HMT (Her Majesty’s Trawler) Leicester City was a fishing trawler built in December 1934. Her displacement was 422 tons. The boat was requisitioned on the 19th September 1939 by the Admiralty at the start of the war and joined the “Football Class” fleet of requisitioned trawlers. She was fitted out to become an anti-submarine escort ship.
The History Of Trawler Leicester City
During the war the admiralty requisitioned many merchant trawlers. This was due to how versatile these ships could be. One could create a mine sweeper simply by replacing the trawl with a mine sweep. Or by adding depth charge racks on the deck and ASDIC (Submarine Sonar) below equipped the trawler for anti-submarine duties.
The Football Class was a propaganda stunt by the Admiralty to help boost recruitment by naming ships after local football clubs.
The trawler was officially given its title at a ceremony in Grimsby which was attended by several directors of Leicester City Football Club at the time, including Arthur Needham, whose son Sid Needham was also Director and Chairman for many years.
The ship’s company of HMT Leicester City was supplied with various items of clothing by the Leicester City Football Club during the war, including scarves, socks, mittens, sweaters and of course, football kit.
Notable events involving HMT Leicester City
HMT Leicester City’s duties would include escorting merchant ships, detecting enemy submarines and depth charging. She would also be used for rescue purposes due to her speed and low tonnage.
This can be seen as records show that on the 4th May 1940, HMT Leicester City picked up 40 survivors from the British tanker San Tiburcio that was sunk off the east coast of Scotland after hitting a mine laid German U-boat U-9.
She also picked up 19 survivors from the Norwegian merchant Sueland I that was torpedoed by the German U-boat, U-2336 on the Starboard side and within two minutes, the merchant ship sunk off the east coast of Scotland. The survivors clung on to debris before being picked up. On the way to rescuing the survivors, HMT Leicester City was blindly dropping several depth charges, but the U-Boat escaped. Seven men from the ‘SS Sueland’, including the captain, were killed.”
The Boat was decommissioned from the Royal Navy after the war and returned to service as a fishing trawler.
The Sinking of Trawler Leicester City
Below is a Headline from The Times – 23 March 1953
7 Dead in Wreck, Trawler Aground off Orkney
Seven men lost their lives through exposure or drowning after the 18 members of the crew of the Grimsby Trawler Leicester City abandoned their ship which ran aground on rocks in thick fog off Braebuster Hoy, Orkney, early this morning.
The Stromness lifeboat was launched and picked up four men clinging to a raft in Hoy Sound after hearing their shouts in the darkness. Nine other men, including the skipper, Osmond Johnson came ashore on the Isles of Hoy, clinging to the upturned ship’s lifeboat. Two of them succumbed to exposure. The ship’s mate who made a gallant effort to swim to the shore was found dead on the beach. Three other bodies were picked up later by the Stromness and Thurso lifeboats, after finding a second but empty raft, and the seventh was recovered by the Thurso lifeboat two miles from the wreck, on her way to her base.
The dead men have been identified as E. Young, Mate; G. Hill, second engineer; W. Westerman, fireman; A. Robinson and C. Hunt, trimmers; K. Nevin, deckhand; and N. Dimopoulos, radio operator. Homeward bound from the Icelandic fishing grounds, the trawler grounded on rocks 200 yards or so from the shore about a mile from the spot where the Strathelliot met with a similar fate a few weeks ago. Flares from the Leicester City were seen by crofters on Hoy, and blankets, clothes, hot water bottles and tea were brought by the islanders to the men.
Alfred Jones a deckhand from Grimsby, one of the four men landed at Stromness, stated that they were going at full speed, hoping to be home by Monday night. “We heard a terrible grinding noise as the ship ran on to the rocks. The ship’s lifeboat was launched, but was overturned. Five of us clung to the raft. It was terribly cold. I saw one man, Robinson, let go and disappear. Another 20 minutes in the water and we would all have been dead. It was lucky the lifeboat crew heard us. There was another raft but I do not know what happened to her.”
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