Royal British Legion

Great Yarmouth

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This year's running total for our 2016-17 Poppy Appeal stands at £35,932.62

The Poppy Shop sells our own branded merchandise from independent suppliers, all profits going back to the RBL

Attendance levels on the Battle Back Centre's Multi Activity Courses are consistently high

Great Yarmouth War Years

Great Yarmouth was a "Front Line" town during both the First and Second World Wars. Read about incidents that occurred during these times.

Armed sailing smacks

The fishing industry suffered in Great Yarmouth, as in other East Coast towns, during the First World War. Soon after the outbreak of war, the Admiralty chartered the best steam vessels for patrol duties and minesweeping. This coincided with the start of the Home Fishing: the autumn months when the shoals of herring were off this coast. 1913 had been a bumper year and 1,000 boats had packed into Yarmouth Harbour, many of them Scottish. By contrast, 1914 onwards saw the fishing industry virtually suspended, although some boats - the ones the Royal Navy Reserve didn't want, such as old sailing smacks - continued to fish.

The sea had always been a dangerous environment to work in but the presence of U-boats made it even more so. At first, the enemy submarines would surface near a fishing boat and order the crew off into a dinghy before they set an explosive charge in the chain locker - often helping themselves to some fresh fish before they blew the boat up! This changed once some of the boat owners had persuaded the Navy to arm their boats so that they could defend themselves. Once they had a gun aboard, the enemy treated them like any other man-of-war and sunk them from a distance.

The unpowered sailing smack, Inverlyon, armed with a single 3 pounder gun, was the first armed smack to sink an enemy submarine after U-boat 4 had approached her on the surface near Great Yarmouth on 15 August 1915. Numerous encounters followed; the worst being two years later on 15 August 1917 when two Lowestoft armed smacks, the Nelson and the Ethel and Milly, came under fire from a U-boat. Both smacks returned fire as they sank, releasing pidgeons (they had no radios) with details of their position. The skipper of the Nelson, Thomas Crisp, who had been badly wounded, insisted on being left to go down with his boat. He was later awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. His son and the remaining crew of the Nelson were picked up. They reported witnessing the crew of the Ethel and Milly being hauled onto the U-boat. None of those seven men were ever seen again.

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