Daily Event for May 6, 2012

The Humber Steam Fishing Company of Hull, England had a new steam trawler built at Cook, Welton & Gemmell Ltd. of the same city. She was launched on Nov. 19, 1891 and named Merrie Islington. On Aug. 19, 1899 the 147 ton trawler and her skipper G. Pettman came to the aid of the crew of the German schooner Industrie, which sank in the North Sea, the men were taken aboard and landed safely. The German government gave him a gold watch and a small monetary reward to each men in the crew for the act.

At around 8 a.m. on May 6, 1915 Merrie Islington was about 8 miles north of Witby when SMS U-9 surfaced and fired a shot across her bows. Different accounts of what happened make it impossible to give an accurate depiction of the actual event, however it is clear that all nine men on the trawler were allowed to abandon ship without any interference by the submarine crew. They apparently set off for a minesweeper about 2 miles off, why this minesweeper did not respond to the gunfire is not known by me. The survivors later claimed that the submarine followed the minesweeper, but the U-boat commander said that a destroyer came up fast so he moved his boat behind the trawler to hide, this and the fog obscured the submarine from view and the passing destroyer continued on. The trawler was sent to the bottom with charges and remains there to this day. The nine men were landed by 11 a.m. and had an interesting story to tell their children and grandchildren.

Two of the survivors were later lost, one only a few weeks later. Robert Heritage was made skipper of the steam trawler Condor, she hit a mine and sank with all hands on May 29, 1915. The minefield, thought to have been the densest ever laid, was put down by SMS Kolberg on Dec. 16, 1914 while SMS Derfflinger and SMS Von der Tann shelled the town of Scarborough under the direction of Rear Admiral Franz von Hipper.

The skipper, James Walker, survived the war and continued to operate trawlers, but on Sept. 4, 1920 his trawler the Jack Johnson, hit a left over mine and sank taking Walker and nine men with it.
© 2012 Michael W. Pocock

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