very good at telling the story. I am already looking forward to it.