The Tragedy of the Hastings U-Boat: a Soundtrack

A new video about the dark events of April 1919, when something monstrous approached the beach of Hastings

WORDS: Gareth E. Rees

MUSIC: Pett Level Sounds (Gareth E. Rees & Matt Frost)

VIDEO: Kirsty Otos

On 23 February 1919 a German U-boat was surrendered to France. Two months later it was being towed from France to Scapa Flow, where it was to be scrapped. But in a storm, U118 broke loose and began to drift toward the Sussex shoreline. French gunships gave chase, trying to break it up with heavy shelling, but as the submarine approached Hastings, they were forced to turn back.

U118 settled on the beach, drawing crowds. The coastguards assigned two officers to assess the situation below deck. Soon they fell ill. They’d inhaled chlorine released from a reaction between the damaged batteries and seawater, mixed with gasses from rotting food. Five months later, they were dead. What had been the summer’s tourist attraction was now enemy number one. They dismantled it in October.

This is the soundtrack to that event.

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