THERE is something to be said for wanting to look your vanquished enemy in the eye.
During the war, whose ending in Europe was being celebrated 70 years ago today, the German Navy had wreaked havoc among the British naval and merchant fleets.
More than 3,000 merchant seamen from South Shields alone had lost their lives, many of them on vital supply convoy routes.
So it’s understandable that, once the war was over, townsfolk wanted to see first-hand what had brought so much misery and grief to so many families – a German U-boat.
It’s been astonishing to discover that an attempt was actually made to bring one to the Tyne.
It seems that in the days following VE Day, some people did expect to see at least one of the German naval vessels which had surrendered come into the river. It had happened in other ports.
When nothing materialised, the Mayor, Alderman James Mitchell, contacted the Admiralty through Rear Admiral Sir Wellwood Maxwell, who was Flag Officer, Tyne Defences, to have a U-boat or some other vessel of the German Navy brought to the town to place on exhibition.
One woman told the Gazette: “I think it would be a splendid gesture if a U-boat could be brought here so that people could see the type of vessel against which so many gallant merchant seamen have had to fight so fiercely.”
The proposal had the support of the National Union of Seamen locally, whose district secretary said: “A good many of the men have had to deal frequently with U-boats but of course have never been very close to them. I know they would welcome an opportunity of going on board and seeing something of the mechanism.”
In the event, I don’t think any U-boat ever came. If one did, I can’t find a record of it.
In all, some 156 U-boats surrendered at the end of the war, of which 21 came to Britain, most of them, though, to Loch Eriboll, in Scotland.
So I have no picture of a U-boat for you. Instead, fast forward 25 years or so and this was HMS Osiris entering the Tyne, for a courtesy visit to Newcastle. She went on to become a veteran of the Falklands War, before being scrapped at the beginning of the 1990s.