"Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews" PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard

Conway Maritime Press, Anova Books Reviewed in 2008


Conway's Battleships
The Definitive Visual Reference to the World's All-Big-Gun Ships
Edition: 2008 Revised and Expanded Edition
Format: Hardback
Author: Edited by Ian Sturton
ISBN: 978 1844860685
Publishers: Conway Maritime ( Anova Books )
Price: £30
Publication Date: 2008
 
Publisher's Title Information

 
Fully updated with an extended introduction by Ian Sturton and an outstanding selection of images, Conway's Battleships is a comprehensive study of the world's capital ships from the emergence of HMS Dreadnought in 1906. In their day, these mighty ships represented a country's military pride. They served with distinction in two World Wars and threatened and impressed in equal measure. Superseded by the aircraft carrier and finally rendered obsolete in the missile age, a few of these ships, nevertheless, continued in service to the end of the twentieth century, with two of the US Iowa class present at the Gulf War in 1990-91.
 
Organized by nation, type and class, each entry describes the sister-ships of the class in detail, with specification tables, diagrams of ships in profile and career histories. A wealth of visual information can be gained from browsing through the many photographs and artworks, showing hull and deck details, ships in port, underway and in action. Fully international in its scope and extensive in its coverage, this is an essential addition to the library of any naval historian or warship enthusiast.
 

All the contributors are world authorities on particular navies. They include:
 
Przemyslaw Budzbon
N. J. M. Campbell
Aldo Fraccaroli
Norman Friedman
Pierre Hervieux
Antony Preston
John Roberts
Robert L. Scheina
Erwin Sieche
Adam Smigielski
Ian Sturton
 

Introdution
 
Definitions and nomenclature.
 
The name battleship was originally given to a large wooden sailing ship having guns arranged on two or three decks and sufficiently strong to serve in the battle line - hence the full title of 'ship of the line' or line-of-battle ship'. In the twentieth century, battleships were the most powerful warships in the world's navies, carrying the heaviest guns and the thickest armour at moderate speeds.
 
The battlecruiser had fewer heavy guns and thinner armour than the battleship, but to compensate was much faster. Her precursor was the armoured cruiser.
 
The fast battleship combined battleship guns and armour with Battlecruisers speeds.
The term 'capital ship' was used in the interwar naval treaties and agreements as shorthand for 'battleships and battlecruisers'. It was in widespread use by the time of World War II.
 
Major navies 1860-1905.
 
In this period Britain and France had far-flung empires and maintained large navies capable of worldwide operations. The actual sizes of both navies increased considerably, the French Navy being generally around three-quarters the strength of its rival. Other countries initially had coast-defence forces, but by 1905 Italy, Russia, the United States, Germany, Japan and possibly Austria-Hungary - in approximately this sequence - had joined Britain and France as major naval powers. Italy, through building a few very powerful ships, was briefly the third strongest, but her effort was not sustained. Russia, compelled by geography to keep separate fleets in the Baltic, Black Sea, and from 1896 the Far East, could not readily concentrate her forces. By 1904 the United States had supplanted France as second naval power; within a few years, Germany overtook America and France became fourth. Japan came from nowhere to defeat China at sea in 1894-5, and Russia in 1904-5.
 
The Battleship in 1860.
 
In 1860 the wooden battleship was little changed from the days of Nelson and Trafalgar. The traditional designs had been able to absorb the arrival of boilers and engines a decade earlier, but the introduction of explosive shells with powerful incendiary effect was the beginning of the end of wooden ships, however powered. This point was driven home when Russian shell guns annihilated a Turkish squadron at Sinope, November 1853; in future, armour would be needed to keep out shells. The first battleships so armoured, the French Gloire and the British Warrior, were launched in 1859-60; the wrought iron armour, about 4.5in (115mm) thick, was attached to the outside of the hull, while the guns, muzzle loaders or primitive breech loaders, were arranged as in an old-time frigate, firing through ports in the armour along the ship's side; in such 'armoured frigates' or 'broadside ironclads', only half the guns could fire on either beam. Full sail power still supplemented the early steam engines.
 
A second and more radical solution to the problem of building armoured ships was the uss Monitor (1862), the first turret ship. Two heavy guns fired through ports in a rotating turret; both guns could fire on either beam, but the deck was only just above the waterline, so early turret ships were for coastal or inshore work, much effort being required to develop an ocean-going version for the battle fleet. A lighter alternative to the turret was the barbette (France, 1863), in which one or two guns mounted on a turntable fired over the top of a fixed armoured cylinder resting on the deck. Guns in barbettes had better command than turrets but were more vulnerable to gunfire.
 
The first ironclads were unchallenged by any ship afloat, and in little danger from anything else, as mines were primitive, useful submarines a dream, and automotive torpedoes unknown.
Battleships to 1900
 
The late nineteenth century was a time of rapid technological advance. From about 1870, iron hulls were replaced by steel, lighter for the same strength, while, below decks, improvements in boilers generated steam at steadily higher pressures, and new types of engines, compound then triple-expansion, were developed to use the steam more efficiently. Sail power disappeared entirely.

Review
 
This book commences with a good Introduction, which takes us from 1860 to 1945 and after, albeit not much after because by 1960 all British Battleships were gone. We should have retained some as the Americans did as memorials. I for one deeply regret their passing. As HMS Vanguard made her last trip she tried in vain to defy the tugs as she touched the shore at old Portsmouth, not so far from the place Nelson stepped aboard a boat to leave England for the last time. Page 143 contains an excellent photograph of Vanguard's last journey. I still have a newspaper cutting of this event from the Portsmouth Evening News. This states that the order to let go both anchors was given because the tugs Bustler, Advice and Samsonia could not hold her.
 
Like so many who served in the Royal Navy it is one of my regrets that I never served in one of these giants. Geoffrey Jones in his Introduction to 'Battlehip Barham' said how deeply he regrets not having the unique experience - as he says 'there will never be another'.
 
This book is not just about British Battleships, although it was to those pages that I turned. It says very little about the fate of Barham - however there is plenty of material elsewhere and there is an excellent photograph of her in Malta in June 1937. RCJ Jerrard served in HMS Barham
 
This book encompasses, Argentina, Austria-Hungary, Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the USA.
 
There are of course individual books describing the life of particular Battleships, eg 'The Battle Cruiser Renown' 1916-1948, Peter C Smith, Pen & Sword 2008, 'HMS Rodney', Iain Ballantyne, Pen & Sword 2008, 'Battleship - the loss of the Prince of Wales and Repulse', Middlebrook & Mahoney, Allen Lane, 1977 and very many on HMS Hood.
 
What is attractive about this book is it is a definitive visual reference to all big-gun ships, which as well as Battleships must include Battle Cruisers. But why not Monitors? I recall one, I believe it was HMS Roberts and she had, inter alia, two 15 inch guns. She and her sister ship Abercrombie were capable of 12 knots so perhaps that disqualifies them? Roberts was at Plymouth whilst Abercrombie was in Fareham Creek.
 
Rob Jerrard


The Voyage of the Beagle
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: James Taylor
ISBN: 978 1844860661
Publishers: Conway Maritime ( Anova Books )
Price: £20
Publication Date:
 
Publisher's Title Information

 
2009 marks the bi-centennary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of his ground-breaking publication 'On the Origin of Species' (1859). Many of his scientific investigations and theories have stood the test of time and are still relevant today. There will be many major exhibitions around the world as well as documentaries and debates about Darwin''s work, and a major motion picture is planned on the life of Darwin by the Oscar winning producer Jeremy Thomas. 'The Voyage of the Beagle' brings together, for the first time in a single volume, the circumstances that set the Beagle voyage in motion and people who travelled onboard in their various capacities. Chapters include the career history of Beagle, including cabin layouts and plans, biographies on Darwin and Captain Robert Fitzroy and the work of the crewmembers and artists who accompanied the survey voyage. Illustrated with artworks, sketches and charts that were produced during and after the voyage by those on board, as well as portraits and artefacts, and with first-hand accounts in the form of extracts from diaries and letters, James Taylor has woven together all the various strands of the Beagle story to produce a thoroughly engaging and highly informative read that is sure to appeal to anyone from scientists to art lovers and maritime historians.


Not Enough Room to Swing a Cat - Naval Slang and its Everyday Usage
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Martin Robson
ISBN: 978-1-84486-073 9
Publishers: Conway Maritime (Anova Books)
Price: £7.99
Publication Date: 2008
 
Publisher's Title Information

 
Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey
Flogging a dead horse
Money for old rope
Three sheets to the wind
 
What do these common phrases actually mean, and where do they come from?
For any maritime nation the traditions and quirks of its navy have long intrigued and influenced society. Sailors would come ashore conversing in a unique language, which spilled out of the taverns and slowly seeped into everyday speech.
 
Concentrating on the British and Commonwealth and United States Navies, this book explores naval slang thematically, covering such areas as ship handling, discipline, and food and drink. Ranging between phrases that clearly have a nautical theme, such as 'splice the main brace' and 'sun over the yard arm' to quirky terms such as 'scuttlebutt' and mundane words such as 'skyscraper, it gives an 'A1 account of their astounding origins and provides numerous examples of how they are used in the popular media, while also devoting a chapter to 'poking Charlie, a guide to insulting someone with a sailor's filthiest slang!
 
Complete with original black line drawings, this detailed and highly entertaining exploration of naval slang will appeal not only to old-time 'matelots' (fellow sailors), but to all those interested in how the English language has developed.
 

From the Introduction
 
During the writing of this book one question kept coming up: why writs another book on naval slang when there are others on the subject already out there? I admit, there are a number of fine books already published that have looked at naval slang. Some of these have even proved useful in writing this book. If that's the case, does the world need another volume on naval slang?
 
Most of the books that look at naval slang do so in alphabetical order. Rick Jolly's Jackspeak and Peter Jeans' Ship to Shore are organised in this way, which makes them great works of reference, though perhaps not great reading books. Moreover, Jackspeak is specifically aimed at current and ex-service personnel, much of the content within is limited in use to those afloat, while many of the entries in Ship to Shore do not contain contextual material linking them to modern society.
 
Readers hoping to find an exhaustive dictionary of all slang terms here will b disappointed. I make no apologies for that: what I am interested in are terms that have passed from 'Jack Tar' to the 'landlubbers' ashore. Even within that limited remit many words and phrases have been omitted; perhaps the chance will come to write a second volume (readers who do find their favourite slang terms missing can send suggestions to the publishers at the relevant address).

What this book does is plant naval slang terms squarely in our every day existence. I have found naval terms used ashore today in familiar places: war films, newspapers and naval fiction. But naval slang crops up in some unexpected places. From US Presidential speeches to the ramblings of a drunken cartoon robot, words and phrases that originated at sea are all around us: we just need to open our eyes and ears to them. In fact many people today will use naval slang and not even realise it. I hope that this book goes some way towards remedying this situation.
 
This book is organised by subject matter, thereby placing the words and phrases in context surrounded by other words and phrases dealing with a similar subject. Some entries are interrelated, others stand alone. For instance, readers will find everything relating to food, or `munjy, together. Introducing each chapter is a section contextualising the entries that follow; using `munjy' as the example again readers will find out what sailors from different periods of time actually ate before going on to look at some of the related phrases in depth. I hope this approach will provide readers with a more rounded experience and understanding of naval slang and will add to, rather than replicate, the literature that already exists.

I have defined slang as any type of informal language used to describe things, activities or circumstances. Quite often slang is a quicker way of saying something or making reference to something. Naval slang is of particular interest in his case as many activities that were undertaken on board a ship had to be e quickly and accurately by sailors; their lives sometimes depended on it. So their language was, and still is, an organic entity, it ebbs and flows like the tide. The words and phrases appear and fall out of use, only to reappear at a future it in time, sometimes in a completely different context.
 
A great deal of naval slang comes from the classic age of the sailing man-of, roughly 1600-1850, and originated in the Royal Navy. This is not really wising; it was an age of war, with Britain engaged in a series of conflicts with ice, Spain and the newly independent United States - all flexing their maritime muscles at different times. Where possible I have stated where the use of words can be traced to a specific country; for example 'Gung Ho' originated in china and was picked up by the US Marine Corps.
 
As maritime trade and empires rose and fell, the sailor's vocabulary expanded maritime slang was once the preserve of the sailor - an incomprehensible language culled from the four corners of the world. The words the sailor picked up, laps from Arabic, Old Scandinavian, or even Mandarin Chinese, were employed afloat and brought back to port with him. The subsequent transfer ashore of such words was inevitable, given the contact between sailors and landlubbers in ports across the world and the portrayal of the navy in wider popular culture.

Review

I am writing this in a very small conservatory, room for four, just, certainly 'not enough room to swing a cat', which if the expression meant that literally, is just as well, because we have a dog. My first thought was, “Why another book on Naval slang?” The author gives his reasons in the Introduction
 
'During the writing of this book one question kept coming up: why write another book on naval slang when there are others on the subject already out there? I admit, there are a number of fine books already published that have looked at naval slang….Most of the books that look at naval slang do so in alphabetical order. Rid Jolly's Jackspeak and Peter Jeans' Ship to Shore are organised in this way, which makes them great works of reference, though perhaps not great reading books. Moreover, Jackspeak is specifically aimed at current and ex-service personnel; much of the content within is limited in use to those afloat, while many of the entries in Ship to Shore do not contain contextual material linking them to modern society.
 
Readers hoping to find an exhaustive dictionary of all slang terms here will be disappointed. I make no apologies for that: what I am interested in are terms that have passed from 'Jack Tar' to the 'landlubbers' ashore. …This book is organised by subject matter, thereby placing the words and phrases in context surrounded by other words and phrases dealing with a similar subject. Some entries are interrelated, others stand alone.'
 
This therefore consists of terms to have passed ashore. It is all a question of what words have 'passed ashore'. Certainly those of us who have served in the Royal Navy or perhaps been brought up in a Naval town will use more than, say, a person from central England. However that said, nowhere in this country is far from the sea and it is in our blood as well as our speech.
 
Do you use the following and if so do you know the true meaning?
Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey
All above board
Ship shape and Bristol fashion, of which 'The Sailors Word Book' first published in 1867 and republished by Conway in 2005 says, 'said when Bristol was in its palmy commercial days unannoyed by Liverpool, and its shipping was all in proper good order.
To the bitter end
Sailing close to the wind. This expression was often used by Petty Officers at HMS St Vincent and they often added 'your sails are flapping'.
Left high and dry
 
One of particular interest is 'Hard to fathom' - to sound something out, which has its origins in the lead and line used to sound out the depth of water. As a Junior Seaman I had to learn how to 'swing ( heave) the lead' and there are those who think I have been swinging it, along with the lamp ever since! The 1937 Seamanship Manual tells us that 'the weight of the hand lead is from 10 to 14 lb. It is bar shaped and is fitted at the top with a hide becket. The bottom of the lead is hollowed out and may be filled with tallow which is called the "arming," the purpose of which is to indicate the nature of the bottom.
 
The line is of 1 and one 8th inch, and is 25 fathoms in length ; it is bent to the lead by running a long eye splice made at the end of the line, through the hide becket on the head of the lead, and then passing the lead through the eye.
 
The lead line is marked as follows :
At 2 fathoms - Two strips of leather.
At 3 fathoms - Three stripes
At 5 A piece of white bunting.
At 7 A piece of red bunting
At 10 A piece of leather with a hole in it
At 13 A piece of blue bunting.
At 15 A piece of white bunting
At 17 A piece of red bunting
At 20 Two knots.
 
When using a longer line than 25 fathoms the line is marked with one knot at each five fathoms, and with three, four, five, &c., knots at 30, 40, 50, &c., fathoms respectively.
The fathoms at 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19 are not marked, and are called " deeps."
 
I attended a talk recently where the talker said that to find their position as they neared the English Channel sailing ships used a lead to find the bottom at 600 feet, that must have been quite a feat.
 
I have learnt a lot from this handy little book which will join, 'The Sailors' Word Book', 'A Sea of Words' and 'Jackspeak' in my library and after a little research, I now know that a Booby (Booby Prize) is the well-known tropical sea bird Sulu fusca of the family Pelecanidea, part of Pelecaniformes family so 'Put that in your pipe and smoke it' - Hang-fire is that a Naval term?
 
There is a chapter called 'Poking Charlie' - insults! I still recall the early morning shouts and being tipped out of my hammock as the Duty PO visited the Boys' Mess far too early shouting 'Heave O, Heave O, Heave O, lash up and stow, don't turn over turn out, hands off cocks on socks, lets have you, the sun's burning your bleeding eyes out'. 'Show a leg' would have been much more polite. Well, time to 'Pipe Down', what a pity they no longer 'pass the queen's' around at 'Up Spirits': 'stand fast the holy ghost'.
 
Rob Jerrard


Scrimgeour's Small Scribbling Diary
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
40 photos & illustrations
Author: Alexander Scrimgeour
ISBN: 9-781-8448-6075-3
Publishers: Conway Maritime (Anova Books)
Price: £20
Publication Date:
 
Publisher's Title Information

 
When 19-year-old Alexander Scrimgeour lost his life in HMS Invincible at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, he left an exceptional legacy - his personal diaries and letters spanning the years 1910 to 1916. Concentrating on the years of the First World War, this book presents a rare and unique insight into the naval war through the eyes of a young midshipman. Full of sharp observations and warm wit, Alexander is at once the articulate and opinionated Royal Navy officer musing on the U-boat menace and the characters of his superiors, and the precocious adolescent reprimanding his mother, enjoying 'cocktails and fizz' at the Adelphi, or pining for his society sweetheart. Alexander Scrimgeour is one of the lost generation, but his voice still resonates almost a century later in these revelatory private writings, and will linger in the memory long after the last fateful pages are turned.
 
“Rape, Ravage and Rant are the German watchwords in this war. Right, Revenge & Retrenchment shall be ours.” Alexander Scrimgeour, 17th September 1914. When nineteen year old Alexander Scrimgeour lost his life at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, he had already left a legacy - complete diaries spanning the previous six years, chronicling first his life as the son of a wealthy stock broker, then his time as a young sea cadet and finally as a Sub-Lieutenant in His Majesty's Navy. Like all good midshipmen were required to do, Scrimgeour took great pride in writing his journals and was careful to recount every event with marked sincerity. Appalled by some of the actions of the British Admiralty and the Germans alike, Scrimgeour risked court-martial to record some of the more notorious incidents during World War I, and what really happened...
 
"I was very sorry to miss the cricket week, as I had been looking forward to it for months, but am perfectly contented, as I have been looking forward to war ever since I was a baby, and considering there has been no naval warfare for over one hundred years, we ought to think ourselves very lucky that we have come in for it."
5' AUGUST 1914
 

Transcribed and Compiled by,
 
Scrimgeour's wartime diaries and letters have been transcribed and compiled by descendant Richard Hallam and historian and screenwriter Mark Beynon.

An introduction by Professor Andrew Lambert provides further naval and historical context.
Andrew Lambert is Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London. His work focuses on the naval and strategic history of the British Empire between the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War. He lectures around the world and has published a number of highly respected books and articles.

 
Review

This book is described as 'The Truly Astonishing Wartime Diary and Letters of an Edwardian Gentleman, Naval Officer, Boy and Son' which certainly sums up this important set of documents. You can read all manner of books about the Royal Navy during WWI, however these personal notes give a much deeper insight into the thoughts and aspirations of a boy from a particular section of society, that is a very privileged background.
 
His was a very short career, because it ended with the sinking of his ship HMS Invincible, which sank with a total loss of life of 1,031 - only 6 survived. The report by the senior surviving Officer even described where the survivors were stationed, three being on the Fore Control Top.
 
The Introduction tells us that when his son Jack died at the Battle of Loos, Rudyard Kipling interviewed soldiers to try to ascertain information. Likewise, Scrimgeour's Father interviewed the two highest-ranking Officers of the survivors. Not every family could do this, which is possibly why spiritualism became so popular after that war, with the bereaved trying to find answers. Rudyard Kipling was moved to write a poem.
 
''Have you news of my boy Jack?"
Not this tide.
"When d'you think that he'll come back?"
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
"Has any one else had word of him?" Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
 
Generally speaking diaries are not meant to be published, one wonders what Anne Frank, Samuel Pepys and this young man would have thought now the world knows, all were critical of those around them and Alexander Scrimgeour was not exception, the Staff Surgeon was 'an awful bore and very unpopular,' The Chaplain 'a mealy mouthed bugger who swizzles everybody' the Staff Paymaster 'was a nasty little man'. Even the Rear Admiral is 'rather a nervy, restless sort of man and hardly the sort of fellow to inspire confidence…he also gives the impression of weakness. Of course we cannot know what they thought of him.
 
As Andrew Lambert says in his introduction, 'Unlike his army contemporaries, who lie in a neatly tended foreign field under a simple gravestone, his remains are entombed in the wreck of the Invincible, along with the last volume of his diary. There they rest, as part of a massive war grave in a shallow, dark North Sea, strewn with fishing nets and surrounded by empty cordite cases.'
 
Guy N. Pocock. expressed it in his poem 'Years Ahead'
 
Years ahead, years ahead,
The sea shall honour our sailor-dead!
No mound of mouldering earth shall show
The fighting place of the men below,
But a swirl of seas that gather and spill;
And the wind's wild chanty whistling shrill
Shall cry " Consider my sailor-dead! "
In the years ahead.
 
There is no doubt that upon reading these diaries, you realise how articulate and intelligent this young boy was. The diaries run from 1910-1915. It is probable the 1916 one was lost with the ship. For anyone studying or writing about the First World War this is an absolute must.
 
Rob Jerrard

In Which They Serve: The Royal Navy Officer Experience in the Second World War
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Brian Lavery
ISBN: 1844860708
Publishers: Conway Maritime (Anova Books)
Price: £20
Publication Date: 2008
 
Publisher's Title Information

 
During the Second World War, Britain's Royal Navy had to expand more than sevenfold, in the faces of the threat of invasion, enemy bombing and the need to carry out campaigns all around the world. To find officers for this force it had to move well outside its normal supply of boys trained from the age of 13. It started by recruiting yachtsmen and giving them a smattering of naval discipline before sending them to sea. Then it sent possible officers into action as ordinary seamen, to live a hard and dangerous life in destroyers. Selected men were then given their officer training in three months in an improved seaside base at Brighton. They sailed as officers in all kinds of ships, including the new landing craft which would invade North Africa, Italy and Normandy. Those appointed to escort vessels came under the fearsome gaze of Commodore Stephenson, the 'Terror of Tobermory, before being sent out on convoy escort in the Battle of the Atlantic.
 
One of Britain's leading naval historians looks at the social background of British wartime naval recruits, the training methods, the personal experiences of those involved and what they had to learn to become an officer of the watch on the bridge of a warship, or even the captain of a landing craft or frigate in the Second World War. The book draws widely from personal experiences of those who served and presents a rich collection of wry quotes and numerous anecdotes from household names such as Alec Guinness, Evelyn Waugh, Nicholas Monsarrat and George Melly as we follow them through the rigours of the war at sea. In Which They Served also has much to say on seamanship, naval technology, leadership and organisation.
 

The Author
 
Brian Lavery is a Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and a renowned expert on the sailing navy. Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation 1793-1815 is an international bestseller and was used as a technical reference by Peter Weir and his crew during the filming of 'Master and Commander'. Brian Lavery's recent titles for Conway include the highly successful Churchill's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation 1939-1945 (2006) and the acclaimed Churchill Goes to War: Winston's Wartime Journeys (2007). He also compiled the bestselling The Royal Navy Officer's Pocket-book (2007). His latest work, The Frigate Surprise: The Complete Story of the Ship Made Famous in the Novels of Patrick O'Brian (2008), explores the historical and fictional career of the ship celebrated in the Aubrey-Maturin series of sea stories.
 
In 2007, he won the prestigious Desmond Western Maritime Media Award, awarded to an individual considered to have made a significant contribution to publicising the importance of the UK's maritime interests.

Review

The first chapter explains how yachtsmen went to war, or at least how they signed up ready to answer the call by being members of Royal Navy Volunteer Supplementary Reserve (RNV(S)R) and culminates in explaining how HMS King Alfred came into being. This chapter contains some very humourous moments eg 'Fall Out Roman Catholics'- what does a Jew do? And the standard joke, RNR were sailors trying to be gentlemen, the RNVR were gentlemen trying to be sailors and the RN were neither - or both. What a cautious rank, 'Probationary, Temporary, Acting, Sub-Lieutenant'. Three ways of getting rid of you!

Chapter 2, ' A Novelist at Sea', includes Nicholas Monsarrat's experiences and how he came by his characters for, 'The Cruel Sea'. A part is described at Page 65,'Volturno, opened fire at the U-boat with her Bofors gun, and hits were seen on its conning tower. She crash-dived and was not seen again. Zinnia then fired her depth-charges over where the U-boat was thought to be, though the asdic operator had not had a clear contact. She then carried out a thorough search of the area, and six survivors of the Belgravian were rescued. At daybreak a film of oil was found on the surface, but in the bad weather conditions it was not possible to get a sample to find out if it came from a U-boat. None was lost that night.

This is clearly not the same as the famous incident in The Cruel Sea, in which Ericson orders the dropping of depth-charges despite the survivors in the water it took place in a homeward Freetown convoy rather than an outward Gibraltar one, it was at night rather than in daylight, and there is no evidence that anyone was killed as a result of the firing. Yet the psychological effect on the captain must have been similar, and Monsarrat later had intimate discussions with Cuthbertson. There can be little doubt that this was a large part of the inspiration for the depth-charge incident.'

'Sleeping on a locker, won't I fall off'? 'Not in harbour, but at sea you'll have to go somewhere else'. Well that brought back memories to me; on one ship I slept on two stools and they sort of rocked a bit. At 16 you can sleep anywhere!

There is a chapter on the CW experience with so many tales to tell. CW stands for 'Candidates for Warrants and Commissions, Ratings training to become Officers.

This is a superb book covering as it does the RNVR Officers of WWII and many names will be familiar, viz, Ludovic Kennedy, Nicholas Monsarrat, James Callaghan and Alex Guinness were all RNVR.

There are fifty-seven excellent photographs and a very comprehensive Index. An absolute must for your library.

Rob Jerrard


Submarine - An Anthology of the first-hand accounts of the war under the sea 1939-1945

Edition: HB

Author: Jean Hood

ISBN: 9781844860463

Publishers: Conway (Anova)

Price: £20

Publication Date: 15th Oct 2007

Publisher’s Title Information

The Foreword has been written by a submariner from the present era: the Royal Navy’s Rear Admiral D J Cooke MBE, Rear Admiral Submarines, Commander (Operations),

COMSUBNORTH.


Submarine is almost certainly the first book to bring together eye-witness accounts from almost every navy that deployed submarines in WW2, and it is far more than an account of WW2 missions. With self-deprecating modesty, humour, pride, sadness and sometimes bitterness, submariners from Britain, Germany, the USA, Italy, France, the former USSR and Yugoslavia, Norway, Greece, Poland, the Netherlands and Japan describe every facet of operational submarine life, from firing torpedoes, the illicit distillation of alcohol, going to the toilet in heavy weather, rescuing a cat and how to treat appendicitis, to the terrifying experiences of being depth-charged, disposing of a bomb, escaping a doomed boat and planting charged beneath an enemy warship.

Anyone who believes that the only task of a submarine was to torpedo enemy vessels will have to think again. Submariners tell of daring missions to land agents on Occupied coasts, run cargo, defend a convoy, gather intelligence, supply other submarines, lay mines and even transport troops. They operated in almost every sea from the Arctic and the Pacific to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Special operations, including those of the human torpedoes and midget submarines are fully represented, and all accounts are placed in historical and strategic context by concise chapter introductions. Footnotes and glossaries explain abbreviations, technical jargon, naval slang and regional slang.


The Author

Jean Hood was Information Officer at Lloyd's Registry of Shipping in London for several years, answering enquiries from the international community on modern and historical ships. It was there that she came across the East Indiaman Winterton, whose final disastrous voyage she related in her first book, Marked for Misfortune (2003). Her other published titles with Conway include Trafalgar Square (2005) and Come Hell or High Water (2006).


Foreword

By Rear Admiral D J Cooke, MBE

Rear Admiral Submarines, Commander (Operations) and COMSUBNORTH

I feel very privileged to have been invited to contribute the foreword to this anthology of wartime submariners' stories. These stories represent a wealth of experience drawn from the majority of the submarine-operating nations of the Second World War, and certainly from all of the major participants. There has been a considerable amount written, particularly in recent years, about the technical aspects of submarines in that war, and understanding the technology is a key element in understanding the operational successes and failures of the submarine conflict. An equally critical element, however, is the human factor, without which the technology is to no avail. It is in painting a vivid human picture, particularly of the sea-goers, that Jean Hood's book has been so successful and has struck a chord with me that I believe will be echoed with my fellow submariners of all nationalities.

I joined my first submarine, HMS Oberon, just over thirty years after the end of the Second World War. During the next twenty years I served in both conventional and nuclear-powered submarines, being fortunate enough to command one of each type. I am now equally fortunate to be Head of the Royal Navy's Submarine Service, and the NATO Commander Submarines North. Throughout my career, in whatever capacity I have been serving, I have felt strongly that one of the most important single factors that distinguishes submariners from other seafarers is the knowledge that he (or indeed she, in many navies now) is a member of a very special family. It is not just a national family either, but very much an international community with instinctive bonds based, not only on professionalism and training, but on common experiences of living in one of the most challenging environments in which man chooses to operate - underwater. It has rightly been said that it is only as a team that submariners can successfully survive these challenges, because however good the rest of the ship's company may be it only takes one of them to sink a submarine; there is no margin for complacency or error, and that is before you throw in the best efforts of the enemy to further complicate your life.

The conventional submarines in which I served were very similar in many ways to the later wartime boats, with the notable exception of not being on the receiving end of determined anti-submarine attacks with deadly weapons. Nuclear submarines are bigger, faster and deeper-diving but still surprisingly cramped, and their patrol endurance is ultimately limited by the amount of food carried and the stamina of the crew; there are striking examples of their wartime forebears enduring patrol lengths, in far greater discomfort, that rival or exceed those of modern nuclear boats. Regardless of the period or of the type of submarine, what does not seem to have changed much about submariners is their characters and personalities. The excerpts in this book are taken from a very broad cross-section of submariners, from those who are among the best-known and most successful commanding officers to those who were relatively unsung and best-known only to their shipmates but who were fundamental to the safe and successful operation of their submarines. What shines through, regardless of nationality, victor or vanquished, is their profes­sionalism, good humour, sheer competence often under the most demanding of circumstances, and above all their sense of belonging to this unique inter­national family.

The submarine community is a great club, into which no one can buy his way. Membership can only be earned, and once a submariner you are always a submariner. I derive great pride from being part of that club, and I believe that every other member, young or old, shares that sentiment. Jean Hood's book illustrates better than many why we are so proud of belonging to the subma­rine family. We never forget that we share a common heritage based on what our predecessors of all nationalities accomplished, and she brings that heritage vividly to life.

Finally, let no one forget the price that submariners paid for their achieve­ments in the Second World War; to give only a few examples, in their respec­tive submarine services the Royal Navy suffered 38% casualties (the equivalent figure for the whole of the RN was just under 8%, exceeded only by the 43% casualties of Bomber Command), the US Navy suffered 22%, and the German Navy a staggering 85%. The vast majority of those casualties were deaths, rather than losses as prisoners of war.

This book is testimony to their remarkable and courageous achievements, and I commend it to you.


Review

In his Foreword Rear Admiral DJ Cooke MBE (Rear Admiral Submarines) states, 'the submarine community is a great club into which no-one can buy his way.  Membership can only be earned and once a Submariner always a Submariner'.  Does having once dived in an 'S' Class submarine (1958) and been the Barge Coxswain to Flag Officer Submarines at HMS Dolphin (1964) qualify me? I doubt it, but it was still a privilege to know many of them. 

Being an anthology, regular readers of Naval non-fiction will recognise many of the well-known authors.  However, this volume dips very deeply and wide in its search for material, all of which blends together to make up a fine collection of memories.

There are stories from the better-known such as Lieutenant Commander Alastair C G Mars, DSO DSC* RN of HM Submarines Thule and Unbroken (Author of book 'Thule Intercepts' and others,) and Commander Edward Young DSO DSC RNV(S)R, but also from those we may not have heard of eg Stoker George Woodward of HMS Thule, who tells us that Alastair Mars was known to them as 'Mars Bars' or 'Marvellous', a good Skipper who said "Even I can make a mistake".  He also always picked up survivors. 

Mustering the crew of Unbroken the first time, Alastair Mars, left them in no doubt of what he expected of them.  "We have two jobs - to be successful and to survive. To achieve these I need every ounce of loyalty and strength you can give me. Remember that I am the arbiter of what is good for you, and my orders are to be obeyed implicitly you may expect work, work and more work. If any of you joined submarines to get away from discipline, you are in for shocks. You will learn more discipline me than you dreamed of - the proper sort of discipline - self-discipline ... One final thing. What was good enough in other submarines will not be enough here. Nothing is 'good enough' for me. I'm going to have the best and only the best - and you're going to give it to me ...' Later, when walking through the ship, I noticed that in every mess had been pinned up copies of a newspaper advertisement for Mars Bars. It said, as I remember: 'Nothing but the best is good enough for Mars.'"

There are stories of heroism and also moments which bring the reality of it all very close, such as 'there but the grace' where Jack Casemore explains how when HM Submarine Union did not return from patrol, he was given the task of breaking into their lockers at the Base and seeing all their personal belongings - letters, photographs, etc.  (HM Submarine Union, Lt R M Galloway RN 10th Flotilla, Malta. Reported sunk 25 miles SW of Pantelleria island in Strait of Sicily - by Italian torpedo boat Circe.  Attacking Italian convoy and presumed lost in counter-attack. Reported overdue on 22 July 1941. )

How did Submariners pass the time?  George Woodward tells us that he did embroidery. They made models and sang songs such as 'Underneath the Surface' to the tune of 'Underneath the Arches' - "Underneath the Surface we dream our dreams away".

I have selected items relating to the Royal Navy.  However the book covers, inter alia, USA, German, Dutch, Italian and French.  One young French Mid when reporting on board his first boat, all fully dressed was told, "You can stick your respects up your arse Mid, along with your equipment, your trunk, your sword and your white gloves.  You can keep one uniform.  Stuff your kit in that drawer and Harbour Stations is in twenty minutes". 

This is a book that one need not necessarily read all in one sitting since the chapters are so varied and cover different nationalities throughout the whole war.  

Rob Jerrard

References

HMS Dolphin

http://www.rjerrard.co.uk/royalnavy/dolphin/dolphin.htm

HM Submarine Splendid

http://www.rjerrard.co.uk/royalnavy/splendid/splendid.html

HMS Maidstone

http://www.rjerrard.co.uk/royalnavy/maid/maid.htm

HMS Thule Intercepts

http://www.rjerrard.co.uk/royalnavy/outofprint/outofprint.html



Ship Steward's Handbook

Edition: 2007

Authors: E C Plumb and J J  Traynor

ISBN: 9781844860566

Publishers: Conway

Price: £6.99

Publication Date: 10th Oct 2007

Publisher’s Title Information


This charming little handbook was first published in the 1950s as an aid for stewards entering the Merchant Navy. It contained notes on the necessary etiquette and skills required to serve passengers on the great ocean liners of the day, whether in first class or the emerging tourist class.

Packed with all sorts of fascinating facts, tips and hints and supported by diagrammatic drawings of table settings from breakfast to dinner, this will appeal not only to former ship stewards reminiscing on days gone by, but also to anyone who is part of the burgeoning cruise industry, where people can still enjoy this level of service. Cookery historians will also find much of interest in the menus of the time that are listed together with the handy glossary of French terms at the back of the book.

Finally, this is also the book for anyone who ever wondered how to get a drinking glass clean and smudge free: 'Glasses should be washed in warm water, rinsed in cold, dried with a linen cloth (linen does not leave fluff on the glass in the same way as cotton).' or correctly uncork and serve a bottle of champagne. Its nostalgic impact is further reinforced by the inclusion of the adverts that appeared in the first edition, from Sun-Pat peanuts to Old Charlie Rum.

The Authors

E C Plumb and J J  Traynor were teachers at the National Sea Training School at Gravesend. In their own words, 'The aims are that these notes will guide young stewards setting out on their careers afloat...'.


LINKS

"Royal Navy & Maritime Book Reviews" Copyright Rob Jerrard