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Neutral Shores: Ireland and the Battle of the Atlantic [Paperback]

Mark McShane
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2012
From September 1939 until the last days of the war in 1945 Ireland was host to a constant flow of casualties from the Battle of the Atlantic. Ireland's unique location situated near the vital shipping lanes of the Western Approaches placed the country in the immediate conflict zone once the war at sea began with the sinking of the British merchant liner Athenia on 3 September 1939, when 449 survivors landed in Galway city. Neutral Shores follows the story of how many merchant navy ships during the war were attacked and sunk, and their surviving crews left adrift on the hostile Atlantic Ocean in a desperate struggle for survival. For the fortunate ones sanctuary was found along Ireland's rugged Atlantic shores, where the local people took these men from the sea into their homes and cared for them without any consideration of their nationality or allegiances to any of the belligerent nations.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The Mercier Press Ltd (1 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856359344
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856359344
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 747,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

fascinating and well-written book -- Ryle Dwyer Irish Examiner 20120908 a scholarly and interesting narrative The Times Literary Suppliment

About the Author

Mark McShane qualified as a Merchant Navy officer in 1994 and continues to serve at sea. He lives in Cork. Neutral Shores is his first book.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner, factual and interesting 29 July 2012
Format:Paperback
This was the first Non-fiction work i have read, and it reads like a thriller.
Mark Mcshane puts you on the deck or wheelhouse of many merchant navy ships during WW2. He describes the scene so vividly taking you through the duties of many captains and many of the ships crews just before the inevitable strike of the U-Boats. You know the U-boats are coming but still you hope the ship will survive, somehow.
You get to learn so much about life at sea for during the time of WW2. You get to learn much about German U-boats also and the hardship endured by the survivors of the sunken merchant ships.
It must have taken ages to research. Mark McShane truly is a great writer, i am looking forward to the next book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Neutral Shores (Ireland and the Battle of the Atlantic) by Mark McShane,
Published by Mercier 2012. ISBN9781856359344

Leaving aside all the other constituent parts that make up a decent book, the most essential aspect is that it's a good and enjoyable read. Without that key factor, then any other attributes or failings are broadly meaningless. In Mark McShane's first publishing venture he has achieved this essential aspect by the bucket load.

The Battle of the Atlantic like many of the great campaigns and battles of WW2, has been covered by many and all, with no aspect seemingly untold. To some extent that is also true of the role played or not (depending on your personnel viewpoint) by a neutral Ireland during WW2. You could be forgiven for thinking that the book would be overly political and dare I say boring from its title alone, but you would be greatly mistaken, as was I in that matter. McShane has achieved a great balance between the macro & micro elements of this unfolding drama that is often sadly lacking in more notable authors works. This book contains the attention to detail you would expect to find in the works of Clay Blair, and the human aspect often vividly described in the works of Anthony Beevor.

The book itself details through the actions surrounding the fates of several merchant ships, warships and U-Boats and their crews, the unfolding nature of warfare waged in and around Irish shores. The fate of the ships themselves and the crews set adrift are vividly recounted in a narrative style that grips you tight and holds you close, whilst also putting a human face to the combative elements involved. The author also makes a welcomed decision to give voice to the events after the fortunate survivors reach the Irish shoreline.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good book on interesting subject 11 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback
The war was only few days old when the liner Athenia was sunk north of Ireland by U-30 (Oblt. Fritz-Julius Lemp) on 3 Sept 1939 and 449 of its 1306 survivors landed at Galway, Ireland on 5 Sept. From then on there was a steady stream of survivors to Irish shores throughout the war which is the scope of this book. Neutral Shores is very well written and researched. I had not read a book written specifically on this subject before and it was a pleasing read.

What separates this book from many is that it tells the story all the way to Irish shores and explains that happened to survivors once rescued. For many being rescued was only the first step in getting home, often going through more hardships en route. Often hundreds of people without papers or provisions were semi stranded and unsure of how to proceed, often putting great strain on the often small communities that did their best to help.

Some great stories are in the book. For example, in a unique and very humane case after U-35 (Kplt. Werner Lott) had sunk the Greek ship Diamantis on 3 Oct 1939 the Germans cared for and then landed all 28 survivors in Dingle Bay, Ireland the next day after deciding the lifeboats were not suitable for reaching shore.

Survivors' stories, obviously, mostly deal with Allied or neutral sailors landing on Irish shores but the last two chapters deal with German destroyer survivors and then the loss of U-260 in March 1945. The chapter on U-260 is very good and provides details not readily seen elsewhere.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book! 24 Dec 2012
By Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The kindness of the Irish people towards those shipwrecked is documented. Vivid accounts of the fates of many merchant ships reveal the courage of the men who served on them during World War 2. Most amazing, is the story of the officer who was knocked down into a flooded hold, after his ship was hit by a torpedo and his escape by swimming out the side of his ship via the hole torn in the side by the torpedo! Author, Mark McShane has accomplished an excellent work in his research for his book. This book made me proud of my Irish ancestors from Ballyshannon, Ireland. I really enjoyed reading this book. You will too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful history of Ireland's role in the Battle of the Atlantic 1 Oct 2012
By ldw120 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This was an outstanding history of the role of the Irish people in regards to the survivors of German attacks on merchant shipping during the Battle of the Atlantic. Mark McShane provides an overview of the Battle of the Atlantic but concentrates on the individual stories of ships that were sunk and the subsequent life and death struggle for survival of their crews. What is groundbreaking in this history is that the author explains the organizations that were established in Ireland expressly for the purpose of aiding mariners, both Allied and Axis, that came ashore in that country. He also details the efforts of the Irish people who opened their homes to these sailors who were often in extreme distress after being at sea on life rafts and life boats for extended periods of time.

McShane provides charts of where the ships were sunk and follows by dedicating a chapter to each ship and their fates, from time of sailing to time of sinking to arrival by the survivors on the coast of Ireland. His narrative includes details of various crew members which makes these stories more personalized and thereby more relevant in human terms.

His coverage of the actual attacks by German U-boats on the vessels is even-handed in regards to the U-boat Captains and their concerns for the subsequent survival of their boats as the war progressed. He also covers in detail the surface battle off France in 1944 where several German destroyer escort sized warships were sunk and the fate of their crews to include the treatment in Ireland of the German survivors who were saved from drowning by Irish ships.

It is a fascinating read for those interested in this little known aspect of the Battle of the Atlantic that is extremely well written, researched and footnoted.
4.0 out of 5 stars Merchant Marines 11 Jan 2013
By Robert Fink - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great book, well written, and interesting to read. It told the story of the perils of Merchant Marines during WW2. The sinking of the ships by the U boats of Germany and the kindness of Ireland with their survival and excepting of sailors in peril from the sea.
5.0 out of 5 stars Neutral but brave & valiant to boot 11 Jan 2013
By Andy Hill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Neutral Shores (Ireland and the Battle of the Atlantic) by Mark McShane,
Published by Mercier 2012. ISBN9781856359344

Leaving aside all the other constituent parts that make up a decent book, the most essential aspect is that it's a good and enjoyable read. Without that key factor, then any other attributes or failings are broadly meaningless. In Mark McShane's first publishing venture he has achieved this essential aspect by the bucket load.

The Battle of the Atlantic like many of the great campaigns and battles of WW2, has been covered by many and all, with no aspect seemingly untold. To some extent that is also true of the role played or not (depending on your personnel viewpoint) by a neutral Ireland during WW2. You could be forgiven for thinking that the book would be overly political and dare I say boring from its title alone, but you would be greatly mistaken, as was I in that matter.
McShane has achieved a great balance between the macro & micro elements of this unfolding drama that is often sadly lacking in more notable authors works. This book contains the attention to detail you would expect to find in the works of Clay Blair, and the human aspect often vividly described in the works of Anthony Beevor.

The book itself details through the actions surrounding the fates of several merchant ships, warships and U-Boats and their crews, the unfolding nature of warfare waged in and around Irish shores. The fate of the ships themselves and the crews set adrift are vividly recounted in a narrative style that grips you tight and holds you close, whilst also putting a human face to the combative elements involved. The author also makes a welcomed decision to give voice to the events after the fortunate survivors reach the Irish shoreline. No matter what the nationality, the welcome, hospitality and help given to all by the local coastal communities is pleasing to read and learn. The rather obscure organisations that helped the various seamen when in Ireland are also covered in part, and helps give flesh to the bones of the story. Its also testament to them and the Irish people that only 6 men of the 2330 that landed in Ireland, died of the wounds received either in action or whilst in their lifeboat.

However the main thrust of the book is played out upon the dark cold waters of the Atlantic, where fate, luck and chance play just a bigger part as skill, knowledge and courage in the fight for survival. The 17 chapters tend to follow a format (based around the events of a specific ship(s) being sunk) but a well thought out one, that lets the reader understand the broader picture of the events that are about to unfold, so that your not just reading about a sinking out of context. We see in the beginning how the German U-Boats abided by the rules of the sea, and put themselves in unnecessary danger to ensure that the lifeboats had more than a fighting chance of reaching safety. As the war progressed this aspect dwindled to the well known story of unrestricted submarine warfare, which brought so much death and fear to all. The first chapter deals with the infamous sinking of the Athenia in 1939 and the subsequent actions in each and every year. In May'43 we read of the fate of the Irish steamer Irish Oak that was spotted by U650 but upon inspection was satisfied with its neutrality. Only for it to be sunk by U607 two days later because it feared it was an Allied Q-ship! The Wexford Steamship Company's coaster the Kerlogue in late December'43 undertook the extraordinary rescue of some 168 German sailors from 3 Kriegsmarine surface vessels lost in a recent naval engagement with the Royal Navy. The skill, endurance and humanity of this specific incident are uplifting to read. The later survival of the U-Boat crew of U260 in the final days of the war is also recounted in the final chapter of the book.
The book is full of snippets of interesting and obscure information from wave-quelling oil used by seamen in lifeboats, to the usage of nautical words such as Thwarts, which had me reaching for a dictionary.

The book is completed with two appendices and a detailed Notes section which only adds to ones understanding of the main narrative, and the ubiquitous Bibliography. The book has several maps that give you a visual aid to where the various vessels mentioned within, were actually lost. However there are sadly no photographs of these vessels, which is the only real criticism I have. This book for those interested in the Battle of the Atlantic is a must, and would be a welcomed addition to anyone's collection.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars DISAPPOINTING AND FLAT 8 Jan 2014
By amolibros - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Being familiar with the theme and substance of this book, I bought it with the hope of finding something new in it. I found virtually nothing in it that I hadn't come across before. It is based entirely on the work of other writers, other researchers, and material already in the public domain. Its use of language is commendably correct — words, phrases, sentences all in proper order.
But the book adheres to a flat and unexciting, and therefore ultimately boring, formula. There is little or no character development, and stories which should have leapt off the pages stay exactly where they had been stodgily placed by the author. An imaginative story editor could have done much with the work. In view of the strength of the material, it's just a shame that that didn't happen.
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