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William Douglas, of Kilkeel, County Down, was the skipper of fishing boat 'Jane Gordon' which was sunk by Germans on 30th May 1918, during WW1

The 'Jane Gordon' was a smack, 27grt, 26 miles WNW from Calf of Man, when she was captured by a submarine and then sunk by bombs.

The Jane Gordon was one of 11 fishing vessels sunk in just one day by the German submarine UB-64 (Otto von Schrader):

Cyprus (35 grt)
Glad Tidings (15 grt)
Honey Bee (34 grt)
Jane Gordon (27 grt)
Lloyd (35 grt)
Marianne Mc Crum (30 grt)
Never Can Tell (31 grt)
Seabird (15 grt)
Sparkling Wave (29 grt)
St. Mary (29 grt)
Mary Joseph (32 grt)

As told to the BBC:

On 17 May 1918 the Kilkeel fleet left the harbour to drift net for herring. As one of the boats was sailing to the fishing ground, a member of the crew noticed the compass was spinning. He drew the rest of the crew's attention to this, but nobody knew the cause of this strange phenomenon. The boats continued to the fishing ground.

At daylight the next morning, on 18th May, a German submarine surfaced in the middle of the fleet, ordered the crews into the punts and told them to come along the side of the submarine.

They were then ordered on to the deck. One of the German officers then proceeded to place a bomb on each boat. The subsequent explosions sank the five boats.

The names of the boats were: Never Can Tell, Jane Gordon, Cypress, St Mary, and Lloyd.

Some of the boats had no punt and the captain ordered them on to another fishing boat, the Moss Rose, and let them row for home. The mystery of the spinning compass was revealed. The owners received no compensation for the loss of their boats, although their local MP fought hard for them.


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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024