"Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews" - Provided by Rob Jerrard

The History Press, Books reviewed in 2009
Dog Boats at War: Royal Navy D Class MTBs and MGBs 1939-1945
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Leonard Reynolds
ISBN: 978-0752450452
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £16.99
Publication Date: 29th May 2009
Publisher's Title Information


The incredible story of these ingenious boats that played havoc with enemy shipping during the Second World War.
Built of plywood and measuring 115 feet long, powered by four supercharged petrol engines and armed to the teeth with heavy weapons, the 'D' Class Motor Gun Boats (MGBs) and Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) were better known as Dog Boats and played havoc with enemy shipping in home and foreign waters. During three years of war they engaged the enemy on more than 350 occasions, sinking and damaging many ships. Dog Boats at War is the authoritative account of operations by the Royal Navy's 'D' Class MGBs and MTBs in the Second World War in Home, Mediterranean and Norwegian waters. As well as drawing on official records - both British and German - the author has contacted several hundred Dog Boat veterans whose eye witness accounts add drama to the unfolding story.


Introduction

It is rare that a new concept in ship construction, even in war, can be developed and brought into being so quickly that it makes a significant contribution operationally. But that is the truth behind the story of the Fairmile 'D' class motor torpedo boats and motor gunboats, often known as 'Dog Boats'.
 
They were initially conceived in 1941 with the specific purpose of combating the highly regarded E-boats, which had highspeed diesel engines giving a top speed of over 40 knots.
 
Strangely, although the schnellboote were known in the German Navy as S-boats, they were always called E-boats in Allied circles - the 'E' standing rather quaintly for 'enemy'.
 
The Dog Boats began to emerge from the boat yards of Britain in the spring of 1942. By the end of the war, they were regarded as the most heavily armed motor boats in the navies of the world: powerful, capable of long-range operations and of sustained independence. There were 228 of them built and they operated in home waters, off Norway and in the Mediterranean with equal success.
 
Their crews displayed - and still reveal - a strong bond of loyalty for their boats and shipmates. Perhaps this bond was due in large part to the closeness with which the three officers and thirty men lived, crammed into a 115-ft plywood hull alongside four massive supercharged engines and thousands of gallons of 100 octane petrol. There was no segregation here; the officers and crew lived within feet of each other and shared the same food. They were also all young, the CO and the coxswain often the only men on board aged more than twenty-five.
 
The Dog Boats fought in over 300 actions, and sank and damaged innumerable enemy ships. Thirty-seven of them were lost, mostly in battle or destroyed by mines as they ventured through the minefields to launch close attacks on the enemy's coasts.

These, then, were the vessels and the men in this story of human endeavour during war. It tells of countless acts of selfless devotion to the high standards of the naval service, by men and boys who served the Royal Navy and their country when called to war from their offices and factories, and even from their schools.

It is dedicated to the 273 officers and men who gave their lives in the Dog Boats.

Review

This unique history, which is the result of many years research, covers mostly the 'D' Class Fairmile MTB/MGB “Dog Boats” in very precise detail. However, it firstly gives the full historical background as to how these boats developed and touches upon the development and careers of other classes of fast patrol boats including 'C' Class and Steam Gunboats, better described as 'Mini Destroyers'. Sir Peter Scott (Lieutenant PM Scott MBE) commanded the flotilla of seven in 1943 and these were eventually given names of the Grey Class. Scott's boat was Grey Goose (ex SGB 9), still in commission in 1956 per 'ABC British Warships', Ian Allan, 1956 HM Le Fleming. In fact she is still owned privately. In 1956 I recall whilst serving in HMS St Vincent (Gosport) one of the Grey Class moored up the creek near the Seamanship Block, but I have yet to identify which one.
 
We are told that the 'D' Boats were not much to look at, one CO is reported as saying, 'is that a boat or the box it came in?'
 
These boats were mostly skippered by RNVR Officers in their mid-twenties with a First Lieutenant, usually one that came up through the hawsepipe, with a Third Officer, often a Middy or Sub called the Pilot. The crews were a PO Coxswain, a Leading Seaman and some Ordinary Seamen along with a Sparks, Radar Operator and Engine Room Staff. Apparently no Cook, but then all good Seamen can cook, ask my wife.
 
This book is full of action from all parts of the world.
 
When did the end come for these gallant little boats. On Page 254 is a photograph, which bears the caption, 'MTB 5020 the last Dog Boat in Commission, August 1956 (courtesy Art Webster)'. In my copy of 'ABC of British Warships', Supra, it lists fast patrol boats. It lists FPB 5001-36. Nine boats ex-MTB Fairmile 'D' Class. Presumably in 1956 nine modified (now converted) 'D' Class were around and the fourth edition, 1958 of Fleming's book still lists five Fairmile 'D' Class as above, modified but converted. It also provides a photograph of FPB 5035 (P5035) but I cannot find it in the listings. Listed are P1601 and 5514. By the 1962 edition they have all gone, replaced by Bold, Gay, Dark and Brave classes. Anyway the 1956 book lists in total 26 fast patrol boats (FPB). 9 are 'D' class.
 
Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947 - 1995 lists as still existing in 1958, 'D' class 5001, 5035, 5036, and modified 'D' 5015 and 5020. It states they were all taken out of service in 1958.
 
This is a book worthy of a place in any maritime library and the author is to be congratulated on his research.
 
Rob Jerrard


The New Forest at War
Edition: 2009 (1st Published in 2004 by Sutton Publshing)
Format: Paperback
Author: John Leete
ISBN: 978-0752451930
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £14.99
Publication Date: 2009
 
Publisher's Title Information
 

The New Forest at War documents aspects of the social and military history of this unique area of Britain during the years of the Second World War. The area was on the front line of the massive build-up and launch of D-Day in June 1944. Although many parts of Britain contributed to the final assault, it was this part of Hampshire that was used as the primary assembly and departure point. There were over 100,000 troops under canvas and thousands of military vehicles parked in the quiet country lanes throughout the area. There were also many thousands of ships off the Forest coastline in the waters of the Solent. This book has been meticulously researched. It is well illustrated with photographs, maps and documents, and contains many first-hand accounts of life in the New Forest during the war. The reminiscences featured here come from military personnel as well as civilians, and provide us with a fascinating snapshot of life at this critical time. It will be of great interest to everyone who lives and works in the Forest, to visitors and all those with an interest in Britain's wartime heritage.
 

Foreword
 
By Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
 
Reminiscing can be an indulgence and a pleasure. Equally, it can bring back regrets and sadness. For the historian, other people's memories are history but, unfortunately, memories fade and the historian has the duty to record our memories for the benefit of future generations. That is why this book is so important and we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Leete for masterminding the publication. As one of those who was born and brought up between the wars, we heard the older generation's memories of the First World War, 'the war that was to end all wars'. Little did we know in the short period of twenty-one years the Second World War would break out and that we would experience its impact in so many ways. I must admit that as a boy of fourteen I looked on the outbreak of hostilities with excitement, as I imagined British Spitfires shooting down German Messerschmitts and spent much of my spare time making model planes. As time passed, though, I gradually became aware of the horrors of war. However much we were cheered by the victories of the allies there were dark days. Friends and relations were killed and the future was uncertain.
 
There were few areas in Britain which were not affected by the war, but London and the south were particularly involved. The geographic position of the New Forest made it a very special place. First of all it played a vital part in defending the south coast from the anticipated invasion by the Nazis from over the Channel. Later on, of course, it became the spearhead for D-Day, which from 1943 saw an ever-growing concentration of troops and naval personnel billeted in the forest. Roads were widened for the tanks. anti-submarine barriers built into the Solent and the Beaulieu river packed full of motor torpedo boats and landing craft, and not forgetting the aerodromes: initially Coastal Command Liberators used Beaulieu Aerodrome and later of course came the American and RAF fighter bombers. Today, everywhere one can find relics of the war, old pillboxes, disused runways, redundant jetties and the dock on the Beaulieu river where parts of the Mulberry Harbour were built.
 
This book is a tribute to those who were involved in, or witnessed, the New Forest at War, We must never forget that many brave men and women left the New Forest never to return.

Although I was only a teenager at the start of the war, I feel very privileged to be sharing my memories with others who lived in the Forest during this period. The personal memories recorded in this book will act as a permanent reminder to the younger generation of the Forest in the Second World War.


Review

The impact of the Second World War had a dramatic effect upon the citizens of the New Forest as this fascinating book explains, with a Foreword by Lord Montague of Beaulieu, who was fourteen when war broke out. There is also an Introduction by Julian Lewis MP, which sets the scene succinctly.
 
I was familiar with the New Forest throughout my teens and as a child just after WWII I visited a Great Aunt at Thornhill, Eastleigh, Hampshire, which wasn't that far from the New Forest, which stretches from Christchurch to Waterside. In fact I was born there, my birth Certificate says “County of Southampton” not “Hampshire as it now would. American troops were camped in the woods behind the house and my collection of USA stamps were made up from those obtained by my cousin John who as an older boy got them from the “Yanks”.
 
These are personal memories of those who worked in and around the New Forest, people such as Richard Taylor, who as a child holidayed there, Jimmy Charlton, who watched the arrival of American troops in Brockenhurst and Ron Walsh, who hailed from Lymington and joined the Royal Navy in 1936. Ron tells his full story in 'In the Company of Heroes', Matador 2004 ISBN 1904744478. See http://www.rjerrard.co.uk/royalnavy/matador/matador.html#heroes
I can highly recommend this excellent account of Ron's service to the Crown. Then there was Dennis Carter who has spent his life working in the Forest. He helped to build an airfield for Spitfires and Hurricanes. More involved in the actual action was Nick Berryman who flew Spitfires from the airfield that Denis helped to build - RAF Ibsley.
 
Others have written about this area and time, eg 'Requiem for a Wren' by Nevil Shute, William Heinemann, 1955, which contains elements of the truth. Much of it is based on events around Beaulieu, the story of a Leading Wren and a Royal Marine Sergeant.
 
This then is the story of the people and much more. Their story, their New Forest just as it was for the old and young, service or civilians all at war. The photographs are stunning and the book is packed with them. I counted ninety-nine high-quality black and white photographs and diagrams, which make it well worth the money. There are two particular interesting diagrams, viz, a Ration Book and a National Identity Card. I still have my Grandmother's Ration Book and my Mother's National Identity Card, and we to were Hampshire people, or should I say, “We be Hampshire People”.
 
Rob Jerrard


Home of the Fleet: A Century of Portsmouth Royal Dockyard in Photographs
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Authors: Stephen Courtney & Brian Patterson
ISBN: 978-0752449425
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £14.99
Publication Date: 10th March 2009
 
Publisher's Title Information
 

A celebration of one of Britain's most important maritime bases

During the past century, the Royal Navy and its support services at Portsmouth dockyard have experienced a pace of change not seen since the fifteenth century. This book examines the impact of that change on the ships, buildings and personnel of the naval base. The dockyard has evolved continually as a support service, reinventing itself in response to changing social, economic and political circumstances. The authors look at the dockyard's role in times of conflict, from the First World War to the 1991 Gulf War, and consider the effects of privatisation and cutbacks. Portsmouth is now ready to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century when it will be the Royal Navy's premier base. Richly illustrated with photographs from the Royal Naval Museum and Historic Dockyard collections and exclusive, newly-commissioned photographs, Home of the Fleet will appeal to anyone who is interested in Britain's naval heritage.


Part of Preface
Home of the Fleet is intended to show the changes that have occurred in the old Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth over the last hundred years. It is not meant to be a complete history of the dockyard over that period for it is too big a subject for a picture book, which is exactly what Home of the Fleet is, a book of photographic images over the last one hundred years, broken into ten-year chapters. I have tried to add interest to each of the periods with a small account of the main events of the time. In some chapters not all the main events are covered for they are too numerous for the size of this work. On occasions I have taken the liberty of interpreting what the yardmen may have felt. Some may say I am wrong in doing this, but I entered the dockyard in 1952 and served until 1993, when I took early retirement and went to work for the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust in the Naval Base. At the time of writing I am still employed by that organisation. So for most of my life I have been in the dockyard; working, laughing and grumbling; often cold, wet, hungry and tired; at times fed up. The pulse of the dockyard matey has been my pulse.
 
One must always be mindful that the story of the dockyard is also the story of the development of the warship. The two cannot be divorced, nor can the story of the city of Portsmouth be separated from the dockyard. The city grew up around the dockyard and owes its very existence to it, and the dockyard is at Portsmouth because of its geographical location in relation to Europe and local shipbuilding resources. The city is in essence the people and it was the people who populated the dockyard.
 
In considering the history of the city of Portsmouth and its great institutions, such as the parks, libraries, esplanades and beaches, along with the fine Guildhall, it is well to consider that they might not have been built had it not been for the blood, sweat and tears of the dockyard men and the dockyard they served. Nor would there have been the need for the great works of fortification that surround the city, and which are so much a part of its history. In the heritage area of the dockyard the story of the great historic ships and the Royal Navy is displayed for the world to see and enjoy; but, regrettably, nowhere is the story of the dockyard told. An industry that was at one time the largest single industrial complex in the world, it was often in the forefront of industrial technology and today is the oldest naval base in the country with a history spanning 800 years.
 
The Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Society was founded in 1982 with the hope of telling this story. In 1994 the society gave way to the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust which now pursues this aim. It is sincerely hoped that Home of the Fleet will prove both enjoyable and informative to the reader and enlighten those who have wondered what went on behind the dockyard walls.
 
The majority of the research material for the text of this book has come from the Dockyard Collection. Little of the collection is catalogued. In consequence, searching for material of specific periods of time has been almost impossible. It has been a case of trawling through odd bundles of signals, memos, orders and work books in the hope that something of interest would emerge. In the end the investigations usually raised more questions, which my shipwright training, although not essential for research, was often of great help in understanding. The Docking Register is a record of all dry-docking, undockings and slipping that took place in the yard's dry docks. I have found it to be a most useful source of reference in gauging the flow of work in the dockyard and it would make an excellent future publication for ship buffs. For material on the latter part of the century, I found the dockyard's own newspaper, Trident, from January 1969 to March 1994, of great value. For the early part of the century the city's own newspaper, the Evening News, was another valued source of reference, as were the City of Portsmouth Corporation Records. Often it was the finding of an odd signal or memo that set me on the trail to a fascinating discovery.

Regrettably, at times the discovery was outside the scope of the book and will have to wait another time for its telling.

Review

I am proud to say that the 'Home of the Fleet', Portsmouth remains in my heart, my home. Although I do not live there anymore, it was my home for the first twenty-seven years, and since I joined the Royal Navy at fifteen, 'Portsmouth Royal Dockyard' also holds memories. The book is divided into eleven chapters and covers the years 1837-2000. I spent many happy hours lost in parts of it.
 
Because members of my family also served in the Royal Navy or Royal Marines from about 1860, I found it all fascinating, but my eye naturally went to Chapter 7, 'The Cold War Period 1950-1960' and Chapter 8, 'Atomic Age 1950-1970', which covered my period of service.
 
Although this is 'a Century of Photographs' the narrative is written in a clear precise style giving historical facts taken from a dockyard collection from the 'Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Society' and impressive record called 'The Docking Register', which it seems is not always reliable it showing that HM Submarine Affray undocked from B Lock 4 May 1951. In fact she went overdue 17 April and it was announced on 14 June that she had been found on the edge of Hurd Deep. It seems she undocked on 5 April. See http://www.rjerrard.co.uk/royalnavy/historyp/historyp.html
 
The photographs really make this book, examples being, HMS Leopard, Page 89, a marvellous aerial view of HMS Dolphin Page 92-93, which shows, inter alia, Windy Bridge,(Hasler Bridge) 5 Boats (Submarines) and I think I can make out the Admiral's Barge; at least that's where I parked it.
 
Page 94 is a photograph of HMS Leviathan - a Majestic Class Carrier, which remained at Portsmouth until 1968. There are so many more, Rhyl, Urchin, Nubian, Vanguard, Victorious, Triumph and Sirius to name a few familiar names.
 
I learn from page 142 that after the Falklands War they removed ships' motorboats in favour of additional AA Armament. What a shame, there was nothing more exhilarating than taking a 35' fast motorboat up to full speed.
 
In conclusion, a welcome addition to my Library, with many hours of reading still to come as it is a book you can dip into at your leisure.
 
Rob Jerrard

Silent Warriors - Submarine Wrecks of the United Kingdom Volume Two
Edition: First
Format: Paperback
Author: Ron Young & Pamela Armstrong
ISBN: 9780752447896
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £19.99
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher's Title Information
 

ENGLAND'S SOUTH COAST, FROM SUSSEX TO THE ISLES OF SCILLY
This is the story of submarines that did not come home in both war and peace. They will remain for eternity as the silent warriors of the south coast.
Submarine warfare in both wars transformed the south coast into a merciless arena, where a life-or-death struggle was played out between U-boats attempting to close the sea-lanes and allied ships striving to keep them open. Combining years of international archival research and expert analysis, this series describes how these submarine wrecks came to be.
In Volume Two Ron Young and Pamela Armstrong tell of submarines lost from Sussex to the Isles of Scilly. Authoritative and meticulously sourced, it is nevertheless the human element which proves most memorable. Huddled with a knot of shivering boat-mates, we endure the anguish of young Rudy Wieser as his stricken boat, U 1195, slowly fills with freezing water and chlorine gas, and nineteen-year- old Franz Neumayr, who survived the sinking of U 5063 with sixteen colleagues. Then there is the tragic quintet of British boats lost in these waters. We read of the last patrols of L24, M2 and Mi and, perhaps most poignantly, of HMS Swordfish. Likewise it is impossible not to be moved by events following the explosion which tore apart HMS Sidon.
Surely destined to become the definitive record of submarine wrecks in British waters, this series will have a ready appeal to anyone with an interest in maritime history.
Review
For generations following the two World Wars, the Great and the Second, we had not known the locations of so many submarines lost in these conflicts, added to that, even some losses in peacetime have been unknown to us.
 
Previously, because of limited diving equipment it was not possible to find these wrecks. Now we have discoveries being made by the ever-growing numbers of recreational divers who can explore down to depths previously out of reach. It doesn't seem so long ago that we changed from oxygen re-breathing to compressed air. I recall as a Royal Navy Diver it happened about 1959. Apparently about sixty years after the last war, many of the wartime wrecks are still preserved in good condition.
 
This therefore is an encyclopaedia of charted and recorded U-boats and submarines wrecked around Britain. Before the start of the chapters there is a very comprehensive Glossary and since so much of the book relates to U-boats this is particularly useful. Chapter 1, The South Coast, gives a very precise description of HMS Dolphin. See www.rjerrard.co.uk\royalnavy\dolphin\dolphin.htm
 
As said previously U-boats dominate, which in many ways is good news, otherwise I might be writing this in German. The British boats in this issue are, Holland, A1, Swordfish, Upstart, A3, Safari, L24, P555, Sidon, M2, Minerve, Untiring, M1, H52, A7, A8 and Narwhal. That is seventeen compared to forty-four German boats. It is quite startling to think that as you sail along the English Channel from Christchurch to Beachy Head, in addition to all the other wrecks, including perhaps undiscovered submarines, you pass over nineteen known submarine wrecks. According to the small map on Page 37 these include Upstart, Swordfish, A1 and Holland 5. Swordfish an 'S' Class was lost in 1940 when she sailed to relieve Usk when she struck a mine off St Catherine's Point. She was found in 1983 and 'One of our submarines is no longer missing'. Not far from her lies Upstart. She was not a war loss having been sunk as an A/S Target on 29 July 1957. What an end for a proud boat called Upstart. Safari was not one to give in to the Breakers' Yard. She suffered a Battery explosion under tow to the Breakers at Newport and sunk. As it says, 'A submarine is a wilful lady' and it was a more fitting end. Untiring, (perhaps tired at last) had also been an ASDIC target.
 
This excellent reference book will be enjoyed by all divers, submariners and Naval historians.
 
Rob Jerrard


HMS Hood - The Pride of the Royal Navy
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Andrew Norman
ISBN: 978-1862274532
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £12.99
Publication Date: Jan 2009
 
Publisher's Title Information

One of the greatest tragedies in Royal Naval history - but why did she sink in just seven minutes? Andrew Norman offers a new explanation. When the battle cruiser HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismark and her consort Prinz Eugen in May 1941, the shock to the Royal Navy, to Britain and the world was immense. Hood had seemed invincible and the epitome of naval power, with her eight 15-inch and eight 4-inch guns. She would prove be anything but, and would become the tomb of 1,418 men. Basing his narrative on primary sources at the Royal Naval Museum and in Germany, plus a unique interview with one of only three survivors of the disaster, Andrew Norman offers his own theory for the ship's fantastically rapid loss. Doubts were immediately raised over the official verdict. Just how could an inboard fire break a ship this large in two?
 
Author Dr Andrew Norman explores the ev it left in its wake. His research includes reports German naval records, and many of the photographs i In HMS Hood: Pride of the Royal Navy, he reassesses th in the light of the discovery of her wreckage in July


Prologue
As the mighty battlecruiser HMS Hood sank into the icy depths of the Atlantic Ocean on 24 May 1941, she took with her the lives of 1,418 brave men and a secret that has haunted the maritime world ever since.
 
HMS Hood seemed invincible, and the hopes of the British Navy in wartime had rested upon her great reputation. Her tragic demise was greeted with disbelief by the nation, and the shock waves reverberated all around the world. Suddenly, the British at sea seemed very vulnerable.
 
This powerful and graceful ship, which epitomised British naval power, was blown up a mere eight minutes after engaging the German battleship Bismarck and her consort, the cruiser Prinz Eugen. Even Hood's colossal size and her armament, which included eight is-inch guns, could not save her.
 
In the following pages are related the experiences of some of those who were engaged, either directly or indirectly, with Hood, both in her pre-war days, and on her final journey which began in the early hours of the morning of 22 May 1941. At 6 a.m. on 24 May, she blew up and sank in just 8 minutes, taking almost all of her complement of 95 officers and 1,326 men with her. Although only three men survived Hood's sinking, there are others who spent time aboard the ship in the years before that fateful day, in May 1941, who have their own story to tell. The purpose of this book is to honour HMS Hood, and to pay tribute to all who served aboard her, whether above or below deck. For this reason, the emphasis is not so much on the recounting of historic events, such as the unrest at Invergordon, Scotland in 1931 (a so-called mutiny that was precipitated when the sailors' wages were cut drastically, and which ended with the resignation of the First Sea Lord, and the premature retirement of seven admirals and the captains of five capital ships) or the destruction of the French fleet at the Algerian port of Mers-el-Kebir in 1940, to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. These events have been discussed in detail elsewhere. Instead, this book tells of what it was like to serve aboard the 'Mighty Hood' as she came to be known. It also discusses the various theories put forward to account for her sinking, and reappraises them in the light of the discovery of the wreckage of Hood in 2001.
 
No official memorial was erected to HMS Hood, but in the peaceful atmosphere of the Church of St John the Baptist at Boldre in the New Forest of Hampshire, she is remembered once a year on a Sunday in May, when relatives and friends of those who died, as well as those who had previously served on Hood, come to the church to worship and pay their respects.
 
In the porch of the church are two vice admirals' lanterns and two long oak benches carved with the ship's badge. A painting of Hood by marine artist Montague Dawson, hangs in the North Chapel. A small, stained-glass window depicts St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors. Most poignantly of all, in the corner directly opposite the entrance is a book containing the names of all 1,418 officers and men of the ship's company who were lost.
 
On the night of Saturday 4 October 2008, Ted Briggs, the last of the three survivors of HMS Hood, died in the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth.
His Obituary appeared in The Telegraph at:-