Background

The big European powers, Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, had for some time been jockeying for position as they attempted to defend and expand their empires. Over a period of decades they had been building up their naval and other military capacity. Various alliances existed between them and also with smaller neutral countries.

June 28th

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro Hungarian throne and his wife Duchess Sophie are assassinated in Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip.

July 28th

Austria Hungary declares war on Serbia. Russia, an ally of the Serbs, mobilises.

July 31st

Germany, an ally of Austria-Hungary warns Russia to stop mobilising.

Saturday 1st August.

Germany declares war on Russia.

Europe was now  moving rapidly towards war and the financial and trading structures were in limbo. Fish buyers had ceased buying herring.

 

Sunday 2nd August

Germany invaded Luxembourg and demanded passage through Belgium in order to attack France.

In Britain the mobilisation of the Royal Navy including reserve ships and men was ordered

200 fishermen from Brixham left home to report to their bases to stirring scenes. The Brixham yacht regatta has been postponed indefinately.

'Touching scenes' were reported at Stronsay where volunteers took leave of their families and friends, determined but knowing what awaited them. One sister bade fairwell to four brothers all fishermen and navy reservists. When the mail boat was ready to leave for Kirkwall the drifters all sounded their sirens in salute.

In Aberdeen the first 'navy' trawlers are stripped of their fishing gear and made ready for service.

It is reckoned that about 1100 Fishermen Reservists from the Aberdeen District are being called up for naval service.

 

Monday 3rd August

Germany invaded Belgium whose neutrality Britain and France had guaranteed.

A new steam drifter was launched from the yard of Messrs J & G Forbes Sandhaven for Messrs L Duthie and Brothers St Combs and George Walker and Sons Fraserburgh, fishsalesmen. Miss Christina Duthie was presented with a gold watch after she named the new boat FR 106 Duthies.

The entire Dundee trawling fleet is laid up.

In Aberdeen 500 trawlermen are discharged by the trawler owners. It is expected that within a few days 15000 men and women will be idle.

The new Eyemouth drifter BK 334 Maggie Cowe was reported to have successfully run her trials in the Firth of Forth after having been engined by Messers Menzies and Co., Ltd., Leith. Built by Stevenson and Asher of Banff for Messers Windram of Eyemouth she was reported to have performed satisfactorily in every way and to have achieved a speed of 11.5 kts.

Tuesday 4th August

Britain protests to Germany about their violation of Belgian neutrality. Germany replies that the treaty between Britain and Belgium is just a scrap of paper. Britain declares war on Germany as of midnight 4th/5th August.

At Aberdeen the first naval trawlers leave their home port to take up war time duties. They receive a resounding send off with the other, large number of boats in harbour sounding their sirens in salute. A large French drifter, the St Pierre of Boulogne dipped her ensign three times as the trawlers left.

At Banff a new steam drifter was launched from the yard of Messrs Stephens to the order of Messers George West and Sons, Gardenstown. She was named BF 115 Gamrie Bay. She is to be towed to Aberdeen to be engined by Messrs Lewis and Sons.

In Fraserburgh a mass meeting of fishermen and curers took place on the links to discuss the plight of the industry. Among these were large numbers of seasonal fishermen from the Scottish West coast who found themselves out of work and penniless hundreds of miles from home. It was resolved to approach the railway companies to appeal for their passage home without charge.

The steam trawler GY 277 Zenobia arrived at Grimsby to report that while fishing off Heligoland she was ordered to stop by a German gunboat. The trawler did not obey but steamed South. She was however outstripped by the gunboat and arrested. She was forced to return to Heligoland where she was detained for five hours. She was then released and told to get out of German waters. (note: the Zenobia was sunk by a torpedo boat in the North Sea on 25th August 1914. The crew were made prisoners of war.)

In Peterhead 1000 women herring gutters/packers and 500 coopers and other related trades are reported to be idle.

Wednesday 5th August

Just after midnight three German trawlers, Thor, Moltke and Groning and two drifters, the Leda and Alma of Leer left Aberdeen as the declaration of war came into force, and steamed off. They just escaped a 'posse' headed by the Customs Officers who had gone down to the harbour to arrest them and their crews.

At 0600 the German trawler PG 170 Else Kunkel arrived and berthed at Aberdeen, the skipper and crew being unaware that war had been declared. His ship and crew were immediately arrested.

In the afternoon the German fishing smack Hammil Warden of Elspeeth and the trawler Dr Robtzsch suffered the same fate.

Thursday 6th August

A train load of naval reservists arrive back home in Peterhead. The 300 men marched from the station to the Customs House where they were temporarily dismissed but told to hold themselves in readiness to turn out at a moment's notice.

They had been sent home to relieve congestion at southern headquarters.

The German drifter BV 23 Welle of Vegesach was arrested when she put into Aberdeen

Friday 7th August

British steam liner (line fishing vessel), GY 88 Tubal Cain, off Iceland, Skipper Charles Smith; 14 crew; took fishing gear on board and preparing to light a buoy near which she intended to 'dodge' because a heavy sea was running; at 1900 she was stopped by the German auxiliary cruiser Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse 50 miles WNW of Stalberg, W Iceland. Crew taken prisoner aboard Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse . Tubal Cain sunk by gunfire at 2100.

This is believed to be the first British fishing boat to be lost due to enemy action.

Ports receive an instruction from the Admiralty not to allow fishing boats to sail for the fishing grounds until further notice.

The steam trawler Gloria, skipper;Longthorpe had a lucky escape on entering Bere Haven harbour. He was wrongly instructed to proceed into the harbour by a patrol boat and when he did he came under fire from the shore batteries. He stopped and dropped anchor and was boarded by an officer from HMS Minerva who then cleared him to proceed (safely).

The Peterhead drifter Star of Bethel had a similar  experience while returning to Stornoway from the fishing grounds. The skipper saw a cruiser in the distance and not knowing whether it was an enemy one made full speed for Stornoway. The cruiser chased him and fired two shots very close to the drifters bows. The skiiper immediately hove to and the cruiser which was British sent over a boarding party. All being in order the Star of Bethel was allowed to proceed.

Saturday 8th August

By the end of week one of the war the fishing industry is largely in limbo due to:

-failure of markets

-Admiralty instructions that boats should not sail

-insurance underwriters withdrawing insurance cover

-fishermen being called up for naval service.