The First World War: The sinking of the cutter Preceptor in June 1917 (Published in Årbladet 2006)

Introduction 
Although Sweden was fortunate not to be drawn into direct hostilities during the World Wars, there were still major constraints for many Swedes. A particularly exposed occupational group was the West Coast fishermen who were carrying Great Lake fisheries in the North Sea, they could not choose, they wanted to have food for the day, the fishery has continued despite the risk of being exposed to acts of war. 

The sinking 
Also Mollösund lost a fishing boat during the First World War. It was the cutter Preceptor with 9 crew (the crew list, see Appendix), which in June 30, 1917 was sunk by a German submarine. Preceptor was fishing for ling in an area called Tampen or Gulf Bank (Look what it is) NO on the Shetland Islands. She was not alone, just a few miles away was another 7 boats from Bohuslän (Lancaster, Bröderna, Sylvia, Priscilla, Coriola, Lady Plimsoll and Mersey) but Preceptor low at the west and therefore closest to English country. 

As it was in the middle of the summer the night was short. However, at 5am, there were still only 2 crew on deck, the others were asleep in their bunks. Suddenly a projectile hit the water on the starboard side of Preceptor. The crew first believed that the attack came from an airplane, but then got to see a submarine that was approaching during continuous shooting. The rest of the crew had now come up on deck and they raised the Swedish flag, but without effect as new shells continued to come. The crew then abandoned the ship in the small life boat and rowed away from the ship. The U-boat, which had no nationality mark, came closer and continued to shot right into the hull of Preceptor that went down after a total of 31 hits. The crew had then got a couple of hundred yards away. 

When Preceptor had sunk the submarine moved towards the cutter Lancaster from Gullholmen, which was about 2 nautical miles south-east. The crew of Lancaster began to go in the little boat, but all could not down before a grenade exploded in the cabin. Next hit the little. boat in the bow above the waterline, but fortunately no one was injured but the fishermen managed to row away from the cutter during continuing bombardment. After Lancaster sunk the submarine continued eastward toward the next boat, Bröderna from Grundsund, which was about 4 miles east of the site where Preceptor sunk. Again, repeated events, the crew went in the small life boat and rowed away. The submarine sank Bröderna and then set course for the next boat, which was the cutter Sylvia. 

The rescue
As the submarine approached Sylvia, her crew went into the small life boat, but they stayed close to the ship. Perhaps this was lucky, as the u-boat changed its behavior. Rather than start shooting, it stopped near Sylvia, The men in the life boat rowed over to the submarine. Once there, it receied 5 fishermen to board the submarine, in exchange for an officer and two sailors who went down into the life boat carrying a bomb, which would be used to blow up Sylvia. Why this change in tactics is unclear, but perhaps it too many grenades was used to sink the first three cutters. The effect was, however, that the Swedes learned that the submarine was German; the Germans claimed that the Swedish fishermen was fishing in prohibited waters and that were fishing for the English. For this reason, the submarine would sink all the Swedish ships except one, who would be saved to rescue crews. 

While the two German sailors adopted the bomb on the main mast of Sylvia, the crew got the chance to talk with the German officers to respond to the allegations. The Swede showed his charts and claimed that the boats fished outside the prohibited area, and he took down the officer to show that the catch had been salted, and he said that if he had been fishing for the English bill, would the fish was fresh. Surprisingly, the officer bought these arguments and after signaling with the submarine captain, the explosives was taken away and Sylvia was ordered to cut their fishing nets and was then released.

Aftermath 
As the submarine disappeared, Sylvia and the other boats could pick up the crew members from the Preceptor, Lancaster and Bröderna and sail for home. Although the incident thus ended without anyone injured or killed, as were the economic losses are severe. 

During the court proceedings of the incident, the estimated costs was as follows: 

  Preceptor Lancaster Bröderna Total
Ships 17000 20000 40000 77000
Gear 5000 5000 5000 15000
Food, clothing, salt, barrels, oil 7000 5000 6000 18000
Catch 6500 10000 17000 33500
Total 35500 40000 68000 143500

In addition, the value of the fishing nets that Sylvia, Priscilla and Mersey had to cut was estimated to 105 hundre = 6000 kr 

It is difficult to escape from the impression to get this figures was salted. Could really the catch from one fishing trip equal to 38% (Preceptor), 50% (Lancaster) of the entire boat’s value? It is perhaps such comments, explaining why the German state in 1919, after long drawn diplomatic exchanges of letters, just paid a total of £ 28,980 in damages (approximately 20% of the appraised value). 

Appendix 

  • Crew List of Preceptor (owner in bold italics)
  • Anders Samuelsson (Masters)
  • Oskar Bergström
  • Olle Berntsson
  • Axel Niklasson
  • Bernt Olsson
  • ”Vamp” Tjöle Tjörn
  • Jacob Samuelsson
  • Emil Wallin
  • Chef: Erik Karlsson ( ”Tullarns Erik”)

Sources: Bertil Skantze and material found at Mollösunds Museum.