U-118, a World War One submarine washed ashore on the beach at Hastings, Sussex, England

By RHP | Posted on: November 23, 2013 | Updated on: December 27, 2013
U-118, a World War One submarine, washed ashore on the beach at Hastings, Sussex, England

U-118, a World War One submarine, washed ashore on the beach at Hastings, Sussex, England

After the surrender of Germany, its towing cable snapped as it was being towed to France for dismantling in 1919. German Type UE II submarine entered late in the war but the one example that saw a lot of service was extremely successful. Stands to reason that most of the WWII subs were based off this design. The UE II doesn’t seem exceptional in any way except an increased range at the cost of marginally lower speed. There were 3-4 patrols of which one was very successful, but it is important to note the manner of its success. U-117′s victims are ambushed lone merchants, which is how all the great submarine successes of the war were won. There is no answer to the convoy.

A great deal of WWI subs are more or less identical to their WWII counterparts in terms of size, range, store of torpedoes, speed when surfaced or submerged and submerged range. The WWII boats are sturdier and can dive deeper, and surely benefit in many ways from more advanced technology, but Germany pretty much fought the entirety of the second war with a world war 1 design, albeit with revolutionary tactics.

Post-beaching history of U-118 from Wikipedia:

Following surrender U-118 was to be transferred to France where it would be broken up for scrap. However, in the early hours of 15 April 1919, while it was being towed through the English Channel towards Scapa Flow, its dragging hawser broke off in a storm. The ship ran aground on the beach at Hastings in Sussex at approximately 12:45am, directly in front of the Queens Hotel. Initially there were attempts to displace the stricken vessel; three tractors tried to refloat the submarine and a French destroyer attempted to break the ship apart using its cannons. These attempts however were unsuccessful and the proximity of the submarine to the public beach and Queens Hotel dissuaded further use of explosive forces.

The wreck of the submarine immediately became a popular tourist attraction with thousands of visitors to Hastings that Easter flocking to see the beached vessel. The vessel was put in charge of the local coastguard station and the Admiralty allowed the Town Clerk of Hastings to charge a small fee for people to climb on the deck of the submarine. This continued for two weeks, during which time the town collected almost £300 (UK£ 10,800 in 2013) which helped fund an event to welcome the town’s troops returning from the war.

Two members of the coastguard, chief boatman William Heard and chief officer W. Moore, were tasked with showing important visitors around inside the submarine. The visits however were curtailed at the end of April when both men became severely ill. It was thought that rotten foodstuffs in the submarine were causing the problems however, despite the visits being discontinued, the illnesses continued and got worse. Moore died in December 1919 and Heard followed in February 1920. At his inquest it was heard that a noxious gas, possibly chlorine released from the submarine’s damaged batteries, had caused abscesses on the lungs and brain of the dead man.

Even after visits inside the submarine had been stopped it remained common for tourists to take pictures of themselves standing alongside or even on the deck of the U-boat. Eventually, between October and December 1919, U-118 was broken up and the pieces removed and sold for scrap. The gun was left in place but later dug up in 1921. It is believed that some of the keel from the submarine may still lie underneath the sand of the beach.

Category: WW1

Leave a Reply