Surrender100 Events: Looking Back!


Harwich Haven

In November 2018, the Harwich Haven: Surrender & Sanctuary project organized a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the surrender of the German U-boat fleet in 1918-19. In total, 168 U-boats were brought to Harwich to be handed over, creating a giant metal corridor known as ‘U-boat Avenue’.
Despite its significance and prominence at the time, the surrender has been largely forgotten. There is no major monument for visitors or residents to see all-year-round, and local knowledge of the surrender is patchy.
With the country and the world focussing on the First World War and its victims in November 2018, this was a poignant time to bring the surrender back to the forefront of local historical conscience. These are the events we organized to mark the occasion.


World War One Heritage Walks
Harwich, 10 and 11 November 2018

Kicking off the Surrender & Sanctuary project’s programme of U-boat events was this walk through Harwich with local historian David Whittle, who spoke about Harwich at the time of the First World War. The first walk was booked up so quickly that a second was organized for the next day.
Locations visited included the pier, Harwich Redoubt, and the beach where a 15-metre willow U-boat was under construction. Walkers described the event as ‘fantastic’ and ‘well worth it’.


Themed Trains
Manningtree to Dovercourt railway stations, 17 November 2018

Passengers were invited to make their way from Manningtree to Harwich in style for a day of U-boat themed events on Saturday, 17 November. Two trains, running at 10am and 11am, were decorated in the theme of the surrender with propaganda posters, bunting, flags, and newspaper clippings. A reenactor, playing the role of a Royal Navy sailor involved in the surrender, also helped passengers capture the mood of 1918


Talks Series
Old Adult Community Learning Centre, Harwich, 17 November 2018

This talks series brought together a range of expert speakers to discuss the U-boat surrender, the effects of submarine warfare on the Home Front, and the lives of submariners in the present day. It also contained performances from Eastern Angles, bringing to life some imagined scenes from the surrender.
Kathryn Fox from the National Archives told attendees about ‘Archiving the Home Front,’ whilst Innes McCartney and Iain Ballantyne spoke about the archaeology and history of submarines during the First World War. Duncan Reed offered another angle on the subject, speaking about ‘The Life of a Submariner Today’.


Film Show
Old Adult Community Learning Centre, Harwich, 17 November 2018

Following the talks series earlier in the day, the film show featured an hour of archive footage on the theme of the U-boats. This included both black-and-white and colourized film from onboard U-boats, as well as British wartime propaganda reels about submarines and the country’s food supply. The footage was accompanied by live piano music from the era.


U-Boat Heritage Walk
Shotley, 18 November 2018

In collaboration with the HMS Ganges Museum and Shotley Open Spaces, the project organized a heritage walk in Shotley, on the north coast of the River Stour, exploring the U-boats and the surrender. The route took walkers around the waterfront near the HMS Ganges Museum and up to Shotley St Mary’s Church, where archive film footage could be viewed and refreshments had.
The walk was attended by 49 people, whilst the guides praised for being ‘very knowledgeable’ and for ‘bringing the story to life’.


Willow U-boat Commemoration Event
Harwich beach and Sailing Club, 18 November 2018

The centrepiece of the U-boat commemorative events took place on Sunday 18 November. Deb Hart, a willow artist, was commissioned to create a 15-metre willow U-boat on the beach, having previously built a willow whale in the same location to coincide with the 2017 Harwich Festival.
In the weeks leading up to the commemoration, weaving and building sessions were held for people of all ages to get involved. The community was also involved in the creation of 168 flags, each representing one of the U-boats brought to Harwich in 1918-19, tied together to form bunting which was placed on the willow U-boat on the day.A short parade from Harwich Maritime Museum brought the bunting to the beach, where it was placed on the U-boat. A spoken commemoration to the event was delivered in the setting sun, followed by themed food and a performance by Harwich Brass Band in the Sailing Club.


Anchorage Exhibition: War art from the German U-boat surrender
Pier Hotel, Harwich, 18 to 25 November 2018

To help visualize the surrender, the project sourced and selected eleven pieces of Official War Art from the Imperial War Museum’s collections on the theme of the surrender. These works, never before displayed, returned to Harwich as prints in an exhibition held in the waterfront-facing Pier Hotel.
The selected artworks were created by two leading Official War Artists—Francis Dodd and Donald Maxwell. They depicted scenes from arrival of the first U-boats at the rendezvous point 20 miles from shore, through to their anchorage in Harwich. A selection of archive film footage was also displayed.
The Anchorage exhibition will be available as a travelling exhibition on loan for interested venues in 2019.


U-boat Inspired Art Workshop
Old Bank Studios, Harwich, 21 November 2018


In collaboration with Angenita Teekens, a local community artist, the Surrender & Sanctuary project organized a free art workshop at Harwich’s Old Bank Studios to coincide with the Anchorage exhibition.
The twelve participants were given a tour of the exhibition at the Pier Hotel, followed by an introduction to collaging. They then produced their own collages on the theme of the U-boat surrender and were invited to produce original artworks to be displayed in a special exhibition at Old Bank Studios in May 2019.


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