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Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service [Paperback]

Iain Ballantyne
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Aug 2014

HUNTER KILLERS will follow the careers of four daring British submarine captains who risked their lives to keep the rest of us safe, their exploits consigned to the shadows until now. Their experiences encompass the span of the Cold War, from voyages in WW2-era submarines under Arctic ice to nuclear-powered espionage missions in Soviet-dominated seas. There are dangerous encounters with Russian spy ships in UK waters and finally, as the communist facade begins to crack, they hold the line against the Kremlin's oceanic might, playing a leading role in bringing down the Berlin Wall. It is the first time they have spoken out about their covert lives in the submarine service.

This is the dramatic untold story of Britain's most-secret service.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (21 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409139018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409139010
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Ballantyne has spent time at sea in most types of warship, from nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, to destroyers and frigates. Past assignments as a writer have also taken him from the frozen wastes of the Arctic to minefields in poisoned waters off war-torn Kuwait and even on a brief foray into the Bosnian war zone.

Iain was one of a select few journalists aboard the carrier HMS Ark Royal when the pilot of a Sea Harrier shot down over the Balkans was rescued by Special Forces and returned to the ship.

More recently, Iain was aboard a Royal Navy frigate during a NATO counter-terrorism exercise in the Mediterranean and the same year (2008) visited US Navy and British warships facing down the Iranian and Al-Qaeda threat in the Northern Arabian Gulf.

Aside from being aboard the frigate HMS London (in 1991) when she was nearly hit by a practice torpedo launched by a Soviet submarine, during his visits to the USSR in its dying days Iain also came across a previously secret Russian prototype submarine at Balaclava in the Crimea. His report and photographs of the vessel when published were a world first.

During other Russian forays Iain twice visited the Kronstadt naval base (a restricted area). One memorable interview session with a Russian admiral involved 16 vodka toasts to 'the beautiful women of the world.'

In 2007, Iain's work in the maritime arena was saluted with a Special Recognition Award from the British Maritime Charitable Foundation (BMCF), for making 'a consistent and unwavering contribution to raising maritime awareness over the years'.

In addition to being founding (and current) Editor of the global naval news magazine WARSHIPS IFR (1998 - Present) and HPC Publishing's popular 'Guide to the Royal Navy' (2002 - Present) Iain continues to write for newspapers and other magazines.

His input for several years also infused and informed stories on naval affairs in the Sunday Telegraph and most recently (2014) in the Sunday Times.

In 2010 Iain's WW2 era book, 'Killing the Bismarck' won a Mountbatten Maritime Award for best literary contribution Certificate of Merit.

The citation, by a distinguished panel of judges, declared 'Killing the Bismarck' to be 'a book of intense drama, compiled with painstaking accuracy and vividly portrayed through the meticulous accumulation of first-hand witness accounts' to make it 'authoritative and compelling.'

Iain is an Associate Member of the HMS Warspite Association. His first book (published 2001) was a profile of the legendary battleship Warspite, primarily told through the experiences of her sailors and marines in two world wars, but also including a look at the exploits of the nuclear-powered submarine of the same name.

In June 2014, in recognition of his work on behalf of naval history, and in particular telling the story of Cold War submarines and submarines, Iain was presented with an award during a special 'HMS Warspite and Buddies in Boats Reunion' at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.

His other books include 'H.M.S. London' which told the story of British warships to carry that names since the 17th Century, including the Type 22 frigate that was at one time commanded by Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement.

Iain Ballantyne's latest book, 'Hunter Killers' (published by Orion), is the first work to tell the truth behind several dangerous episodes in the covert undersea confrontation between British and Soviet submarines and their crews during the Cold War.

Product Description


an exciting, thought-provoking and very instructive book, most strongly recommended (SCUTTLEBUTT 2014-04-01)

Book Description

HUNTER KILLER: a submarine designed to pursue and attack enemy submarines and surface ships using torpedoes.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great History meets Great Writing 1 Oct 2013
Iain Ballantyne, Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service, Orion, London, 2013.

The impact of the cold war on the quest for mastery in outerspace has long fascinated authors, journalists and film makers. No less dramatic was the cold war struggle for the inner space of the ocean depths from 1945 to 1991. This story, like the submarines and submariners that wrote it, remained invisible during the cold war years. The Royal Navy's silent service lived up to its reputation for silence and efficiency. Using a range of sources, including interviews with key protagonists, Iain Ballantyne's book brings to the surface the story of the Royal Navy's submarine force during the cold war years.
Ballantyne has quite a story to tell from deadly games of cat and mouse in the Baltic and the Barents Sea to operations under the Arctic ice cap. Stealthy missions to eavesdrop on ship radar emissions, weapons tests and Soviet naval exercises are punctuated by near misses and not so near misses. Ballantyne charts a series of incidents when, even in the coldest of northern seas, the cold war could have got hot as Royal Navy submarines were pursued with potentially lethal force by Soviet forces. The book's revelations are sure to send a shiver down the spines of those of us who lived through the cold war unaware of the dramas taking place 100 to a thousand meters below the surface of the sea.
Ballantyne has done a lot of detective work to piece the story together, but his real art as a writer lies in the way he engages the reader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hunter killers 9 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I actually served on diesel boats and an SSBN during the cold war and found the book riveting!! The political reviews filled in gaps in my knowledge and I can now understand why we did what we did. A must read for anyone who is interested in submarines
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent- well written, researched book 10 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have read several Iain Ballantyne books- but this in my opinion is his best. An excellent book, which has been thoroughly researched. What I particularly liked, is the fact that as a 'baby boomer' generation, I grew up in the Cold War....and I never knew that Royal Navy submarines had such an important role tracking the soviets.
My only regret is that i did not joint the Navy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book 20 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Iain Ballantyne has written a thoroughly enlightening account of what was really happening behind the bland official news releases of the Cold War. As someone who served in the Royal Navy during that period, and who was actively involved in surface fleet operations in the North Atlantic/Barentz/Arctic Sea regions, this book is a complete revelation in its description of the various submarine activities going on at the same time. We all knew that these 'initiatives' were being pursued, but had little clear idea of the real war conditions under which these patrols were made, and the dangers faced by the crews of the participating boats. Ballantyne has sensibly threaded his account into some of the personal histories of selected key personnel of the era. It makes for a fascinating read. This is proper and instructive history, written whilst living witnesses are still vibrant and opinionated.

David Gregory
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read on modern submarine ops 18 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A well written and researched book with few errors. Some great interviews and like others who have reviewed the book and like me were on cold war op's on hunter killers the background makes more sense of the foreground we were involved in.

Cold war patrols were never fun but the professionalism of the crews on RN Submarines was second to none, the captains the best in the world. They got us in and out in one piece. This books tells those stories beautifully. It also goes to explain why submariners will always be submariners even 30 years after leaving the mob.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic and well researched 17 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having been one of those cold war submariners I thought this book was excellent ...... it gives a good amount of detail without being too caught up in small issues...... following the careers of a group of people was a great idea !

The research done is good --- and the book is an easy read

Overall I would say it gives a good insight into a world that many are completely unaware of
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britains Deterrent 3 Oct 2013
By Dolphin
Format:Kindle Edition
This book gave an interesting account of some of the behind the scenes activities of our submarine force
A first class read
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 2 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A gripping review of Royal Navy submarine operations (focused on the Hunter Killers, but covering SSBN operations as well) from the 50s to the end of the Cold War. With a comprehensive epilogue and telling many stories that needed to be told (many only rumours until now) this is an essential text for all interested in this topic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
After a slow start, explaining the origins of the cold war, this book delivered in spades. Personally, I have served in the Royal Navy for over 32 years including 25 years in... Read more
Published 4 hours ago by Mr. Ian J. Atkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly brilliant
It puts into perspective just how much our submarines did,just to keep the peace.Professional passive aggression,allied with highly personal detail,a must read for all those... Read more
Published 7 days ago by R. E. Fox
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
as advertised
Published 8 days ago by Anthony JG Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book. Everyone should read it they would be amazed at what went on during the Cold War.
Published 22 days ago by Jerry
5.0 out of 5 stars great buy
bought this on recommendation from a friend. my husband hasn't put it down so far lol.
Published 1 month ago by Mireille L.
4.0 out of 5 stars Hunter Killer: Unseen we come - stories from a murky past
It's good to see the Cold War story at last unfolding in popular media. Hunter Killer is an easy general read and informative, even though (understandably) limited in certain ways. Read more
Published 1 month ago by A. Leask
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fantastic read
Published 1 month ago by m walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
A fascinating and in depth narrative of submarine activity prior, throughout and post cold war eras, ending with a glimpse of the future
Published 2 months ago by Andrew glen
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterly survey of submarine warfare using recently de-classified...
A beautifully balanced survey of submarine warfare leading up to the highly skilled and dangerous operations conducted
during the cold war and off the Falklands. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Henry Harwood
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended
I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it, but there are a few niggles. The writing is sometimes not as clear as it could be, and several sentences had to be re-read to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Elinvar
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