THEY were nicknamed Sleeping Beauties – but their purpose was anything but beautiful.

Sleekly-designed, the motorised underwater canoe was created for clandestine operations, sneaking into enemy-held harbours to wreak destruction.

They were the successors to the famed manned torpedoes, or underwater chariots, but were never a huge success and most were disposed of many years ago at the end of the Second World War.

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However an immaculate replica of one has been acquired by the Eden Camp wartime theme museum near Malton.

Archivist Johnny Pyne said: “They were used rather unsuccessfully on a few operations and if they had been used more often could perhaps have been more valuable on operations.”

The Sleeping Beauty is now going on public show at the museum, where it is being housed in its own “underwater” display.