"Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews" PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard
Book Guild Publishing Reviewed
Author: Steve R Dunn
Publishers: The Book Guild Publishing
Publication Date: 24/09/2015
Publisher's Title Information
Formidable is the third in a trilogy of naval history books by Steve R. Dunn in which he unpicks the far-reaching effects of the social and political climate under which the First World War began - a period that he calls 'Vicwardian'. The stifling atmosphere of rigid social hierarchy, pointless deference, and refusal to update rules of engagement that were largely unchanged since Nelson led, Dunn argues, to defective decision making and, ultimately, disaster.
Formidable sailed to her doom under a vice admiral who did not accept the threat posed by new technology - submarines, the U-boats. The accepted rules of war were such that to ambush a battleship unseen, from below the surface, would be ungentlemanly and therefore unthinkable. To seek shelter in bad weather, whatever the threat from U-boats, would be unmanly. The vice admiral kept his ships at sea. As a result, a major ship of the British navy's battle fleet was lost and 583 men and boys met their deaths.
Dunn tells some of their individual stories in heart-breaking detail, including the futile courage of the ship's captain, Noel Loxley, who stayed on board with his terrier Bruce and was lost with so many of his men.
Extract from the Book
'She was a ship, but is now a tomb. A hecatomb. The last resting place for nearly 600 men and boys, their mortal remains held in and around the rusting, rotting iron hull. She lies 200 feet beneath the surface of the English Channel, off the Jurassic Coast, Portland and the great arc of Lyme Bay. She is completely upside down. One huge bronze propeller, including its shaft, rests on the seabed close by. The other has been ripped off by some illegal salvage operation. Her secondary guns can still be seen in their casements, crushed against the sea bottom, and the huge 12-inch forward armament is visible beneath the upturned hull. Between the inverted bridge and the forward turret there is a rent in the hull some nineteen feet wide and almost cutting her in two.
Fish swim in and out through it. Men could too, if she had not designated a war grave. She is tomb to old and young, officer and seaman, royal marine and stoker. The sea does not discriminate in death.'
Scapegoat - The life and tragedy of a fighting admiral and Churchill's role in his death.
Author: Steve R. Dunn
Publishers: Book Guild Publishers
Publication Date: 30th January 2014
Publisher's Title Information
In the early days of the First World War, on 1 November 1914, in the seas off the Falkland Islands, the Battle of Coronel claimed 1660 lives, the worst British naval disaster for 100 years. Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, who died that day, had been badly advised and equipped, and sailed to engage with Vice Admiral Graf von Spee knowing that he and his men were almost certainly doomed. Why he took such a course of action, and who was really to blame for the disaster, form the core of The Scapegoat, Steve Dunn's definitive biography of one of the British Navy's forgotten heroes. Kit Cradock's story touches on the personal and the political, given Winston Churchill's role in the events at Coronel, and The Scapegoat reveals the full truth for the first time.
A very interesting and delightful book to read, as an ex Royal Navy reader I found the Author's comments correct, they hit home with me, I served in the late 50s early 60s and as he says, 'The spirit of Nelson loomed large', yes the Admiralty hung onto masts and spars, in fact at HMS ST Vincent we still climbed the mast even though they had retired the last four sail traing ships in 1899: 1956 and we still had to go aloft. I learnt a lot from reading this book.
Steve R Dunn is an author specialising in the Victorian, Edwardian and First World War periods with a particular interest in the British Navy of the time and with two published biographies to his name.