The archive´s founder, Horst Bredow, was born in 1924 and joined the Navy after finishing school in 1942 (Crew VI/42). As a result of his officer´s training he became UBoat officer and holding the rank of Leutnant zur See (Junior Lieutenant) he was appointed Officer of the Watch on board U 288. Being wounded during the first combat patrol of U 288 (26th of February to 11th of March 1944) he was hospitalized after return, thereby missing the second combat patrol of his U-Boat, which was lost with all crew in early April 1944 off the Bear Islands. Therefore, Horst Bredow survived because of his wound that prevented him from sailing with his comrades for their second and sadly final combat patrol. After his recovery he was appointed for duties onboard a minesweeper in the Mediterranean for several months. Shortly prior the end of war he was re-appointed to the skeleton crew of a Type XXI UBoat still under construction.
However, the u-boat was not commissioned anymore before the end of WW II. In 1947, when Horst Bredow returned from US war captivity, he decided to research what happened to his UBoat, for to be in a later position to inform the next-of-kin of his crewmates about the last journey of U 288.
Through contacts to the families and others he started to collect various material about the German UBoat force. This laid the ground for a collection that today is one of the biggest of this kind on earth. He then became teacher and master for Maths and Physics at a secondary school. His flat filled up more and more with material about UBoats, in the end there was hardly any space left any longer. Luckily, after his retirement in 1983 Horst Bredow was able to transfer his collection to rooms made available at the Naval Air Station Westerland on the Island of Sylt, where Horst Bredow and his wife Annemarie had acquired an apartment, to spend there their years of retirement.
The rooms at the Naval Air Stations were made available through the intermediary of Vice Admiral Ansgar Bethge, the Chief of the Federal German Navy, who was class mate of Horst Bredow´s officer crew VI/42. However, when the Naval Air Station was given up in 1989 due to the restructuring of the Navy, the costs for renting the rooms under civil facility management rules were simply too high, what to do now became a key question. Fortunately, the cities of Bremen and Cuxhaven applied for accommodating the collection, the latter being the most favourable solution, even from a private perspective for the Bredow couple.
In June 1989 the removal of the collection started with several trucks full of exhibits, documents, books and other material bound for Altenbruch, a charming old village at the surroundings of Cuxhaven. There, a large but rather run down house was made available to receive the collection and provide living quarters for Horst Bredow and his wife. Through energetic assistance of u-boat veterans and other helpers the house was restored and converted to provide in the end for a decent living of the Bredows and an appropriate accommodation for the exhibits of the museum and the documents as well books of the archive.
In 1986 the archive was given a new legal framework through converting it into a foundation, with Horst Bredow acting as managing director and head of scientific work. Having done so, the archive has a clear non-profit making character since. Until then, financing continued to remain a difficult task, as initially all costs arising from subsidising the archive´s work were carried by Horst Bredow and his wife alone. As the archive was constantly growing, this private support was hardly to be taken any longer by the Bredows. The transfer into a foundation allowed at least accepting official donations.
In addition, the creation of another body, the “Association of Friends of the UBoat Tradition Archive (FTU)” has generated a legal basis to support the work of the archive since some of the costs for maintaining the archive and the museum can be carried through membership fees and voluntary work.
The great national and international reputation of the archive is represented visibly by several hundreds of requests for research being answered each year by Horst Bredow and his wife and the open doors policy for visitors and historians of the archive and the museum from all over the world.
Horst Bredow was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his work in support of international understanding, his contribution to bring together former enemies and his information efforts to descendants on the fate of their relatives lost in war. Sadly, it shows that the domestic interest on the history of submarines is decreasing, whereas a similar interest from overseas historians is increasing more and more. In 1992, Horst Bredow was given the rare opportunity to sail with the US nuclear submarine USS Bremerton, to witness the multiple tasks of an Officer-of-the-Watch onboard a modern submarine. This demonstrated the high respect Horst Bredow is being paid from outside Germany honouring his work for so many years.
Today, the u-boat Archive at Cuxhaven-Altenbruch provides for an almost complete compilation of facts and figures of the “lifecycle” of any German u-boat in World War II. Moreover, there are also comprehensive compilations of data on u-boats of the Imperial German Navy, the Federal German Navy and some of various foreign Navies.
Some 20 years ago efforts were started, to save on video recorders historic private movies from UBoat crews. The archive´s collection of original photographs from u-boats and their crews comprises today (2010) already around 170.000 pieces. The Second World War is over more than half a century and many brave sailors gave their lives during the greatest battle at sea and adjacent to it of all times. Their memory is kept alive until today at the U-Boat Archive at Cuxhaven-Altenbruch.