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

The Memoir Club
There Go the Ships
Author: Marshall Meek
ISBN: 1841040452

Publishers: The Memoir Club

Price £17.50 RRP UK

Publication Date: 2003

Publishers Information on the Book

There Go The Ships offers an insider view of what has happened to UK maritime industries since World War Il and why these industries have declined.

Marshall Meek enjoyed a successful progression through the branches of the UK shipping industry during his career and therefore offers a unique perspective of the marine world over the past sixty years. He tells of UK ship owners in their prime and of their rapid collapse.

He describes how merchant shipbuilding virtually sank without trace, despite receiving vast subsidies and that now only warship building remains in a much reduced role. Controversially, he highlights the poor performance of management and trade union employees during this decline and their refusal to acknowledge foreign competition. He tells how research and development in the industry fared better because the people were more adaptable and progressive.

Throughout the book Marshall touches on his involvement with these major sections but also with the many supporting activities. He observes that although the ships, the industries and the companies have drastically declined, the labour has not been in vain, that the human relationships and shared endeavours with companions, colleagues and family have made happy recompense.

Marshall Meek was the chief naval architect and director of Ocean Fleets. He perfected the design of the fast cargo liner, then designed the first ocean-going purpose built containerships that revolu­tionised shipping.

He was deputy chairman of British Maritime Technology, chairman of Argonautics Maritime Technologies, and chairman of the DSAC Marine Technology Board. He was visiting professor in naval architecture at the University of Strathclyde and also president of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects.

REVIEW by Neil McCart

The author was, during the post Second World War years, one of Britain's principal naval architects, and in this autobiography he describes his progression through the shipbuilding industry, from its heyday in the late 1940s and early 1950s, to the turn of the 21st century when, as we see, British shipbuilders are very much an "endangered species".

The highlight of the author's career must be the period when he was employed by the famous Blue Funnel Line, which began in the early 1850s, before the advent of worldwide air travel.  This was a time when, with their distinctively shaped and coloured funnels, the company's ships could be seen on the high seas and in seaports the world over, particularly east of Suez.  The author tells us that the name of the Blue Funnel Line came about in 1852, when Alfred and George Holt decided to use some spare light blue paint to refurbish the funnel of their first ship, Dumbarton Youth.  Thus a legend was born and this lasted over 100 years until 1966, when the author was instrumental in giving the ships more streamlined smokestacks.

We are taken through the Blue Funnel Line's various post-war designs, as well as the author's busy personal life, and in 1956, when the company sent him out to Singapore, it is interesting to note that they transported him east in a BOAC scheduled flight via Dusseldorf, Istanbul, Basra and Karachi, and not in one of their own ships.  Clearly this was a sign of things to come.  However, in the following year he was able to travel in the company's elderly steamers, Charon and Gorgon, which provided a service between Singapore and Fremantle.  One very interesting chapter concerns the old troopship Empire Orwell which, during the late 1940s and 1950s, must have transported many thousands of British Army National Servicemen east of Suez.  In the early 1960s the author was instrumental in buying the redundant troop transport for the Blue Funnel Line.  She was renamed the Gunung Djati, and spent the remainder of her career carrying Muslim pilgrims from Indonesia to Jeddah, and home again.

Perhaps the most interesting ship, the design for which the author was wholly responsible, was the MV Centaur, a vessel which became more familiar in home waters when, between 1982 and 1986, she was chartered to Curnow Shipping for the Cardiff to St Helena passenger-cargo service: one of the few routes which the airlines have been unable to take over.  We get a real insight into the designing and building of this unique vessel.  Being at the hub of shipping design at the beginning of the "containerization" phenomenon, the author is able to explain the background behind this major development in the shipping industry.  This chapter also coincides with the labour problems which were being experienced in the British shipbuilding industry at the time, which of course was already in serious decline.  The saddest reading in the book is the demise of the Blue Funnel Line which, in the 1970s, fell victim to the increasing competition from the massive container ships.

The author's involvement with the Royal Navy was minimal, but he gives us a fascinating insight into the "short-fat versus long-thin" debate which, appropriately, is the chapter heading.  He also gives us his interesting professional observations into the 1998 investigation into the loss of MV Derbyshire.  His conclusions make fascinating reading.

Although this book is essentially a very personal autobiography, for any ship-lover there is plenty of interest and certainly enough to justify spending £17.50 on what is a well-produced volume, which would be a valuable addition to any bookshelf.

Neil McCart

Ship's Husband

Author: Robin S. Salveson.

ISBN: 1 84104 053 3

Publishers: The Memoir Club

Price £17.50

Publication Date: 2003

Publisher’s Book Description.

Ship's Husband is a memoir that captures the essence of seafaring; the adventure, camaraderie, the risks and poor conditions that were sometimes endured.  Robin Salvesen has set down his own experiences and those of the people around him in order to preserve the post-war age of British maritime trade.

As an engineer officer in the Merchant Navy Robin has many tales to tell, including his voyage on an Antarctic expedition ship and the logistics and preparation required in order to sustain both ship and crew during such long periods at sea.  It was then that his public school discipline and Army experience helped him to endure the discomfort and hardship of a self-sufficient existence in a small cabin.

It was his involvement with these expeditions that initiated Robin's strong drive for managing change and introducing technology into the shipping industry during his many years in charge of the shipping division of Christian Salvesen.  He tells of the difficulty in making changes to working practice in such a highly unionised industry as seafaring and the sense of achievement felt when modern Coasters with unmanned engine rooms traded profitably within Europe.

Robin Salvesen recounts evocatively a bygone era of seafaring history when Britain traded globally and the sea was vital for transporting goods.  He tells of whale harvesting and other practices that have now disappeared and gives

a unique insight into an industry which has previously had little exposure.

Review by Neil McCart

Born in Edinburgh, the author is a member of the influential shipping family Christian Salveson & Co, and his autobiography is essentially about very specialist areas of the maritime world.  Nevertheless, after a brief introduction to the Salveson family, we see the author graduating from university in the late 1950s, and joining the family business which, in those days, was centred around the now largely discredited whaling industry. The author brings to life South Atlantic ports which although not generally well known, did become familiar names for a few weeks during the Falklands War of 1982, Leith and Grytviken in South Georgia being the most obvious.  He describes in detail the working and living routines in one of his company's whale factory ships which, at the height of the season, was catching at least 1,000 of these beautiful creatures each season. The vivid and gruesome description of how the whales were killed and dealt with on board is, to say the least, quite disturbing and may leave the reader very thankful that in most civilised nations of the world this wholesale slaughter of whales has now been stopped.

From whaling the author moved to the more generally acceptable section of his family's trade, the importation of sugar from the Caribbean, and Cuba in particular.  We are given a fascinating insight into life aboard the 13,000 ton MV Saldura.  We follow her on a voyage from Havana, round Cape Horn (to avoid US sanctions), and across the Pacific Ocean.  We see her confront three US Navy warships enforcing what many people in the world consider to be vindictive United States political sanctions against an already impoverished island, imposed after America's humiliation at the Bay of

Pigs.  We see runs ashore in China, Australia and Indonesia, before Saldura returns home by way of the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean.

From the SaIdura the author works in his family's coastal trading business, carrying anything from timber to stone ballast, from as far afield as Russia and Scandinavia, to ports all round the coasts of Britain and Ireland.  The reader is introduced to a fleet of coasters, such as the Dunvegan Head, the Rattray Head, the Kennard Head and the Marwick Head.

Although there are a lot of interesting insights into life on board some of Salveson's ships, this is essentially the autobiography of a senior member of the company's Board and, of course, the family dynasty, but for anyone interested in ships and the sea it makes fascinating reading.

Neil McCart

Title: Aft Through the Hawsepipe

Author: Bryan Smalley

ISBN: 1841040967

Publishers: Memoir Club

Price £17.50

Publication Date: 2004

This is the story of a man who joined the Royal Navy at the same lowly rank as I did, Boy Seaman 2nd Class.  Whatever Midshipmen will tell you, Boy Seamen 2nd Class really is as low as you can get, but then we all had to start somewhere and Bryan Smalley started at HMS Bruce which was established in Scotland in 1947 to accommodate recruits who were from Scotland or the North of England. Bryan was one of the exceptions.

The regime at Bruce would have been as tough as it was for us at St Vincent and Ganges with the inevitable mast to climb.  I had a private chuckle to myself when he describes on page 15 that he won the Religious Knowledge prize for the un-Christian motive of being determined to beat the class bully.  Like Bryan, I too won the school and RK prizes.  On the Religious knowledge prize I was congratulated by the Padre, Ambrose Weekes (who later became Bishop of Switzerland), when I told him that it had been twenty good guesses.  He said ‘You know that isn’t true’.

Bryan was determined to get on, and he took and passed the Education Tests, ET1 and 2, and then the Higher Education Tests (HET).  The system remained more or less the same during my service. However because of the marks I obtained in school at St Vincent I was exempt ET1 and was granted 1 months seniority.

By 1956 Boy Seamen spent a whole year training and we went to school every day.

You needed to pass four subjects in HET at the same time to become an officer.  Bryan overcame all the other hurdles and  become an officer by the CW Candidate System.  CW means ‘Commissioned or Warrant Officer’.

Bryan served in HMS Wakeful, HMS Troubridge, HMS Triumph and his first ship as an Acting Sub-Lieutenant in 1954 was HMS Crossbow, a Weapons Class destroyer.  After his Sub-Lieutenant’s course (Junior Officers’ War Course) he volunteered for the submarine service and trained at HMS Dolphin in 1955. 

He went on to serve in HMS Scotsman and then HMS Acheron as navigator and fourth hand.  His next boat was HMS Porpoise followed by HMS Tabard & HMS Seraph and back to Porpoise as first Lieutenant, before moving on to the ‘Perisher’ course, otherwise known as the Submarine Commanding Officers’ Qualifying Course, which as Lady Fieldhouse points out in the foreword ‘was the Waterloo of quite a few would-be COs’.  Bryan passed and took command of HMS Aurochs in 1963.  The last British submarine fitted with a gun.  Finally, he served in a nuclear boat HMS Valiant and on the staff of the Flag Officers’ Submarines before retiring in 1969.

After leaving the Navy Bryan tried to become an MP.  He says in the book he was told to ‘come back after he had done something useful’.  If commanding one of Her Majesty’s submarines is not considered ‘something useful’ to say nothing of the years of experience to rise from the lower deck, then the Conservative party must be missing some of the best candidates. 

In his dedication Bryan dedicates the book inter alia, ‘to all those boy seamen and submariners who shared the load with me’. As a one-time boy seaman and barge Coxswain to the Flag Officer Submarines I take pride in being one of those who has a book dedicated to him and also one of those who has also done ‘something useful’.

This is a very interesting book and I particularly recommend it to all ex boy or junior seamen and submariners who shared the load, and to any young person thinking of joining the Royal Navy.

Rob Jerrard

Riding madly off in all directions - Ronald Bell

Includes stories of HM Ships Ganges, Leander, Prince of Wales, Calypso, Terror (Singapore Base ship) and Superb: Not forgetting the "Devonport Redhead" & Rosie Barlow?


This book is based upon the 'grasshopper' principle. It has no narrative, no logical succession of events, and it jumps from one decade to another, from country to country, and channels a stream of consciousness recalling people, places and episodes from any perhaps unusual life.

It might be useful to travellers in planes or trains, and for those imprisoned in airport lounges or railway stations. It might even serve as a way of escape from fellow passengers on cruise liners'

The lines quoted from Stephen Leacock's Nonsense Novel, Gertrude the Governess, which have been quoted on the title page, describe perfectly how I approached the format of this book: Ronald said nothing. He flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse, and rode madly off in all directions.'

I could not have completed the book without the sustained support and fine professionalism of Miss Chantal Bowen. Whether Chantal deserves praise or censure, only our readers can decide.

Every man, it is said, has a book in him. My, readers may derive comfort from the fact that I shall never write another! For a two-fingered typist and poor speller it was drudgery. Thank heavens forTippex!

Ronald Bell


This is no ordinary memoir,- it is a free flowing collection of reminiscences, essays, observations and diatribes from a man with strong opinions and an extraordinary collection of experiences.

The book encompasses Ronald Bell’s memories of his childhood 80 years ago, his service in the Royal Navy, and his long and varied experience in the music industry. He also offers insights into a period of recent history and a way of life that now seem long gone, and views on aspects of modern Life from the present day Navy to political correctness and New Labour.

Riding Madly Off In All Directions is not systematic or in chronological order; this frees it from the usual constraints on such a book, allowing the author’s character in all its diversity - well~read, witty, reflective, mischievous, strong willed - to shine through on every page.

The first decade of Ronald Bell’s adult life was spent in the Royal Navy, beginning in HMS Ganges, Shotley and continuing with service in the waters of the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the West Indies and the Far East.

After leaving the service he tried his hand at various jobs, including three years with renowned music publishers Boosey & Hawkes, before beginning a life-long career ‘In the record industry with EMI, MGM Records, Liberty Records and United Artists.

Evaluating new recordings and promoting bands, this enviable employment took the author all over the world, to the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries as well as most of the capitals of Europe. It also brought him into contact with a myriad of stars - Ike and Tina Turner, Dame Shirley Bassey, Connie Francis, Canned Heat, Bobby Vee and Paul Anka to name just a few.

Ronald Bell, now 85 years old, lives in Sawston, Cambridge, with his wife of 59 years, Eva Margaret. They have a son and a daughter and two grandsons.


When I started to read, (browse the contents) of this book I thought what an odd book, it's all over the place but wait: actually it's very clever; Ron's thoughts are explained in chapters and it reminds me of when I was a young law student reading law reports -- the best by far were those of Lord (Tom) Denning, one-time Master of the Rolls and the best judge of all; he always divided up his reports under headings, this book is like that, it's easy on the eyes.

By the time you read chapter 114, (some chapters are only two lines) you discover that if you agree with Ron's political views you could be a bore.

The reason is chapter 114 describes how during a discussion with another man they discovered that their views were identical -- they therefore "bored one another to death ". I think this is Ron's way of accepting that we are not all the same. It is therefore essential that I find something to disagree with.

Since the title suggests a method I shall review the book by "Riding Madly off in all Directions", which means I will not necessarily discuss things in any logical order.

This is a very interesting book because it has for Ronald Bell, Signalman Royal Navy T 0 DJ/X 136329 been an interesting life. Ron tells of his early life -- family life. Ron's father was a victim of the First World War, he wasn't killed but he was like so many of his generation a victim; Ron quotes his father in saying to the King on a visit to the hospital he was in, "Well your Majesty a packet of woodbines and a current bun will not solve my problems".

Fortunately for Peggy, Ron's wife, she met Ron, how lucky so many of our fair girls are to have met sailors. Her first words were "I don't want to go out with a sailor", where have I heard that before. Ron's generosity knew no bounds since unlike me he paid for a cinema seat, we always arranged to meet the girls inside.

Ronald had the misfortune to attend HMS Ganges for his initial Royal Naval Training. I have to say that because I trained at HMS St Vincent which also trained boy sailors, and, as we all know St Vincent was better. It's a bit like Oxford and Cambridge -- even in our old age we carry on the good-natured rivalry. For those not lucky enough to have been a boy seaman one of "The Band of Brothers", HMS Ganges at Shotley and HMS St Vincent at Gosport in Hampshire were the two main Royal Naval boy Training Establishments.

Ron starts this part of the book, the part on the Royal Navy by describing HMS Ganges and his exploits in climbing the mast, Ron arrived at HMS Ganges sometime in the Thirties, he doesn't give a date. He was the famous button boy and has a photograph to prove it. Ganges boys' would tell you that their ships mast was taller than St Vincent: Okay, Okay can't argue with a fact.

Ronald quotes William Wordsworth.

I travelled among unknown men

in lands beyond the sea:

Nor, England, did I know till then

What love I bore to thee.

Ron, started at HMS Ganges, he tells of his time there and his eagerness to climb the mast, becoming the button boy.

He explains in chapter 23, how all the boys had to take part in boxing, this was certainly true, I well remember it myself, in fact I say remember, I was flattened. Ronald was accused of being a coward and finished up in the yellow corner: the PTI shouted, "signal boy Bell in the yellow corner". I must have been in that corner as well.

His 1st ship appears to have been the old, Leander, not to be confused with HMS Leander the recent frigate which gave the name to the class of Leander class frigates; but the old cruiser Leander. He tells of his time in HMS Courageous an Aircraft Carrier, and his good fortune be be taken off a few hours before she sailed for a dreadful rendezvous with U29, when hundreds of men lost their lives.

He tells of fleet manoeuvres, and talks of the loss of HMS Prince of Wales: Sunday Divisions: his Devonport Redhead, Rosie Barlow, presumably another fleeting encounter and, of HMS Terror the Singapore Bay ship. He served in HMS Calypso was another old "C" class cruiser, a relic of World War I.

By the time you reach chapter 38, Ron discusses Royal Navy destroyers in rough weather, midshipman, and his brothers ship HMS Superb.

Ron entered the Music Industry - I will not dwell on this part of Ron's life, suffice to say he seems to have meet many of the great stars, he is photographed which Connie France and Shirley Basssey, to name just two

We then come to chapter 99, the virtues of political correctness.

Here Ron talks about ordinary men and women, they are, of course, familiar with the ugly anti-social terms, "having sex", "gay" and "partner". The PC virus is gnawing away at the very vitals is of Western civilisation.

Ron asks us, is there a cure for the PC virus? Yes there is! As a first step, victims should read Kipling's poem, "IF" every day. Before going to sleep, they should also read the following words by Alexander Pope.

First follow nature and your judgment frame

by her just standard, which is still the same,

unerring nature, still divinely bright,

one clear, unchanged and universal light,

life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,

at once the source, and end, and test of art.

Ron conludes, "Dear readers, do not try to change the natural order which comes from a force greater than ourselves"


This book is an octogenarian's last defiant shout at those who spoil our beautiful world.

Ron concludes that at 84 he is haunted by those poignant words written by Sir Walter Raleigh, the night before his execution.

Even such is time that takes in trust

our youth our joys, our all all we have,

and pays us but with age and dust

Who in the dark and silent grave,

when we have wandered all our ways

shuts up the story of our days.

But from this earth, this grave, this dust,

my God shall raise me up I trust

Amen, Amen, Amen.

A Pot Mess - Journals of a Royal Navy Cook
J A Parker served on HM Ships Solebay, Barcarole, Ganges, Defender and Calton
A POT MESS - Journals of a Royal Navy Cook J A Parker

J A Parker's life story was almost lost forever. Whilst moving house in 1957 his wife Pauline handed him a box containing over 600 letters that he had sent her during his eight years as a Chef in the Navy. He asked 'Did you want to keep them?' and when Pauline did not reply, he intended to destroy them on a garden fire. When it began to rain, they were instead stored in the loft.

Forty years on, and J A Parker is grateful for that rain. Those letters, along with Pauline's diaries, have been skilfully adapted to become A Pot Mess, the lively and compelling account of Parker's eight years in the galley of various Defender Class and other ships.

Thanks to this unusual writing method, the past is narrated with an immediacy not found in the average memoir, as the author recounts life in the Navy from a unique angle. The stories of prominent and high ranking officers are found everywhere. A Pot Mess is instead a far rarer glimpse of what life was like 'below decks' for the ordinary crew members. Parker records incidents that would otherwise have gone unnoticed because they did not happen to 'important' people.

At the same time, the book is a highly personal record, and Parker's devotion to his wife back in England - the devotion which produced those hundreds of letters - is one of its most engaging features.

Born in Leicester in 1932, J A Parker' early life was not always easy. His mother died when he was two, and he and his disabled father, a shoe factory worker, went to live with family in Market Deeping near Peterborough at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Yet his description of his 1930s and 40s rural childhood is a normal and happy one, with fond memories of feeding the ducks and chickens, taking the cows for milking, singing in the Church Choir, Boy Scouts, paper rounds and double summertime.

After leaving school, Parker worked in a fish and chip van, travelling the
neighbouring villages. But his horizons were broadened by two uncles who had served in the Navy, and he began to dream of more exciting voyages than a day trip to Skegness. In February 1949 he joined the Navy as a junior chef, serving for eight years until being demobbed in 1957.

J A Parker now lives in Leicester where he cares for his wife, who suffers from severe osteoporosis.

Diary of a WREN 1940 - 1945

I am sure that this book will be of interest to all who served in the WRENS as officers

Diary of a WREN 1940 - 1945, by Audrey Deacon

When Audrey Deacon, a Leading Wren, was promoted to cypher duties to the Commander in Chief, Plymouth, she little thought that she would shortly find herself in charge of the cypher department at a most crucial time in World War II - the period leading up to the invasion of Normandy.

This book chronicles the day to day life of a Wren during the most eventful days of World War II. It is, by turns, poignant and amusing, compelling and tragic and encapsulates all of the emotions of the time.

Many families lost loved ones during this period but you will not fail to be moved by the author’s account of how she watched her husband and childhood sweetheart - a Second Lieutenant in the Sixth Airborne Division - slowly sink into the abyss of death.

No story of World War 11 is ever complete without a chapter on the Wrens. But this book goes one step further and brings home the stark reality of what being a Wren really meant. It is a unique tribute to the courage and fortitude of all Wrens everywhere.

The original manuscript of the diary is held in the archives of the Imperial War Museum and is frequently consulted by those researching the period.

Audrey Deacon was born in Deal, Kent, but spent her formative years in Plymouth. She joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service at the beginning of the Second World War and remained with the Wrens throughout.

After the war she worked in voluntary social service organisations, leading to the General Secretaryship of the then Hertfordshire Council of Social Service. For this work she was appointed MBE in 1978.

In her retirement she has been associated with several voluntary organisations, including the

Hertfordshire and the Harpenden local history societies. She is the author of a number of articles but this is her first full-length book.


This is not a book to recommend to women who served in the WRNS (Wrens) as ratings -- but I am sure it would be to ex-Wren officers.

The title could have been, "diary of a Wren officer", since ratings are never given the courtesy of a  name: every reference to a fellow officer is.

It has to be said that Audrey Deacon's war consisted of good accommodation often in an hotel, first-class travel, mess dinners (of lobsters, salmon, trout and pheasant etc) not a sausage in sight, and being ferried around in a staff car or launch; plus masses of leave.

Audrey Deacon's war was the other side of the coin, and, I suppose in a diary you write about your friends, and in those days one did not make friends with ratings; a pity.

The most interesting parts were the references to walks on Dartmoor, good to hear of the normal use of public transport and walks of 13 miles or more; simple pleasures.

There are good descriptions and details of the terrible bombing raids and heavy casualties in Plymouth.

Rosemary Jerrard

WRENS did serve abroad and many were killed, when you recall the story of "Aguila" in convoy 0G 71 on the way to Gibraltar, told in the book "Nightmare convoy, The Story of the lost Wrens".

'Whenever I think of war I don't remember the happy things, but this convoy. It is my particular nightmare.'

Nicholas Monsarrat Lieutenant in one of the naval escorts

“The Flower of the Flock”; that is the description given in the book.  22 were lost.

Sailors Luck - At Sea & Ashore in Peace & War

Introduction by the Author

These photographs include one of HMS Owen which the author served in as Commander and then Captain

THIS IS AN ABRIDGED and heavily edited extract from my personal memoirs, written down a few Nears after inv retirement for the information of my descendants. Having enjoyed the diaries and memoirs of some of my forebears, and been fascinated by the ambience of their times, I felt I owed it to later generations to pass on to them how one ancestor lived in the 20th century - and, in particular, an account of his career in the Royal Navy which they might find of some interest.

I had an unusually long naval career of exactly 41 years (1934-1970. Unlike one or two 'high flyers' in my group who rose rather rapidly to higher rank (and early retirement), I served the full span of years in each rank, being promoted in every case at the last opportunity! Thus, on retirement and approaching the age of 60, I found myself the oldest serving officer in the Navy - even including 'Their Lordships' (whose Severe Displeasure I was about to incur).

Since I enjoyed naval life, I was fortunate; throughout my career luck played a significant part in determining its direction and duration. When many officers would give their eye-teeth for a Sea Command, the fact that six of these came my - way suggests at least a measure of good luck, rather than simply the Fortunes of War (or Peace). There were three or four 'Life-or-Death' instances -,where pure luck (or my guardian anger) decided the out-come - and other occasions when crucial appointments occurred just as I happened to be `in the right place at the right time'. Apart from these episodes, however, to have cruised every ocean, touched on every continent and visited inane exotic and little-known places world-wide - all in the day's work and at no personal expense - seemed to me the essence of good fortune.

Hence the title of this book. The sub-title outlines its story.

G. PD. H.


by Rear Admiral G. S. Ritchie CB, DSC

GEOFFREY HALL succeeded me as Hydrographer of the Navy in February 1971, becoming the 20th incumbent of that honourable post since its establishment in 1795 to provide seacharts for the Royal Navy. When these charts were placed on the open market in 1823 the requirement for them began to expand as merchant ships of many nations set about using them world-wide.  '

During Hall's term of office as Hydrographer he was in overall charge of thirteen white-hulled naval surveying ships collecting hydro graphic data at sea, and of the work of 800 civil servants at the Hydrographic Department at Taunton busy compiling, printing and issuing charts to the Royal Navy and commercial agents throughout the world.

Hall was the last Hydrographer to have been surveying at sea before the onset of World War 11. On his own admission he was awarded each of his promotions from Lieutenant-Commander upwards on his last chance in each zone, so that on retirement in September 1975 he was nearing his 60th birthday and was the oldest man in the Navy.

During his long years he had enjoyed a widely varied, and often exciting, life in general service, Combined Operations and the surveying service in peace and war, and this included one general service and five surveying ship commands, each of about two years in duration.

Thus the author has a fascinating tale to tell. He writes evocatively, particularly when recalling events at sea - whether it be surveying off South Georgia under the daily stress of ever-changing stormy weather conditions; carrying out beach reconnaissance from a folbot on the Arakan Coast, where he nearly lost his life; making geophysical investigations in the Indian Ocean; or ocean sounding in the North Atlantic. Many found the latter activity boring - not so Geoffrey as the reader will find out on page 193:

`For me, however, it was far from boring. Quite apart from the interest and fascination of the developing survey, and my daily stint at hand-contouring of the bathymetry in the Chartroom, the whole business was immensely satisfying. I was aware that Hecla would almost certainly be my last sea-going and I was intended to make the most of it. Standing there on the bridge, or sitting in the Captain's chair.  With nothing in sight except the east blue ocean, the ship surging ahead on a steady course, engines throbbing and machinery humming in the background, officers and men quietly and efficiently performing their duties on all sides, I often thought what a marvellous job I had.'

In 1942 he undertook a six weeks N* course in HMS Dryad, and subsequently enjoyed putting the skills he had into practice. He always derived pleasure from handling his ship in close quarter situations, and was ever ready to take his vessel into tight locations such as the narrow lagoon at Aldabra Island, the constricted harbour of Heimaey in the Westman Islands, or the snuggest cove in South Georgia.

Unusual for this type of book, the tale is told in a very personal vein, an approach which will commend Sailor's Lick to historians fifty years or more from now.

The story of how Geoffrey became engaged to Mary Carlisle, a Wren Officer he had never met, by means of a letter written from a Commando camp in Ceylon, and their first meeting six months later in an hotel in Dorchester is delightful.

Once married, Mary packed and followed whenever possible, accepting Geoffrey's white mistresses; she was regarded by being invited to launch one of them, HMS Herald. Today Herald is the grand old lady of the surveying squadron and as beautiful as ever.

Hydrographers of the Navy have always had to fight within the Whitehall corridors of power to obtain or even retain the ships they require to meet their responsibilities as they see them. Geoffrey Hall fought harder than most of us. Whether he -,won or lost may be judged by the reader of the final pages of Sailor's Luck.

The Same Wife in Every Port
Suzanne Kyrle-Pope: Full Price £14.50

Few wives can have experienced such a varied and unusual life as Suzanne KyrIe-Pope.

From making marmalade for submarine crews in Malta during the Second World War to taking part in an opium raid in Singapore, the author takes the reader around the world as she recalls her amazing life.

Her husband, Michael, was a senior naval officer whose appointments took him and his family to Germany, America, the Far East and the Arabian Gulf. The author took the opportunity when far away from home to immerse herself in local life. If she was not working in a fashion store in Washington DC or starting a children’s library in Bahrain she was going off exploring exotic places by bus, ferry, cargo boat or Landrover.

Although her life has been at times exciting, her story is not without sadness but her remarkable spirit has seen her through the hard times. This illuminating spirit shines through time and time again in The Same Wife In Every Port.

Suzanne KyrIe-Pope was born into a naval family in 1921. She had a strict Edwardian upbringing, remaining in England at the age of ten when her family left for China. On leaving school she accompanied her parents to Malta when her father was appointed second in command of the Mediterranean fleet. Aged 18, she became engaged to escape her over-bearing father and when her parents left Malta she married and stayed on as an army wife throughout the siege.

Returning to Britain after a dramatic evacuation she joined Naval Intelligence and worked on the preparations for the Normandy landings. Her marriage broke up when her present husband, Michael, whom she thought had been killed, was repatriated from a POW Camp. After marriage in 1947, she accompanied her husband around the world on various naval postings.

Her husband retired from naval life in 1970 and the couple returned to England. They are now enjoying their retirement.

Midshipman Royal Naval Reserve F N Goodwin

I am sure that this book will be of interest to all who served in the RN.

A fascinating record of a junior officer’s war at sea, Midshipman RNR relies heavily on the entries made in the author’s journal at the time. It covers most of the more important naval activities of World War 11 outside the Pacific, from tedious patrols in the South Atlantic to the Battle of Crete, Tobruk, Russian Convoys, Battle of the Barents Sea, landings in North Africa and Sicily and the final spasms of the Battle of the Atlantic.

This is a superb memoir detailing the day to day activities on board ship. A very much ‘hands on account’ which tells of life in the Gunroom, running ships boats, intensive gunnery and other training prior to major operations. Here also may be found a comprehensive account of the activities of a Corvette engaged in shepherding convoys to Gibraltar and across the Atlantic.

We journey through those turbulent times with the author as he advances through the lower echelons of the Naval hierarchy, gaining in maturity and expertise.

F N Goodwin was born in 1923 and joined HM Training Ship Conway as a cadet in 1938. He was then commissioned as a Midshipman RNR in May 1940 and spent the next six years at sea.

His major interest was navigation and he was appointed navigating officer of HMS Tintagel Castle. After demobilization he gained a degree in Agriculture and spent the remainder of his working life in agricultural development in the third world.