In this third novel in Alexander Fullerton's "Everard Chronicles" series, a real-life World War II submariner weaves a fascinating story of a fictional World War one submarine mission.
The prologue of the novel is an account of the "Battle of Imbros" on 20th January 1918, when the German battlecruiser "Goeben" and cruiser "Breslau" (nominally now the Turkish ships Yavuz and Midilli) sortied from the Dardanelles, sank a couple of British monitors and might have done a great deal more damage had not they run into a minefield. Both ships hit several mines each, causing the Breslau to sink while a badly damaged Goeben had to make for the Dardanelles.
The prologue of "Patrol to the Golden Horn" which describes this action and a couple of flashbacks later in the book explaining how the monitors were left undefended is pretty much as things happened in history.
A few months later our fictional hero, Nick Everard, having won a DSO at Zeebruge in the previous book Sixty Minutes For St George
, arrives in the eastern mediteranean to take command of the destroyer HMS Leveret.
But before he arrives on Leveret, Nick runs into Commander Reaper, the officer who got Nick his first command and his place on the Zeebruge raid in the previous book. Reaper is determined to destroy the Goeben before she can repeat the attack she made in January. When they were served together in the Dover patrol, Nick had successfully carried out a mission for Reaper, when he took a motor torpedo boat into German controlled waters and stole an enemy trawler. Now Reaper wants him to carry out a similar idea on a much larger scale: travel deep into Turkish waters in the submarine E. 57 with an explosives expert and blow up the Goeben where she is lying at the Golden Horn ...
The "Everard Chronicles" series of which this book is part is one of the best sagas of war at sea in the 20th century ever written, and consists of:
1) "The Blooding of the Guns (Nicholas Everard)
2) "Sixty Minutes for St.George"
3) This book, "Patrol to the Golden Horn"
4) Storm Force to Narvik (Windsor Selections S.)
5) Last Lift from Crete
6) All the Drowning Seas
7) A share of honour (link: Nicholas Everard: Share of Honour: Mariner of England
8) The Torch Bearers (Nicholas Everard)
9) The Gatecrashers: v.9: Vol 9 (Nicholas Everard)
The first three books in the series cover the Great War, the last six cover World War II and between them they give a picture of some of the most desperate battles in widely different corners of the globe in which the Royal Navy fought for Britain's survival: and the books bring the action of those battles so vividly to life that reading them almost makes you feel like you'd been there.
Len Deighton, himself an author of war stories with a wealth of carefully checked detail, referred to Alexander Fullerton's books as "The most meticulously researched war novels I have ever read."
This story takes place as the first world war was coming to an end. In real history, Goeben had been so badly damaged in the 20th January operation that she spent most of the remainder of the war being repaired and never fired her guns at a British or French target again. However, while she existed she was still an important factor in the balance of power in the Eastern Mediteranean and the Black Sea. The submarine E.57 and her mission in this book did not exist, but the British were extremely keen to put Goeben out of action.
A character called the Grey Lady who appears in this book is based on a real-life British spy, who was described as the "White Lady" in Francis Yeats-brown's book Golden Horn
. Several of the tricks she gets up to in this book which, had they been the product of the author's imagination I might have been tempted to describe as too implausible to believe, are actually based on real historical events.
The submarine ambush scene which is shown on the cover of some editions of this book was also inspired by a real historical event in 1915. Details are given in an author's note at the back of the book.
Like the rest of the series, this book is nail-biting stuff, brilliantly written and extremely exciting. The author served in the Royal Navy during the second world war, mostly in submarines, but he has made a real effort to get the details right for the war fought by the previous generation.
Ideally the series should be read in order starting with "The Blooding of the Guns" not least because the author frequently makes you think his characters have been or are about to get killed, sunk or captured. Sometimes they really are, sometimes not, but if you know from reading subsequent books first that they will escape it does slightly diminish the excitement of the first reading.
I can strongly recommend this novel and the entire series of nine books.