WORLD WAR II 1939 - 1945

In July 1939 the Admiralty requisitiond 54 Hull Trawlers and a further 34 from Grimsby at a cost of over £2000,000 this is further to the vessels of which the admiralty had already purchased. As with the Great War both Hull and Grimsby would suffer great losses of both men and vessels.

Hull Trawlerman Cyril Robinson on Naval Service

As with the first world war men of the fishing fleets volunteered or where called up for war service, many Hull fishermen were already enlisted prior to the war in the RNVR ( Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve). At this time Hull had a large fleet of modern trawlers after the rebuilding of the industry due to losses in the first war, almost all were to be purchased or requisitioned by the navy for war service. The success of the trawlers in the first war would be even greater in this second war. Trawlers would serve in all theatres of operations from protecting the shipping lanes around the UK, to roles in Malta, Africa, Australia, America, Russia, Norway, Iceland, Gibralter and many more. The vessels would carry out a number of roles the main roles been that of the minesweeper, patrol vessel, escort and anti-submarine, boarding vessel, boom defence, cable layers, dan markers, fuel carriers and even target towing vessels.

Unlike the first war there were also to be greater perils in store for these vessels as first world war mine warfare was limited to the contact mine that we are all familiar with, but technology had advanced and Germany without regard soon quickly started to use it`s new arsenal of mines to great effect, such as the, contact mine, magnetic mine, and the acoustic mine, there had also been many advances in the way in which mines could be laid. Now these perils of the sea could be laid by submarine, aircraft, and surface vessels. A minefield which had taken days to clear could be re-layed in the dead of night. It would be a constant fight to identify these new mines and many vessels would be lost before a means of combatting them could be found. Another great danger to these trawlers would be the advance in aircraft technology as previously during the first war a slow zeppelin could be outrun but with the new swift engined aircraft fitted with automatic weapons and bombs the trawlers became an easy frequent target.

With this new war came a new branch of the navy to man these vessels and the previous Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section ) would now become the Royal Naval Patrol Service ( RNPS ), which would be the main providing establishment for the crewmen of minesweepers and escort vessels. Although men from branches of the regular navy , RNR, RNVR and civilian fishermen would all take part in the manning of these vessels. The RNPS training establishment would be based at Lowestoft and be known as HMS Europa or the Crows Nest.

Due to the relaxed attitude most of these men had towards naval discipline the RNPS soon earned the nickname of Harry Taits Navy ( a popular comedian at the time ) or the wavey navy. But the exploits of these men can only truly be conceived when we see the sacrifices they made.

Gun Practise aboard a trawler