Search

New book reveals heroic role played by fishermen during First World War

PUBLISHED: 18:54 05 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:54 05 June 2018

The J.G.C. LT639 vessel, which helped rescue 156 survivors when a trio of cruisers were torpedoed on September 22, 1914. Picture: Port of Lowestoft Research Society

The J.G.C. LT639 vessel, which helped rescue 156 survivors when a trio of cruisers were torpedoed on September 22, 1914. Picture: Port of Lowestoft Research Society

Archant

It consisted of devastating conflict that claimed the lives of millions across the world and produced repercussions that are still being felt today.

The book is the work of Alan John Curtis, whose interest in maritime history stems from family links to the fishing industry that can be traced back to the 1850s. Picture: Alan John CurtisThe book is the work of Alan John Curtis, whose interest in maritime history stems from family links to the fishing industry that can be traced back to the 1850s. Picture: Alan John Curtis

But a century after the armistice was agreed and fighting came to an end, the story of some of the First World War’s unsung heroes is finally being told.

‘Lowestoft Fishermen’s War 1914-1918’ - the latest book from Poppyland Publishing - is the tale of the Lowestoft men and boys who found themselves on the frontline of the economic war with Germany.

The book is the work of Alan John Curtis, whose interest in maritime history stems from family links to the fishing industry that can be traced back to the 1850s.

The Francis Robert LT1024 fishing vessel - the last Lowestoft fishing smack to be destroyed during the war (July 27, 1918). Picture: Port of Lowestoft Research SocietyThe Francis Robert LT1024 fishing vessel - the last Lowestoft fishing smack to be destroyed during the war (July 27, 1918). Picture: Port of Lowestoft Research Society

Mr Curtis made it his duty to examine the unpublished testimonies made to the Board of Trade by wartime fishermen seeking compensation for their losses - also used by Naval Intelligence in their efforts to defeat the German U-boats.

Until now they laid forgotten in the National Archives, but the author has used them to provide an insight into a largely overlooked area of Lowestoft’s maritime history.

“My aim is to highlight the contribution that Lowestoft fishermen made during the First World War and to get them the recognition that they deserve,” said Mr Curtis.

Mr Curtis hosted a book signing at Lowestoft Maritime Museum and spoke to a number of people who had personal interest in the book's stories. Picture: Gareth DaviesMr Curtis hosted a book signing at Lowestoft Maritime Museum and spoke to a number of people who had personal interest in the book's stories. Picture: Gareth Davies

“These are the people who didn’t join the Royal Naval Service, instead sacrificing themselves to maintain the supply of food. 117 were killed and more than 170 fishing boats lost.

“Over the years, the role played by these fishermen has become increasingly clear, but the only place you’ll find their names is at the Tower Hill Memorial in London. With the anniversary of the armistice coming up, I’d like to somehow honour them with a plaque in the future.”

Mr Curtis also hosted a book signing at Lowestoft Maritime Museum last weekend, where he met people to whom the unearthed stories represent personal significance.

The Boy Jack LT945 fishing vessel. Three crew members drowned when the U-Boat UB.40 dived on seeing the British patrol boats ML127 and ML24, July 26, 1918. Picture: Port of Lowestoft Research SocietyThe Boy Jack LT945 fishing vessel. Three crew members drowned when the U-Boat UB.40 dived on seeing the British patrol boats ML127 and ML24, July 26, 1918. Picture: Port of Lowestoft Research Society

“All of those who came along to the signing had connections with the stories in the book,” added Mr Curtis.

“Many of them had relatives who were on board vessels captured by the Germans. Speaking to people who can relate to my research makes it all worthwhile.”

• ‘Lowestoft Fishermen’s War 1914-1918’ is available in East Anglian bookshops, direct from Poppyland, and from all good bookshops.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Lowestoft Journal. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Lowestoft Journal