DIVERS in Northern Norway have found the wreck of the Grimsby trawler Laforey which sank 56 years ago with the loss of 20 lives.
It was one of Grimsby's worst fishing disasters at a time when British trawlers distant waters trawling was the most dangerous job in the country.The Laforey (GY 85) , which was owned by Derwent Trawlers, sank in the early hours of the morning of February 8th 1954 after hitting a reef near the port of Floro in heavy seas and driving snow. The vessel was heading home from the Barents Sea area when she capsized with the loss of all hands.
The skipper was a man called Billy Mogg, described at the time as a highly experienced trawlerman. Most of the crew were from Grimsby, although one man, George Scott, came from Fleetwood. His body was recovered and is now buried in the town.
As with many trawler disasters there were stories of lucky escapes and it happened to one young deckhand called James Thurston who, at the 11th hour, decided not to sail on the vessel. There is now a thoroughfare in Grimsby called Laforey Road in memory of those who died and the incident is re-enacted in the National Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby.
It seems that the Norwegians had know that the wreck was somewhere in the area where divers found, but had been unable to pinpoint the exact position until very recently.
Many British trawlers, mostly from Grimsby, Hull, Aberdeen and Fleetwood, were lost in the years immediately after the war, either due to bad weather or stray mines.
A DATE has been set for the official return and handing over of the bell from the Grimsby trawler Laforey which sank with all hands nearly 60 years ago. It will return to its home port this week and then presented to the Grimsby Port Missioner Tony Jewitt on Friday by the two Norwegian divers Tron Stromgren and Frode Fjellestad, who discovered the wreck last year.
The Laforey, owned by Derwent Trawlers which was part of the old Ross Group foundered in heavy seas off the coast of Northern Norway in February 1954. All 20 crewmen on board perished and only one body, that of a Dutch-born trawler engineer, was eventually recovered. The ship had only been built five years earlier and had been considered a fairly new and sound vessel.
The skipper was William Mogg and his grandson Garreth Evans, also a former trawler skipper, has been researching with the divers and has been trying to trace the families of those who were lost. He is thought to have found at least 13 of the 20 families.Mr Jewitt said the bell would now be hung in the Grimsby Fishermens Chapel in the port under the names of those who were lost on that fateful day.
Mr Jewitt said there will be a special commemorative service at the Grimsby Minster on July 10th when the bell will be show before being removed to its permanent home at the fishermens chapel. That should be the final chapter in a tragic story that was, sadly, all too common in ports like Grimsby, Hull and Aberdeen in the early 1950s
THE ordeal of 20 brave Grimsby trawlermen who lost their lives off the coast of Norway over 50 years ago will finally be laid to rest this weekend.
The Grimsby Fishermen's Mission is holding the annual Lost Fishermen's Service in Grimsby Minster on Sunday, but part of that service will be given over to a special commemoration for the crew of the trawler Laforey which perished on the night of February 7th 1954 when the ship foundered on a reef.
Last year two Norwegian divers found the wreck and rescued the ship's bell which was brought back to Grimsby. The now somewhat mis-shapen bell will be dedicated at Sunday's service and then hung permanently in the Grimsby Fishermen's Chapel.
But it will also mark the end of a long quest for Grimsby skipper Garry Evans whose mother, Sylvia Evans, had three close relatives on the Laforey.
She lost her father, Billy Mogg, who was the skipper, her brother and third hand Kenneth James Mogg and her uncle Jack Debbage Powley. Ironically, her husband, Thomas Evans (and Garry's father) was skipper of another Grimsby trawler, the Stockham, which was sent in vain to the Laforey's assistance that fateful night.
Garry and his sister-in-law Sue Evans have recently returned from an emotional trip to the island Fanoya in Norway, close to where the ship was lost. Local people and businesses have raised money to erect a special memorial to the crew which includes the Laforey's anchor, also found by the divers, and which was dedicated during their visit.
The Grimsby pair scattered 20 red roses - one for each member of the crew - in the area where the ship went down. Garry said: "We were both very moved by the whole occasion. The Norwegians flew their flags in memory of the crew - I cannot thank these fabulous people enough."
If you look at the two Laforey photos on this site you will note that the Laforey is coming back into Aberdeen on one after making her trial Fishing in Aberdeen Bay on 24 August 1949. The other photo shows Laforey coming in to Grimsby Docks some years later. The Man in the bow was Mate Chris Davidsen (sometimes Davidson) but according to his Wife he kept his Faroese surname for himself and his firstborn son, but the daughters were Davidson.
Now for my question.
Comparing the two photos, Laforey was commisioned without a Mizzen Mast but the later photo shows Laforey had a Mizzen Mast.
I am assuming this was something to do with Vessels over 150 feet long having to have a Mizzen Light higher than the Foremast Light.
The Rule must have been made compulsory therefore sometime between August 1949 and when Laforey sailed on her fateful last voyage on 18th January 1954.
Can anyone please advise when this rule change took place?
Thanks for your thoughts Jonleif.
I am giving a talk in around October, but I do not have a set date as yet regarding the Laforey and I hope to show some film and photos.
This talk will be for the Grimsby Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders who were established in 1900.
Maybe one or two of their older members were around at the time in Question.
With the assistance of certain people, the Cleethorpes Chronicle and the Grimsby Telegraph with 2 photo's they had from years ago, I now have all 20 members photos of the Laforey's last crew.
The last photo which came into my possesion was that of the Wireless Operator Guy Victor Sisley, who was giving out the second mayday when he said they were heeling over.
Guy was the most difficult to trace because he lived South of Manchester, and so the news of the finding of Laforey did not reach his relatives before we tracked them down.
I have been looking through some Trawler photos on various sites and came across the Prince Charles H 249.
She was built for St Andrews of Hull, part of the Boston Group.
Prince Charles was registered on 6th January 1953 and was commissioned without a Mizzen Mast.
This is therefore looking likely that Laforey GY 85 had a Mizzen Mast installed on or around the early part of 1953.
The Princess Elizabeth H 135 which became the ill fated Roderigo was registered on 15th September 1950 also without a Mizzen mast.
The Boston Fury GY 153 and H 252, then TN 50 Fikanes in Torshavn, Faeroe, which then returned and became GY 111 was also built without a Mizzen Mast.