The Isles of Scilly, five inhabited islands 24 miles west of Land’s End, were of low priority to the War Department when the First World War was declared. With no manufacturing capability, no industry other than flower growing and agriculture, no electricity or gas, no mains water supply, no wireless station, and a population of only 2,000, the islands did have one feature in their favor – their location. Sitting at the cross roads of six major shipping routes, Scilly had been a recognized ‘ship-park’ since 1300AD, where sailing ships anchored to safety awaiting a suitable wind, to re-victual, pick up water or effect repairs. The Admiralty sought to make it a harbor for the Channel Fleet in the mid-1800s, and in 1903 spent £25,000 defending the islands with 6-inch gun batteries, only to take them away seven years later.
When, in 1915, German U-boats moved from the North Sea into the Western Approaches, sinking large numbers of merchant vessels, Scilly was chosen to become a Royal Navy Auxiliary Patrol Station, and over time was sent 20 armed trawlers and drifters as escorts, mine-sweepers, mine-layers or anti-submarine vessels, along with 500 Royal Navy personnel. In 1917 Tresco Island became a Royal Naval Air Station, with 14 flying boats and over 1,000 personnel. The islands were suddenly at the forefront of the submarine war.
This book details Scilly's contribution to the war effort, with attention to its civilian population, the heartbreak of losing forty-five of its sons, and the trauma of countless seamen rescued from torpedoed ships.
About the Author
Richard Larn OBE and Cornish Bard has earned a living from the sea since joining the naval training ship Mercury in 1944. Four years merchant navy as a cadet deck officer was followed by twenty-two years in the Royal Navy, including during the Korean War as a Chief Petty Officer Mechanician/Diver. Founder and MD of Prodive Ltd in Falmouth Docks, author of some fifty-eight non-fiction maritime books, shipwreck expert and now President of International Maritime Archaeological & Shipwreck Society, Richard lives with his wife, Bridget, on the Isles of Scilly.
Table of Contents
1 1914: It will all be over by Christmas 16
2 1915: The war at sea comes to Scilly 42
3 1916: The Western Approaches become a killing ground 74
4 1917: The islands become a major naval base 91
5 1918: The tide rums 125
6 1919: The aftermath - We will remember them 152