Sea Wolves is an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of British submarine operations in the Second World War. Its splendid script weaves the operations, the sailors, the enemy, the sea and the Nation into a lively and comprehensive narrative that I could not put down. It brilliantly combines people, plans, politics, politicians and platforms but it is the people that are at its centre and the core is focused upon the submariners from Admiral to Able Seaman. It covers the characters, known and unknown, their courage, their competence (or otherwise)their capabilities, their comradeship and their capacities: for fighting (the enemy and each other!) women, lust, sport, money, travel, food and alcohol. Tim Clayton brings them to us: their lives, their loves and their losses; one part stiff upper lip, the other crippling reality of combat and death.
The pace is hectic and I am impressed by the manner, in which the author keeps it going. He has packed a lot into nearly 400 pages and the result is excellent. There is journalistic licence and some deductions, analysis and speculation are presented as facts but one can forgive this travesty. He covers the planning, the operational and the technical but I was especially moved by the women in the story; the wives, the fiancees, the girfriends. They too had a tough war; often never knowing what had become of their men. Their courage is understated but real.
The drinking, the breakdowns, the sex, the swearing, the brutality, the doubts, the destruction and the failures are all carefully portrayed, all experiences of men in the front-line. The photographs are illuminating too: change the uniform (or rather lack of them) and wind forward to 2011 and it could be Afghanistan rather than the ocean in 1941. If you are interested in men at war, this book is highly recommended. Tim Clayton has done British Submariners of the Second World War a great service; they deserve to be remembered.