How Gothic Was My U-Boat: The Welsh Press and German Submarine Warfare

From Planet 236

by Rita Singer

In an article that exposes the roots of Brexit-era Germanophobia, Rita Singer details how Welsh press coverage and poetry about U-Boat attacks on Welsh ships evolved into racialised depictions of German U-Boat combatants as ‘Huns’, monsters, ghouls and Satanic fiends.

In July 1914, The Strand Magazine published Arthur Conan Doyle’s latest story ‘Danger!’ where ‘Captain John Sirius, belonging to the navy of one of the smallest Powers in Europe’ relates his part in his country’s successful war against Great Britain.1 This story, set in the near future, hinges on the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Norland, a fictional Germanic country, and Britain. In only six weeks, Sirius and his eight (!) submarines starve the enemy into submission. As child mortality soars and socialists run riot, the entire Royal Navy blockades Norland’s single naval base instead of protecting merchant vessels trying to land sorely needed grain and livestock at British ports. ‘Danger!’ ends with a fictional London Times retrospective of Britain’s naval humiliation by an insignificant Germanic country using nefarious tactics, and the announcement of ‘the immediate construction of not one but two double-lined railways under the Channel’.

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