King Stephen GY1174
Oil on board
King Stephen was built in 1900 by Schofield Hagerup & Doughty of Grimsby for the Monarch Steam Fishing Company. She was sold to Consol Steam Fishing and Ice Company in 1906.
On 3rd February 1915, 110 miles east of Flamborough Head, the crew of the Grimsby fishing trawler King Stephen came across the German zeppelin L19, wrecked and sinking. The skipper, William Martin, had to decide whether to rescue the crew of around 19. Despite the begging and pleading of the German captain and his crew, Martin ultimately decided not to rescue the airship based on the fact that they outnumbered his own crew by at least ten men, and they would surely have been armed. He reasoned the Germans would commandeer the King Stephen and sail it back to Germany.
William Martin sailed back towards home in hopes of finding another larger vessel to help the German men. He also tried to inform the Navy. He found the trawler, the Egret, on his journey, but the skipper of that vessel refused to help because Martin had been sailing in prohibited waters, a fact he later failed to mention when reporting the incident. As such, any rescue efforts were searching in the wrong area. The zeppelin nor its crew were never seen again.
Later, messages from the crew and the L19 washed up and were recovered by the German admiralty. They detailed William Martin’s refusal to rescue the Germans and resultantly the skipper and his vessel became figures of intense notoriety in Germany for their ‘barbarity’. A medal designed by Karl Goetz commemorated the ‘crime’. Such was the hatred that for the rest of his life, Martin was the recipient of hateful correspondence for the remainder of his life. He even supposed that some of the gifts he received from admirers who applauded his actions were actually poisoned and in reality, an attempt on his life from the Germans who resented him.
The King Stephen, was requisitioned for use as a ‘Q vessel’, a trawler designed to lure German warships and then reveal the armaments installed onboard to destroy the German attackers. The retrofit was finished by the end of February 1915. However, it was captured on its first mission, taken to Germany and its crew interrogated for details of their involvement in the loss of the L19. The crew were interred in Hamelin ‘til the end of the war.
Monologue written and performed by Sara Beasley.