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Early in 1940 Frome Rotary Club together with Inner Wheel came together to adopt a Steam Trawler, John Cattling.
Britain and its allies were at war with Germany. The war was being fought in Europe by land, air and sea.
Every month the club sent the crew of the Cattling a parcel consisting of groceries, toiletries, cigarettes and sweets. The ladies of Inner Wheel were then kept busy with their knitting needles as the crew then requested jumpers, socks, scarves and mittens.
During a time of strict rationing of most commodities including food and clothing, Frome Rotary and Inner Wheel worked to generously provide these things, not then even to begin to imagine just what comfort they brought to the crew of the Cattling, during what were dangerous and troubled times.
The Cattling was being used to rescue soldiers and sailors in trouble at sea often during a battle conflict which put the trawler and its men in extreme danger.
The skipper of the trawler was George Aldan who in peacetime was a fisherman. He wrote the following to Frome Rotary secretary DC Yates in 1940.
Just a line to let you know we have received your 3 parcels and I have shared them equally among the crew. They were very pleased with them and it was very nice to have somebody to think about us after the trying time we have just been through. I expect you have seen the pictures in the paper although that is nothing to what it was in reality. But still it was a job well done and all in a days work.”
He then went on to write:
“The gifts were gratefully received especially the woollies as the nights are now colder and longer. Many envious glances were cast at the person lucky enough to bag the jumper.”
The skipper was so grateful that these parcels contained things he knew were rationed and that allowances had been given up by the clubs and their families to provide the crew with small comforts. The skipper could say little about his tasks but enough for the club to know they patrolled the dangerous parts of the English Channel where boats were often bombed.
These parcels from Frome Rotary to HM Cattling continued throughout the war until it ended in 1945. The crew of 20 of HM Cattling were highly decorated for their brave work receiving two Distinguished Service Crosses, four Distinguished Service Medals and four mentioned in dispatches. These were awarded for gallantry during active operations against the enemy and were highly honoured. The people of Frome knew nothing of what she was doing when they were sending their parcels.
Surviving copies of the letters and many others over the years between the Trawler and Frome Rotary Club are permanently in Frome museum They will also be on display for two weeks in Frome library during January 2016.
There will be more articles to come in the new year on this historical club’s past including some of their more interesting fund raising initiatives including a snooker marathon!
To learn more about the club visit www.frome rotary.co.uk or visit them on Facebook.