One hundred years ago, on the night of June 23rd/24th 1915, twenty British fishing vessels were attacked by the German submarine U38 (and perhaps a second unidentified U Boat ) while they were fishing Shetland grounds 30 miles East of Unst. The Commander of U38 at that time was Christian Valentiner, one of Germany’s most successful commanders of WW I. In the space of just six hours sixteen of them were sent to the bottom. The method of attack at that stage of the war was for the U Boat to approach the target and order the crew to abandon their ship and take to their lifeboats. Once they were clear the U Boat sank the target by gunfire or explosive charges.
The result was that casualties at that stage of the war were mercifully few and in the case of this attack only one fisherman was injured, Robert Buchan of the Four, when the U Boat opened fire before they had had time to abandon ship. He died later of his injuries.
Vessels Lost: Steam Drifters:
PD 63. Ugie Brae
PD 203. Elizabeth
PD 475. Quiet Waters
PD 82. Uffa
PD 98. Research
PD 17. Primrose
PD 104. Four
PD 191. J M & S
PD 537. Star of Bethlehem
PD 92. Monarda
YH 297. Piscatorial
YH 978. Josephine
Vessels Lost: Steam Line Fishing Boats:
A 441. Lebanon
A 598, Viceroy
A 12. Vine
A 226. Commander

PD 152. Nigella
PD 424. Energy
PD 208. Archimedes
PD 492 A M Leask

Aberdeen Press and Journal : Aberdeen Journals Ltd., Publisher.
Aberdeen Evening Express : Aberdeen Journals Ltd., Publisher.
British Vessels Lost at Sea 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 : Patrick Stephens Ltd., now Haynes Publishing, Publisher.
British Warships 1914-1919: Dittmar and Colledge : Ian Allan Publishing Ltd., Publisher.
Customs and Excise Registers of Sea Fishing Boats
Fishing News, Intrafish, Publisher.
Mariners Almanac : Aberdeen Journals Ltd., Publisher.
Mercantile Navy Lists via the CLIP Project.
Olsens Fishermans Nautical Almanack : E T W Dennis & Sons Ltd, Publisher.
Shetland Times
Steam Drifters, A Brief History : Jim Tarvit : Scottish Fisheries Museum, Publisher.
Warships of World War II : Lenton and Colledge : Ian Allan Publishing Ltd., Publisher.
Further detail: much more detail about the U38 attack on the fishing boats can be found in an excellent article by Charlie Smith in the Shetland Times, and in the relevant sections of U