On February 23, 1919, U-boat SM U-118 of the Imperial German Navy (Reichsmarine) washed up on the beach of Hastings, on the eastern shore of England.
The submarine was being towed to a French harbour following cessation of hostilities when cables snapped in stormy seas at night. The people of Hastings couldn’t believe their eyes when they opened their curtains and saw the enormous submarine.
People flocked to the U-boat and some even went inside to take a tour. Two of them died in hospital, apparently after inhaling gases emanating from ruptured engine batteries.
Many more German subs were towed to Allied harbours, where they were stripped and designs and technology copied, to be used in British, French, Italian, American and Japanese submarines.
Not only did photos like these become something of a symbol of Germany’s botched attempt to turn the tide using submarines, the fate of the U-118 itself is a testament to the success of the Allies and efficacy of the convoy system.
Launched in May 1918, U-118 managed to sink only one enemy vessel, in September of the same year. One month later, Germany admitted defeat.