Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard
Flower Class Corvettes
Flower Class Corvettes
"The Cruel Sea"
This is the
story-the long and true story-of one ocean, two ships. and about a hundred and
fifty men. It is a long story because it deals with a long, and brutal battle,
the worst of any war. It has two ships because one was sunk, and had to be
replaced. It has a hundred and fifty men because that is a manageable number of
people to tell a story about. Above all, it is a true story because that is the
only, kind worth telling.
First, the ocean,
the steep Atlantic stream. The map will tell you what that looks like:
three-cornered, three thousand miles across and a thousand fathoms deep,
bounded by the European coastline and half of Africa, and the vast American
continent on the other side: open at the top, like a champagne glass, and at
the bottom, like a municipal rubbish-dumper. What the map will not tell you is
the strength and fury of that ocean, its moods, its violence, its gentle balm
its treachery: what men can do with it, and what it can do with men. But this
story will tell you all that.
Then the ship, the
first of the two, the doomed one. At the moment she seems far from doomed: she
is new, untried, lying in a river that lacks the tang of salt water, waiting
for the men to man her. She is a corvette, a new type of escort ship, an
experiment designed to meet a desperate situation still over the horizon. She
is brand-new; the time is November 1939; her name is H.M.S. Compass Rose.
Lastly, the men,
the hundred and fifty men. They come on the stage in twos and threes: some are
early, some are late, some, like this pretty ship, are doomed. When they are
all assembled, they are a company of sailors. They have women, at least a
hundred and fifty women. loving them, or tied to them, or glad to see the last
of them as they go, to war.
But these men are the stars of this story. The only heroines are the
ships: and the only villain the cruel sea itself.
AS TO THE NAME - "It was a dislike, a doubt, compounded of a lot
of things which ordinarily he would have taken in his stride, if indeed he had
noticed them at all. Certainly it had nothing to do with the ship's name: one
could not spend twenty years at sea, first in the Royal Navy and then in the
Merchant Service, without coming across some of the most singular names in the
world. (The clumsiest he remembered had been a French tramp called the
Marie-Josephe-Brinomar de la Tour-du-Pin; and the oddest, an East-Coast collier
called Jolly Nights.) Compass Rose was nothing out of the ordinary; it had to
be a flower name because she was one of the new Flower Class corvettes, and
(Ericson smiled to himself) by the time they got down to Pansy and Stinkwort
and Love-in-the -Mist, no one would think anything of Compass Rose."
The Flower class
corvettes were in the thick of the Battle of the Atlantic from beginning to
end, with 33 being lost. They were amongst the first vessels the Royal Navy
sold off and scrapped. Only one example now remains HMCS Sackville (K181,
launched 15.5.41, built at St.John) has been restored and preserved in Canada.
Can you supply any
Photographs of Flower Class Corvettes? These and any of the other Escorts would
be welcome, EG River and Loch Class Frigates. If you served on a Flower Class
Corvette I would like to know your story, please contact me.
Photographs I have
submitted by David Howells