The Hull steam trawler Emley was requisitioned by the Admiralty in October 1914 just after the outbreak of World War One and converted for use as a minesweeper. She had been built by Cochrane and Sons Ltd., Selby (Yard No 506), and launched in October 1911. Her dimensions were 112.1′ x 22.5′ x 12.5′, with a gross tonnage of 223t.
In April 1918 she was operating as a minesweeper in the Firth of Forth under the command of James Frederick Jones RNR. On the 18th of that month she was assigned escort duty to a sweep of an area two miles south of May Island was steaming in formation with five other converted fishing vessels, Lysander II, Kimberley, Strathcarron, Aberdeen and John Brennan. They travelled in a pre-arranged D formation with Lysander and Kimberley the leading pair and Emley, Strathcarron and John Brennan following behind. As they approached the assigned area Aberdeen reported striking a submerged object and a Dan buoy was laid to act as a centre point to a sweep formation. The group began sweeping round the buoy and on the first loop Lysander swept up a mine and ordered the Aberdeen and Strathcarron to stand by the now floating mine. After a second sweep by the Lysander, Emley and John Brennan were ordered to carry out a sweep of their own. At the end of the sweep to the north skipper Jones ordered the crew to raise their minesweeping gear and, as the kite (the apparatus which kept the sweep under the water) broke surface he stopped engines to winch it aboard. At this point they spotted a second German mine entangled with the kite.
Jones immediately ordered the winch stopped but, just as he shouted the command, the mine exploded only five or six feet from the port side of the Emley. The explosion tore off the stern of the trawler and killed seven of the crewmen instantly. Two of the crew were blown off the ship and into the sea. They were picked up safely by a boat from another of the trawlers. Two other crewmen jumped overboard and were picked up by the same boat. The skipper was sucked under as the Emley went down but luckily struggled free as she sank to be picked up by a boat from the patrol yacht Shemara. The Emley sank within a minute or two of the explosion. After the war German U-boat records revealed that the mines had been laid by UC-40 under the command of Oberleutnant Hermann Menzel. At the subsequent enquiry no blame was attributed to skipper Jones relating to the loss of his vessel.
There is a wreck of a steamtrawler in position 56°10.206’N 002°33.179’W. While it has not been positively identified by the authors as the Emley, the wreck’s layout and dimensions, damage and position strongly suggest this is indeed Emley.