An event described as the “worst ever single trawler tragedy” took place fifty years ago on the night of the 8th/9th February 1974. The vessel was a fishing trawler called Gaul, which sank in the Barents Sea off Norway with the loss of all 36 crew. The Gaul had been part of British United Trawlers registered in Hull, but also had strong local links. The trawler had entered service in North Shields with the Ranger Fishing Co, sailing as the Ranger Castor. A search was arranged with 26 ships coordinated by the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes but nothing was found. A formal investigation later that year claimed the boat had been overwhelmed in stormy seas but some of the families were sceptical given how modern the boat was. Other theories were put forward including involvement in Cold War espionage and being damaged in a collision with a submarine. The then Conservative Government held out against a further investigation but when Labour came to power in 1997 John Prescott ordered an investigation. After the wreck was located Hull MP Alan Johnson and I pressed for a proper survey. In fact there were two and remains found showed links with the crew. Six men on board came from our area – John O’Brien, James Wales, James Woodhouse, Neil Petersen, James McLellan and Ronald Bowles. I pay tribute to the families who campaigned for the truth about what happened and to the fishermen and retired fishermen who campaign to keep the memory of the Gaul alive and to remind us of how dangerous fishing can be.

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