Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard

HMS Blake 1961-1962

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The Book of the Commission 1961-62


Here is a book to delight the idiot mind of every retarded man-jack among you - a stirring epic of the sea and the men who follow its lore. Here is the Royal Navy revealed as never before in all its poignancy, defatigation, phlegm and moments of sublime inaction. Wasn't it the addled brain of the ageing Stringbag which conceived that immortal thought: `Roll on my back-shattering dozen'. In this slim volume you may discover the personalities and events which personify this ideal. Here you will find the lugubrious gallery of notabilities who were so instrumental in placing this great ship, the last of the unconventional cruisers, so immovably upon her pedestal of fame: the fabled Commander Bagshawe, whose exploits in the depths of 'Harry's Nitery', 'Degradation' and other little explored areas will surely stir the wrath and indignation of every Lord's Day Observer; the incomparable Gordon Gripfish Rodgers, that singular and unpretentious Gunnery Instructor whose wit and repartee became a byword throughout both ships of the Mediterranean Fleet and who made so aptly topical the words of the antique sage - 'CLuia draconem, circuit querens auem devoret, cui resistite fortes in fide'*; the improbable Boozy Bier, Sporting Slim, the Honorable Bertie Brimbleweed and a host of like-minded layabouts. This is the book for every red-blooded imbecile. It is surely a tribute to the inefficiency of the publishing industry that it ever got into print.

(*'All those who have not already done so, do so now.' - Ed.)

Introduction ...

For any lay reader who may stumble upon this book.

The life of a ship of the Royal Navy is divided not so much into months or years as into her various Commissions: by these is the formation of a particular ship's company, and the length of its subsequent existence, dictated.

H.M.S. BLAKE, a Tiger-class Cruiser, was first commissioned in March 1961 for trials in home waters; when these were completed the following September she was re-commissioned, with the same ship's company, for General Service. She was then trans­ferred to the Mediterranean station, spent six weeks on 'work-up' (a period of intensive exercises designed to bring the ship, the men and all systems to a state of full fighting efficiency) and at Christmas started upon the normal routine of a warship in peacetime - exer­cises and courtesy visits to foreign ports and training periods, interspersed with days or weeks spent at her.  HMS Blake was flagship to the Flag Officer Flotillas, Mediterranean, from January to October 1962, when she returned to Devonport. She paid-off and was placed in reserve in March 1963.

It is a habit of most ship's companies, if they retain the ability to laugh at themselves and can find a man sufficiently lacking in foresight to accept the job of editor, to commemorate their commissions with a suitable literary souvenir. Such a work is this, produced by and for the seven hundred men of the BLAKE not in order to publicize their affairs but to serve in the years to come as their own remembrancer of the ship and of those who served in her. Being aimed at those who had experience of the incidents portrayed it has assumed the licence to make appropriate photographic adjustments, to disregard the deep significance of the events in which the ship was involved and generally to dispense with reverence and solemnity. Its only concession to orderly style is that the coverage on BLAKE's foreign visits follows a vaguely chronological pattern. No class distinctions are intended but those interested should note that, where no sartorial aids to recognition exist, the pallid, unfit figures may be assumed to be those of the officers.

It is unlikely that the reader will discover any views expressed within the book: should he do so, however, he may confidently conclude that they are not those of the Admiralty nor of any responsible member of the Naval Establishment.

Reviews or rather, What the critics said

‘An affront to the intelligence.’

Times Literary Supplement

‘In its warm sympathy for human failing, its highly corruptible honesty and its dynamic approach to indolence this must rank as a worthy forerunner to Packard and Morrissey's prize-­winning work, "The Defendant's Guide to Naval Courts Martial".’

The R.N.D.Q Yearbook

‘This book should make a lasting impression ... if it is thrown sufficiently hard.’ Mud

‘A remarkable document; perhaps the more so since every other word was cribbed.’ The Editor, H.M.S. Victorious Commission Book

‘This is the sort of book that should find its way into the gash bin of every household in the land.’

Dustman's Chronicle

‘A magnificent piece of journalism which will surely come to rank with the masterpieces of this, or any other, century. Beside the Blake Commission Book the works of Shakespeare, Voltaire and the Queen's Regulations pale into insignificance. No praise is too high for its two Editors.’

Lieut. Cdr. Packard and Lieut. Morrissey writing in Delirium Tremens

‘Arrant rubbish. You would be very ill-advised to waste your money on this sort of trash.’The Navy Estimates

HMS Blake Commissioning Book for Sale, 1961 -1962 (1st Commissioned March 1961. One of the best I have seen, in good condition with a Dust jacket, something I have never seen before £75, plus £3 P&P.


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