World War II: Surrender of U-Boat U2326
On the 14th of May 1945, at the end of WWII the German U-boat U-2326 surrendered in Dundee, and her Captain and Executive Officer were brought aboard Unicorn, which was at the time named HMS Cressy and was the base ship for the Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) at Dundee.
The two German officers surrendered their naval dirks to Captain WF Keay RNVR, who commanded Unicorn (Cressy) from 1927 to 1945, an extraordinary length of time in command. They were later presented to Unicorn by his son, Captain TAC Keay, who also had an extraordinary time in command of Tay Division, first commanding HMS Unicorn from 1963 to 1966 and then being recalled from retirement to command HMS Camperdown from 1981 to 1986.
There are several photographs of the event, the most memorable being one of the two officers leaving Unicorn, the tall Executive Officer ruefully rubbing his head having just bumped it hard on the low entrance port! The officer in the foreground of the photograph is a Dutch submarine officer acting as interpreter, who presumably failed to translate ‘mind your head’.
Unicorn’s visitors book still contains a small scrap of signal paper with the signatures of the two Germans.
Though never rigged for sea-service, Unicorn served her country well: first as part of the deterrent fleet which maintained ‘pax britannica’ through the Victorian era, and then as the naval headquarters ship in Dundee through two world wars and almost a century of naval training. People often remark, dismissively, ‘of course, Unicorn never fired her guns in anger’ and are then most surprised to find that not only did she take the surrender of a German U-boat, but that the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer’s naval dirks are still on display onboard.