Kingston upon Hull War Memorial 1914 - 1918

The story of Hull in World War One

Our Loss

A great many people from Hull lost their lives in World War 1. 

There are over a hundred families on the Hull Memorial that lost two or more of their family. Each was an individual tragedy.

What follows here are snippets about some of those people.

Over, 7,000 Hull men died in the First World War. Nearly 1,200 of these were sailors working with the fishing fleet, or serving with the Merchantile Marine and the Royal Navy.

There were nearly another 1,500 men who were born in Hull, but who lived elsewhere. They include many who enlisted in Hull or were associated with the City, but are not usually remembered on Hull war memorials. The Kingston Upon Hull Memorial aims to remember all those with a Hull connection who died in the First World War.

There are over a hundred families on the Hull Memorial that lost two or more of their family. Sometimes fathers, sons and brothers were lost on the same day. At least one in six Hull families lost a direct relative. Many others would lose close friends, work colleagues or others known to them. Each death was irreplaceable and an individual tragedy for someone.

Unfortunately, not all deaths were recorded in official casualty figures, particularly if soldiers died of sickness, accidents or were discharged home with wounds. By 1924 the Ministry of Pensions reported that there were 20,000 war wounded living in Hull. Although they survived the war, they are rarely recorded on war memorials. What follows here are snippets of some of those people who died. 

Hull Civilians killed in WW1 Air Raids

Hull Civilian Deaths in WW1 due to German Air Raids (Names, Age in brackets and Address where killed)

June 1915

Maurice Richardson (11)             - 50 South Parade. Son of Maurice Richardson, a soldier.

Violet Richardson (8)                  – 50 South Parade - Daughter of Maurice Richardson.

Tom Stamford (46)                       - 5 Blanket Row. Died of injuiries received in Queen Street

Ellen Temple (50)                         - 20 St James Square, St James Street

Elizabeth Picard Foreman (39)   – 37 Walker Street. Died of shock.

Sarah Ann Scott (86)                   – The Poplars, Durham Street

Johanna Harman (67)                  – 93 Arundel Street

Jane Hill (45)                                - 12 East Street. Wife of George Hill below.

George Hill (48)                           - 12 East Street. Merchant's Labouer.

Eliza Slade (54)                            - 4 Walter's Terrace, Waller Street

Florence White (30)                    - 3 Waller Street. Wife of Dock Labourer & her son.

George Issac White (3)               - 3 Waller Street. Youndg son of Florence White above.

Alfred Mathews (60)                   - 11 Waller Street. Boilermaker.

William Walker (62)                     - 2 St Thomas Terrace, Campbell Street. Tanner's Labourer.

Alice Priscilla Walker (30)          - 2 St Thomas Terrace, Campbell Street. Child of above.

Millicent Walker (17)                  - 2 St Thomas Terrace, Campbell Street. Daughter of above.

Norman Mullins (10)                   – 39 Blanket Row. Died of injuries received in Queen Street.

George Mullins (15)                   – 39 Blanket Row. Died of injuries received in Queen Street.

William Watson (67)                    - 21 Edwin's Place, Porter Street. A Tramcar Painter.

Annie Watson (58)                      - 21 Edwin's Place, Porter Street. Wife of William above.

Georgina Cunningham (27)      – 22 Edwin's Place, Porter Street. Wife of Walter, a coal heaver.

Emma Pickering (68)                    - Sarah's Terrace, Porter Street. Wife of George, a Policeman.

Edwin Jordan (10)                      - 11 East Street. Son of a Boilermaker.

Hannah Mitchell (42)                  – 5 Alexandra terrace, Woodhouse Street

March 1916  

Edward Cook (38)                         – 33 Lukes Street. General Labour. Killed by shock.

John Longstaff (71)                      – 6 William's Place, Upper Union Street. Retired Train Driver.

Lotte Ingamells (28)                       - 8 The Avenue, Linnaeus Street. One of 3 sisters killed.

Ethel Mary Ingamells (33)              - 8 The Avenue, Linnaeus Street. Sister of above.

Martha Rebecca Ingamells (35)     - 8 The Avenue, Linnaeus Street. Sister of above.

Edward Slip (45)                           - 23 Queen Street. Refreshment House Keeper - Queen Street

Edward Ledner (89)                      – Trinity House Almshouse, Carr Lane. Retired Seaman.

Robert Cattle                                  - Little Humber Street. Fish Fryer.

Frank Cattle (8)                              - Little Humber Street. Son of Robert Cattle above.

James William Collinson (63)       – 14 Johns Place, Regent Street. Dock Labourer.

George Henry Youell (40)              – 4 Post Office Entry, High Street. Dry Dock Labourer.

Charlotte Naylor (30)                     – 32 Collier Street. Killed with her 4 children.

Ruby Naylor(8)                               – 32 Collier Street. Daughter of Charlotte Naylor above

Annie Naylor (6)                            – 32 Collier Street. Daughter of Charlotte Naylor above

Edward Naylor (4)                         – 32 Collier Street. Son of Charlotte Naylor above.

Jeffery Naylor (2)                          – 32 Collier Street. Son of Charlotte Naylor above.

James Pattison (68)                      – 33 Regent Street. Chimney Sweep.

John Smith (30)                            – 2 Queens Alley, Blackfriargate. Dock labourer.

August 1916

The Rev, Arthur Wilcockson (86)  - 32 Granville Street. Calvanist Minister. Died of shock.

Mary Louise Bearpark (44)            - 35 Selby Street. Died with her daughter below.

Emmie Bearpark (14)                     - 35 Selby Street. Daughter of Mary Bearpark above.

John Charles Broadley (3)             - 4 Roland Avenue, Arthur Street. Son of a bricklayer.

Rose Alma Hall (31)                        - 61 Selby Street. Killed with her two daughters.

Elizabeth Hall (9)                            - 61 Selby Street. Daughter of Rose Alma Hall above

Mary Hall (7)                                   - 61 Selby Street. Daughter of Rose Alma Hall above.

Charles Lingard (64)                     - 61 Walliker Street

Emma Louise Evers (46)               - 25 Brunswick Avenue, Walliker Street

Esther Stobbart (31)                   – 13 Henry's Terrace, Wassand Street. Wife of FJ - 3rd EYR.

Died of Shock

William Jones (80)                     – The Almshouses, Posterngate

Jane Booth (51)                          – 2 Alma Street

Sarah Masterman (58)                – 9 Humber Avenue, Scarborough Street

William Clarkson (62)                 – 2 Adderbury Grove

Jesse Mathews                            – 11 Cotton Terrace, Barnsley Street

Hull in the First World War

The Outbreak of War in Hull

On Tuesday, 4th August 1914, at 11pm, Great Britain declared war on Germany. It was a gloriously, sunny, Bank Holiday and holiday makers were disappointed that the trains on the North East railway lines had been cancelled for troop transport. The news was greeted by an outbreak of excitment and patriotism. Crowds gathered outside the Hull Daily Mail offices, in Whitefriargate, to hear the news. When Germany refused the ultimatum to withdraw from Belgium, a cheer and patriotic singing broke out. The next day saw hysteria in the shops with panic food buying and hoarding. There was a sudden scarcity of sugar and fruit as the Wilson Line ships were detained in the ports of Hamburg. Prices rose and supplies fell, until order was restored. Hull was full of troops called up and on the move. The Territorial Army was mobilised to defend Britain, while the Regulars were sent to France. The 4th and 5th (Cyclist) Battalions of the East Yorkshire Regiment marched to the coast and dug in, ready for invasion. The Royal Field Artillery from Wenlock barracks were recalled to Hull from Dundee. Some 300-400 reservists of the regular army left Paragon station for Chatham and other depots. The Posterngate shipping office was busy with Royal Navy Reserve, 'hard looking, wirey men', responding to the call, to sign on. Guards were placed on factories and power supplies to prevent sabotage, hospitals were prepared to accept casualties, and appeals for volunteers went out. The docks were full of vessels, as Hull's 400 fishing trawlers headed for the safety of home. Hull's Fish Dock was full of a flotilla of ships from the Red Cross and Hellyer's fleets. Amidst of all this activity, the Government passed the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) on 8th August 1914. This gave it far reaching powers over people. Land and property could be seized for military use, suspected spies could be arrested and imprisoned. Strict censorship of the Press was enforced. In effect, the country was placed under martial law. Tradesman surrendered their horses at the Carr Lane livery stables and motor vehicles were commandeered by army officers in Hull. Sir Mark Sykes, Hull's Central MP, mobilised 1000 Yorkshire farm waggoners from his estates, which caused a blow to farmers and the local harvest. Father Le Clerc, Chaplain of Endsleigh convent, left Hull to join the 13th French Regiment. Lady Nunburnholme, appealed for volunteers to join First Aid classes and nursing courses, at her VAD, Head Quarters, in Peel Street, Springbank.

The Belgium Refugees

The German invasion of neutral Belgium and the stories of their attrocities towards the Belgiums was a powerful weapon in uniting Britain's support for the war and in recruitment. On 9th September 1914 Hull established it's War Refugee Committee to assist refugees until the end of the war. It's HQ was based at Bowalley Lane and it had 500  volunteer helpers, 400 of which were women. This was a registered war charity that relied entirely on voluntary aid. The committe's work was twofold. First, to offer hospitality to Belgium residents in their area and secondly to give relief to those disembarking at their ports. This included giving temporary relief with accommodation, food and clothes and for more permanent cases rent free lodgings and allowances for food, clothes and heating. For those who could work, jobs were sought for them. On the whole the refugees were found to be sober, industrious and gracious and many became self supporting during their stay in Britain. The Hull War Refugee Committe for Belgium , in its final report, stated that 1,249 refugees were asisted of whih 612 were entertained and 637 were given some temporary material aid. In total, the Committee had received £10, 386 in voluntary subscriptions, donations and collections. This was used to assist and maintain refugees and aid their repatriations.

Support Services


'Soldiers Clubs' were raised in Hull to help serving men. A Soldiers Club with reading room was located at Beverley Road baths on Stepney Lane and run by Major A J Atkinson and his wife.


'Soldiers & Sailors Wives Club' was formed on Mason Street by Mrs Hubert Johnson, the wife of the Lord Mayor. It was devoted to provide relaxation for the wife's of servicemen away from home.


Paragon Railway Station housed a popular 'Rest Station and canteen' well used by departing troops. It was set up in September 1914 and staffed throughout the war by Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD).


'Peel House' at 150 Spring Bank, was the VAD headquarters, and run by the Lady Mayor. Peel House helped train nurses and locate hospital accommodation for soldiers posted to Hull. It also sent out thousands of parcels of clothing and essentials to troops home and abroad. War Correspondents in France were struck by the way East Yorkshire Units were looked after by people back home. Its most renowned work was sending thousands of food and clothing parcels, plus other necessities to Prisoners of War. This work was extended to captured seaman and interned civilians. Peel House raised public funds to fund their work. The residents of Freehold Street created a bread fund and distributed food to Prisoner of War through Peel House.



Large numbers of men rushed to enlist in the Army. Recruitment drives were launched, these appealed to men's patriotism and sense of duty.  Local authorities and prominent people took the initiative in recruiting and equipping 'Pal' Battalions, confident in the fact that the war office would take them over. This allowed work-mates and friends to serve together and was hugely popular. 30,000 men had joined by the end of August 1914, and 2 milllion men volunteered by the time conscription came in 1916.  In eleven weeks Hull raised enough men to form four infantary battalions (4,000 men in all). The battalions were given unofficial names, reflecting the mens backgrounds. For example, the 1st Hull Pal Battalion, were known as the 'Commercials' because its recruits were from Hull's commercial and office sector. Other Hull Battalions were made up of local 'Tradesmen', 'Sportsmen', and Railway workers. The motives for joining were varied - a desire to travel, to escape low paid work, for adventure, but above all a genuine idealism and patriotism. This was the base on which the New Armies and Pal's battalions  were formed. Local papers reported on families at war, that had joined the cause. The 'Hull and Lincolnshire Times', of 29th May 1915, reported on James Fray, of 72 Flinton Street, with seven family members enlisted, Sergeant, Herbert Thundercliff, wounded at 48 Beeton Street, with ten family members serving and Mr TG Marshall, of 96 St Georges Road, with five sons serving and another 15 family members enlisted, including nephews and son in laws.

Howver, in 1915, the flow of volunteers was insufficient to meet the army's needs and public opinion began to turn towards the 'slackers' - those men who had not enlisted. In October, Lord Derby, the Director of Recruitment asked all men, aged 18 to 41 to "attest" - to say they that they would join up when called. Men were divided into married and single groups and young, single men would be called up first, before married men. Arm bands were issued to attested men, to spare them the humiliation of being labelled as 'slackers'. This voluntary recruitment initiative failed to produce the numbers of recruits needed and was replaced with compulsory conscription.  On the 5th January 1916, the Military Service Act deemed all single men between 18 and 41 to have enlisted, a second Act in May, extended this to all men between 18 and 41. Finally, with the crises of 1918, a third Act in April, extended the age limit up to 51. However, few of the older conscripts saw action at the Front - rather they formed a home defence force. 

Hull's contribution during the First World War is often underestimated. As a North Eastern, coastal City with a population of approximately 300,000, Hull citizens served extensively across all branches of the British Army, Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, Royal Air Force, and the Home Defence. They also died serving Commonwealth nations, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand where they had emigrated. The outbreak of war in 1914 aroused great enthusiasm in Hull and within the first six months 20,000 local men had enrolled. Hull was also attacked by Zeppelins and it raised its own Pals Battalions. The Great War affected everyone. At home there were wounded soldiers in military hospitals, refugees from Belgium and later on German prisoners of war. There were food and fuel shortages and disruption to schooling. The role of women changed dramatically and they undertook a variety of work undreamed of in peacetime. 

Hull formed its own four 'Pal' Battalions, the 10th, 11th, 12th & 13th service Battalions of the East Yorkshire Regiment, which made up the 92nd Infantry Brigade, 31st Division. Due to its coastal locality and economic and social make up, Hull formed its own 'bantam' regiment made up of men of small stature, with "big hearts". Hull formed  its own heavy artillery and Garrison Brigade to defend the Humber estuary. The 17th Northumberland Fusiliers, a Railway Pal's Battalion was also formed at King George's Dock in Hull. 

Due to its maritime history, Hull men also served throughout the world, in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Naval Reserve, Merchant Service and the Hull Fishing Feet. Hull's population fell by about 45,000 during the First World War. 75,000 men served in the war effort. Over 7,500 Hull men were killed and over 14,000 were wounded during the First World War. Many of these lived men in the same streets or terraces, which was to make the casualties keenly felt by the local community. The numbers of wounded increased over time, causing considerable hardship for Hull families. The Hull Lord Mayor, Alderman, Hargreaves, reported on 21st February 1919, that 14,000 Hull men had been wounded in the war of which 7,000 had been maimed. Some 12,000 Hull women had also been dealt with by the local Pensions Committee. On 9th September 1924, the Ministry of Pensions recorded that this had increased to 20,000 disabled ex servicemen from Hull, and they were dealing with 2,500 Hull widows, 200 motherless and fatherless children and 3,000 Hull mothers and other near dependents. Hull City Council established a Great War, Civic Trust, to assist with the large numbers of widows, wounded and orphans left after the War. This ran until 1963 and raised £165,000. 




Hull Mariners

Many Hull Mariners and experienced Skippers were lost during the First World war. The oldest may have been Joseph William Atkinson, Chief of the Steamship ‘Tummell’ (Hull). He was lost at sea on the 24th February 1916, aged 64 years. The youngest to die in the war were often in the same ship crews. For example, George Edward Johnson, George Edward Plewes and Vincent Michael Nolan were all lost on different ships in 1917. Each was only 14 years old when they died.

Hull Trade, Industry and Output

Hull has historically enjoyed successful trade links with most of the ports of Northern Europe, from Antwerp in the west, to St. Petersburg in the east, Le Havre in the south and to Trondheim in the north. Between 1836-1914, 2,2 million people, mostly from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Russia and Sweden, passed through Hull, on their way, to America, Canada, South Africa and Australia. Some of these people stayed in the City, adding to its commerce and culture. Hull was at the peak of its properity in 1914, but the First World War, would change and damage Hull's shipping and trade for decades.

Hull's foreign trade declined from 4.7 million tons in 1913, to just 1.6 million tons, in 1917. The tonnage of shipping entering Hull ports in 1914 was a record of 6.6 million, a figure not matched until 1923. Hull's coal exports in 1914, were never again equalled, and the imports of wheat which reached a peak in 1912, did not reach the same level until 1931. The King George Dock had been opened in June 1914 to cater for this expanding trade. It was the largest and deepest of Hull's docks, designed to compete with the Great Central Docks of Immingham. Before the war, two thirds of Hull's trade came from Russia, Scandinavia, Denmark and Holland. However, 11.6% of this trade which came from Germany, ended immediately when war began. The wool trade with Australia, which had been built up before the war, collapsed entirely when war began.Record Image

Many Hull ships were arrested or stranded in foreign ports, when the War started. They were unable to return to Hull, through the German naval patrols. For example, only 40 ships arrived in Hull from Russia in 1917, compared to 757 in 1913. The Government also diverted cargo away from Hull, particularly after the bombing of Scarborough in December 1914 and in May 1915. While Hull compensated with some increased trade with neutral countires, like Sweden and Holland, this too reduced in February 1917, when Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare on any shipping helping the Allies. Losses to shipowners were also severe. The Wilson Line, Hull's largest merchant shipping company, had lost 15 of its 79 ships by 1916, and by the end, over 40 of its 84 vessels and some 300 crew members. The tonnage of shipping registered in Hull Ports fell from 230,000 ton in 1913 to 182,000 by 1917. Therefore, from probably it's most prosperous period in 1914, Hull declined through the war, and took decades to recover. With so many Hull people dependent on the docks for work, the War had an immediate impact on livelihoods and acted as an incentive for young men to enlist.

 (A Varnish tester at Sissons and Company Ltd, Bankside, Hull, 1918)

Much of Hull's economy was turned towards winning the war. It's existing Industries and trades were mixed and varied. Its' shipyards built modern minesweepers, anti submarine patrol boats and Tugs. It's well established factories at Fenners, Needlers, Rank Hovis and Reckitts, were expanded and adapted towards the war effort. For example, Smith & Nephews', based at Neptune Street in Hull, grew from 50 to 1,200 employees, and supplied field dressings and surgical equipment for the Allies, throughout the war. One particular order, for the French Government, in October 1914, was worth £350,000 (£108 million), and was delivered in just 5 months. Every British soldier carried two field dressings, and with the millions of casualties caused, no doubt Hull helped save many lives. Joseph Rank Ltd, of Clarence Street, employed nearly 3,000 women in flour production and Joseph Rank himself was asked to join the Wheat Control Board due to National food shortages. Reckitts expanded at the outbreak of the war by buying two German companies based in England - Rawlins & Son and the Global Metal Polish Company. They employed 4,761 in 1915 which rose 5,609 in 1917. By the Armistice 1,100 Reckitts employees were serving in the armed forces and 153 had lost their lives. Being Quakers, Reckitt's factories, produced non combative war goods, such as cleaning materials, gas masks, and petrol cans. Rose, Downs and Thompsons, on Cannon Street, which manufactured general engineering equipment, converted to shell production for the war. In July 1914, it employed 276 people, including just 3 women. By October 1918, Rose, Downs and Thompson, employed 938 workers including 359 women (3 under 18 year old girls)  with 212 employees leaving for war service. The Needler's sweet factory, employed 1,700 workers, mostly women, to make confectionaries and 'Military Mints' for soldiers at the front.


By the end of the war, there were 115 major factories in Hull. Of these, 25 were involved in seed crushing and oil cake manufacture, eight in oil extracting and refining, 11 in paint and colour making, three in the manufacture of soap and two in the production of margarine. Grain warehousing was carried out in 10 factories and there were six flour mills. The fishing industry accounted for three premises for cod liver oil extraction and two factories produced fish manure. There were 13 saw mills, four ship yards and six marine and mill engineering works. Other large factories were engaged in the manufacture of starch, blue and black lead (6); tar distilling (2); the making of tin cannisters and paint drums (4); tanning and leather production (3); canvas and sack making (1); and sweets and confectionary (1).

In addition to these larger factories, a total of 1,169 workshops were registered with the City Council. The trades with the largest number of workshops were bakers (83), boot repairers (77), cabinet makers (24), coopers (39), cycle repairers (49), dressmakers (118), fish curers (62), tinsmiths (20) and watch and clock makers (27). The largest number of employees in these workshops was in the fish curing trade (407 men and 535 women), with dressmaking second (10 men and 849 women) and tailoring (271 men and 326 women) coming third. Approximately, 700 men and women were employed as outworkers, the vast majority of people being engaged in bespoke tailoring and the making of fish nets. The above details reflect the many facets of life in Hull, suits and dresses made to measure, leather boots and shoes which could be repaired, craftsman-made furniture etc. The number of bicycle repairers also indicated the large number of cycles used in the city, and it was said that only Coventry could match Hull for its number of cyclists.

Life on the home front was hard and the work often dirty and low paid. By 1919, there were at least 30 premises in Hull involved in 'dirty' processes, such as tripe boiling (6), cod liver boiling (5), gut scraping (3), fish manure production (3), tanning (3), fat and candle melting (2), soap boiling (2), bone boiling (2) horse slaughtering (1), hide preparation (1), cod liver oil extraction for medicinal purposes (1), and amonia producing works (1).  


The widespread use of coal for industrial power and also heating the home caused considerable smoke pollution. Public health and safety was in its infancy and there many unrecorded industrial accidents. There was also a limited welfare state, to support those unemployed or affected by the war. All this made life and work on the 'Home Front' particularly tough, especially for women and girls who were essential to maintain war production. 

Hull's contribution during the First World War was remarkable. Probably the complete story of Hull's contribution in the Great War will never be known, so extensive and so diverse were the ways in which its thousands of workers toiled. While it is possible to measure actual industrial output, such as shells and other munitions, it is more difficult to assess the value of all the repairs and alterations made to hundreds of ships used by the Navy, the actual construction of war ships, how Hull's oil, paint and colour trades helped, the manufacture of food stuffs and the contributions of all the many small trades and services carried out during the war. While Hull's economic output undoubtedly increased during the war and assisted the nation to victory, there was little to show for the huge expenditure of labour, wages and material. Most of the unused munitions after the war were destroyed and surplus equipment became scrap. The increased production was remarkable considering the youngest and strongest of workers were away overseas. Retired men, women and girls volunteered for duties, often shortening their lives by long hours of work and increased worries and duties.

Hull's Minesweepers

During the First World War, 300 Hull ships were used as minesweepers and for searching submarines. Hull lost  61 of these Minesweeping trawlers on Admiralty service during the warOn average half the crew of a minesweeper were lost with the ship. By the end of the War, only 91 Hull owned ships were afloat, 9 of which had been built during the war. Hull lost nearly 1,200 merchant crewmen, another 267 Royal Navy sailors and 38 Royal Marines.The majority of these died at sea and have no known grave. To add to the tragedy, there was little compensation for a sailor's family. Sailors' pay stopped when their ship sank, and usually only paid if they died with the ship. Sailors who left their ship in life boats were deemed to have discharged themselves from duty and often had their sea pay docked. 

Dangerous work for fishing trawlers used as minesweepers 

When the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) was first created in 1859, it consisted of up to 30,000 merchant seamen and fisherman who the Navy could call on in times of crisis. Fishing trawlers were strong, sturdy ships, designed to withstand severe weather conditions out at sea, and in 1907 the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, Admiral Lord Beresford, recognised that trawlers could be used as minesweepers. His recommendation led to the formation of the Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section) in 1910, with approval to mobilise 100 trawlers during any crisis period and enrol 1,000 men to man them. 

It also introduced a new rank, that of 'Skipper' RNR, into the Navy List. By the end of 1911, 53 skippers had joined. In 1912 a further 25 enrolled and the Trawler Section of the Royal Naval Reserve, consisted of 142 trawlers manned by 1,279 personnel. 31 more skippers joined before the war started in August 1914, making a total of 109 skippers. Another 315 more volunteered by the end of the first week in October. By the end of 1915 the Minesweeping Service employed 7,888 officers and men.

The Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section):


Before the war started there were already 142 trawlers in the Trawler Section of the RNR and 109 skippers enrolled. During the first week of the war in 1914, 94 trawlers were allocated for minesweeping duties and dispersed to priority areas, including Cromarty, the Firth of Forth, the Tyne, the Humber, Harwich, Sheerness,  Dover, Portsmouth, Portland and Plymouth.
 They were supplied with mine gear, rifles, uniforms and pay as the first minesweepers.They were commanded by naval officers, some from the retired list, who had received a brief training in minesweeping. Apart from the skippers, officers were also required to supplement the handful of naval officers of the existing minesweeping service. Most of the trained pre-war RNR and RNVR officers had already been called up for service in the Fleet. For the new minesweeping and auxiliary patrol flotillas, officers and civilians were obtained from the Merchant Navy and given temporary commissions in the RNR and RNVR. To bolster naval discipline, various Royal Fleet Reserve and pensioner petty officers were distributed among the vessels. 
In August 1914 the Royal Navy began to requisition more trawlers and adapt them for minesweeping duties, fitting them out with heavy guns, machine guns and depth charges. By the end of 1916 the Navy had requisitioned so many trawlers, and the war had such an impact on shipping, that the supply of fish to the UK was severely limited. New trawlers were also built. Between 1914 and 1918, 371 trawlers were built in the Humber shipyards and almost all of them were taken up by the Navy and used as minesweepers, submarine spotters and coastal patrol boats. Men were asked to volunteer for the new service, and many did so. The Humber area provided over 880 vessels and 9,000 men from the fishing industry to support the war effort. 
What are mines?
A mine is an explosive device left in the water to explode on contact with a ship or submarine. Mines were difficult to see and very effective once they had struck a target. The minesweepers had to ‘sweep’ the mines using wires, bring them to the surface then detonate them by firing on them. Moored mines only had a short length of chain shackled to them. The rest of the mooring was wire cable or even sisal rope in some cases; otherwise the mine could not support the weight of its mooring, particularly in deep water. This was the part of the mooring, that the sweep wire or any fitted cutter, was intended to sever. Sometimes gathering a group of mines together could lead to multiple explosions. A chain reaction could result in one massive detonation which would often sink the minesweeper. Minesweeping was therefore extremely dangerous work. It required 'nerve, skill and unremitting watchfulness', according to a journalist at the time.  
How did they 'sweep' mines?
Early mine sweeps simply comprised of chains towed over the seabed between two ships, or even by a single ship to drag mines and their moorings out of a channel. These were later replaced with serrated wire cables towed between two ships (Actaeon Sweep). Development of the Oropesa Sweep, with its divertors and depth-keeping kite, allowed sweeps to be towed by a single ship. Sweep wires were made from flexible, steel wire rope and streamed from each quarter of a minesweeper. 


Postwar mine-clearing:
The cables were laid right or left-handed according to the side streamed. This helped the wires achieve hydrodynamic lift and spread. A single strand in each wire was laid in the opposite direction to provide a serrated cutting effect. 
The 'Paravane', a form of towed underwater "glider", was developed from 1914–16 by Commander Usborne and LieutenantC. Dennistoun Burney, funded by Sir George White, founder of the Bristol Aeroplane CompanyInitially developed to destroy naval mines, the paravane would be strung out and streamed alongside the towing ship, normally from the bow.The wings of the paravane would tend to force the body away from the towing ship, placing a lateral tension on the towing wire. If the tow cable snagged the cable anchoring a mine then the anchoring cable would be cut, allowing the mine to float to the surface where it could be destroyed by gunfire. If the anchor cable would not part, the mine and the paravane would be brought together and the mine would explode harmlessly against the paravane. The cable could then be retrieved and a replacement paravane fitted. Burney explosive paravanes were deployed from torpedo boat destroyers in a configuration known as the 'High Speed Sweep' to counter submarines. However, most paravanes were non-explosive and were streamed by larger warships and merchant ships as self-defence measures to divert moored mines away from their hulls. They comprised a wire streamed to each side from the bows with a float secured to the end to divert it outwards
At the end of the war, Britain was one of 26 countries represented on an International Mine Clearance Committee dedicated to clearing 40,000 square miles of sea of leftover mines. Several hundred thousand mines had been laid during the conflict by both sides. Each power was allotted an area to clear. The Mine Clearance Service was formed in 1919 and worked to clear Britain’s allocated area until it was disbanded the following year. By the time of the Armistice, the Trawler Reserve now consisted of 39,000 officers and men of whom 10,000 were employed in minesweepers and the rest in the auxiliary patrol. The 10 ex-torpedo gunboats available as minesweepers at the outbreak of the war had been replaced by purpose-built ships, including:
72 Flower Class single-screw fleet minesweeping sloops of the Acacia, Arabis and Azalea types,
107 Hunt Class and Improved Hunt (Aberdare) Class twin-screwed minesweepers,
24 'Class of 24' fleet sweeping sloops,
32 Ascot Class and Improved Ascot Class minesweeping paddle-steamers,
13 Grimsby Class general purpose sloops and
10 Dance Class 'Tunnel Tug' inshore minesweepers.
Total RN minesweeping forces included 762 ships stationed at 26 home ports and 35 foreign bases. 214 minesweepers had been lost during the four years and three months of the 1914-1918 war.
Illustrations of life on board a trawler - "In the Wheelhouse, Mail Day, playing cards, cleaning guns, the Galley cook, the stoker, the radio officer,slipping the "kite" which controls the mine sweeping depth."