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Midget Submarine Commander: The Life of Godfrey Place VC
 
 

Midget Submarine Commander: The Life of Godfrey Place VC [Kindle Edition]

Paul Watkins
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Review

Watkins displays great dexterity in using extensive research and has accessed primary sources as well as carrying out many interviews to product a very readable account of Place's varied life. In the words of Admiral Lord West, who writes the Foreword, this impressive book clearly outlines 'what makes a man a hero'. Warships International Fleet Review In Watkins' preface to this biography of Godfrey Place it is revealed that it is a book written in surprise that there hadn't previously been an account of such an accomplished naval officer. When one reads of Place's enormously successful, varied, and colourful career, this is a surprise, and a pleasure that this wrong has now been righted. The central thrust of "Midget Submarine Commander" looks at Place's involvement with Operation 'Source', the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in Alta Fjord. This focus reflects Churchill's own fixation with Tirpitz, but a lot of what is contained here raises questions about whether this was warranted. Watkins highlights many of the reasons behind Churchill's fixation with it, and yet also flags up how it was, to a large extent, something of a paper tiger. Churchill felt that the resources tied up by Tirpitz impacted the "entire naval situation throughout the world", and that if she could be eliminated it would allow a significant rebalancing in the Pacific. That said, the coverage of Tirpitz through Watkins' narrative illustrates how limited her activity was, with prolonged periods of her undergoing planned maintenance while the astonishingly long preparations for the X craft operations we carried out. Herein a key point is made about the nature of a fleet in being - a significant warship does not need to be particularly active to cast a very long shadow. Place may have won his Victoria Cross for his operations against the Tirpitz, but in many ways this, and the title of the book, masks the wider achievements of his career. Indeed Place himself downplayed the significance of this episode in his career, seeing it as "a grossly over-publicized attack in a small submarine on the Tirpitz in 1943" (p.116). It is in this wider career that Watkins' book is at its strongest, producing rich anecdote and delivering valuable context and colour to any serious student of the period. In the accounts of Place's service aboard the Polish submarine Sokol in the Mediterranean some genuinely fresh pieces of history emerge, including the 'official' declaration of war against Italy by Poland - the humorous delivery of which, described on page 34, and involving some fantastic language and a hand thrown shell - masks the real and potentially oft-missed point of how legal niceties such as this were handled during the Second World War. Place's own accounts of his time on Sokol reveal the deep sense of humour that ran through his personality. His claim that his "award of the Polish Cross of Valour entitled him to a mistress, two cows and half a hectare of land" (p.56) cannot fail to raise a smile. Perhaps one of the most striking points about Place's career is that he was very much not just a submariner. After his release from prisoner of war camp and frustrated attempt to rejoin the submarine service, he transferred to surface ships where he played an active role in attempts to counter the insurgency in Palestine that led to the creation of the state of Israel, and then in another significant career change, in 1951 he joined the Fleet Air Arm and qualified as a carrier aviator. This led to his service aboard HMS Glory in the Far East, carrying out combat missions over Malaysia, and most significantly Korea. Late in the book a small point jars. Place was promoted to Captain on 31 December 1958, having passed through the Joint Services Staff Course, and in many ways this marked the run towards the end of his career, and certainly the end of Watkins' work; at this time he was 37. When the reader considers all that had been achieved by then it is reminiscent of Caesar weeping at the sight of a statue of Alexander the Great when thinking that by the age of 30 Alexander had conquered most of the known world. Place is similar to Alexander, achieving a vast amount in critical times for his country.- South London Books In Watkins' preface to this biography of Godfrey Place it is revealed that it is a book written in surprise that there hadn't previously been an account of such an accomplished naval officer. When one reads of Place's enormously successful, varied, and colourful career, this is a surprise, and a pleasure that this wrong has now been righted. Place may have won his Victoria Cross for his operations against the Tirpitz, but in many ways this, and the title of the book, masks the wider achievements of his career. Indeed Place himself downplayed the significance of this episode in his career, seeing it as "a grossly over-publicized attack in a small submarine on the Tirpitz in 1943" . It is in this wider career that Watkins' book is at its strongest, producing rich anecdote and delivering valuable context and colour to any serious student of the period. Late in the book a small point jars. Place was promoted to Captain on 31 December 1958, having passed through the Joint Services Staff Course, and in many ways this marked the run towards the end of his career, and certainly the end of Watkins' work; at this time he was 37. When the reader considers all that had been achieved by then it is reminiscent of Caesar weeping at the sight of a statue of Alexander the Great when thinking that by the age of 30 Alexander had conquered most of the known world. Place is similar to Alexander, achieving a vast amount in critical times for his country. Southlondonbook.blogspot

Product Description

Of all the acts of gallantry 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 fortified mooring in a Norwegian fjord. Lieutenant Godfrey Place was in command of submarine X7 in September 1943 and traveled over 1000 miles, negotiating minefields and antisubmarine nets to accurately place four tons of high explosive under the hull of the Tirpitz. 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 801st squadron in the Korean War, and served 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.

Using many first-hand accounts, the book details his life, from a childhood spent partly in East Africa to being Chairman of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association for over 20 years. It draws on previously unpublished material, including his own recollections on the attack on the Tirpitz and his time as a prisoner of war.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 9975 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pen and Sword (10 May 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CRMJYYW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,466 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An account of a life as full as any. 13 Jun 2013
By Ned Middleton HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Of all the naval awards of the Victoria Cross (VC) from WW2, that which was earned by Godfrey Place always seems to come to the forefront and the story of how it was earned is already well told. In this excellent biography, however, author Paul Watkins go much further than the book's title would suggest and produces a complete account of this man's life in which we learn it was as full as any ever lived. Having compared the photographs of Place as a small boy with those of him in later life, he always remained recognisable with his appearance never really changing.

Codenamed Operation Source, in September 1943 six British miniature submarines (X-Craft) were towed to Norway. X-5, 6 & 7 were to attack the Tirpitz (the Bismarck's only sister ship) and X-8, 9 & 10 the Scharnhorst. X-8 and X-9, however, never reached the starting line and X-10 had so many technical problems her attack was abandoned and she was later scuttled on the tow back to Scotland. Both X-6 and X-7 succeeded in placing their charges below the Tirpitz although both craft were then disabled and abandoned. Six of the eight crew members escaped these two sinking X-Craft and were taken on board the Tirpitz from where they saw X-5 surface and destroyed at close range. To this day, it not known whether X-5 was retreating after having placed her own charges or was pressing home her attack when sunk. All three commanders were initially recommended for the VC but this was later changed. Eventually, the commanders of X-6 (Donald Cameron) and X-7 (Godfrey Place) both received the Victoria Cross. Henty-Creer, however, who commanded X-5 and was also the overall flotilla commander, received nothing more than a Mention in Despatches - something which remains the subject of much discontent to this day!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I think the insights Paul Watkins offers about my father are well informed and interesting and the detail is amazing. but this is, in my view, a well written book about my father, how can I claim an objective position? (I particularly like the inclusion of a photo which must have been taken by my mother on their brief honeymoon just before he set off to try and blow up the Tirpitz which has him sitting under a road sign, probably relating to an incipient steep hill, which says "You have been warned".)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good 20 Aug 2013
By Patrick
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A sort of multi book, with the history of the famous tirpitz attack but also one learns alot about the navy's post colonial activities and also how the navy operates in terms of personnel.

All in all a very good read from which I have learnt alot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great leader of Men 30 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Man England expects ,We could really do with more like him to-day .A very enjoyable read. much to enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly good read 28 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well researched biography of a very interesting naval career, spanning the depths of the oceans to the freedom of the skies. i loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very brave man. 31 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thought this book was very interesting being an ex submariner and Royal Navy a very comprehensive story of his life a very brave man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Godfrey Place VC 1 May 2014
By Richard
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
He was my Captain on HMS Albion. I later met him again when was commanding the Royal Naval Reserve. Great guy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Midget Sub Commander 5 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very interesting & informative book. I was at Ganges as ships company at the time of Godfrey Place and the book was of special interest to me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Hero!
Good to get behind the man and to see what motivated him! A worthwhile read, recommended as a background filler.
Published 1 month ago by Owen Parker
3.0 out of 5 stars An amazing man.
Without doubt an amazing man who had an amazing career. However as a book it was a little like reading a diary. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Carwyn
5.0 out of 5 stars A talented man of which we won't see again.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book from cover to cover, not just his time in X-craft but his whole life. Though research and attention to detail makes this book an exceptional read. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Edward anderson
3.0 out of 5 stars A full life in the Royal Navy
Basically I enjoyed this account of the life of a remarkable man and his exploits in the Royal Navy. Read more
Published 7 months ago by G. Colville
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful !!
Such bravery and skill at a time when Britain was under threat from invasion left me awestruck. Men of this calibre are a rare beast. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Portland Bill
5.0 out of 5 stars General
A very interesting and well written book. I served under Godfrey Place when he was a Commander on H.M.S. Thesius and was able to relate to many of the incidents in the book. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Robjn Lees
5.0 out of 5 stars A full life
'A ripping yarn' of a life Godfrey Place packed in so much yet stayed modest about the damage he inflicted with colleagues on Gemany's Navy. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Bub
4.0 out of 5 stars Midget submarine Commander.The life of Godfrey Place VC.
The story of the attack on the "Tirpitz" has always fascinated me,& also I actually met him years ago when we were both in the service,but I didn,t know anything about the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by John Pearse
4.0 out of 5 stars A very brave and dedicated Naval Officer.
Having served in the Royal Navy at more or less the same time as Admiral Place the book was all the better for it.A very brave man
who served his country well. Read more
Published 8 months ago by John
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