Within a short time of starting this book I felt that the life of anyone who ever met this particular author could only have been enriched by the experience - if only because everything seems to have happened to this man.
Having joined the Royal Navy in 1934, he was torpedoed on HMS Nelson, joined HMS Prince of Wales before she was commissioned - and was still serving on that great ship when she was lost to Japanese air attack 3 days after Pearl Harbour, was rescued and returned to Singapore just in time for the Japanese invasion and became one of the very few to successfully escape from his Japanese captors by completing an epic sea voyage by small craft all the way to Ceylon - during which time he was shipwrecked again! After service on board HMS Bermuda - which included supporting the Allied landings in North Africa in addition to dreaded Arctic convoys, it was back to the far East for service on two Aircraft Carriers for duty as Flight Deck Officer and then Crash Officer. This man simply survived it all, including 2 Kamikaze attacks and a water spout I almost forgot to mention.
And this is his story. It is an incredible story and one which will not disappoint the reader.
on 13 March 2014
I had heard about this book, it is used as reference a lot for the Force Z saga, but I didn't realise that the author had been through so much. His escape from Singapore is an epic by itself and his honesty and candour are from the heart. I have a great respect for this man and I can recommend this book as a snapshot of a lost world and of a sailor who tasted war to the extreme.
This is the best, meaning most revealing, book about naval wafare I have ever read. Further, it is the most amazing personal story I have ever read. Brooke went through the entire war in everything from destroyers to battleships to aircraft carriers, witnessed the sinking of HMS Hood and HMS repulse, survived the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales, met Winston Churchill, escaped from Singapore and embarked on a nautical marathon, had kamikazes hit his flight deck, personally shot down an (British!) aircraft - it seems impossible for one man to have experienced so much.
Stop hesitating and buy it, you know it makes sense.
on 22 December 2010
I've read many WW2 autobiographies and this is one of the best by a Royal Navy officer. His experiences are astonishingly wide-ranging, encompassing service in destroyers, cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers, Arctic and Malta convoys, gunnery, and flight deck operations under kamikaze attack. But it's his service on the Prince Of Wales that really engrosses: he was aboard during the Bismarck action, Churchill's transatlantic mission to meet Roosevelt, and at the battleship's sinking by Japanese aircraft. He then escaped from Singapore on a native sailing boat to serve to war's end. His personal encounters with the King, Churchill and Roosevelt are fascinating. The book is well-written, detailed and accurate thanks to notes taken at the time, but being published in the 1980s it lacks a little of the raw immediacy of memoirs published in the immediate postwar years. Some good photos and great cover art enhance the book, which is a must-have for serious naval enthusiasts.
on 17 August 2015
As stated in the title, a truly remarkable story, well told with humbleness and pride in the bravery and commitment of his comrades. The astounding part is how Brooke was involved in so many major naval theatres of war at their critical and often tragic moments. Significantly understated is how Brooke managed to lead the charmed life of a survivor, albeit personally through very hard times.