"DRAGOON - GY222 "
by (Sparks ) Ray Bramall
The Dragoon was an old oil steam trawler operated by Butts of Grimsby, She was an old ship having been built at Beverley and launched on 18/01/1941 as the Hill Class Trawler YES TOR T222 for the Admiralty.
YES TOR T222
Yard No. 686
Length 167.7 ft
Beam 28.1 ft
Depth 14.1 ft
Engines C D Holmes, 970 IHP, 11 knots
November 1947 - fitted for fuel oil
After her war service she was sold to Hudson Bros Ltd, Hull on 10/04/1946 and renamed CAPE CLEVELAND (H355). She was sold again on 12/11/1947 To Clyde Trawlers Ltd, Hull and renamed STELLA CARINA. She was again purchased on 05/09/1949 by Hudson Bros Ltd, Hull and renamed CAPE FINISTERRE. On the 24/01/1952 she was sold To Great Grimsby & East Coast Steam Fishing Co Ltd, Grimsby and renamed DRAGOON (GY222). On 23/06/1960 To Wyre Trawlers Ltd, Fleetwood and registered FD60. 18/12/1966 Arrived at Troon for breaking up..
This vessel had a history of bad luck and at one time off the coast of Norway she caught fire in the engineroom, the flames where licking the rear of the bridge and smoke was everywhere. The crew abandoned her and rowed the lifeboat to a safe distance, the sea being flat calm at the time, after a length of time the flames and smoke disappeared, so the crew rowed back to the vessel and reboarded her. After making repairs to the vessel they managed to restart the engine and return to Grimsby. I myself was employed by Redifon of Hull a communications company which supplied the ocean going fishing fleet with equipment and operators ( or Sparks as we where commonly called). After not been able to get an operator in Grimsby they asked me, and as my dad kept a pub on that side of the river ( Louth ) I said "yes".
I went aboard an hour before she sailed the wireless room was just off the bridge, the skipper who`m I shall not name, the mate and a deckhand where present on the bridge and the whole place stunk of rum. It was obvious to me that the skipper was worse for wear having had too much to drink, drinking aboard ship was not uncommon in those days, as everyone had a good dram before sailing, this gave some courage to face the hardships of the voyage and forget the pleasures of the short stay ashore of 48 hours. We set off down the river bound for Iceland, most of the skippers been able to do the trip blind folded as they had done it so many times before.
My duties as wireless operator on a trawler where far busier than any other vessel I had served on, I had to keep up and relay constant weather reports, news of the fishing grounds, there was the company shedule`s ( Sked ) to keep where each day at the allotted time we would speak to the owners. There was the moral of the crew at stake also and the constant update of sports news was passed to them, and like on most trawlers I ran a book ( Betting ) on one horse race per day, On a saturday all the football and rugby results would have to be typed up and displayed in the crews mess room. Whilst these where my main duties once on the fishing ground I was also responsible for the boiling of the fish livers, this entailed dragging the large baskets of fish livers to the boilers which where usually situated at the stern of the ship, this was carried out in all weathers and as soon as the deck watch had finished gutting the fish, I dragged the baskets to the boilers and placed the livers in, where they would be steamed till the oil rose to the top, the oil would then be drained into storage tanks, these tanks would then be emptied by a barge when we docked, for this work, I received a share of the profit known as liver money.
After a four day steam we where nearing the fishing grounds off Iceland, the skipper had been drinking heavily ever since we left the dock at Grimsby, he had spent most of his time in his cabin and when he did appear on the bridge he was a bloody nuisance. " Ok " he said " Now we start fishing" over went the trawl, the doors where lowered, ( large square sections of reinforced wood ) designed to keep the mouth of the trawl net open when on the sea bed. We then started to tow the gear over the ocean floor but unfortunately the silly old sod had shot our gear in the wrong location, which happened to be renown for getting snagged on underwater obstacles, and after a short time we became fast and as the winch screeched things came to a sudden halt . we endeavoured to free and bring up the trawl, or what was left of it as it`s tattered remains was brought aboard. The cost of a trawl net at that time would have been around £1000 and this would be deducted from any settling money as a expense on the voyage, a new trawl had to be fixed in place which took most of the rest of that day. In the meantime the skipper went to his cabin and locked the door, leaving the mate to take over, of which I think this was his first trip as mate as he did`nt seem to have a clue. After the new trawl was fitted we had a short steam to a new location. We fished here for a couple of days without catching very much when the skipper showed his face on the bridge and asked what was going on, the mate explained that we had moved, the skipper asked who had given permission to steam to another location, the mate replied " we could not wake you up and the spot we where fishing on was full of snags" " Get off my bridge" the skipper retorted "i`ll take over now ". The skipper came into the wirless room " Sparks I want you to swap cabins with me, Ive been drinking too much and now want to concentrate on fishing" "lock up all the booze in the bond locker and no matter what don`t let me have the key.
That night I settled down in the skippers bunk, sleep came instantly as it did every night due to the long watches, I was awakened by a series of loud bangs and found the skipper attacking the bond locker door with a fire axe, on opening the door he grabbed a bottle of rum and without a word spoken by either of us he disappeared back to the bridge. The next morning I did my usual routine of checking the weather reports and for any waffle ( Telegrams ) all the time the skipper was snoring away loudly in my bunk ( My bunk been in the wireless room). The next day we managed to lose another set of gear £2000 pounds down on the trip so far, the mate having had enough said that`s it i`m taking her home, all other crewmen stating also that they would stand by his actions. On the steam home the crew rigged another trawl the mate saying he would give it a try off the Faeroe Islands, we caught 500 kit of dogs ( small shark ) in 3 days then headed home. I had already telegrammed the owners giving them most of the information about the trip, but saying the skipper was ill. An ambulance met us on arrival at Grimsby docks and the skipper was whisked straight to hospital, obviously we made very little money for the voyage most of the fish been used for dog food. The owners apologised to the crew and to my knowledge our skipper never received command of another trawler.