Fishers At War (WW1)


"Fragrant" built in 1908 by A.Hall and Co. Aberdeen

During WW1 fishermen were called up to do service in the Royal Naval Reserves (RNR), and their boats were requisitioned for use as mine-sweepers, patrol boats and tenders and given the ‘HMD’ - ‘His Majesty’s Drifter’ pennant number.  In all 1,500 drifters and 1,500 trawlers were requisitioned.

The fishermen knew the waters so they were the ideal choice for patrolling them.  The drifter was feared by the German submarines because they could turn on a sixpence and carried many deadly depth-charges, many were used as ‘Q-ships’ armed decoys disguised as civilian fishing boats to lure and attack German submarines. 

The fishermen’s cotton nets were left at the quayside and loaded onboard were steel anti-submarine nets which they laid to block the entrances to the firths and harbours. 

The trawlers and drifters were ideal for sweeping the waters for mines.  However this was a dangerous job and many boats were lost.  During WW1 394 British fishing boats on war service were lost and 675 non-combatant fishing boats were lost. 434 fishermen lost their lives


BF79 "HMD Lasher" Built in 1919 by A.Hall and Co. Aberdeen

So good were the fishing boats at their new job the Admiralty built 535 new steel trawlers basically to three designs – the ‘Strath’, ‘Castle’ and ‘Mersey’ classes.

Alexander Hall and Co., Aberdeen designed two drifters one with a wooden hull and one with a steel hull for war service, both 93 feet long.  225 of these were built at various shipyards all over Britain.  Each of these were named after a weather element e.g. ‘HMD Lasher’.  Most of these boats were sold at affordable prices to the fishermen when the war ended.

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