by Ian Beale
In the summer of 1967 I was sparehand on the Boyd line trawler the Arctic Ranger we were fishing at the White Sea the Skipper being Stan Barwick at the time had decided to steam away from the area where half the Hull fishing fleet where to find richer ground for fish. We shot the trawl not far from the Russian coast and not far off Murmansk where the Russia Naval base was, sure enough after the usual 3 hr tow we are on the fish and the skipper kept is position to himself, and so for the next 24 hrs we had some good hauls until the Russians Flew over the ship circuling us 3 times at a low altitude. The aircraft was so low you could see one of the flight crew at the side door of the plane, which was a huge flying boat taking photo,s of us. The aircraft had flown over us early in the morning by lunch time we were all below having dinner when one of the crew came running in to the mess-deck shouting that we were under arrest and that a Russian motor boat was just off out port side, we all scrambled on to the deck to see what was happening sure enough there it was a gunboat fully manned with Russian sailors all armed with rifles. They were shouting orders to us, Go West, lift your trawl and Go West, not your under arrest as the deckie had thought. But the old man told them to clear off and refused.Then they decided to come aboard and two officers went on to the bridge and had a word with the old man, who then shouted to us to get the gear on board we are heading west. The two officers returned to their ship and with our gear up and on board we started to steam west away from the area. I was called to take the wheel as it was the mates watch, we were on duty as we steamed in to a fog and the old man told us that the Russian navy were heading out of Murmansk to do exercises. Just to make sure we didn,t stay in the area a Russian cruiser followed us for a few hours to make sure that we did steam west. Sure enough on the radar you could see the blips coming away from the mainland as the Russian Navy left Murmansk and a few hours later gunfire could be heard. I,m sure many a deckhand saw the odd periscope comming up out of the water while you towed along at one time or another at the White sea and Norwegian Coast. Did spying go on in the trawler fleet of course it did and I will tell you about another time later Regards Ian
During the cold war it is a known fact that many British fishing vessels where used as ( spy ships ). Rather than the cloak and dagger label, I would describe them as observation centres. As is still the case today countries of all nations adopt the big brother tactics to observe their adversaries. Gone are the box brownie camera and the notepad, todays technology enables tracking and photographing of vessels and even people from space.
Many of the vessels listed below where used in observation excercises:
BENELLA , MARBELLA , LORD ANCASTER, LORD TEDDER, LORD MOUNTEVANS, LORD BEATTY
, LORD WILLOUGHBY, CASSIO, IAN FLEMING, SOMERSET MAUGHAM, DB FINN, MACBETH,
ST CHAD, ARCTIC CORSAIR, ARCTIC BUCCANEER, ST ALCUIN, ST LEGER, ST KEVERNE,
STELLA ARCTURUS, STELLA POLARIS, STELLA CANOPUS, STELLA AQUILA
STELLA SIRIUS, STELLA ALTAIR, INVINCIBLE, PRINCE CHARLES, CAPE TRAFALGAR, CAPE OTRANTO, KINGSTON PEARL, KINGSTON ALMANDINE
KINGSTON SAPPHIRE, KINGSTON EMERALD, KINGSTON JADE, KINGSTON TOPAZ, LOCH INVER, ROSS ORION, ROSS SIRIUS, ROSS LEONIS,
Commander J. G. Brookes, M.B.E. - born 1915; died 1971.
Commander J. G. Brookes was a tall, well-spoken and charming man. Everyone on St. Andrew's Dock, who was acquainted with him, believed he was just a naval officer. No one thought of him as being at all sinister. He was in fact working for M.I.6, and carried out his duties most efficiently, by managing to obtain a very significant amount of information, via his recruits amongst the Hull trawlermen. He arranged for cameras and tape recorders to be issued to various skippers and radio operators to take photographs and record radio traffic while they were sailing in sensitive northern waters (Barents Sea, north Russian coast areas). "Brookie" himself, as he was commonly known, made countless trips to sea on board the Hull trawlers. There were other naval officers, or more correctly, intelligence operatives, who sailed from Hull as "guests" aboard the fishing vessels. Yet the M.o.D were loath, until very recently, to admit to this fact. Of course, the trawler owners were aware of the secret intelligence work going on aboard their ships and they, therefore, must have given their approval to these ventures.
In addition, there were 3 trawlers which were chartered by M.o.D. for very special operations:-
INVINCIBLE - Skipper Roy Waller
LORD NELSON - Skipper Norman Longthorpe
ARCTIC GALLIARD - Skipper Bob Gray
It is noteworthy that only one trawler owner (Mr. Tom Boyd) has admitted that this intelligence work was carried out on board Hull's distant water trawlers, during the cold war years.