November 1918

A long andvaried history

The Harwich Haven is the only natural deep-water harbour between the Thames and the Humber. Its geography means that great navies have gathered here and people and goods have passed through it for centuries. Surprisingly, though, little is made of the recent military history, not least the momentous events at the end of the First World War when an entire fleet of submarines was brought in and sold off, their crews taken back to Germany without coming ashore. The U-Boats started coming in on the 21st November 1918 and they were anchored off Felixstowe until April 1919.

The armada of over one hundred German U-Boats that ended up in the safe waters of the Harwich Haven had targeted supply lines across the Atlantic in an effort to blockade Britain. Ultimately this policy planted the seeds of German defeat as it provoked the Americans into joining the war. But, initially, unrestricted submarine warfare was a success; in March 1917, for example, twenty-five per cent of all British-bound shipping was sunk and the government was eventually forced to introduce rationing and marshall a Women’s Land Army to help feed a nation with only a few weeks supply of grain left.

German U Boat crew handing over their boat.

A British Navy Minesweeper crew member.

German crew leaving their submarine.

a picture

Specifically, they allow us a unique opportunity to: shift the nation’s focus back from what’s been the well-marked commemoration of events in Europe between 1914 -1918 to the UK; engage with the often forgotten war at sea and how Germany’s submarine blockade created shortages at home; understand how surrender and the Armistice worked on the ground; and explore the consequences of a failed peace settlement for ordinary people in many countries caught up in the escalating refugee crisis of the 1930s as the world marched to war again. Something we explore further in the Sanctuary activities of our project.

Harwich then is the ideal location for a project that not only looks at the surrender of a large, and previously successful, military force but, as importantly, the impact it had on the Home Front, an element of our current

BBC World War One at Home - Harwich, Essex: Over 100 U-boats Surrender

Shortly after the Armistice in November 1918, Harwich was where dozens of German U-boats officially surrendered to the Allied forces. Their exact number is not known, but there were estimated to be between 120 and 150 U-boats in total, along with various other German ships and support machinery.


German U Boat crew handing over their boat.

An arial view of surrender taken from flying boat stationed at Felixstowe.

U Boat avenue across Harwich Haven.