"Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews" - Provided by Rob Jerrard
The History Press, Books Reviewed in 2011

Merchant Shipping 50 Years in Photographs
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: David Hucknall
ISBN: 9780752456232
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £16.99
Publication Date: 9th March 2011
 

Publisher's Title Information

Over a period of about forty years, world shipping has undergone huge changes. Up to the early 1960s it was dominated by vessels of well-established companies usually following regular routes at predictable intervals. The sixties, however, marked the start of the container 'revolution' and, with it, the redundancy of fleets of relatively modern, fast, cargo liners. The 'box ship' also precipitated the closure of many cramped city docks throughout the world. Change continues and, with the exception of bulk cargo carriers and tankers, versatile vessels that can accommodate cars, containers and general cargo are now commonplace. Merchant Shipping: 50 Years in Photographs is a collection of David Hucknall's superb black-and-white photographs, taken over a lifetime as a shipping enthusiast, and supported by well-researched captions. Including vessels from some of the foremost shipping companies and depicting a wide range of ships and ports across the UK and Europe - and also in locations as far apart as West Africa and Japan - it will fascinate and delight ship-lovers wherever they are.

Review

An excellent book for those whose interest lies in Merchant Ships. The book is divided into sections, viz, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90, and 20s, with a photograph on every page, some black and white and 20 in colour. Over the fifty-odd years from the 1960s to the mid 2000s, world shipping has undergone substantial changes reflecting the demands of society and the world economy.

In the 1960s, it was dominated by long-established, mainly European companies, operating fleets of conventional and often elderly cargo ships and relatively small tankers. What a different world it now is.

Sometimes it is what is not mentioned that can create a photograph, e.g., on page 45 we see a ship framed between a large crane and an old telephone box: or page 52, what make and models are the cars? Not easy since it is Japan. One thing is certain; a container ship has no beauty or elegance about it at all and deserves to be called “it” rather than “She”.

Rob Jerrard


Dockers' Stories from the Second World War
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Henry T Bradford
ISBN: 9780752456881
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £12.99
Publication Date: 17th Feb 2011
 

Publisher's Title information
 
Dockers' Stories from the Second World War is a collection of several true stories, drawn from Henry Bradford's thirty-two years as a Registered Docker in the Port of London, revealing the daring deeds of docklands men in the Second World War. Men were often killed and injured during their every-day work on the docks; nonetheless, never was the bravery of these men so tested as during times of war. Henry heard many stories from dockers in his time working the docks but it was their wartime adventures that seemed most vivid: tales of bravery and escapades of men who, once the wars they had fought in were over, returned to work in the docklands of the Port of London, on the river Thames in sailing barges, or on coastal or continental short sea trading vessels.

Henry Bradford's lively stories and colourful characters reveal the bravery of ordinary men in the Second World War, from Captain Jim Fryer's ship towage work on Calais roads and Dunkirk beaches, and saving lives of survivors from the bombed hospital ship Paris, for which he was awarded the DSC, to Petty Officer Jack Hicks' quieter but equally memorable posting steering a clinker-built boat on a hush-hush job from the Thames to the north-east, his crew consisting only of an inexperienced co-man and an incredibly efficient WREN. Heroes of London's Docklands is sure to appeal to those whose relatives worked as dockers, and to anyone with an interest in London's East End at war.


Darkest Before Dawn: U-482 and the Sinking of the Empire Heritage 1944
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: John Peterson
ISBN: 9780752458830
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £12.99
Publication Date: 25th Feb 2011

Publisher's Title Information

In the autumn of 1944 the Second World War was coming to an end. In the Atlantic the U-boats had been beaten back through a massive programme of Allied shipbuilding combined with tactical, technological and intelligence improvements. The threat to Allied shipping had diminished. But it had not disappeared, and a lone U-boat on its first active patrol slipped into the North Channel; in just a few days five ships lay broken on the seabed including the Empire Heritage, one of the largest Allied ships lost during the war, and the Jacksonville, an American tanker sailing out of New York.

In Darkest Before Dawn John Peterson presents the story for the first time of how U-482 managed to slip undetected into the busy shipping lanes of the North Channel and carry out the last great U-boat patrol of the war. It is the story of the attack, the aftermath and the men involved, including the aristocratic U-boat commander von Matushka, who was on the Bismarck when it was sunk earlier in the war - was he driven by revenge to torpedo the Pinto, a rescue ship trying to pick up the survivors of Empire Heritage - an act that some claimed to be a war crime? Based on new research and previously unpublished material, Darkest Before Dawn presents the definitive account of the attack on convoy HX-305 and unravels the mystery of the fate of U-482.


The Battle of Matapan 1941 - The Trafalgar of the Mediterranean
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Mark Simmons
ISBN: 9780752458298
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £12.99
Publication Date: 15th march 2011
 

Publisher's Title Information
 
In March 1941, the Royal Navy scored one of the greatest one-sided victories against the Italian Fleet the Regia Marina at Matapan. It brought to an end six months of remarkable success for the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. When France fell and Italy declared war on Britain, Admiral Dudley Pound had wanted to evacuate the Mediterranean altogether and concentrate on home defence. Churchill overruled him, regarding such a move as the death knell of the British Empire. His decision made the Mediterranean theatre the focus of British land operations for four years, reliant on the Navy. In Admiral Andrew Cunningham, Churchill had a fleet commander in the Mediterranean who would miss no chance of hounding the enemy. Affectionately known as A.B.C. by his men, Cunningham was salty in his language, intolerant of fools and a master of tactics. In "The Battle of Matapan 1941: The Trafalgar of the Mediterranean", Mark Simmons explores the remarkable victories of Taranto and Matapan, as seen through the eyes of the men who manned the ships and flew the aircraft of the Mediterranean Fleet.

Prologue

In the BBC World War II archives. Surgeon-Commander E R Sorley wrote:-

'Here we are safely back in harbour after taking part in what has been rightly described as "the greatest naval battle of the war": So wrote Surgeon-Commander E.R. Sorley in April 1941, who served on the battleship Barham, part of the golden generation that fought during the Second World War., sadly fast disappearing . He tried to analyse the Battle of Matapan: 'Our success was due to (a) an extraordinary piece of good fortune in coining close enough to the enemy in the dark (b) the Italians' ignorance of our whereabouts and (c) our very prompt seizing of the opportunity before the enemy could escape?'

Of course Sorley could not have known there was rather more to it than that; vital aspects responsible for victory were hidden. The Italian fleet was hamstrung by its own countrymen and allies. A labyrinth of Axis politics and strategies did it no favours. Yet it might have turned out differently had another course been taken.

And then there are the voices of those who took part from admirals, to pilots and the ratings of the lower decks; all were heroes in the long story of men at sea.

Note HMS Barham was sunk 25th Nov 1941.
Flying the Red Duster: A Merchant Seaman's First Voyage into the Battle of the Atlantic 1940
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Morris Beckman
ISBN: 9780752459004
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £12.99
Publication Date: 14th Feb 2011
 

Publisher's Title Information

Following the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk in 1940, Britain was at her most vulnerable. France had capitulated and the Germans had control of ports from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. Nazi U-boats were at Britain's doorstep, and in that year alone they sunk 204 ships, a gross tonnage of 2,435,667. Britain stood alone against Germany and a vital lifeline was the supplies carried by the civilian Merchant Navy, defended only by the thinly stretched Royal Navy. Winston Churchill conceded that his greatest fear was the slaughter of merchant seamen, who worked in harsh conditions, were often poorly fed, and were always at the mercy of the Kriegsmarine. In "Flying the Red Duster", Morris Beckman tells the story of his first voyage as a Merchant Navy radio operator during the bloody year of 1940. It describes the harsh conditions, frequent terrors and occasional humour of life at sea, a testament to the civilian force that enabled Britain to avoid capitulation to Nazi Germany. Based on his wartime diary - now held at the Imperial War Museum - this work allows the reader unique access to a time which is fast slipping from living memory.

The Author

Morris Beckman was born in the north-eastern London Borough of Hackney. He attended Hackney Downs School. In 1939, when World War II started, he tried to enlist in the Royal Air Force to become a pilot, but was turned down and signed up for the Merchant Navy as a radio officer.
After three months training to become a radio officer, studying Morse code, Beckman was assigned to merchant vessels participating in the Battle of the Atlantic until 1942 and was torpedoed twice. He was posted to Bombay in 1942 and spent two years with the Mogul Line, crewing auxiliary vessels for the Royal Indian Navy across the Bay of Bengal, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Beckman's vessels landed troops at Port Augusta during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943 and, three months later, at Taranto during the Allied invasion of Italy. In 1944 his ship was attacked by the Luftwaffe en route to Alexandria lost a propeller and was towed to Port Sudan. He caught paratyphoid, convalesced in Karachi, he then worked his passage back home via Durban and New York. By 1946 he was permanently onshore back in London and helped to found the 43 Group.


Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 1942- 1 May 1944
History of United States Naval Operations in WWII, Volume 6
Edition: 2010: 1st Published in 1950
Format: Paperback
Author: Samuel Eliot Morison, with a new Introduction by Vincent P O'Hara
ISBN: 9781591145523
Publishers: Naval Institute Press
Price: £16.99
Publication Date: 2010
 

Publisher's Title Information

Breaking the Bismarcks Barrier, 22 July 1942 - 1 May 1944, Volume 6 in the series, examines the drive up from Guadalcanal and New Guinea to the taking of Rabaul and the colossal American victory at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea during the Papuan campaign. This volume also covers the Central Solomons, the Huon Gulf offensive, the invasion of New Georgia, and the Battles of Kula Gulf and Kolombagnara.

"There is little doubt that when it comes to an overall view of United States naval operations during the campaign to break the Bismarcks Barrier and in many cases a micro-view as well, Morison remains unsurpassed. The immediacy of his work, his ability to describe operations he has himself witnessedthat Ironbottom Sound is as blue as the Gulf of Mainein prose few can match, gives Morison's histories a unique value. It's my honor to recommend this book and to warn the reader, especially those new to Morison, that this is an addictive read as well as solid history."

Vincent P. O'Hara in his Introduction to Volume 6, author of Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Greatat War in the Mediterranean Theater, 1940-1945 and co-author of On Seas Contested: The Seven Great Navies of the Second World War.

The Author

Samuel Eliot Morison taught history at Harvard from 1915 to 1955, except for active duty service in the Navy on board eleven different ships in all theaters of the war. In addition to this series, Rear Admiral Morison wrote many other popular and award-winning books on maritime history, including Two Ocean War. Morison, who died in 1976, was the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes, two Bancroft Prizes, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom


The Real Enigma Heroes
Edition: Paperback 2010
Format: Paperback
Author: Phil Shanahan
ISBN: 9780752457857
Publishers: The History Press
Price: £9.99
Publication Date: 19th August 2010
 

Publisher's Title Information
 
For almost sixty years after their deaths, three men, whose brave actions shortened the Second World War by as much as two years, remained virtually unknown and uncelebrated. Two lost their lives retrieving vital German codebooks from a sinking U-boat. The third survived the war, only to die in a house fire soon afterwards. But it was the precious documents they seized in October 1942 that enabled Bletchley Park's code-breakers to crack Enigma and so win the Battle of the Atlantic.
 
Now recognised as a pivotal moment in world history, three British servicemen made it possible to finally beat the U-boats, but at the time not even their families could be told of the importance of their deeds. Shrouded in secrecy for decades, then recast as fictional Americans by the Hollywood film U-571, this book sets the record straight. It is written in celebration of Colin Grazier GC, Tony Fasson GC, and Tommy Brown GM - the REAL Enigma heroes.

Review

If the world did not know the names of Fasson, Grazier and Brown it is to be hoped they are now better informed, because Lieutenant Tony Fasson GC, Able Seaman Colin Grazier GC and NAAFI Canteen Assistant Tommy Brown GM have never been given the full recognition they deserve because they truly deserve the title, 'Real Enigma Heroes'. Along with others, they played a very important part in defeating Nazi Germany and most certainly shortened the war and saved lives.
 
This book gives a very full account of the Author's fight to give them that full recognition.

As an old St Vincent boy I was not aware that Colin Grazier's George Cross was for a time on display in the Chapel of HMS St Vincent in 1966. HMS St Vincent was the Boys' Training Establishment at Gosport Hampshire. Unfortunately HMS St Vincent closed in 1968 and the medal was passed to the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth. Somehow it made its way to Faslane Naval Base. The book does not state how it got to Faslane, but I suspect it probably went via HMS Dolphin which was the Submarine base at Gosport Hampshire. Apparently it is now on display at Edinburgh Castle, along with the GC of Lieutenant Fasson.

All in all a very exciting and informative book, which along with another book just reprinted should tell us more of the Enigma story because U-559 wasn't the first U-Boat to be captured. See 'The Secret Capture U-110 and The Enigma Story' by Stephen Roskill, Pen & Sword 2011.

It shows how littl we knew in 1958 because in the introduction to "We Capured a U-Boat" by Rear-Admiral Daniel V Gallery Commander Edward Young DSO DSC RNV(S)R said:

'British naval officers may dispute his claim, to have made the only U-boat capture on the high seas, and will point to the incident of the U-570 which in 1941 surrendered to a Sunderland flying-boat. The Admiral does not shirk this issue, but maintains, I think with justice, that the two cases were different, in that the U-505 did not surrender but was taken by force, code books, secret charts and' all. The crew of the U-570, on the other hand, had ample opportunity to scuttle, and preferred safety and surrendered their ship. Moreover, Admiral Gallery did more than merely seize an opportunity that was offered to him; he created his own opportunity, and that was the significant thing.

Lest, however, readers should go away with the idea that he was the only man who thought of organizing a boarding-party, I must in all fairness put on record the fact that the boarding party was, from quite early on in the war, part of the normal stock-in-trade of all Royal Navy anti-submarine, ships -whether they were destroyers, frigates, corvettes or A/S trawlers.'

NOTE No mention here of U-110 or U-558 and it is significant that "The Secret Capture" was published in 1959.


Rob Jerrard