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

Pen & Sword Books & DVD's Reviewed in 2013

A Biographical Dictionary of the Twentieth-Century Royal Navy
Volume 1 - Admirals of the Fleet and Admirals
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Alastair Wilson
ISBN: 9781848320888
Found in: Maritime History Books
Price: £30
Publication Date: 21st August 2013

Publisher's Title Information

Despite its recent decline in size and influence, for much of the twentieth century the Royal Navy was a major player in world history. Its senior officers carried out - and sometimes made - British policy in peace and war, but with the exception of a few star figures the details of their careers have never been published. This book is the first volume of a major study intended to provide a resumé of the service lives of every flag officer, in the style of the great nineteenth century biographical dictionaries of Marshall and O'Byrne. Every entry is based on primary sources, including the Navy's confidential personnel files, cross-referenced with general historical data and, in the case of living officers, correspondence with the subjects themselves.
The book comes with a CD which contains the service histories and careers of 336 most senior admirals on the Navy List from 1900 onwards. The length of each entry varies with the importance of the officer covered, but each includes both an outline of their careers and significant dates, like promotions and awards. In all, the CD contains more than 600,000 words - a truly epic work. The majority are not even included in the Dictionary of National Biography, and as such, this work will be a boon to historians, and invaluable to genealogists. This is a monumental and unique naval historical resource.


“A truly epic work, will be an essential reference for historians and genealogists alike.”
The Village Magazine (Fishbourne)

Hunting the Essex
A Journal of the Voyage of HMS Phoebe 1813-1814
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Midshipman Allen Gardiner
Introduction by Andrew Lambert
JOHN S RIESKE, a retired American academic with an interest in maritime history, discovered and purchased the manuscript of this unpublished journal by a Midshipman who served in the Phoebe. Recognising its historical significance, he transcribed and edited it for publication.
ISBN: 9781848321748
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Price: RRP £16.99
Publication Date 19th June 2013

Publisher's Title Information

In March 1813 the British Frigate Phoebe set out on a secret mission that would involve sailing halfway around the world to attack American settlements in the Pacific Northwest. The United States, frustrated at the treatment of its shipping by the combatants in the Napoleonic Wars, had finally opened hostilities against the British in the previous June. From the American perspective the War of 1812 began with disasters in its invasion of Canada, but against all expectations the infant US Navy had scored significant victories at sea. The most strategically significant of these was the campaign by the frigate USS Essex, which had almost annihilated the lucrative British whaling trade in the south Pacific. Therefore, Phoebe was diverted to hunt down and destroy this highly successful commerce-raider.
After an epic search, Phoebe tracked her prey to neutral Valparaiso where the American frigate was blockaded and,in a very bloody battle, eventually captured. The American captain, David Porter, published a self-serving account of his actions which ever since has mired the battle in controversy, so this British naval eyewitness account is an important counter-balance. It is one of the lesser-known campaigns of a war which is currently celebrating its bicentenary, but its inherent drama inspired the plot of Patrick O'Brian's novel The Far Side of the World, although in its movie adaptation Master & Commander the American frigate is transformed into a French privateer.

ALLEN FRANCIS GARDINER was a Royal Navy Midshipman at the time he compiled his journal. He had gone to sea relatively late by contemporary standards, but was better educated as a consequence. He was to enjoy a modestly successful naval career reaching the rank of Commander in 1826, but he is better known to posterity for his later career as an evangelical missionary in Africa and South America. He diet). in Patagonia in 1851, not far from the track Phoebe had taken around Cape Horn in 1813.

JOHN S RIESKE, a retired American academic with an interest in maritime history, discovered and purchased the manuscript of this unpublished journal by a Midshipman who served in the Phoebe. Recognising its historical significance, he transcribed and edited it for publication, but sadly died before he could see it in print.

ANDREW LAMBERT is the Laughton Professor of Naval History at King's College, London. Among his many highly regarded books is a revisionist naval history of the War of 1812, The Challenge, published in 2012.
Seaforth Publishing is devoted to producing the very best reference books and narrative histories about ships and the sea. If you would like further details of our publications please contact: The Marketing Department, Seaforth Publishing, an imprint of Pen and Sword Books Ltd, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, S Yorkshire S70 2AS Telephone +44 (0)1226 734555

Shipcraft 21: British Destroyers
J-C and Battle Classes
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Found in: Ship Modelling
Price: £14.99
Publication Date: 3rd July 2013

Publisher's Title Information

The 'ShipCraft' series provides in-depth information about building and modifying model kits of famous warship types. Lavishly illustrated, each book takes the modeller through a brief history of the subject class, highlighting differences between sisterships and changes in their appearance over their careers. This includes paint schemes and camouflage, featuring colour profiles and highly-detailed line drawings and scale plans. The modelling section reviews the strengths and weaknesses of available kits, lists commercial accessory sets for super-detailing of the ships, and provides hints on modifying and improving the basic kit. This is followed by an extensive photographic survey of selected high-quality models in a variety of scales, and the book concludes with a section on research references - books, monographs, large-scale plans and relevant websites.


Although this is a book designed for Model Builders it is nevertheless a fine record of British Destroyers including the later Battle Class. For more information see

The Real Hornblower
The Life and Times of Admiral Sir James Gordon
Edition: 2013, 1st Published 1997
Format: Paperback
Author: Bryan Perrett
ISBN: 9781781591956
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Price: £12.99
Publication Date: 20th May 2013

Publisher's title Information

Ever since C.S. Forester's fictional hero Horatio Hornblower began to delight and enthral readers, there has been speculation as to whether his adventures were based on the career of a real naval officer. Several names were suggested, the general conclusion was that Hornblower was a composite character. However, while researching the campaign that resulted in the burning of Washington's public buildings, Bryan Perret consulted Forester's Naval War of 1812 and was surprised to discover that the author had been deliberately reticent regarding a Captain James Alexander Gordon, RN, who had led his squadron up the Potomac. Further inspection of naval records revealed a startling number of parallels between the careers of Gordon and Hornblower. Subsequent research spanning a period of ten years uncovered yet more similarities - too many, in fact, to be a matter of simple coincidence. It became apparent that, while Forester certainly included other episodes in the Hornblower cycle, he was aware of Gordon when the first of his books were written, and that when he decided to expand the series he chose Gordon's career as the framework on which his hero's life would be based.
As a professional author, it was neither surprising that he should conceal the fact, nor that he should choose Gordon as his model. Gordon had entered the Royal Navy as a semi-literate eleven-year-old and rose to become Admiral of the Fleet. He took part in major sea battles, frigate actions, single-ship duels and operations far behind enemy lines. It was the fire of his ships, directed against Fort McHenry, Baltimore, that inspired the National Anthem. He was the last Governor of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich, and when he died, having served for more than seventy five years in the Navy, The Times commented that he was' the last of Nelson's captains'. That he should have attracted Forster's attention is not, therefore, surprising. In telling the largely unknown story of Admiral Gordon's active service career, Bryan Perrett has produced a book that will be appreciated by the thousands of readers who have enjoyed the adventures of Horatio Hornblower and his successors. It will also be welcomed by anyone with an interest in the naval warfare of the Napoleonic era, while those who take pleasure in biography will find that they have the added bonus of an absorbing literary and historical detective story.


Praise for 'The Real Hornblower' 'It is enthralling and humbling to read about such men...' - Mail on Sunday
'This is a fascinating and engaging written account of a little known story which is sure to interest historians and fans of Forester alike' - Aberdeen Press and Journal
'Perrett has made a good case that these overlays are more than coincidence and that Forester consciously used this fine officer's career as inspiration' - Time, Greenwich CT, USA
'An interesting and well written book of which C.S. Forester would surely have approved' - The Nautical Magazine

Convoy Will Scatter
The Full Story of Jervis Bay and Convoy HX84
Imprint: Pen & Sword Maritime
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Bernard Edwards
ISBN: 9781781593769
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Price: RRP £19.99
Publication Date: 12th June 2013

Publisher's Title Information

On 5 November, 1940 the eastbound convoy HX 84 of thirty-seven merchant ships, escorted by the armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay, was attacked in mid-Atlantic by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. The Jervis Bay, commanded by Captain Edward Fegen, charged at the enemy. Hopelessly out-gunned, she was blown out of the water by the Scheer's 11-inch guns.
Meanwhile, led by HX 84's commodore ship, the Cardiff tramp Cornish City, the merchantmen scattered under the cover of a smoke screen, were picked off one by one by the radar-equipped Admiral Scheer.
Captain Hugh Pettigrew, commanding the highly armed Canadian Pacific cargo liner Beaverford, began a desperate game of hide and seek with the Scheer, which continued until Beaverford was sunk with no survivors. Thanks to this sacrifice, incredibly only four other merchantmen were sunk.
Later the neutral flag Swedish freighter Stureholm, commanded by Captain Olander, picked up survivors from the Jervis Bay. Without this brave and dangerous gesture no one would have lived to tell the tale of the death throes of the Jervis Bay, whose Captain was awarded the VC.
Sadly, the history books only mention the Beaverford and the Stureholm in passing. This thrilling book puts the record straight.

Author's Note

The story of the Fighting Jervis Bay is so entrenched in British contemporary history that I hesitate to take issue with it. But this I must do.

That HMS Jervis Bay, outgunned and outclassed, fought a valiant fight on that November night in 1940 cannot be disputed. It was fitting that the bravery of Captain Edward Fogarty Fegen and those who fought with him was recognised without delay. That being so, I question why there was no official recognition of the role played in the action by the merchant ships Beaverford and Stureholm.

My research shows that within twenty-two minutes Jervis Bay was out of the fight, lying smashed and burning, most of her crew were dead. The defence of the convoy was then taken up by the Beaverford, and a mumber of eyewitness accounts show that she held the Admiral Scheer at bay for some five hours, allowing thirty-three ships to escape. Inevitably, she paid the ultimate price for her defiance, going down under the heavy guns of the German pocket battleship in a blaze of glory. She left no survivors.

In a just world Captain Hugh Pettigrew and his crew of seventy-two would have received the highest awards in recognition of their gallant fight, which went far beyond the call of duty. What they actually received was a VNC (Voyage Not Completed) against their names, and their pay stopped the moment the Beaverford slipped below the waves.

Likewise, Captain Sven Olander and the men of the Swedish ship Stureholm deserved the thanks of a grateful nation for the horrendous risks they took to rescue those few who survived the Jervis Bay. Theirs was a totally selfless act, again beyond the call of any duty, yet it was Ignored, except by those they saved.
More than seventy years have passed since the guns fell silent, but it is still not too late to set the record straight for the men of the Beaverfbrd and the Stureholm.
You may also be interested in

Athenia Torpedoed
The U-Boat Attack that Ignited the Battle of the Atlantic
Found in: Maritime History Books
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Francis M. Carroll
ISBN: 9781781591710
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Price: £19.99
Publication Date: 2nd Jan 2013

Publisher's Title Information

This book is an account of a disaster at sea, the sinking by a German submarine of the passenger liner Athenia sailing from Liverpool to Montreal, loaded with Americans, Canadians, and Europeans, attempting to cross the Atlantic before the outbreak of war. Although 112 people were lost, of whom 30 were the first Americans killed in the war, 1,306 were rescued. Housewives, children, college students, scientists, actresses, and Jewish refugees were among the victims, and even young John F. Kennedy was called on to give assistance. The drama, tragedy, and triumph of their experiences are a central part of the story. But of course the book is also about war and politics. Indeed, this is actually where the Second World War began. Here Germany, having already invaded Poland in what was expected to be a limited war, first struck the western Allies, Britain and France. This was the first blow, fired without warning, just hours after war was declared. For Britain, the sinking of the Athenia was seen as both a violation of international law and a return to the kind of total war Germany had waged in the Great War.
The sinking of the Athenia immediately pushed Britain to adopt convoys to protect shipping, and it served from the first to shape British public opinion toward the war. In Canada the sinking of the ship and particularly the death of the innocent, ten year old Margaret Hayworth, became emotional issues around which much of the nation could rally in support of the decision of Parliament to go to war. In the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was too wary to make the sinking of the Athenia the counterpart of the sinking of the Lusitania in the First World War. However, the Athenia exposed Germany in the public mind as a serious threat to Americans, and provided the opportunity for President Roosevelt to open direct communication with Winston Churchill. The Athenia helped to change public opinion in the United States sufficiently to amend the existing Neutrality Laws to allow the country to sell munitions and supplies to Britain and Francea supportive first step to meeting the Nazi threat directly. So the sinking of the Athenia is a tale full of meaning and passion that deserves to be known.

The Author

Francis M. Carroll, Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, was educated at Carleton College, the University of Minnesota, and Trinity College Dublin. He has published ten books and is the winner of the J.W. Dafoe Prize and the Albert B. Corey Prize. He lives in Manitoba, Canada.


This is the true account of the torpedoing of the Athenia on the 3rd September 1939 just hours after World War II was declared. On Athenia Sunday dinner was being served when the ship was rocked by explosions. U-30 had struck its first blow of the war by firing torpedoes without warning. Two were in fact fired. One ran wild, forcing the U-boat to dive deep.

Athenia was a British ship , however she carried Americans, Canadians, and Europeans crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool to Montreal. 1306 were rescued but 112 people were lost, including thirty Americans.

The disaster shaped the British public opinion of the war. In Canada and USA it had similar effects.

Very few books have covered this sinking, thus this makes a welcome addition for any naval historian.

Rob Jerrard

Monitors of the Royal Navy
How the Fleet Brought the Big Guns to Bear
Found in: Maritime History Books
Royal Navy
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Jim Crossley
ISBN: 9781781590515
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Price: £19.99
Publication Date: 2013

Publisher's Title Information

Monitor warships mounted the biggest guns ever deployed by the Royal Navy, and played an undeniably important part in Allied efforts during World War One and Two. They were built as cheap "disposable" ships made out of redundant bits and pieces which the Admiralty happened to have available which could bring heavy artillery to bear on enemy coasts with pin point accuracy and on at least one occasion a force of only three monitors had a profound effect on the strategic situation in WW I. Being classed as disposable they were often exposed to risks far more recklessly than more expensive battle ships or heavy cruisers. So impressive was their performance in WW I that two were retained in service into WW II and did such good work during the North African campaign that two new ones were built and they fought in the Mediterranean, in the Normandy landings and in the advance of the Allied armies into occupied Europe. They astonished allies and enemies alike with the devastating effect of their accurate fire reaching targets 10 miles or more inland.
The book deals with the origins of Monitors and how they evolved from the bomb ketches of the 18th century. It looks at how the various classes of monitor were designed and built and explores their careers in both World Wars, including the particular impact they had on the various campaigns in which they fought. It attempts to assess their effectiveness as compared to some other classes of ship, and is sure to appeal to a wide range of related enthusiasts.

The Author

Jim Crossley is a retired Engineer and keen sailor. He has a History Degree from Cambridge.


I have to admit that I am too young to have any memories of these ships apart from one. I know that I can recall seeing HMS Roberts and from all accounts it must have been at Devonport probably when I was serving in HMS lion 1960-1962. Strange how the memory is, but I thought it was a Portsmouth I saw her? Perhaps somebody can solve that for me? HMS Roberts was a Roberts Class Monitor. She was named for/after Field Marshal Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts.

Built by John Brown, Clydbank, she was laid down 30 April 1940, launched 1 April 1941 and completed on 27 October 1941.

HMS Roberts was destined for scrapping shortly after the war, but hired back by the navy as an accommodation ship at Devonport until 1965. She was broken up in July 1965.

We must not forget that we still have a WW1 example of this class of ship. HMS M33 is an M29 class built in 1915. She saw active service in the Mediterranean during World War I and in Russia in 1919. She was used subsequently as a mine-laying training ship, fuelling hulk, and a workshop and floating office, being renamed HMS Minerva when used as a tender to HMS Vernon at Portsmouth. She was hulked and re-named C23 to be used as a workshop. She passed to Hampshire County Council in the 1980s and as one of only two surviving Royal Navy World War I ships, was restored to original condition and is now located at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Details and photographs of her can be found in “Preserved Warships of the World” by N W Gerhard, Melrose Books 2011.

Rob Jerrard

Cockleshell Raid
Imprint: Battleground
Found in: World War Two Books
Edition: 1st
Format: Paperback
Author: Paul Oldfield
ISBN: 9781781592557
Publishers: Pen & sword
Price: £14.99
Publication Date: 5th Nov 2012

Publisher's Title Information

Operation 'Frankton' is a story of how a handful of determined and resourceful men, using flimsy canoes, achieved what thousands could not by conventional means. The volunteers had enlisted for 'Hostilities Only' and, except for their leader, none had been in a canoe before. However, with a few months training they carried out what one German officer described as, “the outstanding commando raid of the war”. They became known as the 'Cockleshell Heroes', having been immortalised in a film and a book of that name in the 1950s. This book covers the whole of the 'Frankton' story including the development of the Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment, the planning and preparation for the raid, its aftermath and an account of the horrific war crimes inflicted on those who were captured. It also includes the epic escape by Haslar and Corporal Bill Sparks across occupied France into Spain.

See Also



Pen and Sword have also published the above two books on the subject. In both “Cockleshell Commando” and “The last of the Cockleshell Heroes” Bill Sparks gives his account. One should not dismiss the original book “Cockleshell heroes" by C E Lucas published in 1956. This was one of the first books I ever purchased in 1956 just prior to joining the Royal Navy intent of qualifying as a diver. Training was at HMS Vernon, off Spithead and on Horsea lake. Originally I qualified in pure oxygen but the RN switched to air which can be seen in the photos at one of the spithead forts. SABA Sets.

Of course our knowledge of the subject has improved since 1956. The books would best be read in order with Bill Sparks' books helping to fill a few gaps.

I was fortunate enough to have met Bill Sparks and I was in the Marine Cadets at Eastney Barracks, Southsea and remember the film being made. Like all films it is not accurate but entertaining all the same.

Rob Jerrard

Midget Submarine Commander, the Life of Godfrey Place VC
Submarine Books
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Paul Watkins
ISBN: 9781848848009
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Price: RRP £19.99
Publication Date: 12 November 2012

Publisher's Title Information

In World War II few were as audacious as the attack by midget submarines on the pride of the German fleet, the battleship Tirpitz, lying in her heavily fortified lair deep in a Norwegian fjord. Lieutenant Godfrey Place was in command of submarine X7 in September 1943 and travelled over 1000 miles, negotiating minefields and anti-submarine nets to place four tons of high explosive accurately under the hull of the Tirpitz. For this he was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1944, at the age of 22.
Taken prisoner he was repatriated to England at the end of the war, and continued to serve in the Royal Navy for 25 years, flying with 801 squadron in the Korean War, and serving on aircraft carriers at Suez, Nigeria and the withdrawal from Aden. On his retirement in 1970 he had the distinction of being the last serving naval officer to hold the Victoria Cross.
This overdue biography details Godfrey Place VC's eventful life, from a childhood spent partly in East Africa to being the hugely respected Chairman of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association for over 20 years. Thanks to the author's extensive access to previously unpublished material, including Place's own recollections of the attack, there is unlikely to be a better or more thrilling account of the attack on the Tirpitz.

The Author

Paul Watkins is a veterinary surgeon with a lifelong interest in military history, especially naval history and the Victoria Cross. Having spent a career in research (including time spent working with the Royal Navy) during which he has written and/or contributed to numerous books and scientific publications, he has been fortunate to be able to research the life and career of Rear Admiral Godfrey Place VC. He lives in Sandford, Somerset.


Hiding over the horizon from the coast of Nigeria in case the nascent Biafran War exploded and threatened the lives of British nationals, HMS Albion sweltered, conserving fuel with an enhanced Marine Commando on board. Having sailed unexpectedly, we midshipmen had to take our planned fleet board in the ship rather than ashore, in HMS Nelson. I was the senior midshipman of the gunroom and remember with some trepidation entering the Captain's cabin for part of that oral examination. The Commanding Officer was Captain B. C. G. Place VC, DSC and in my eyes and those of his men a god. Many years later when I was a Rear Admiral serving as Naval Secretary, I had the sad duty of phoning his widow within 24 hours of his death to ascertain whether she would like the nation to organize and fund a funeral or a memorial service, an honour extended to winners of the VC or GC. So those were my only personal links with this gallant and complex officer. Little did I think that after further passage of time I would be asked to write a foreword to what is, surprisingly, the first biography of him. At that fleet board he said to me, "Young man if you take life a little more seriously you could go to the very top." I did, and he was right.

Godfrey Place was the son of a barrister who was highly decorated serving in the army in the First World War, winning a DSO and MC. He became a member of the colonial service, and Godfrey's early years were similar to those of so many children of that period whose fathers ran the Empire. He joined Dartmouth and then very quickly the submarine service. With the coming of war he was soon in the thick of things and won a DSC assisting in sinking an Italian submarine when serving in HMS Unbeaten. Volunteering for hazardous duty, he became the only long-service officer serving in the X-craft or midget submarine force. He won his VC for the remarkable attack on the Tirpitz and, became a German prisoner of war. In POW camp he was involved in the 'Albert RN' escape plans. But on return to the UK after the war, a rather insensitive appointer told him he had to go to a submarine backwater in view of all he had missed as a prisoner of war. He turned his back on the submarine service and threw himself into flying, seeing action in the Korean War as a member of the Fleet Air Arm. He was the only officer I ever met who was entitled to Pilot's wings and, in modern parlance, the submariner's dolphins.

Place could at times be headstrong and suffered no self doubt, invariably assuming that what he thought was correct, that he was right and others wrong. He was very harsh on those who did not live up to what he expected of them, and particularly if they let him down. On retirement, amongst many other roles, he became Chairman of the VC and GC Association and showed the kinder and compassionate side of his nature in becoming a friend to all the members.

Paul Watkins has produced a long overdue book which will be of interest both to those who wonder about what makes a man a hero, and to historians who can sift the large amount of detail about the less well known episodes of Place's naval career.

Admiral The Rt Hon. The Lord West of Spithead GCB, DSC, PC First Sea Lord 2002-2006


In the early months of 1966 England was preparing to host the World Cup, and there was much speculation as to whether the host nation would be able to win the Jules Rimet trophy. As a young boy, still at primary school, I was always keen to follow the news, including football, by reading my father's copy of the Daily Telegraph. It was in February 1966 that I read about Captain Godfrey Place, VC, who had recently assumed command of the commando carrier HMS Albion in the Far East. His picture appeared in the paper, along with a very short summary of his career in the Royal Navy. Over the following years I have pursued an interest in both naval history and the Victoria Cross, and have been fortunate to read many of the excellent biographies written about men who have been awarded the country's highest award for gallantry.

Almost forty years after seeing the picture of Godfrey Place I decided that, with a little more time on my hands, I should read his biography; I was aware that he had died in 1994 and was certain that someone would have written his biography in the intervening years. I was wrong. I started to research his naval career and was immediately struck by the extent of his service in the Royal Navy. Not only had he been awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the midget submarine attack on the German battleship Tirpitz, an operation described by Winston Churchill as 'an audacious and heroic attack', but he had learnt to fly and became a Fleet Air Arm pilot, flying from the aircraft carrier HMS Glory in the Korean War. But there was more: he had been a prisoner of war, and his early service in the Second World War involved appointments to both HMS Newcastle and to submarines based at Malta. Later in his career there were few, if any, conflict areas around the world where Godfrey Place did not serve his nation.

At the time of his retirement in 1970 Godfrey Place was the only serving member of the Royal Navy holding the Victoria Cross; since that day in April 1970 no one else has held it His devotion to duty did not stop at retiremen and led him to serve as Chairman of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association for over twenty years, during which time he was very much the spokesman for the most exclusive club in the world.

But what of the man himself? I have tried to learn and understand more about him: his upbringing, the tragedies that affected his family whilst he was still young and his response to them. And what of his background? Was he from a family with a strong naval tradition? For a man who saw so many friends and colleagues die in the Second World War, why was he always in the 'thick of it' over the ensuing twenty-five years. And although he reached flag rank in the Royal Nays why did he not reach the highest positions in the service, as had been predicted by at least one of his Commanding Officers?

In writing this book, I have tried to answer some of these questions. Wherever possible, I have tried to tell the story of his life, using his own words; I have made use of accounts published in books as well as a sound recording that he made for the Imperial War Museum in 1988. However, I have also been privileged to have been able to explore a significant archive of unpublished material, courtesy of Godfrey Place's family, who have allowed me unfettered access to this, and to whom I am exceptionally grateful.

As to whether I have succeeded in answering the many questions that I posed myself, that is a matter for the reader to decide. I hope however, that in writing this book I have been able to detail the life of a man who I believe was a true hero, in the established sense of the word. His determination and gallantry in the face of the enemy has allowed me, and many others of my generation, to enjoy a freedom which might not have been possible if it had not been for the courage and commitment of Godfrey Place and those who served with him.

Paul Watkins Somerset, 2011


As the author says, it is remarkable that no biography had ever been written about a naval officer with such a long, varied and distinguished career. From the point of view of all ex-boy ratings the opening paragraph of chapter 13 will perhaps jolt a few memories. Godfrey Place was appointed to HMS Ganges, a Boys' Basic Training Establishment by Rear Admiral JOC Hayes who was my Captain in 1956, JOC Hayes was the Captain of HMS St Vincent, the other Boys' Training Establishment. There should be a large number of ex-boy ratings who will remember both officers.

Rob Jerrard HMS St Vincent 1956/57