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

Conway Maritime Press, Anova Books Reviewed in 2010

Warship 2010
Edition: 2010
Format: Hardback
Authors: John Jordan, assisted by Stephen Dent
ISBN: 978 1 84486-110-1
Publishers: Conway Maritime ( Anova Books )
Price: £30
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher's Title Information

Warship is devoted to the design, development and service history of the
world's combat ships. The contributors are respected authorities, so detailed
and accurate information is the keynote of all the articles, which are fully supported
by plans, tables and photographs.

Volume XXXII includes:

Suffren was the last of a series of French battleships based on the Charlemagne class of 1894. Philippe Caresse gives an account of the design of the ship, her extensive service, which included a major role in the Dardanelles campaign, and her loss to a single torpedo fired by a German U-Boat.
Developed from the mid-1800s, floating docks were to become an essential supplement to fixed repair and maintenance facilities for navies which needed to project their power and influence into distant waters. In this article Ian Buxton traces the history of the floating docks built for the Royal Navy.
David Murfin looks at the early sketch designs for the Fiji class, which reflect the Royal Navy's dilemma in deciding between a cruiser with a general-purpose armament and one with a primary fleet air defence mission.
Joffre and her sister Painleve were to be a key element in the new battle fleet projected for the French Marine Nationale during the 1930s. Using material which has only recently come to light as part of the Fonds Potsdam, John Jordan looks at the role they were intended to perform and the difficulties experienced in bringing the concept to fruition.
The British raid on Taranto was one of the focal points of the war in the Mediterranean. Enrico Cernuschi and Vincent P. O'Hara look at the events leading to the raid and the consequences for both the Italian and the British fleets.
CANCELLED SISTERS: THE MODIFIED HOOD CLASS The three projected sister ships of the battlecruiser Hood were to have incorporated a number of modifications. Ian Sturton has re-examined the documentation in the National Maritime Museum and has produced profiles of one of the modified ships.
The Battle of Midway had a huge impact on the IJN's future planning, and in particular on its building programmes. Hans Lengerer looks at the Aircraft Carrier Reinforcement Programme of 30.June 1942, using the carrier Katstiragi to illustrate the design changes necessitated by the IJN's early war experience.
One of the most hotly debated issues in retrospective analysis of the Battle of Jutland is whether or not Jellicoe chose to deploy the Grand Fleet in the correct manner. In this article Stephen McLaughlin takes a detailed look at deployment as a tactic, Jellicoe's use of it, and the alternatives put forward by his critics.
In the first part of his new series of articles for Warship, Conrad Waters looks at the new generation of air defence escorts under construction and in service with the major European navies.
In the first of a series of articles for Warship on French fire control, John Spencer traces the development of fire control techniques and devices from the Napoleonic era to the turn of the century.
TWO ILL-FATED FRENCH-BUILT JAPANESE WARSHIPS As part of what would now be termed a 'dual-sourcing' policy, the cruiser Unebi and the torpedo gunboat Chishima were ordered from French shipyards. Kathrin Milanovich looks at the technical problems which plagued these ships from the outset and contributed to their early loss.
Short articles on interesting aspects of worldwide warship history, heritage and research, including: the loss of the French battleship Danton, the last days of the IJN battleship-carrier Hyuga, and a 1960s Proposal for an Icebreaker for the Royal Navy. A Vickers cruiser design for Brazil and a John Brown proposal for Chinese coast defence ships are also featured.
Reviews of some of the latest publications on naval history.
Using unpublished photographs from his late father's collection, Mike Williams tells the story of a little known collision between destroyers of the British Mediterranean Fleet off Malta in February 1937.

Carrier - A Century of First-Hand Accounts of Naval Operations in War and Peace
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Edited by Jean Hood
ISBN: 978 1844861118
Publishers: Conway Maritime ( Anova Books )
Price: £20
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher's Title Information

A century of vivid eye-witness accounts by aircraft carrier crews and their embarked naval air squadrons taken from interviews, correspondence, archived memoirs, published autobiographies and official reports.
Fully international in scope, with accounts by British, American, Australian, Indian, Italian and French personnel
Encompasses conflicts from the First World War to the Second Gulf War, peacetime activities, life on board and humanitarian missions including Haiti 2010.
Includes first-hand experience of changing technology, from arrested landing to angled decks and dipping sonar.
One hundred years have passed since the first flight from a warship, an appropriate moment at which to mark the audacity, courage, vision and determination of the men, and more recently women, who have crewed aircraft carriers or flown from their decks. Using her contacts with serving and veteran personnel from several navies, extracts from archived memoirs, official reports and published material, Jean Hood covers the full range of carrier experience. Told by all ranks, from stokers and admirals to air fitters and pilots, the storiesrange from dramatic accounts of combat, accidents and rescues to humanitarian missions and amusing anecdotes of life on board in war and peace -all put into context by the editor.
famous novelist's diaryfor Christmas 1914 recalls the first attempt at a bombing raid by naval aircraft; an inter-war staff officer watches in dismay as his admiral is catapulted - upside down. The Taranto raid is told through the eyes of the Fleet Air Arm pilots who flew it and the fitter who waited for their return. A radio operator relives the day when vulnerable US escort carriers confronted the Japanese Navy at Leyte Gulf, and the opening strikes of the First Gulf War come vividly to life through the words of two pilots and a flight deck co-ordinator aboard USS Saratoga. A stoker tells how he abandoned the sinking HMS Eagle, an Australian pilot looks back on his dramatic rescue after being shot down over Korea and a US bombardier navigator relates the incredible tale of how he survived a partial ejection. An Italian helicopter pilot and his team describe the night-time MEDEVAC of a mother and baby from the ship trafficking them to Europe.
With its focus on the humanaspects of carrier life and naval aviation, this wide-ranging anthology will appeal to veterans, serving personnel, historians and general readers.

The Author

Jean Hood grew up in Essex, read English at the University of Durham and spent some years as Information Officer for Lloyd's Register of Shipping where she provided information on modern and historical merchant ships to the international maritime community and enthusiasts. She lives in Cheshire with her husband and son and enjoys walking, opera and giving talks. Carrier is her fourth naval/maritime book for Conway; her previous book, Submarine, chronicled the experiences of Second World War submariners from thirteen navies.


The aircraft carrier is truly amazing. Even now at the end of cruise, through the rain beating on the canopy, watching different colored wands and shadows of men scurrying in and out of the darkness, 1 am amazed at the concept of the carrier, and the fact that it works. And it doesn't just work, it kicks butt - Lieutenant Barry 'Skull' W Hull, VFA-81 Squadron (The Sunliners), USS Saratoga, 1991, from a letter to his family.

2010 marks the centenary of the first flight from a warship. As early as World War I, the aircraft carrier served notice that naval warfare was about to undergo a fundamental change. Since then, huge advances have been made in warship design, aviation and weapons technology to produce today's fast, elegant, functional and supremely effective fighting units. Ultimately, however, the success of a carrier depends at least as much upon the calibre of the crew and the embarked squadrons as upon the hardware and software systems. This book, therefore, is the story of the carriers told through the memories of those who served on them in both war and peace, from stokers to admirals, from pilots to engineers, from air fitters to radio operators. The eyewitness contributions are drawn from several countries, and between them they cover all types of carriers, from today's nuclear powered titans with their supersonic fighters and sophisticated ASW helicopters to the MAC ships of World War II and the seaplane-carrying converted ferries of World War I.

There are very few theatres of war in which the carrier has not played a major part, from the Arctic to the South Atlantic; from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Carrier aircrew have sunk submarines, defended fleets, covered amphibious landings, carried out reconnaissance, attacked not just coastal targets but strategic facilities far beyond the reach of land-based aircraft or battleship guns, provided Airborne Early Warning, gathered intelligence, evacuated casualties, transported troops and equipment, offered humanitarian assistance, torpedoed capital ships and rescued downed aircrew. In addition, the ships themselves have carried commandos, evacuated citizens, brought supplies, landed and resupplied agents and flown the flag around the world. They are arguably the most versatile warship that has ever existed.

Contributors describe all the above experiences and explain how they adapted to innovations such as the introduction of new aircraft or the mirror landing system. They recall the vices and virtues of aircraft as varied as the simple Fairey Swordfish, the carrier-friendly Hellcat, the much-loved Douglas Skyraider and the revolutionary Sea Harrier. They talk, too, about their lives: the conditions on board, aspects of their job, places they visited and how they spent what little leisure they enjoyed aboard their floating airstrip. And they describe in often painful detail the carnage caused by fires or bombs that exploded in the hanger, the sadness of losing friends and the drama of abandoning ship or ditching.

The opening chapter offers a swift 'welcome' to the world of carriers and naval aviation, and thereafter the book runs chronologically through the carrier century with occasional pauses to reflect on life aboard. (It should be noted that contributions by serving personnel have been subject to official approval.) Each chapter begins with a brief introduction to place the accounts that follow in context; it is not intended to be a full account of naval operations nor of carrier and aircraft design. Many books have been written on both subjects. This book, however, is a tribute to the men, and more recently the women, of several nations who have served on carriers and often given their lives in the service of their country.


Part One is entitled, 'Ships, but not as we knew them'. I suppose that would be a good way to describe an Aircraft Carrier because much of the time you do not see the sky or even the sea because, the great majority of the crew are only allowed on the flight deck in harbour or at anchor.
This book is a collection of memories and was made possible because the author spent two years obtaining contributions and she was assisted by many Naval associations and serving personnel.

The entries begin 1918 and end in 2010 with the Haiti earthquake and USS Carl Vinson.
This is an excellent collection of facts and memories, but the bad news is as I write ( Oct 2010) we are told there is a possibility that the Royal Navy could lose its Flagship HMS Arc Royal and the two new carriers may be delayed. Let's hope it doesn't happen, so that one day future carrier crews can also tell their stories.

There are stories of horror, but also some amusing tales to tell, such as the time when all the rum barrels in HMS Vindex were burst open and 'all hands' , (to the surprise of the Officer of the watch) turned out to assist in cleaning up.

There is a good Bibliography and comprehensive Index with forty-four black and white photographs.

Rob Jerrard

Empire of the Seas
Edition: 1st
Format: HB Cloth Bound with Jacket
Illustration note:250 paintings, artworks and photographs, many in colour
Author: Brian Lavery
ISBN: 9-781-8448-6109-5
Publishers: Conway Maritime Anova Books
Price: £20
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher's Title Information

The year 1588 marked a turning point in our national story. Victory over the Armada transformed us into a seafaring nation and it sparked a myth that one day would become a reality - that the nation's new destiny, the source of her future wealth and power lay out on the oceans.
This book tells the story of how the navy expanded from a tiny force to become the most complex industrial enterprise on earth; how the need to organise it laid the foundations of our civil service and our economy; and how it transformed our culture, our sense of national identity and our democracy.
Exploring deeper into the themes raised by the television series, Brian Lavery documents the progress of the Royal Navy from late Tudor times to the First World War. He discusses its relationship with the state and the British people, analyses the tactics and initiative that created dramatic victories, and the failures and incompetence that lead to disaster.
Rising through the administrative brilliance of Pepys, Anson and Lord Sandwich and the inspirational leadership of Blake, Hawke and Nelson, the Royal Navy became the most powerful force in the world. But the conviction of Britain's navy as undisputed ruler of the waves encouraged a sterility in strategic thinking and complacency during the 'long peace' of the nineteenth 'century leading to the bruising experience of the Battle of Jutland.

The Author
Brian Lavery is a Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and a renowned expert on the sailing navy. In 2007 he won the prestigious Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award. His naval writing was further honoured in 2008 with the Society of Nautical Research's Anderson Medal. His book, Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation 1793-1815, has become the classic work on the subject and was used as a technical reference by Peter Weir and his crew during the filming of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Other recent titles by him include: We Shall Fight on the Beaches (2009); In Which They Served (2008) and Churchill Goes to War (2007). Brian Lavery was Series Consultant on the BBC series.

This book spans from defeating the Armada to the Battle of Jutland and is accompanied by very many photographs and illustrations. One photograph catches the eye immediately, this is the sixth-rate replica ship Grand Turk, used for filming the Hornblower television series. She is shown passing between HMS Lancaster and RFA Wave Ruler - what a contrast!

As is pointed out in Chapter One the Royal Navy had no definite date of foundation, who can say when our Navy really began? Over the centuries there have been many sea-changes as we move from Sail to Steam. This was emphasised when as a publicity stunt in April 1845 the screw ship Rattler towed the Paddle Steamer Alectro in a contest of strength.

Although our gunnery was suburb at Trafalgar, it really took modern shape when in 1830 Commander George Smith took charge of HMS Excellent an old 74 that had fought at St Vincent. For more details see 'Whaley the story of HMS Excellent 1830 to 1980', by Captain John G Wells CBE DSC Royal Navy. HMSO 1980.

This excellent book records it all, onward to HMS Warrior Britain's first and last battleship which was launched in 1860 and first arrived off Portsmouth on Friday 20 September 1851. What a sight she must have been. I cannot claim a relative from Trafalgar, but one of my family served in Warrior in 1875.

The book ends with Jutland and the birth of Naval aviation and a brief mention of the 1922 Washington Treaty - a bitter pill for many including Admiral of the Fleet (as he became) Lord Chatfield who says in his autobiography 'The Navy and Defence', William Heinemann Limited, 1942 “the Navy felt it could have done worse”. There then followed a 17 year struggle by the Admiralty until 1939.

An excellent book which covers a long period. Of course if you want detail on specific points you should look elsewhere, but as a general book the photographs and facts are well presented.

Rob Jerrard

This book was commissioned by the BBC to accompany the 2009 Television series presented by Dan Snow. The author, Brian Lavery, is a Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and a renowned expert on the sailing navy who has drawn fully on the resources of the Museum for the splendid illustrations. He was a consultant for the BBC series for which the book was designed to provide supplementary details in-depth. The book, however, stands in its own right as a masterly concise history of the nation's navy, Royal since the reign of Charles II, and abundantly illustrated.
The reader is taken from the sea battle of the Armada to that of Jutland, from a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I to a photograph of King George V at Scapa Flow. There are four equal sections and each in addition to the narrative carries invaluable concentrated insets. The first, Hearts of Oak, (the book's title and those of the sections are taken from the TV series) covers the period from Cabot to the Dutch Wars, with informative insets of Sir Francis Drake, Cabot's Caravel, Matthew, built as a replica, Naval Gunnery (which hardly changed between 1620 and 1850), and Samuel Pepys.

The second section, The Golden Ocean, covering the wars with France and Spain, has insets of Sailors' Rations, Wooden shipbuilding, Admirals Edward Vernon and George Anson, and Captain James Cook. The third, High Tide, with Trafalgar has Sheathing and Coppering, Horatio Viscount Nelson and the Techniques of Sailing.

Sea Change carries the reader to the dramatic consequences of the arrival of the steam engine and the ironclad, and the arms race with Germany with insets of the Steam Engine, Iron and Steel Shipbuilding, John Fisher, Baron of Kilverston and Naval Aviation.

For more than two centuries before Trafalgar the countries of Western Europe fought for control of the oceanic trade routes and their overseas possessions in the West Indies and North America. The navies of Britain, the Netherlands, France and Spain were in almost continuous conflict. These actions are described vividly in words and pictures. The main narrative follows the ships in action giving details of the sea battles, our defeats as well as successes. There were Admirals that stuck to the rule book and failed, and those like Anson and Nelson who broke the line and had glorious success. These accounts are enlivened by extensive quotations from observers
Captain John Smith describes an attack, (c1600) 'Edge in with him again begin with your bow pieces, proceed with your broadside, & let her fall off with the wind to give her your full chase pieces, your weather broad side and bring her round that the sterne may also discharge'
An officer describes the shambles on Victory's deck at Trafalgar, a seaman describes Navarino, (the last major sea battle by sailing ships) from the 78 gun Genoa.

We have the human problem. How do you operate a fighting ship with a large number of men packed into a small space, captain, officers and crew? Was the commander to be a political appointment or a 'tarpaulin' who knew the sea? Were the crew to be forcibly recruited by the pressgang or attracted by a bounty? The author suggests that the novelist's fascination by the cat o' nine tails as the main restraint on board has led to exaggeration, but undoubtedly overuse of punishments and brutal captains led to mutinies and sometimes to reform. Officers, too, could be harshly treated. Admiral Byng was sentenced to be shot ,charged, unfairly, under revised Articles of War with failing to do his utmost against the enemy. A spur that is said to haunt every naval officer to this day.

There is an illustration or more than one on almost every page, and it is difficult to find a category that is not represented. They are well placed adjacent to the relevant text and the captions give additional information such as the names of ships involved.
They include the portraits of Monarchs and Admirals, plans and charts of naval actions, early drawings, designs and models of ships, cartoons, medallions, and posters, (an advertisement for the auction sale of battleships!). They draw on the reconstructions of the Matthew and the Golden Hind and the restoration of the Victory and the Warrior. There are the words and music for Rule Britannia.

Most striking is the work of the marine artist. There can be few more attractive and dramatic scenes than those of a sea battle between sailing ships. A handsome double page picture shows the Dutch fleet stealing the British flagship, the Royal George, and another of Quiberon Bay. The rich English tradition begins with paintings by Charles Brooking, Peter Monamy, Samuel Scott and Dominic Serres; there is George Arnauld's scene of the French L'Orient exploding in Aboukir Bay, and the British Diamond Battery at Sevastopol in the Crimean war depicted by the first official war artist, William Simpson .

Another double spread is the very detailed scene on the H.M.S. Victory when Nelson is shot, painted by Denis Dighton. The last, perhaps a fitting irony, is a fanciful drawing of suggested physical exercises for the crew of a twentieth century battleship. While no man could be fitter manning and fighting a sailing ship, his successor was shut unhealthily in an iron box.

We should be grateful to the BBC for commissioning such a well-produced book. The range of acknowledgements in the preface shows the care taken to be accurate. It is a satisfying and informative read for both the layman and the learned, as you would expect from such a knowledgeable author.

Robin Crole, August, 2010

Struggle for the Middle Sea
Edition: 1st
32 photographs and maps
Format: Hardback
Author: Vincent O'Hara
ISBN: 9-781-8448-6102-6
Publishers: Conway Anova Books
Price: £20
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher's Title Information

A detailed and lucid analysis of the war in the Mediterranean, extensively researched from Italian and US as well as British, French and German sources
Reaches provocative but well-founded conclusions, re-examining the evidence to sidestep many of the myths that surround this campaign
A comprehensive and focused overview of all major actions and engagements in the Mediterranean right up to 1945

The Mediterranean Sea was the most fiercely contested body of water throughout the Second World war. Its strategic importance was at the centre of Naval and wider military thinking on the part of both Allied and Axis powers, and its waters witnessed a huge variety of actions and operations. These included carrier strikes, battle-line shootouts, cruiser-destroyer engagements, convoy attacks, coastal actions, amphibious assaults and bitter submarine campaigns. Despite such immense significance, however, most recent literature concerned directly with the Mediterranean war has been sparse and incomplete.
This book is a fresh study of the conflict, analysing the respective actions and performances of each of the five major naval powers involved in the Mediterranean - Britain, Italy, France, the USA and Germany. This takes place within the broader framework of a chronological, operational narrative of the entire five year campaign and further, examines without partisanship, the national imperatives that dictated much of the action. As a result, many of the popular myths that surround the modern view of the Mediterranean naval war are dispelled - for example, that Britain enjoyed a moral advantage over Italian forces, that the French were merely puppets of the German command, and that the North African campaign contributed to the eventual Allied victory. While the book concentrates on the key 1940-43 period, it also expands in scope to document the Kriegsmarine's improvised but remarkably successful fighting withdrawal at sea until 1945, an aspect of the later stages of conflict which has widely been ignored.
Such fresh viewpoints, depth of detail and wider perspectives - not to mention some controversial (though well-substantiated) conclusions - are supported by extensive research drawn from Italian and French as well as British, US and German sources. It will appeal to Naval professionals and historians as well as attracting a popular readership, and contains numerous lessons concerning littoral warfare and use of the sea that have particular resonance today.

The Author
Vincent P. O' Hara is a naval historian and the author of The German Fleet At War2004) and The US Navy Against the Axis2007). His work has also appeared extensively in periodicals and annuals including MHQ, World War II Quarterly, Storia Militaire and Conway's own Warship. He holds a history degree from the University of California, Berkeley

Praise For The Book
`Many previous histories of the war in the Mediterranean have been coloured by an implicit acceptance of a well-established mythology. Vince O'Hara brings a fresh approach to the conflict in this theatre by exploring the strategic objectives and the performance of the major combatants in a balanced way. His extension of the account to include the French and the Americans is to be commended.' John Jordan, Editor, Warship
`O'Hara steamrolls the chauvinism and "common knowledge" that have obscured what actually happened in the Mediterranean, and gives his readers what they have come to expect - both sides of a gritty story.' Richard Worth, Author Of Fleets Of World War II

We Shall Fight On The Beaches - Defying Napolean & Hitler, 1805 and 1940
Edition: 1st
Author: Brian Lavery
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9-781-8448-6101-9
Publishers: Conway - Anova Books
Price: £20
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher's Title Information

`The alarm of invasion is now more active than ever... and the whole island is in a state of vigilance, activity and solicitude.' BENJAMIN SILLIMAN, 1805
As England, in spite of the hopelessness of her military position, has so far shown herself unwilling to come to any compromise, I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary carry out, an invasion of England.' ADOLF HITLER, JULY 1940
I refuse to believe that an enemy could ever get near enough to the Metropolis when the whole of England was up in arms; when patriotism was firing one of the bravest nations in Europe; and when that nation was fighting for all it held most dear and most sacred.' GENERAL DUMOURIEZ, 1804
`Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war ... Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour".' WINSTON CHURCHILL, JUNE 1940
…we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender' Churchill made this defiant statement in his speech to the Commons on 4 June 1940 shortly after the BEF's rapid evacuation from Dunkirk. All that now stood between Hitler and Britain was a short stretch of water. The French on this particular occasion were Britain's allies, but just over a hundred years previously it had been their leader who had eyed Britain from across the Channel. Britain's proximity to the continent had always made it beguiling to prospective invaders. As well as the kudos of taking out a formidable opponent, Britain's fall would be accompanied by the gain of her overseas colonies and wealth, and, in Churchill's words again: 'it is that chance which has excited and befooled the imaginations of many Continental tyrants.' Brian Lavery, an established authority on the Napoleonic Wars and Second World War, articulates the parallels and defining features of these tumultuous periods in our history. He looks at the style and competence of politicians and military commanders, the leadership and example of great men such as Nelson and Churchill, examines unexplored official papers and looks at the war situation as seen by great literary figures such as Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh, as well as the thoughts and concerns of volunteers and servicemen and women. It provides a unique insight into two distinct periods during which the British national identity was forged and strengthened.

The Author
Brian Lavery
Brain Lavery is one of Britain's leading naval historians and a prolific author. He was, until recently, Curator of Naval History at The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and is a renowned expert on the sailing navy.


Knowing my parents and Grandparents as I did, as well as the great many people I have known of those generations, there is no doubt whatsoever that we would have fought them on the beaches had it not been for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in 1940. Doubtless reading the thoughts and words of Viscount Horatio Nelson the same can be said of 1805.

This book covers just about every aspect of a possible invasion, Chapters include 'The Navy in 1940', 'Naval Operations Against Invasion' and 'Army and Navy Co-operation'. In addition it covers the earlier period of an invasion by Napoleon.

One aspect discussed will be of particular interest to ex Boy Seamen trained at St Vincent and Ganges.

'The British army of the day was a collection of regiments, but the navy was a collection of specialists seamen, navigators, gunners, engineers, torpedomen, signallers, domestic and administrative staff, medical men, marines and many others. The seaman ratings were recruited young, at around fifteen, to go through a very strict training programme in shore establishments that still retained their original ship names. Tristan Jones joined one of the last boys' courses in the spring of 1940, and saw much of the pre-war system: Since I left Ganges I have been in many hellish places, including a couple of French Foreign Legion barracks and fifteen prisons in twelve countries. None of them were nearly as menacing as HMS Ganges as a brain-twisting, body-racking ground of mental bullying and physical strain ..

Not everyone was happy with the early recruitment age, and a wartime Petty Officer wrote: Is our public aware that its young sailors are kidnapped into its senior service at the tender age of 15, and, to ensure that the sentence is binding, they have to sign or have signed for them a document stating that for 12 years, from the age of 18, their souls belong to the Admiralty. Imagine. 15 years signed away by children unaware of life's meaning." The seamen wore the 'square rig' uniform that had evolved in the nineteenth century, with bell-bottom trousers, a square collar and a round cap that was very uncomfortable if worn straight on the head as regulations demanded. It was very popular with the public, as Jones was told by an army veteran on the way to Ganges. 'Well, matey, at least you'll be all right where crumpet's concerned.They go for the navy blokes a lot more than the army, see? Can't go wrong in your little old navy-blue suit, Can you?

All the nice girls love a sailor.

Even in 1956 the Royal Navy was still taking its boy seaman at 15 to sign on for 12 years, for many this was still, 12 years signed away by children unaware of life's meaning. What isn't said is the hundreds, indeed thousands who died at sea aged 16 in both wars and even at the beginning of the Korean War 16 year old boys were still serving on HM Ships.
Was invasion in 1940 (after The Battle of Britain) ever realistic? It seems entirely unlikely that it would have succeeded because of various practicalities some of which are discussed in this book and elsewhere.

Rob Jerrard


"Royal Navy & Maritime Book Reviews" Copyright Rob Jerrard 2010