After a couple of months out in Iceland I am getting a little homesick - worse as I am still a rookie at this game. We have been patrolling an area of South-East Iceland for a few days now, looking after a pack of around 30 trawlers. We have to keep them together as it is the only way to protect them. A boat on its own out here is fair game for the gunboats.
The morning has started out very bleak and cold, the sea is a dark gun-metal colour and the icy wind cuts right through your clothing. It's started to rain now just to add to the unpleasantness of the day, and the sea is running high as there is a force 7 to 8 wind blowing.
I am on watch in the engine room and my two charges are throbbing away like good 'uns. All is well down below, the engine room is the opposite from above (noisy)! Wonderfully warm though, albeit not all that stable due to the rolling of the boat. You get used to the roll and after a while you learn to compensate until you are able to stand without assistance, sometimes sliding along the deck plates and then sliding back again as the boat heels over the other way. Quite a sight,seeing two guys chatting as they both slide along and back again in unison!
Anyway after a while I decide to go topside for a breath of fresh air. As I reach the upper deck I hear some commotion coming over the radio. The radio room was on the upper deck so you could often hear ship-to-ship communication. A gunboat had been sighted on the horizon, then a few minutes later another on the other horizon - a worst case scenario for us, as they now play a game of cat and mouse.
If I remember right it was the Odin and the Tyr. After what seemed like an age the gunboat to the North of us made headway into the pack of trawlers, so we headed out towards the nearest trawler. As we did so the other gunboat headed in from the South and made a beeline for the nearest trawler in that area. We were on a hiding to nothing that day and all we could do was run around and try to defend one area until the Royal Navy could get to us and assist us. Well, then it all kicked off!
Exclusive Feature Serial on www.thisisUll.com Part Five - 1973: Super tug to defend fishing fleet continued By John Boldock
After enduring weeks - in fact, months - of bloody harassment from the Icelandics, the fishermen of the fleet decided that enough was enough.
As I stood on the after gantry watching this drama unfurl, there was a cloud of black smoke emanating from one of the trawlers smoke stacks.
He was hauling in his gear and was starting to steam after one of the gunboats.
A few minutes later there was another plume of black smoke from another funnel, followed a short time later by another, then another. Within around 20 minutes all thirty or so trawlers has upped their gear and were under way, all heading in one direction - towards that gunboat! It was a sight I don't suppose I will ever see again in my life, a pack of trawlers all crashing and pushing through the waves of what by now was a force eight gale - not a thing you take on normally, but then this was not a normal day. The airwaves were full of chatter between ships, "Coming two points to you, George!"
"Ok Fred!" would be the reply.
The chatter was unbelievable as these hard men, trawler skippers, who had spent most of their lives in one of the most dangerous industries on this earth, had really had enough and now was the time to kick arse!
I can feel the adrenaline running now as I stand on the after gantry shouting encouragement to the trawlers all pounding away, crashing the waves and sometimes vanishing for a few seconds as the sea appeared to envelope them, only to emerge a few seconds later.
All had the same goal - to get the bastard! By now I was screaming at the top of my voice - "Go get 'em lads! Go get em!" - silly really as no-one could possibly hear me over the roar of the biting wind.
Eventually we had boxed in one of the gunboats, one trawler up ahead, one at the stern and one either side of port and starboard (front, back, left and right for the uninitiated). We ran the sod all over the Icelandic sea for a couple of hours. I think a few would have loved to sink the bugger but at the end of the day there was still a sense of honour among seamen. After all they were also only doing a job as ordered.
After a while the captain of the gunboat had had enough and he ordered the wraps to be removed from the forward cannon. His crew manned it ready for the order to fire. After a bit of serious thinking the trawlers decided to back off, not because of fear, but had the gunboat decided to fire on any one of us I am sure that it would have ended up a blood bath with at least one if not both of the gunboats at the bottom of the sea. This was a sensible stand off.
At this moment the Royal Navy came steaming over the horizon. We all peeled away and the gunboat made a hasty retreat to go off and lick his wounds. He had been shown that it is not a good idea to take on the world's toughest fishermen and at a time of need these men stuck together.
Continued soon on www.thisisull.com......
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We sit together in the warm afternoon sun. The garden is in full bloom, she has worked so hard on this garden, planting and digging, it's a beautiful sight, full of colour.
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