Search to uncover Grimsby trawler WW1 shipwrecks

The Fittonia trawler Image copyright Shipwrecks of the River Humber
Image caption The Fittonia hit a mine about 25 miles from the coast of Donna Nook in Lincolnshire on 2 September, 1914

A search is under way to uncover the lost history of 375 ships from Grimsby believed to have been sunk around the world during World War One.

Divers from the Humber Sub Aqua Club will explore the wrecks of 30 boats in the River Humber area.

They are also asking for help from people in the UK and worldwide to map the other lost fishing boats.

Around 1,200 men and boys, mainly from Grimsby, died on the trawlers destroyed by mines or sunk by German U-boats.

Funding from the National Lottery enabled the project to initially research the histories of 25 trawlers in the North Sea.

But the work revealed the town's fishing community had lost 375 ships in the conflict, some in Iceland, Canada and South Africa.

Permanent archive

Further lottery funding of £97,500 has now been given to expand the project.

Kevin Smith, diver and chairman of Shipwrecks of the River Humber Area, said most of the ships destroyed were out fishing while others had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty to join the war effort.

Image copyright Shipwrecks of the River Humber
Image caption The project is being supported by the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre where a launch event was held

"They were mainly either blown up by the German mines that had been lain to disrupt food supplies and provoke a military response on British shores, or they were sunk by U-boat crews who boarded the boats, stole supplies and then blew them up."

The funding will enable the training of 30 new divers to explore the wrecks and ten archaeologists to research the stories of crews who perished on them.

Mr Smith has appealed for anyone with information about the boats and their crews to get in touch.

He has also asked for the help of divers overseas to locate the wrecks.

The four-year project will culminate in a permanent archive and exhibition.

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