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Trawlers at War - World War One


During 1907 Admiral Lord Charles Beresford recommended that steam trawlers be used in the role of minesweepers in the event of war. This would free up warships for other, more appropriate, duties. With the outbreak of WW2 in 1914, many of Hull's trawlers were requisitioned for minesweeping and anti-submarine duties. Around 800 trawlers from the Hull and Grimsby fishing fleets and a new rank, Skipper Royal Navy Reserve, introduced for trawler skippers who, quite naturally, had no regard for regular Navy discipline.

Only around one quarter of the Hull fleet remained on fishing duties and the North Sea fisheries placed out of bounds due to the dangers of enemy action. Fleeting was suspended and the 'boxer fleets' of Helyers and Great Northern were put to single-boat fishing. Although the overall effect was that the supply of fish dropped nationally, Hull's share of the British catch actually increased as the Barents and Icelandic fishing grounds remained open.

By the end of the war, over 200 British trawlers had been lost along with 50% of their crews. The surviving ex-Navy trawlers were offered for sale and refitted for a return to fishing.

Cook, Welton & Gemmell's Chronology of
Hull Losses
Recommended Reading
Ships & Crews World War II Losses

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