U is for U-boats

The scourge of the North Sea in the First World War were the German submarines or U-Boats. Many of these were mine-laying vessels that often attacked both armed and un-armed sailing trawlers and drifters. In particular sailing “smacks” were easy prey and were easily sunk.  The submarine would surface close to the fishing boat and order the crew to abandon their vessel.  If they refused then the vessel would be fired upon.  Once the fishing boat had been abandoned members of the u-boat crew would usually board the boat and plant a bomb or alternatively sink it by gun fire.  The crew of the destroyed vessel, if they survived, were then cast adrift in a small boat.

At the outbreak of the War Lowestoft had a fleet of 584 fishing vessels, many of which were taken up for war work while others, mostly sailing vessels, continued to fish.  Over 177 of the latter were destroyed and many more damaged with over 116 men and boys killed.

Plaque commemorating the sinking of u-boat UC-2 sunk off Great Yarmouth when rammed by Lowestoft coaster “Cottingham” on 2 July 1915. (1176/2/2/21/1)