October 31, 2021
The people of Hastings on the southeast shore of England woke up on the morning of April 15, 1919, and they were in for a big surprise. A German U-118 submarine had run aground on the picturesque beach in front of the grand Queens Hotel. No, Hastings was not under attack by the Germans. World War I had ended five months earlier, on November 11, 1918.
The German U-118 submarine was unoccupied. The residents of Hastings soon learned that sub was being towed from Harwich, about 85 miles east of London, to Brest in France when a storm arose. The sub broke free of its tether and beached itself on the Hasting shore. The people of Hastings spied an opportunity to capitalize on the unexpected visitor…with deadly results.
A Stranded Submarine
At first, the authorities sought to free the 267-feet long submarine from the sand. They attached tow lines and tried to pull it into the water with three tractors, but these efforts failed. Authorities floated the idea of having a French destroyer that was in the area shoot its torpedoes at the submarine to break it into smaller chunks that would be easier to remove. The submarine, however, was directly in front of the Queens Hotel. If the destroyer fired upon the sub, it may also strike the hotel. Another plan was needed.