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Description

The HIROSE and VICTORIA were amongst several vessels attacked in the Western Approaches over a period of two weeks by U34 - others include a Newcastle steamship, a French schooner, and a tanker.

HIROSE was owned by the well-known firm of Neale and West, which maintained substantial fishing fleets both at Milford Haven and Cardiff. The story of the trawler’s loss is intertwined with that of the Milford Haven trawler, VICTORIA.

Edward Johnson, Boatswain of the HIROSE, told reporters that they had 'left Cardiff on Tuesday morning and on their way to the fishing grounds about 130 miles west by south of Lundy Island shots began to fall near the ship. They could not see where these came from till a submarine was observed making for them and continued firing all the time, but so faulty was their marksmanship that not one of them hit the ship, though it made them quake a couple of times. The submarine quickly overhauled them, and drew near. An officer shouted to them through a megaphone to leave the ship and ordered them to come aboard the submarine. In the trawler's boat he sent his men aboard the HIROSE with a couple of bombs which exploded on the ship, which, however, did not appear to sink quick enough, so they fired two shots into her amidships and sank her. This would be between 5 and 6 on Wednesday morning. They were not on the submarine very long so did not see much of the crew, one officer seemed a decent fellow, but the commander, well - he was a German inclined to sneer. On the submarine they found four survivors of the Milford trawler VICTORIA and ultimately the fourteen of them were put in the small boat given half a dozen biscuits to help them along and were left to take their chance in a leaky craft in a strong sea. It was chiefly owing to the way the skipper and mate handled the boat that they managed to keep afloat. Throughout the day and night around 24 hours or more they rowed on and on and were thankful when the BALLATER came along and took them aboard. They received every consideration at the hands of Captain Mildred and his crew and were brought into Milford.'

The VICTORIA was one of the smaller class of trawlers. It had recently been bought from Fleetwood by Mr Curzon and was managed by Messrs Brand & Co at Milford. Contemporary newspaper reporting speaks of ‘attacking defenceless trawlers and murdering five fishermen and a boy by shell fire’. Three members of the Gray family of Hakin were indeed killed - including a young boy, James Jones, the nephew of the skipper. A fourth crew member, George Huddleston, was wounded.

Today, we remember four brave fishermen and a young life cut short by tragedy:

Skipper Stephen Stevenson of Hakin, who left a wife and four children
Mate Dennis McCarthy of Milford Haven, a widower
Chief Engineer Albert Cole of Milford Haven, who left a wife and five children
George Rudge of Hakin, cook
Frank Slate of Haverfordwest, trimmer
James Jones of Hakin, aged 12, on board for a pleasure trip


Please note some readers may find the survivors’ accounts upsetting.

Sources include:
Abergavenney Chronicle, 11 June 1915, http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk/en/page/view/4121311/ART22

Dydd, 11 June 1915
http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk/en/page/view/4107650/ART10/

Flintshire Observer, 10 June 1915, http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk/en/page/view/3755443/ART54

Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 9 June 1915
http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk/en/page/view/4118525//ART25

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