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Caithness In World War Two - Highland Archive Centre

15th January 2013

The Highland Archive Centre has been investigating what has appeared in the press for Caithness during world War Two and made copies of its research from the local papers available on their web site. They have now reached week 20 so it is worth a look to see what they have already compiled from 1939 to 21st January 1940.

Here is this weeks article below without the illustrations but to see them all go to -

Week 20: 15-21 January 1940
15 January 1940
After the cancellation of the planned German invasion in the west, the only fighting on land was that in Finland as the Finns continued to fight off the Soviet invaders. At sea, however, the war continued unabated. On 21 January a German U-boat sank HMS Exmouth while it was on convoy duty in the Moray Firth. All 189 hands were killed and the bodies were later brought to Wick for burial, as commemorated by a plaque in the church.

Another Caithness man was lost at sea when the SS Granta out of Newcastle sank after striking a mine in the Wash (though it was reported at the time as having been torpedoed). James Forbes, aged 49, was the son of William Forbes of Larel, Bower, and had served in the Royal Navy in the First World War.

Food rationing had been in force for a week now, and the John OGroat Journal reported that the scheme had made a successful start, and that housewives had adapted to the new situation - though one young mother was reported to have asked whether she would be breaking the law if she did not give her baby, recently born, a ration of bacon!

People continued to leave their jobs to join the Forces. Wick North School recorded in its log book on 18 January, Mr Cummings absent today: military medical examination at Inverness.
Finally this week, a case came up at Wick Sheriff Court that highlighted the difficulties inshore fishermen were experiencing at this time. It was reported that three hand-line fishermen (i.e., fishing with a single line held in the hands) had recently caught just one fish between them in a day; as previously reported (see weeks 10 and 12), trawlers were blamed for depleting inshore fish stocks by operating illegally close to land.

Now David Mair of Torry, Aberdeen, pleaded guilty to trawling for fish two and three-quarter miles off the South Head of Wick. In mitigation Harold Georgeson for the defence pointed out that this was just a quarter of a mile inside the three-mile exclusion zone for trawlers, and the Blackout made it hard to keep position at night. But the court decided that It was not only an offence against the public, but against the accuseds fellow fishermen - and fined him 5.