Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard

HALF SEAS UNDER

Publishers: A C Black

Ruari McLean

ISBN 0901281271

£21.95

Published August 2003

Over 100 illustrations.


Ruari McLean started his war in 1939 as a pacifist but by Christmas he had changed his mind and joined the Royal Navy. Altogether he spent five years in the Navy, sailed on or under five oceans, and walked on three continents. He wore seven different kinds of hat, carried (but never used) six kinds of gun and was issued with an Instantaneous Death Tablet.

In Half Seas Under, the author vividly brings to life his time as Liaison Officer on the Free French submarine Rubis when they saw action off the coast of Norway, his time in Naval Intelligence and his role in reconnaissance work off (and sometimes on) the beaches of Japanese-held Burma and Sumatra.

Commander Jeff Tall, OBE RN, Director, Royal Navy Submarine Museum, writes:

FOREWORD

Beneath the surface of wit and wonderful lightness of touch used by Ruari McLean to describe his wartime experiences in submarines and with the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) lies a story of true heroism and dedication.

Winston Churchill told Parliament in 1942 that `of all branches of His Majesty's Forces none faces grimmer perils than the submarines'. He was right. One in three of British and Allied submariners lost their lives during World War 11, with the Royal Navy losing five out of its six minelaying submarines. To stand into danger with one's own countrymen is one thing, but to be exposed to that danger in a foreign submarine carries an additional piquancy. Sub-Lieutenant McLean's appetite for adventure and his ability to get on with his fellow man carried him through, and he was fortunate to serve an outstanding Submarine Commanding Officer of FS Rubis and their gallant crewmembers. Lieutenant de Vaisseau Henri Rousselot was the most decorated Allied officer, with a DSO and a DSC and two Bars, all awarded for his many successful minelaying sorties between 1941 and 1944. His ship's company received three DSCs, one with a Bar and another with two Bars, and eleven DS.Ms, one with a Bar. Seven of his men were mentioned in Despatches. The reader should be in no doubt that FS Rubis was in the thick of things!

COPPs played a vital role in establishing the groundwork for Allied amphibi­ous operations, and once again the dangers involved are nicely understated by the modesty of the Author. The journey to the objective carried its risks regardless of the mode of carriage, and the various phases of deployment, transit, getting ashore, conducting the surveys, and finally getting the results home to those who needed them, were all extremely hazardous. Many COPPs did not return.

Because of the public fascination for stories about the German U-boat, too often the contribution of the Allied Submarine Services to ultimate victory in World War 11 is forgotten, and I doubt that many people will have even heard of the COPPs and their magnificent work. Half Seas Under is thus an important book historically, as well as a brilliant read.

Beneath the surface of wit and wonderful lightness of touch used by Ruari McLean to describe his wartime experiences in submarines and with the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) lies a story of true heroism and dedication. Because of the public fascination for stories about the German U-boat, too often the contribution of the Allied Submarine Services to ultimate victory in World War 11 is forgotten, and I doubt that many people will have even heard of the COPPs and their magnificent work. Half Seas Under is thus an important book historically, as well as a brilliant read.

RUARI McLEAN One of the leading typographers of his generation, Ruari McLean was born in Galloway in Scotland in 1917. His parents moved to Oxford when he was four, and that remained his home until shortly before the war. After the war he became a typographer, designing books and magazines. He designed the Eagle comic when it first appeared and has written (so far) 33 books including Modern Book Design (1951), Victorian Book Design and Colour Printing (1963), and the Thames and Hudson Manual of Typography (1980) which is still in print and has been translated into three languages.

During his wartime service he was mentioned in despatches three times and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre. In 1973 he was appointed CBE for his services to typography.