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Bacchante's Cod War

Background

Bacchante's part in events


Background

Three times Great Britain has been in dispute with Iceland over fishing since the last war and each time the Royal Navy has been called in to protect our trawlermen from interference by the Icelandic Coast Guard vessels. On each occasion the reason for the confrontation came about when Iceland tried to push her territorial fishing limits out, thus forcing our deep-sea trawling fleet to be run off the best fishing grounds. The reasoning behind their moves were not without good foundation as the country has no mineral wealth and the economy of the island was largely dependent on its own substantial fishing industry. Their government maintained that over-fishing around the coast by foreign trawlers was slowly leading to the extinction of fish stocks and in all probability they were quite right. For this reason they introduced a 'quota' restriction on all foreign trawlers and started to dictate to fishermen which areas they could use.

This third dispute started in 1975 when Iceland unilaterally, and somewhat surprisingly at the time, declared a 200 mile fishing zone around her coast, extending it from 50 miles, a limit which Britain did not recognise in any case. That Iceland should want to extend her limit was not really the point at issue for Britain herself, in collaboration with her then styled Common Market partners, wished to extend her territorial fishing areas. The problem was that Iceland wasn't willing to wait any longer and took the law into her own hands despite a forthcoming 'Law of the Sea' conference which was about to be convened to discuss just these proposals. In extending the limit without reasonable warning the deep-sea fishermen of Britain and Germany suddenly found their traditional fishing grounds denied to them. The British Government took the stance that the Icelandic move was both premature and illegal and advised our fishermen that they should not only go on fishing in the disputed area but they should in fact fish right up to the recognised 12 mile limit. Very soon the fishermen were complaining that the Icelandic coast guard vessels (ICGV) were interfering with their work and, indeed, cutting the warps - the two ropes that attach the trawl net to the trawler - causing thousands of pounds of damage and lost working time. The warp cutting was a relatively new-found way of interfering with our trawlers but was also considered extremely dangerous to the fishermen. Against these overwhelming odds the British trawlermen called for naval protection and the government obliged.

To mount such an operation was costly to say the least. It goes without saying that the Royal Navy didn't have any suitable purpose-built fishery patrol vessel capable of doing this job so the task fell to our frigate force, mainly fast anti-submarine vessels which were quite unsuitable for gunboat diplomacy. At least three and often four were required on station at any given time with up to three others standing by at Rosyth or the Clyde. A fleet oiler was also on station and another ready to go at short notice. Two large naval tugs as well as a number of other large chartered ocean-going tugs were invariably in the vicinity to provide support. Each frigate had a Wasp helicopter whilst a Wessex was detached from one of the guided missile destroyers and housed on the oiler. As the dispute wore on a special Wessex-equipped fishery protection flight was formed. Additionally an RAF Nimrod patrol aircraft was deployed each day to provide adequate long-range cover and provide a source of supply from the UK, particularly the all-important mail.

(The above was plagiarised, with consent, from www.hms-yarmouth.com. Thanks guys. Help yourself to the Yarmouth pics on this site.)

Bacchante's Cod War

On 12th December 1975, in Chatham, we were given the joyful news - we sail for Iceland on 2nd January 1976. And lo! we did sail on 2nd January, right into a very rough sea. (I managed to sprain my ankle alighting from the Seacat director. I can still hear the "squelch" noise!) and our arrival in Rosyth was delayed to Sunday. This was annoying, as my wife was traveling up to Edinburgh by train for the weekend. I managed to get a signal sent to HMS Cochrane, who contacted Waverley Station, to warn her she needed to fend for herself for the night. We sailed from Rosyth 0900 Tues 6th Jan, to relieve HMS Ghurka off Iceland. As we passed the Faeroes, we casevacced off a stoker, with suspected appendicitis, and reached Icelandic waters on Thurs 8th.

"Riding off" - placing our ship between the gunboat and the fishing fleet, often only 20 yards away, at 20 knots. The gunboat would then try to stop suddenly and duck under our stern.

2nd Jan 1976 sailed from Chatham 1100, heavy sea
4th Jan Arrived Rosyth 0900, delayed by the heavy weather
6th Jan Sailed 0900, to relieve Ghurka off Iceland
7th Jan land stoker on Faeroes, possible appendicitis
8th Jan RAS Tidereach, reached Icelandic waters, marked Aegir all night
9th Jan Spent the day riding off Aegir. HMS Leander and Thor collided
10th Jan Force 9 gale
11th jan Riding off Thor. Air temp -7 deg C, thick ice on the upper deck
12th Jan Photographed ice on fo'c'sle, and the mountains of Iceland (see photo pages)
13th Jan Sailed for Rosyth. Inter-mess quiz, 2K CPO's tied with Wardroom
14th Jan Collected mail from RFA Tidepool, 0500
16th Jan Alongside Rosyth, 1400 (but not for long!)
17th Jan Sailed 1600, to relieve Leander, who has boiler problems
18th Jan Dutch coaster reported aground on Faeroes. Spent the morning sailing round the island looking for her, but she was found on the Shetlands!
19th Jan Icelandic waters, RAS RFA Olwen
20th Jan Frigates are withdrawn to the 200 mile zone. HMS Leander lost all steering in a force 11 gale. Bacchante is going to assist while she turns across the sea using manual steering.
21st Jan VERY rough sea, the biggest I have seen. Standing on the bridge I was looking UP at the waves!. We found Leander, with some difficulty.
23rd Jan Alongside Rosyth at 10.00
Mon 2nd Feb It became the practice for long weekenders to catch the 10.00 Flying Scotsman from Kings Cross, arriving on board about 16:00, sailing immediately. Today, however, we were stranded for 1 1/2 hours near Edinburgh, arriving on board at 18.00, sailing immediately. Since  3/4 of the crew was on this train, no action was taken. (Thanks Jim!)
3rd Feb Arrived Sunderland 0500, for a courtesy visit
5th feb A few of us had a guided tour of Durham cathedral, while everybody else visited a brewery. 
9th Feb Sailed from Sunderland 0900
10th Feb alongside Rosyth 1500
Sun 15th Feb Here we are in a Cod War, and we have bloody divisions on the jetty! We also embarked the BBC TV Tonight team, David Lomax etc
16th Feb. Rough sea, and I was seasick. The BBC team were noticeable by their complete absence!
18th Feb Riding off Tyr, but not too successfully. Thor rammed HMS Lowestoft.
19th Feb marked Tyr all day. Elsewhere, a fisherman was injured by a flying hawser after a trawl was cut. Diplomatic relations between UK and Iceland severed.
21st Feb RAS Olwyn. 2K CPOs entertained the BBC team in the Wreck Space. The BBC got us writing a song about the cod war to the tune of a naval ditty. (We decided on the tune "Ro - tiddly - o, s**t or bust, never let your b******s dangle in the dust". My contribution was "The moral of this story, it is plain to see, all politicians should be sent to sea." I stand by this statement!
22nd Feb BBC team filmed us in the mess, singing the "Cod War Song".
23rd Feb BBC team flew to RFA Olwen. Riding off Baldur, but still Arctic Vandal had her trawl cut. 
24th Feb HMS Yarmouth collided with Thor. 
26th Feb Riding off Baldur. She tried several times to swing her stern into our side, and came as close as two feet. (see pics here)
27th Feb With Yarmouth, riding off Baldur. Aggressive tactics by Yarmouth kept Baldur well away from the trawlers
28th Feb RAS RFA Tidepool. Marked Tyr all day. Serious collision between HMS Yarmouth and Baldur. (see www.hms-yarmouth.com
29th Feb To riding off stations at 0345 (how inconsiderate is that!) for Tyr. It was also Bacchante's 2nd birthday (i.e. 8 years). Celebrated with horse racing in the afternoon, and a "Cod's Opera" in the evening. 
1st March marked Tyr all day
2nd March RAS RFA Tidepool, riding off Aegir. The BBC Tonight programme was broadcast at home. And this was also the day George Brown announced he was leaving the Labour Party, requiring 10 minutes to be chopped off our programme. ("I didn't leave the labour Party, the Labour Party left me." So what would he have said about New Labour?)
3rd March Continued marking Aegir. The Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries flew over. Rough sea
4th March Rough sea, and mail drop
7th March Indoor games competition (see pics here)
8th March Left for home (Chatham)
11th March Arrived Chatham 0900
24th March Sailed from Chatham, 1430
25th March Arrived Rosyth 1830
26th March Sailed Rosyth 0800. The BBC gave us a 16 mm film of the Tonight programme. (Does anybody know where it is now?)
27th March Rough sea, seasick again!
28th March Riding off Odinn, we were much more aggressive this time
2nd April RAS Olwyn
3rd April Riding off Odinn. Odinn was boxed in by Bacchante, Scylla, and two tugs. Scylla then brushed along Odinn's starboard side, and pushed her round to port, to a big cheer from Bacchante!
4th April Bacchante Fayre in the junior rates mess (see photos)
6th April RAS Olwyn
8th April Jimmy (Lt Cdr McPetrie) birthday. Presented him with his brass hat (Cdr McPetrie)
9th April Olwyn has gone North, to rescue injured sailor on Norwegian survey boat, 40 miles inside the pack ice.
10th April Still marking Aegir
11th April RAS Tidereach
13th April Rouh sea, RAS Tidereach
15th April Had my PULHEEM (6 yearly medical). I found I could only read the first line of the eye test chart!
17th April Ships company photo on the flight deck (see photo). Sod's opera in the JRDH (see photo)
18th April relieved by HMS Naiad, sailed for home at 20 knots, in a rough sea
21st April Arrived Portsmouth 0900, just in time for my wedding anniversary. That was the end of Bacchante's cod war - we were off to the American bicentennial celebrations in New York.

www.hmsbacchante.co.uk  Page Updated 05/12/2003