SM U-118 washed ashore at Hastings, Sussex.
|Ordered:||27 May 1916|
|Builder:||AG Vulcan Stettin|
|Launched:||23 February 1918|
|Commissioned:||8 May 1918|
|Fate:||Surrendered on 23 February 1919. Would have been transferred to France, but the tow cable snapped during her voyage to France and she went aground off Hastings on 15 April 1919. She was later broken up.|
|General characteristics |
|Class & type:||German Type UE II submarine|
|Type:||Coastal minelaying submarine|
|Length:||81.52 m (267 ft 5 in) (o/a)|
|Beam:||7.42 m (24 ft 4 in)|
|Height:||10.16 m (33 ft 4 in)|
|Draught:||4.22 m (13 ft 10 in)|
|Propulsion:||2 shafts, 2 × 1.61 m (5 ft 3 in) propellers|
|Test depth:||75 m (246 ft)|
|Complement:||4 officers, 36 enlisted|
|Victories:||2 merchant ships sunk (10,439 GRT)|
SM U-118 was a type UE II mine laying submarine of the Imperial German Navy and one of 329 submarines serving with that navy during World War I. U-118 engaged in naval warfare and took part in the First Battle of the Atlantic.
SM U-118 was commissioned on 8 May 1918, following construction at the AG Vulcan Stettin shipyard in Hamburg. It was commanded by Herbert Stohwasser and joined the I Flotilla operating in the eastern Atlantic. After about four months without any ships sunk, on 16 September 1918, SM U-118 scored its first hit on another naval vessel. About 175 miles (282 km) north-west of Cape Villano, U-118 torpedoed and sank the British steamer Wellington. Early the following month on 2 October 1918, U-118 sank its second and last ship, the British tanker Arca at about 40 miles (64 km) north-west of Tory Island. With the ending of hostilities on 11 November 1918 came the subsequent surrender of the Imperial German Navy, including SM U-118 to France on 23 February 1919.
Beaching at Hastings
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£ 13,100 in 2015) 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.
Summary of raiding career
|16 September 1918||Wellington||United Kingdom||5,600||Sunk|
|2 October 1918||Arca||United Kingdom||4,839||Sunk|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to SM U 118.|
- Gröner 1985, pp. 41-42.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Herbert Stohwasser". German and Austrian U-Boats of World War I – Kaiserliche Marine – Uboat.net. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
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- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Ships hit by U-118". German and Austrian U-Boats of World War I – Kaiserliche Marine – Uboat.net. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
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