When HMCS OKANAGAN visited Hamilton in November 1990, it was said that she was the first submarine to visit the city. Not true! The former German submarine UC-97 was here seventy-one years earlier.
Beginning in 1916, the German Navy began building a series of minelaying submarines, the UC-III class. They were 56.5 m (185’ long) oa and displaced 491 tons surfaced and 571 tons submerged. They had six 100 cm (39.4″) mine tubes and carried fourteen mines. They also had three 50 cm (19.7″) torpedo tubes with seven torpedoes and a deck gun of either 10.5 cm (4.1″) or 8.8 cm (3.5″).
Of the forty-nine started, twenty-four were never completed, nine were completed after the armistice and sixteen, including UC-97, were commissioned but saw no service before the end of the war.
UC-97 along with four other German submarines, were handed over to the United States. She was used as an exhibit on the East Coast and the Great Lakes to raise money for Liberty Bonds. She stopped off in Toronto on 10 June 1919 so she was likely in Hamilton very shortly before or after that date, on her way to Chicago.
UC-97 was displayed in Chicago till 7 June 1921 when she was sunk by USS WILMETTE (ex SS EASTLAND), off Highwood Park, at the south end of Lake Michigan. Her wreck was discovered in 1992 in 300 feet of water.