The War Illustrated No 177 Vol 7 March 31st 1944

Fishermen of Britain Fight to Bring Us Food Enemy planes may swoop and gun themas they trawl. Mine and shell, torpedo and bomb :the hardy sons of Britain who battle for our fish must face these too, even as they combat fierce storms. A great and heroic role they are acting today, these coastal fearnoughts, as described hereby JOHN ALLEN GRAYDON. See also facing page. T m my travels around the country I have had •opportunities of talking with these grand men of the sea. Always do they praise their colleagues. Never once have I heard a fisherman seek praise for his own work. In Aberdeen, Grimsby, Fleet­ wood and Yarmouth, in Ramsgate, Deal and Dover, 1 have listened with interest to stories of great bravery and devotion to duty. Yet, outside the immediate circle of fishermen, few people realize lo what lengths our fishing fleet goes to assure Britain's supply offish. These tough-as-nails fishermen, many of whom also makeup the c f c w s of our lifeboats, have pro­duced more than one man who has been honoured. One of the most recent is seventy-year-old Skipper J. C. Locke, of the trawler Mizpah, who comes from Rye. During the First Great War he served with distinction in the Dover Patrol, and when we again went to war he offered his services to the Royal Navy once more. They told him he was too old—so back went the skipper to his fishing grounds in the English Channel. On many occasions he has fished whilst dog-fights were taking place overhead. He must have seen as many aerial battles as any other man during the Battle of Britain. Several times German machines swooped and gunned him ashe trawled, but always did they miss. Within sight of the enemy’s guns, never knowing when some arm of the German war machine might attempt to end his career, Skipper Locke went about his work. Then one afternoon two German DANGERS ARE HEAVY and the catch is sometimes considerably lighter than the North A tla n tic haul seen here but the fishing trawlers carry on with their task of toadding our food supplies, braving m an-m ade perils of the wartime seas and of the air, as told in this page. part of the deck was on fire. Despite very painful injuries Skipper Locke successfully fought the flames and washed the burning petrol overboard. His jacket caught fire, and his left arm was severely burnt. But he again smothered the flames—and for the second time lost consciousness. Another trawler, sensing trouble aboard Locke's command, hurried to the rescue, pulled him aboard, and beached the Mizpah. Today, recovered from his injuries, Skipper Locke is once more on fishing duty. T n ihe waters of the North Sea more than one Nazi, in plane or E-boat, has cause to remember the gallantry and determination of the men who go down to the sea for fish. On one occasion, when E-boats were very active off the East Coast, a trawler, setting course for the fishing grounds, found herself PAGE !630 YX/hen the Chandos was outputting to her fishing grounds in the North Sea, snow piling against the windows of the wheelhouse, a German plane dived from out of the grey sky and riddled the wheelhouse. The skipper was killed instantly. In his cabin the mate, wounded in the last war, stumped on the deck and, entering the w'hcelhouse, saw a sight that he will never forget. Trimmer Rawlings, the boy, was showing the great­ness of a fighting man. Blood was pouring down his trousers into his sea- boots but at the gun he was keeping up a terrific lire at the plane circling above. Twice the German trawler, guns blazing But cool as if he were at prac­tice, returned the enemy fire. And when it had made its third dive, the boy pumped lead into the German machines tail. Smoke suddenly streaked out, and the enemy pilot turned for home. Then, his job completed and the Chandos safe, Raw'Iings collapsed. During this battle he had lost several pints of blood, but never had he taken his finger from the trigger. A little later, when the nets were hauled aboard, pieces of a German plane were found among the catch of cod. Had the youthful trimmer shot down the Nazi machine ?It is quite possible, but the fishermen made no claims. It is not their habit. They do the work and let others do the shouting. Their official records will add to the tales of the sea when the last All Clear has sounded. Photo, Keystone dived at the Rawlings, as Ancient mariners and young boys, aboard trawlers that in some cases had long been laid aside as out-of- date, took up the challenge of the sea—and in so doing faced mine, shell, bullet, bomb and torpedo. But it lakes more even than that to prevent mariners of Britain from putting to sea. So, despite all obstacles, the fishing fleets have brought in good supplies throughout the war, although many of their best hunting grounds are today barred, for obvious reasons, surrounded by four of these enemy torpedo boats. One opened fire. The answer the enemy received, in hot lead, from the trawler, caused great confusion. One E-boat was seen lo near-capsize, some men were thrown into the water, and the other craft, sensing a trap, opened fire. In the darkness, however, their fire was directed at each other !Eventually, much to the joy of the fishermen, who were completely outgunned, the German forces fled towards the Dutch coast. To this day they probably think it was a special anti-E-boat patrol thathad attempted to trap them. Youth has played a distinguished part in this never-ceasing “Fight' for Fish ”—for fight it is, with the weather as the enemy's ally doing every­thing possible to halt the successful progress of the fishing fleet. In Grimsby I heard several people praise eighteen-year-old trimmer Cyril Rawlings, who has served aboard the trawler Chandos. The men who praised him are known for their usual lack of enthusiasm over anything —but Raw lings’ pluck impressed them. O then eve of our declaration of war on Germany, in September 1939, nearly seventy percent of our fishing fleet was called for service with the Royal Navy. As members of the Royal Naval Reserve, they expected this call to arms. After all, who knew the coastal waters around the British Isles better than they ?Who better fitted for the dangerous task of fishing for mines ?As these fishermen prepared to fight the enemy, the thoughts of others turned to the im­mediate future of the fishing industry. They realized that fish would now become a more essential food than ever before, but who was to take these vacant places in the hunt for fish ?fighters, keeping clear of the R.A.F. and seeking an easy victim, turned their cannon guns upon the little Mizpah. From mast-height they riddled the trawler. Two of Locke’s men were killed by his side. He himself was wounded and lost consciousness. On recovering he observed that an incendiary bullet had pierced Ihe boat’s petrol tank and that
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