When a German submarine washed ashore

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Aerial 4 SUS-160509-103010001

This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes another look at the rise in popularity of aerial photography.

He writes: The development of aerial photography was accelerated by the needs of the first war and provided new opportunities for postcard publishers who were now able to provide interesting perspectives and views that couldn’t otherwise be observed.

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Aerial 3 SUS-160509-103000001

This is particularly true when Hastings Town Centre is approached from above and the townscape behind the front line and the castle is revealed as are the numerous artefacts on the beach.

People appear as dots. The huge number of small craft and pleasure yachts can be seen, and most impressive of all the bulk of the U118, a German Submarine.

Following the surrender of the Imperial German Navy in November 1918, the submarine was transferred to France; however, in the early hours of 15 April 1919, whilst being towed through the English Channel on its way to the ship-breakers, the tow-line parted in a storm and the submarine ran aground on the beach directly in front of the Queens Hotel and immediately became a tourist attraction during the Easter of 1919.

All attempts to refloat the stranded vessel failed. A French destroyer even attempted to break her apart using her guns.

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Aerial 1 SUS-160509-102854001

Further use of explosives was ruled out because of her close proximity to the public beach and the Queens Hotel so the stricken vessel was broken up in situ by gangs of labourers and sold for scrap. There had been plans to display the deck gun but following another storm it fell into the sea and was not recovered and removed until 1921. Part of the ship’s keel remained and was removed some ten years later and now, whatever relics still remain are buried under the beach that has built up in the last 90 years.

All illustrations 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

The Hastings Fishermen’s Museum, Rock-a-Nore Road, open every day from 10am – 5pm, is hosting its own exhibition “A Birds-eye view of Hastings Fishing Beach and Coastline”.


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Aerial 2 SUS-160509-102950001

Pelham Crescent.

Probably taken in the mid 1920’s , Beach Terrace is still standing and the fine Regency terrace west of Pelham Crescent is still complete. Having survived both wars it was destroyed in the 1970’s to be replaced with what is now council offices and its neighbour to the west was the large drapery store, Mastins, in Breeds Place (where Iceland is today), it had been destroyed in the largest fire ever faced by the Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1904 but was rebuilt and stayed in business until 1969.


This view dates from the late 1930’s and shows a number of small craft drawn up on the beach. Wartime restrictions prohibited this practice and the small boats never returned after the ending of hostilities. Nearly 90 years later, the beach is now deep enough to host the Pelham car park and lots of other ‘attractions’ with plenty of room to spare.


The sheer bulk of the stranded German submarine can be appreciated as well as the huge number of small rowing boats etc drawn up on the beach above the high water line as well as the much larger pleasure yacht the ‘New Albertine’. The original Albertine was built in 1885 when day trippers began arriving in Hastings in large numbers and was replaced with a similar but larger version, the New Albertine, in 1891 which remained in service until 1924. Sidney Little’s new promenade and underground parking station will almost exactly cover the area occupied by the pleasure craft and neat rows of small boats. ‘The Memorial’ dominates the town centre and provides a focal point. The Cricket ground is top right and the buildings in the centre foreground fell victim to the Lufwaffe and have been rebuilt as sheltered housing and the Castle Hotel in Wellington Square can still be seen on the right. It was demolished in the 1970’s to be replaced by an uninspiring Tesco supermarket that itself moved on after a very few years.

Hastings looking west.

This post-war card focuses on the Central Cricket Ground that was sacrificed to build the shopping centre and above it the extensive railway goods yard that is now the Station Plaza complex. Some of the damage inflicted by the Luftwaffe is still evident and notice the huge gap in Roberson Terrace where the Albany Hotel was destroyed on May 23rd1943 (now Albany Court) and the bomb site in Havelock Road that became the telephone exchange that evoved into part of the University of Brighton and in the top right, under the damage to the photograph, can be seen the gas works in Queens Road.

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