Warrington Witness to U-boat 111
Today’s blog is written by Archives volunteer Carol Mayo. Carol is sharing a fascinating story she came across whilst helping us to research Warrington’s involvement in WWI:
Whilst searching through The Examiner for 14th December 1918 I came across an interesting story. It was small in size but it grabbed my attention “German U- boat in the Ship Canal”. A week later the Examiner featured the U-boat again in another article but this time there was a photograph and a new headline – “The Vanquished Hun”. On finding these reports I decided to look further into the U-boat’s history.
The second article named the U-boat as u111 which had travelled from Liverpool and was going on to dock in Manchester as an exhibit. U-111 was one of the many U-boats and German ships which surrendered on 20th November 1918 in the port of Harwich, Essex. Eventually the U-boat travelled through the Ship Canal at Stockton Heath and Latchford. Unsurprisingly there were plenty of excited spectators who could see a White Ensign floating above the defeated German flag. Can you imagine seeing u-111 in Warrington and how you would have reacted?
Launched in September 1917 U111 was to later enter British waters. On its first patrol 7th April 1918 in St George’s Channel off the coast of South Wales she fired a single torpedo at the Bocastle, a merchant steam ship which the Admiralty had chartered for war work. At the time of the sinking the ship was transporting coal to the Scapa Flow War Ship Fleet. With a single torpedo U111 had killed all 18 crew members.
Researching further an advertisement from The Manchester Evening News 21st December 1918 details its destination and viewing arrangements. U111 was headed for Number 4 Pomona Dock, Chester Road, Manchester where over several weeks it could be viewed daily except for Christmas Day between 10.00am and 3.00pm at 6d each. For members of H.M. forces in uniform the entrance fee was half price and for those wearing a hospital uniform entrance was free. Visitors were able to view the decking area and the conning tower but for those who could afford 5/- shillings they were able to view the inside of the U-boat. The 5/ – shillings tickets were limited in number and they were purchased at the Cornbrook Road entrance to the docks. Through the public viewings the money raised went to naval charities.
Amongst the many visitors in late December 1918 was President Woodrow Wilson. On 30th December he was honoured by a Freedom Ceremony at Manchester Free Trade Hall and part of the day included a one hour viewing of Pomona Docks. The U-boat remained in Pomona Dock 4 until mid-January 1919 when it would leave to visit Liverpool and travel on to Plymouth.
On 7th April 1919 under the U.S. flag u-111sailed to America. Again the Imperial German Naval Flag flew beneath the victor’s. The submarine eventually docked in New York at Brooklyn Navy Yard. If you search the internet for U-111 American newspaper reports and photographs are available, and on YouTube there is a short news reel film of the U-boat.
During its time in America the U-boat was used for fund raising for the Victory Liberty Loan Scheme. From October 1919 to April 1920 U111 underwent testing against American submarines off the coasts of Florida and Cuba. Not only a fund raiser but it was a means of testing and developing American technology. Eventually u111 was used for target aerial bombing practice off the coast of Virginia and started to sink in shallow water. The submarine was taken back to Norfolk Navy Yard. Here U111 was re-floated and on 31st August 1922 towed out to the Virginian coast. The hatches were opened and a depth charge exploded resulting in the submarine sinking under 300 feet of water.