This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes another look at the German U-Boat that washed ashore on the beach at Hastings and how aerial photography of the day actually lied.
He writes: We’ve been told, (until the advent of Photoshop and similar digital image manipulation programs), that a photograph can’t lie and we know that aerial photography reveals aspects of an area not normally visible. But what about a photograph with artefacts that didn’t exist in the time and place when the picture was taken and were added later in the darkroom?
I refer to sharp-eyed reader Jim Breeds’ observation that he had seen but couldn’t find a very similar picture to the aerial shot of the U118 on the beach and research provided the postcard image to which he refers – identical except for the presence of the submarine which has been overlaid on the beach! – the work of a skilled technician and artist to provide a nice composition to cash in on the requirements of the tourists for souvenirs.
Commissioning a genuine aerial photograph could have been difficult and costly, not to mention the time element so it must have been far easier to add the desired element – a stock photograph of a submarine which in all probability is not even the U118 anyway.
It can be recalled that U118 was a German Submarine which had been transferred to France as war reparations but broke its tow-line in a storm whilst being towed through the English Channel en-route to the ship-breakers resulting in the stricken vessel running aground on the shore directly in front of the Queens Hotel.
After attempts to refloat her failed, and a season as a tourist attraction, she was broken up where she stood on the beach and finally sold for scrap. In 1937 the remains of the ship’s keel were revealed and finally removed.
All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of many of the historic images used in this series. There’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk
U118 from the air.
Contrasted with the ‘New Albertine’ drawn up on the beach The stranded German submarine appears massive, however we now know that its image was added later to an existing aerial photograph, ‘View of Hastings from the Air (406)’ so the scale may not be accurate.
Published on page 22 of the Hastings & St.Leonards Observer, 5th June 1937, this image confirms persistent rumours that not all of the submarine was removed by 1921 when the gun was recovered, workmen can be seen excavating the remains of the keel which was then extracted suggesting that it is unlikely that there are now any significant remains below the shingle
6 HASTINGS - The Beach LL.
This postcard from the French firm of LL published in 1906 shows part of the area that would be occupied by the submarine a dozen or so years later. All the buildings overlooking the beach have now gone, victims of the Luftwaffe and later redevelopment. Homedane House and Sidney Little’s Promenade and underground car parking now dominate the area and now part of the subterranean car park has been converted to a pedestrian underpass to the beach from Harold Place.
A magnificent picture from the early part of the 20th century showing the pleasure yacht ‘Albertine’ originally built in 1885, full of passengers running for the shore under full sail; she will then be drawn up the beach with the capstans in Harold Place and turned round above the high water line as we have seen in other illustrations to await loading with day trippers and launching back into the sea. She was replaced with a similar but larger version, the New Albertine, in 1891- which remained in service until 1924 - and this image may in fact be the later boat.
U Boat at Hastings 2.
There were dozens of different images of the Hastings’ stricken submarine -all the local and many national and international photographers produced sets of postcards, and stereoscopic views of the beached U118 and this eye-level image is No 2 of a series of at least 4 from an unnamed publisher and is particularly interesting because it shows the changing townscape bordering the shoreline in the background the two towers on the Queens Hotel have now gone as have the buildings to the right.