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Sinking of the Gaul: Spies & Submarines in the Cold War
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PostPosted: 08-06-2004 17:02    Post subject: Sinking of the Gaul: Spies & Submarines in the Cold War Reply with quote

It seems that no thread covers this interesting mystery which thanks to the distance of time and the Official Secrets Act never got cleaned up to anyone's satisfaction. Spys on board? Sunk by the Soviets? Royal Navy accident? Seized and Scuttled? Some families believed that survivors may be languishing in Siberia...

The Hull-based stern trawler F.V. Gaul was lost with all of her 36 crewmembers in very bad weather conditions in Arctic waters, north of Norway, in February 1974. No distress call was made, and apart from a lifebuoy, recovered from the sea in May 1974, a part of one of the Gaul's liferaft containers and part of the plastic cover of the Gaul's boat, both trawled up in 1977, no wreckage was found or positively identified until 1997.

A Formal Investigation (FI) was convened in Hull in 1974 to investigate the circumstances of her loss. The then Wreck Commisioner, Mr Justice Barry Sheen concluded “that Gaul capsized and foundered due to being overwhelmed by a succession of heavy seas”...

Interesting analysis here:

This bit in particular intrigues:

Does the British Government know
more than it will tell?

In 1974 this man went to sea as the radio operator on The Gaul, a Hull factory trawler, which disappeared in the Barents Sea. At some point around February 9th the ship sank and it has always been assumed that all 36 hands were lost.

No distress signal was heard. The man, John Doone, left behind a wife, Sheila, and three children.

In October 2001 the British Government refuses to allow Sheila Doone to officially become a widow and marry the partner she has had in her life for the last 10 years. Why?

This is a picture of John Doone as a young man wearing the uniform of The Royal Naval Reserve. His wife never knew anything of his time with them. The picture was taken at HMS Pembroke, a training establishment in Chatham. We are told it was a training establishment for stewards and cooks. John Doone was a radio operator on board The Gaul, and employed by Marconi Marine.
He used to go by train from Preston to the Naval reserve training establishment. He was never a cook and never a steward.

A fresh faced, young John Doone, with no hint of the mystery to unfold. One of many snapshots his family still have. But they have something more. An unquiet grave and a memory which cannot rest in peace because the British Government insists that before Sheila Doone can re-marry she must either divorce her husband of the past or go through a lengthy and expensive court procedure to acquire a death certificate.

What makes them believe there is doubt that John Doone died in 1974?

Has Sheila Doone been married to a ghost?

In 1982 a remarkable story emerged from a man who was a friend and workmate of John Doone in their younger days. He said he had seen his old friend in a South African bar four years after he was supposed to have gone down with The Gaul.
A mistake? He was sure not. A hoax? Why? It would seem the British Government gives great credence to the sighting. It is their reason for denying Sheila Doone the right to re-marry. They have said so officially and, it would seem, unequivocally. John Prescott refuses to help, David Blunkett has rubber stamped the objection to Sheila's marriage...

Latest updates here with all earlier speculations linked in the 'See Also' section to the right (goes back a long way):

Last edited by Yithian on 08-06-2004 17:05; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: 08-06-2004 17:04    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shame that old Sea dog Rynner isn't about. There were, i recall, some pecularities about the ship's behaviour and actually sinking which i couldn't verify.

Another (more opinionated) analysis here:
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PostPosted: 12-06-2004 14:07    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the other hand, and speaking as a native of Hull, it is not uncommon for trawlers to go down suddenly in those extreme Northern seas. In the mid 1970s they lost three trawlers in a very short space of time - one was the Kingston Peridot, I can't remember the other two off hand but check it out. Icing made them top heavy and they went over in a few minutes and no one had time to get off an SOS.

I am not saying that the Gaul isn't an odd case in some ways. Certainly this John Doone thing is a bit weird but then it does all rest on one uncorroborated sighting of the "there's a fella down the chip shop swears he's Elvis" variety... but if the Russians had scuttled her after taking off the crew, wouldn't there have been some physical evidence of this (eg sea cocks left fully open or whatever) when the wreck was discovered and filmed?
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PostPosted: 28-06-2004 22:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm the man behind Mediaworld and 30 years of involvement with the Gaul.
They're a bit worried at the moment!
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PostPosted: 17-12-2004 05:47    Post subject: This floats to the surface again Reply with quote


Report published on Gaul's fate

A new report into the sinking of the Hull trawler the Gaul will be published on Friday.

The trawler sank in the Barents Sea, off the Norwegian coast, in February 1974 with the loss of 36 crewmen.

Why it sank has never been fully explained although rumours persist it was torpedoed by the Soviet Union amid claims it was spying.

Mr Justice David Steel started hearing evidence in January and will deliver his report at the Guildhall in Hull.

At the start of this latest inquiry, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith threw out any claims of espionage.

Both an intelligence officer and former first-mate testified there was no spying on the ship.

But the inquiry held a special session in October when a former naval chief petty officer, Derek Barron, gave evidence.

Mr Barron claimed to have overheard a conversation in a naval mess in 1983 suggesting a British submarine may have come into contact with the Gaul.

A public inquiry held after the sinking concluded the 18-month-old ship had sunk, without raising a Mayday signal, after being battered by heavy seas.

Families of Gaul crew members remained unconvinced but the next breakthrough did not come until 1997 when the wreck of the Gaul was found.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott launched an inquiry in 1999 after a survey of the wreck brought new evidence to light.

But this investigation failed to bring the mystery to an end.

A further breakthrough came in 2002 when the remains of four crew members were retrieved from the wreck and DNA enabled them to be identified.
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PostPosted: 17-12-2004 12:18    Post subject: Inquiry rules out Soviet role in Gaul sinking Reply with quote


news update:

Inquiry rules out Soviet role in Gaul sinking
By Dave Higgens and Wesley Johnson, PA
17 December 2004 12:14

Theories that the trawler Gaul and its 36 crew were deliberately sunk by the Soviet Union or pulled down by a submarine were ruled out by the Wreck Commissioner today after a public inquiry.

The official inquiry into the loss of the Gaul in the Barents Sea in 1974 was held in its home port of Hull earlier this year.

The public inquiry, led by Mr Justice Steel, followed 30 years of controversy over how the vessel sunk.

The fishing trawler went down in stormy weather off the northern tip of Norway.

As there was no distress signal and the wreck was not found for more than 20 years, theories sprang up about whether the Soviet Union had been involved in the sinking or whether it had been dragged down by a submarine.

But the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, told the inquiry there was no evidence the Gaul had been involved in spying and this was echoed by an MI6 officer who gave evidence.

The inquiry reconvened in October to hear from the chief engineer on board a bulk carrier who witnessed the final moments of the trawler as she struggled to keep afloat in mountainous seas.

Tobjorn Kirksaether, who was on board the Swedish-registered Anaris tanker, said the waves were two to three metres high as he watched the tragedy unfold from about half a nautical mile away.

When asked if a search for the Gaul was launched by his crew, he said: "There was no vessel to search for."

Former Royal Navy chief petty officer Derek Barron claimed he overheard a Polaris submarine officer say his vessel had become entangled in the Gaul's nets.

The wreck was located in 1997 and in 1999 Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott ordered the reopening of the 1974 inquiry into the Gaul's loss, which concluded it was overwhelmed by mountainous seas.

In 2002 a survey team using remotely-operated vehicles found remains of four of the crew.

The inquiry has also taken on the role of a coroner's inquest into their deaths.

Mr Justice Steel said he had come to the "firm conclusion that the cause of the loss had been clearly established" as the trawler's factory deck being flooded during a storm.

He said that the probable cause of this was water entering the deck through the "duff and offal chutes" which had been left open.

The judge also carefully rejected in turn a range of six other explanations which had been put forward over the last 30 years including seizure by the Russians and waves caused by nuclear explosions.

He said: "First, it has been possible to rule out seizure by the Russians (or any other hostile force), scuttling either by third parties or by the crew, fire, explosion, icing, cargo shift, structural failure, grounding, machinery failure and knock down by large breaking waves.

"Second, it has also been possible to exclude collision, in particular collision with a submarine as promoted by various television programmes."

The judge said there was no evidence on the wreck for this theory.

The third theory the judge rejected was that the vessel had been fishing at the time of its loss and had snagged its net on an obstruction on the seabed.

He said there were also no grounds for concluding the Gaul had become snagged on any kind of telecommunications cable.

He went on: "A later suggestion that the Gaul had been dragged astern and sunk after having its nets become entangled with a Polaris submarine can also be rejected.

"Once again there is no substance in the suggestion that the Gaul was fishing at the time of her loss.

"No Polaris submarine was within a thousand miles of the position of the wreck."

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PostPosted: 18-12-2004 23:53    Post subject: Reply with quote

Grimmelshausen wrote:
On the other hand, and speaking as a native of Hull, it is not uncommon for trawlers to go down suddenly in those extreme Northern seas. In the mid 1970s they lost three trawlers in a very short space of time - one was the Kingston Peridot, I can't remember the other two off hand but check it out. Icing made them top heavy and they went over in a few minutes and no one had time to get off an SOS.

Speaking as another native of Hull, I think that the Gaul disaster was just a bad accident. Nothing more and nothing less.
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PostPosted: 11-11-2007 10:25    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spies and submarines, but the location has now changed:

The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced

When the U.S. Navy deploys a battle fleet on exercises, it takes the security of its aircraft carriers very seriously indeed.

At least a dozen warships provide a physical guard while the technical wizardry of the world's only military superpower offers an invisible shield to detect and deter any intruders.

That is the theory. Or, rather, was the theory.

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board. Shocked

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" - a reference to the Soviet Union's first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age.

The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.

The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines.

And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it.

According to the Nato source, the encounter has forced a serious re-think of American and Nato naval strategy as commanders reconsider the level of threat from potentially hostile Chinese submarines.

It also led to tense diplomatic exchanges, with shaken American diplomats demanding to know why the submarine was "shadowing" the U.S. fleet while Beijing pleaded ignorance and dismissed the affair as coincidence. Cool

Analysts believe Beijing was sending a message to America and the West demonstrating its rapidly-growing military capability to threaten foreign powers which try to interfere in its "backyard".

The People's Liberation Army Navy's submarine fleet includes at least two nuclear-missile launching vessels.

Its 13 Song Class submarines are extremely quiet and difficult to detect when running on electric motors.

Commodore Stephen Saunders, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, and a former Royal Navy anti-submarine specialist, said the U.S. had paid relatively little attention to this form of warfare since the end of the Cold War.

He said: "It was certainly a wake-up call for the Americans.

"It would tie in with what we see the Chinese trying to do, which appears to be to deter the Americans from interfering or operating in their backyard, particularly in relation to Taiwan."

In January China carried a successful missile test, shooting down a satellite in orbit for the first time.
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PostPosted: 11-11-2007 17:22    Post subject: Reply with quote


BEWARE of China!

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PostPosted: 12-11-2007 12:28    Post subject: Reply with quote

BuckeyeJones wrote:
BEWARE of China!

Sage words, I put mine in the dishwasher and it took the willow pattern straight off.
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PostPosted: 12-11-2007 16:51    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating that this is the only press I've heard of this.

I can only thank China for tipping it's hand prior to any hostilities. Exploiting a weakness like that would have been a great advantage...
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PostPosted: 12-11-2007 18:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

nyarlathotepsub2 wrote:
Fascinating that this is the only press I've heard of this.

I can only thank China for tipping it's hand prior to any hostilities. Exploiting a weakness like that would have been a great advantage...

A quick Google turns up dozens (at least) of variants on this story:

Here's one:

Chinese Sub Came Close To U.S. Ships
Navy Commander Says Close Encounter Could Have Triggered 'Unforeseen' Incident
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov. 14, 2006

(AP) A Chinese submarine came close to the USS Kitty Hawk carrier group in the Pacific Ocean last month, a top U.S. naval commander confirmed Tuesday, adding the encounter could have triggered an "unforeseen" incident.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, however, said she had not heard of such an incident.

The aircraft carrier and its supporting ships were conducting exercises in an unidentified location when the encounter occurred, Adm. William Fallon, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters.

The carrier group was not engaged in anti-submarine exercises, but if it had, "and if this Chinese sub came in the middle of this, then it could have escalated into something that could have been very unforeseen," he said.

Fallon, who is in Kuala Lumpur for a 23-nation Chief of Defense Forces meeting, did not give any other details. He was commenting on a report on The Washington Times' Web site that said a Chinese submarine "stalked" the Kitty Hawk and surfaced within torpedo firing range.

The newspaper said the carrier group was operating close to Okinawa at the time of the incident.

"It illustrates the primary reason why we are trying to push, to have better military-to-military relationships" with China, Fallon said.

"Because the fact is that you have military units that operate in close proximity to one another," he said, warning of "the potential for events that would not be what we'd like to see."

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu could not say if the incident had indeed occurred.

"I have not heard of such a report," she said at a regular news briefing Tuesday. "China has always had a defensive national defense policy. We are an adamant force in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the world at large," she said.

Fallon's disclosure came at the same time the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet, Adm. Gary Roughead, was in China overseeing the first ever joint exercise, scheduled to start Nov. 19, between the U.S. and Chinese navies.

"It's a modest search-and-rescue exercise, but it's a start ... so that we can move ahead from what I would characterize as kind of Cold War thinking," Fallon said.

Fallon has visited China three times since taking office about 18 months ago to boost contacts and reduce the potential for miscalculations.

Visits between the Chinese and American militaries dropped off after the collision of a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet off China's coast in 2001 but relations have improved recently as Washington cautiously seeks to increase exchanges.

China declined an invitation to attend the Kuala Lumpur meeting, but Fallon said he was hopeful they would in the future.
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PostPosted: 14-11-2007 17:41    Post subject: Reply with quote

Its nice to see any sort of american doing their bit to improve relations.
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PostPosted: 11-12-2013 09:30    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gaul sunken trawler: Test on bodies buried in Russia

Tests are to be carried out on human remains found in Russia to see if they could be crew members from a sunken trawler, Humberside Police have said.
The Hull-based Gaul fishing vessel went down in 1974 in the Barents Sea off Norway with the loss of 36 men.
The remains of four men were recovered from the wreck in 2002, but no other bodies have been found.

Police said Russian authorities were working to identify a number of bodies buried on the Rybachy peninsula.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Leaver of Humberside Police said: "The remains appear to have been found in 1974 or 1975 by local people and buried under rocks.
"We have absolutely no confirmation or evidence at this stage that the remains are those of crew members but we know this area is where bodies could have washed ashore."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) informed the force of the discovery in September last year, but Mr Leaver said the force had waited until now to tell the crew members' families.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch carried out surveys of the Gaul after the wreck was found in 1997, and the remains of James Wales, Maurice Spurgeon, Stanley Collier and Clifford Briggs were found in 2002.
An inquiry in 2004 concluded the ship sank because its hold became flooded during a storm.

A FCO spokesman said they were liaising with Humberside Police and Russian authorities but there was "nothing substantive" to link the bodies found in Russia to the Gaul, and there was "no indication yet that these are British".
"It is for the Russian authorities to determine the nationality of the remains, we have offered to provide assistance if requested," he said.
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PostPosted: 12-12-2013 13:51    Post subject: Reply with quote

More on this one.

Gaul mystery solved at last? British trawler's crew 'discovered in cave' after vanishing 39 years ago

Family members have provided DNA samples this week to learn if their loved ones have finally been found after their ship the Gaul

Daily Mirror. By Lucy Thornton. 12 December 2013

The relatives of a British trawler crew who vanished 39 years ago are facing an anxious wait after human remains were discovered in a Russian cave.

Family members have provided DNA samples this week to learn if their loved ones have finally been found after their ship the Gaul, from Hull, sank in 1974.

A scientist pinpointed the spot where the men were likely to be and tests are now being carried out on up to 10 bodies.

The trawler and its 36-man crew were caught in a storm off the Norwegian coast in 1974.

Some relatives have insisted it was used to spy during the height of the Cold War and was sunk by the Soviet Union.

But the boat was found in 1997 and a public inquiry in 2004 concluded it sank because two chutes were left open and water rushed in as it was battered by rough seas.

Yesterday Beryl Betts, 74, whose 26-year-old brother Billy Jones was lost when it sank, gave her DNA sample to police.

Wreck of the Gaul in 1997 Wreckage: The boat under water
Ross Parry

But she said: “To be truthful, I don’t want Billy’s remains identified.

“I remember him as he was the last time I saw him and that’s how I want to keep remembering him – not as a pile of old bones.

"I never have, and never will, close the chapter on Billy’s death.

“There are too many questions and I feel let down by the Government for not getting proper answers.

“It was a devastating time. Every day – for months and months –I checked to see if he had been found. I was driving myself crazy.”

It has emerged the remains were first found in 1974 or 75 in the Rybachy Peninsula, Murmansk, by locals who buried them under stones in the cave.

They would have remained hidden if it was not for a scientist who has been studying tidal movements since 1999 in a bid to find where they washed ashore.

The bodies were found alongside quality leather knife sheaths, which suggested they belonged to foreigners, not Russians.

Mrs Betts said: “Apparently this chap has been looking for them. I can’t get my head around why.

"He got in touch with the locals and they passed the information on and they more or less went to the spot where they were. It is very strange.”

At the time of the sinking, the Gaul, based in Hull, East Yorkshire, did not issue a distress call and a search failed to locate it.

It was eventually found in 1997 by a private survey.

Only three crew have been identified after bones were recovered from the vessel.

They were Stan Collier, 40, James Wales, 29, and Maurice Spurgeon, 38.

Talking about the public inquiry, Mrs Betts said: “I was not satisfied with the outcome.

"The crew was blamed for not putting the chutes down properly in the storm but I don’t believe that.

"There’s no way they would have been so stupid.”

Humberside Police confirmed it had been working with the Foreign Office and Russian authorities for more than a year but had only just told relatives of the find.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Leaver said: “We wanted to be certain we had something meaningful to tell them.”

Police added the cave was consistent with where the crew could have washed ashore.

And lawyer Max Gold, who acted for many families in the inquiry, said: “For 40 years there are people here who have lived believing their relatives might still be alive somewhere.

"I hope this provides them with answers, then they can rest in peace.”

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