These extraordinary images were taken in 1919 on the beach at Hastings in East Sussex, the submarine is a WWI model designated SM U-118 – she was being towed to France to be scrapped when the tow cable snapped during a storm. SM U-118 washed ashore right in front of the popular Queens Hotel and became an overnight sensation, drawing in tourists from all over England, Wales and Scotland.
SM U-118 was launched on the 23rd of February 1918 and surrendered one year to the day later, on the 23rd of February 1919. She was 81.5 metres long (267 ft) and had a beam of 7.42 metres (24.3 ft), her total displacement was 1,164 tonnes surfaced and 1,512 tonnes submerged. powered by twin diesel engines producing 1,200 hp in total and when submerged she was powered by twin electric motors with a combined 600 hp.
The tourist boon surrounding the sub waned a little after a small expeditionary party that entered the sub suffered 2 fatalities. It was a mystery what killed the men at the time and so all trips into the sub were stopped, it was later discovered that chlorine gas which had been escaping from SM U-118’s batteries had caused severe abscesses on the lungs and brains of the unfortunate men.
By the time the novelty had worn off in December 1919 the sub was slowly taken apart and sold for scrap, though it’s believed that her keel still lies a few metres beneath the beach at Hastings, outside the hotel where it originally washed ashore.
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