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HM Drifter Premier sunk 15 Jan 1918


Patrick Anderson:
A friend of mine has told me about a family erected headstone at GAMRIE NEW PARISH CHURCHYARD, Banff that records this info " In Memory of James Alex WATT, who died at the STATION HOTEL MALLAIG through the sinking of the SS Premier by enemies submarine "

The Commonwealth War Grave Commission records the casualty as being J . A WATT, engineman , Mercantile Marine , aged 36 years, H M Drifter Premier , husband of Anna Bella Watt, of 75 Denside, Gardenstown, Banff. death date shown is 15 January 1918 , James A Watt is buried in a CWGC grave at Gamrie New Parish Churchyard , Gardenstown . ( Grave A 1 61 )

Does anyone know anything about this sinking of the H M Drifter Premier which I would expect was being used on mine sweeping duties around the Mallaig coastal areas ? Was James A Watt brought ashore to the Hotel but died of his wounds in the attack etc ?

Patrick Anderson:
A retired ship captain friend has informed me that he has checked the book "Off Scotland - a comprehensive record of Maritime & Aviation losses in Scottish Waters " by Ian Whittaker and the details are

PREMIER : Captain Ritchie, ( BF 696 ) , sunk by Gunfire on 7 JANUARY 1918 , 3 miles west of Loch Eynort in portion Lat 57 . 12. 5 N ; 6. 28. 0 W ( which is grid ref 313231 , off the west coast of Skye R.L. ) W " Steam drifter built 1889, 88 tons gross, length 26 metres, beam 5 metres "

That means that Engineman JAMES ALEXANDER WATT , 36 years of age who died at the STATION HOTEL , MALLAIG per his headstone located in Gamrie New Parish Churchyard, Gardenstown , Banffshire died of his injuries from that Enemy Attack on a fishing drifter . His death was recorded by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission as being on 15 JANUARY 1918 .

Does anyone know if the STATION HOTEL , MALLAIG was used as a Military Hospital during the Great War or if not an Auxilliary Hospital ??

Is the STATION HOTEL at MALLAIG still in existance or is the building still there if not in use as a Hotel nowadays ?

Has anyone any information on this fishing boat being attacked by Enemy action ? How did James Alexander WATT get to Mallaig ?

It seems that a short time before this attack by gunfire around the same Loch Eynort other fishing boats were attacked ( Oct 1917 etc )

Patrick Anderson:
I hear that the STATION HOTEL MALLAIG is the WEST HIGHLAND HOTEL in Mallaig . See their website that mentions its history

Patrick Anderson:
Found the Newspaper report in the Oban Times : ANOTHER U BOAT CRIME :

A large German submarine encountered in the NORTH SEA the PREMIER , a small unarmed drifter ( fishing vessel) . The U boat at once opened fire on the little craft, a vessel of only 89 tons wiht her two guns and capsized the fishing boat . The submarine temporily retired , but returned and saved the crew hanging on to the bottom of their vessel . She then made off , leaving her victims to their fate . ONE MAN was killed and ONE BADLY INJURED , but the remainder were subsequently rescued after a period of terrible suffering. The weather was bitterly cold and it was snowing heavily .


Seems that the WAR OFFICE have moved to location of the sinking from Loch Eynort off the Isle of Skye to the NORTH SEA ................

Patrick Anderson:
The Aberdeen & NE Scotland Family History Society journal published my 4 page article this month of November 2011 in their journal No 121 .



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