Fishermen Against the Kaiser 1: Shockwaves of War, 1914-1915, Douglas d'Enno

Fishermen Against the Kaiser 1: Shockwaves of War, 1914-1915, Douglas d'Enno

At first glance the title of this book doesn't look all that promising, but it soon becomes clear that this is a mistake - d'Enno has found an important and interesting topic to study, and does a good job of it. The shear scale of the contribution made to the war effort by British fishermen and their boats comes as something of a surprise, as will the wide range of tasks fishing boats were found to be suitable for.

The book is split into five parts. Part one looks at the impact of the outbreak of war, not least the closure of the fishing grounds. Part two looks at the immediate response, including the call-up of fishermen and boats into the navy. Part three looks at losses in home waters, mostly to mines and U-boats, and gives us a rare view of life inside a German POW camp of the First World War (ironically conditions appear to have been worse than in the Second World War). Part four looks at service overseas, especially at Gallipoli and in the Adriatic (I was familiar with the role played by minesweeping trawlers at Gallipoli, but not with their anti-submarine work there and in the Adriatic). Part five looks at the part the fishermen played in the defence of Britain, from coastal patrols to simply providing food.

This book is full of surprises. Perhaps the biggest (for me at least) was that trawlers didn't become minesweepers because of a shortage of more suitable boats, but instead because they were considered to be the best boats for the job. The two-boat trawler team could carry an anti-mine sweep just as easily as a trawl net, and they were designed to operate in terrible weather that often drove Naval vessels back into port. Trials proved this idea to be correct, and the Trawler Reserve was formed before the outbreak of war.

This book is something of a revelation. The sheer scale of the contribution made to the war effort by the British fishermen and their boats is very impressive and the price they paid deserves to be remembered - losses of ships and men were very heavy in every theatre where they served. Roll on volume two!


Part 1- War and No Mistake
1 - The Bolt from the Blue
2 - Turmoil Round the Coast

Part 2 - The Response
3 - Fisher Jacks
4 - An Armada is Born
5 - The Auxiliary Patrol

Part 3 - Death and Destruction in Home Waters, 1914-15
6 - The Horned Killer
7 - Sea Wolves Roaming

Part 4 - Far from Home
8 - Captivity
9 - Eastern Mediterranean Fireworks
10 - Mare Amarissimo

Part 5 - Under Siege
11 - Channel Guard
12 - The Enemy Above
13 - Lifesavers
14 - Fish on the Table

Appendix 1 - Vessels Purchased by the Admiralty, 1909-1915
Appendix 2 - Mine victims (total losses)
Appendix 3 - Trawlers at the Dardanelles
Appendix 4 - Drifters in the Adriatic
Appendix 5 - Some rescues by fishermen

Author: Douglas d'Enno
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 231
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime
Year: 2010

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