Sunday, 10 January 2016

A German WWI Submarine Washed Upon the Shore of an English Seaside Town 1919.



The Great War was over and hostilities had ceased. By the time of early spring in 1919 people of Britain were beginning to get back to normality after the Great War had changed so many lives. It was a war that many Britons had felt close too, even at home upon their island. Most wars before then had been fought across the sea in far off distant lands. Even wars in Europe had not troubled the civilian population the way the Great War had. But by 1919 it was over.

The people of the seaside town of Hastings had not known of an enemy invader since William the Conqueror in 1066.

On April the 15th 1919 the seaside town's inhabitants woke to a shock. Washed upon the shore was a monumental edifice of Kaiser Wilhelm II enemy navy. A dreaded submarine (SM U-118) The colossal structure looked like a beached whale.

In no time the inhabitants of Hastings were all upon the beach looking at the stricken fighting marine machine in their thousands. A huge lifeless vessel laying upon the shingle while the people walked about it like little ants in awe of the dead thing before them.

The British Admiralty gave the town clerk consent to charge a boarding fee to people who wanted to get up onto the submarine's deck. Also two members of the coastguard were drafted in to show visitors around the inside of the German submarine. This was quickly abandoned because the two coastguards who remained inside the sub, waiting for the visitors, became seriously ill. Shortly afterwards the two coast guards died. It was later realised that the batteries of the German submarine had been leaking deadly chlorine gas. This had caused the men's brains and lungs to burn, leaving acute and fatal abscesses.

The submarine had been surrendered to French forces after the armistice in November 1918. SM U -118 was being towed from France to Scapa Flow where it was to be broken up for scrape. It had been launched in May 1918. The vessel was virtually new. As it was being towed through the English channel, its hawser broke during a storm. It was cast adrift and ran aground on the beach at Hastings. 

There were a few attempts to drag the submarine back into the water and a French navel vessel tried to brake it up with explosives. None of this worked and the close proximity of civilian establishments forced the powers that be to brake the vessel up upon the shore between October and December 1919. All the salvage was sold for scrap.


Post a Comment