Tough Trawler

A North Sea TrawlerThe Grimsby Trawler Sargon was off the coast of Norway enclosed in darkness and surrounded by high sea.

A lookout spotted a distress signal rocket in the distance. Skipper John Patton ordered the trawler Sargon to turn in the direction of the signal against the mountainous ominous sea. The order was for full speed ahead engaging a strain on the trawler and crew. Several hours later the distressed ship was seen tumbling on the waves helplessly.

Graphic shows an iceberg with mass below the waterlineShe was identified as the Scottish trawler Ethel Nutton. Her crew were hanging on for dear life tired and wet. They gripped the icy rigging as she rolled and twisted on the angry sea determined to sink her. John could see she would not last much longer and swore into the wind. In the high waves the Sargon's life boats had been torn away taking with it what seemed the only hope of saving the Ethel Nutton's crew. John drew his trawler closer to the ailing ship and hollered he would have to come closer, as his life boats had gone. He advised them to fasten themselves to the lines and throw them at the right time so that his men could pull them to sa

fety. John skillfully drew along side with particular care as any collision would end both trawlers. They were just a few yards away when he gave the order to for the men of Ethel Nutton to throw their lines. Desperately they pitched the ropes and three men were fortuitously dragged to the safely of the Sargon. The remaining crew continued to throw lines until both ships were so near the Ethel Hutton men could step on board Johns vessel.

At Granton Port the home of the Scots ship John refused to be called a hero and within 24 hours set sail once again. They were heading for the White Sea by way of Norway's North Cape.

A passing ship noted her on 2nd of February 1923 and assumed her homeward bound. When the month of April came the trawler Sargon was reported as lost with all hands. As the fishing community mourned, the Sargon ship and crew were in a fight for survival.

One week after the Sargon arrived at the White Sea on 28th January. The fishing had been disappointing and John directed the Sargon turn for home. Unexpectedly, they come upon shoal of fish and scooped one of their fines of catches. As fortune would have it the ship was now low on coal. The Sargon was forced to navigate to Tromso in Norway to fill her coal bunkers. Next evening she encountered masses of floating ice that held her up sufficiently to deplete her coal bunkers.

Snow squalls came in the night reducing visibility to near zero. The blind Sargon was increasingly forced to sail north west out of the shipping lanes. Bad weather increased. Coal supplies not only powered the ship, it also fed the galley fire. With no coal there was no essential heat for food and the crew were forced to burn whatever they could. The wood of their bunks, wooden panels and tarry fishing nets were for a little time a substitute. But soon ran out as the temperature fell.

Sargon was now at the mercy of the wind and sea gradually drifting into the ice wilderness. As the temperature dropped further and faster as the sea began to freeze Sargon became captured in the ice grip. To save valuable energy the men lay still and silent in their bunks. Food on board ran out and the fish they had trawled was the only option. John used his sextant skills in an attempt to fix their position by the stars. Increasingly he had become disheartened and in a fit of despair threw the vital sextant overboard. They were lost and that was the final analysis. It was now apparent that death was a oncoming certainty.

It was the beginning of April and John limped on deck to observe the looming ice packs. All he could see was large mountainous ice flows heading their way determinedly. The crew came on deck only to see the forceful ice approach by the minute. Eventually there was a thunderous roar as the ship was gripped by the ice. It shuddered and reeled throwing the crew on to the decks. The Sargon bobbed carelessly surrounded by the mountain of white. All on board were sure of disaster and the powerlessness to avoid it. Then something unexpected happened as the ship chafed along the ice walls. The open sea came into view and miraculously the ship drifted in that direction.

Drifting for four days away from the ice they felt danger was now far behind them. On the fifth day the German Trawler Schleswig Holstein was appeared on the horizon and came to their rescue. When safely secured the Sargon was towed to the Icelandic port of Reykjavik. Later under her own steam the Sargon made her way back to her home in Grimsby. On the February of that year Sargon had been presumed lost and now after four months they were back home alive. John and his crew were alive and well thanks to a blessed intervention and the ship Schleswig Holstein. We should not forget the fortitude of the Captain and Crew.

The Sargon, (meaning "The True King").
Built by Cook Welton & Gemmill (Beverly, UK)in 1913.
Displacement 297 tons.
Requisitioned by Admiralty in August 1939 as a Royal Naval Mine Sweeper flying pendant FY.
Armed with one 3 ponder and 2 MGs.
Retired from duty July 1945 and returned to owner.
Wrecked off Patreksfjordur, Iceland on 1st December 1948.
(11 of crew dead).

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