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WW1 German Submarine With 23 Bodies Inside Found Off Belgian Coast

20/09/2017 11:19 PM AEST | Updated 20/09/2017 11:20 PM AEST

An virtually intact World War One German submarine containing the bodies of its 23 crew members has been found off the Belgian coast.

Western Flanders Governor Carl Decaluwe told The Associated Press that the find on the floor of the North Sea "is very unique."

"It's quite amazing that we found something like this," Decaluwe said. "The impact damage was at the front, but the submarine remains closed and there are 23 people still onboard."

KB Vlaanderen- Tomas Termote/Handout via REUTERS
The well-preserved wreck was found on the floor of the North Sea off the coast of Belgium 

The UB II-type dive boat that was found is 27m long and 6m wide, and is lying at about a 45 degree angle, between 25-30m below the surface.

From the damage to the front of the vessel, it appears that the sub may have struck a mine with its upper deck. Two torpedo tubes have been destroyed but the lower tube is intact and closed.

The use of submarines, often referred to as U-boats, in World War One to disrupt British trade routes in the English Channel and the North Sea was a key part of German tactics.

KB Vlaanderen- Tomas Termote/Handout via REUTERS
Damage indicates the sub may have struck a mine with its upper deck. Two torpedo tubes have been destroyed but the lower tube is intact and closed

The 93 German U-boats stationed in Belgian ports downed more than 2,500 ships but were also a target themselves, with 70 of them lost at sea, killing 1,200 sailors.

It was not yet clear which of the 11 known wrecks of the German submarines had been found, and authorities said they would not give the exact location of the wreck to deter looters.

"Of the 11 downed U-Boats in Belgian waters, this one is the best preserved example," a spokesman for the province of West Flanders said.

Belgium's North Sea minister said he would investigate whether the wreck, which was discovered by researchers, could be recognised as a heritage site.

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