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The Quiet Heroes: British Merchant Seaman at War [Hardcover]

Bernard Edwards
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Jun 2002
The men of Britain's Merchant Navy, although unarmed civilians going about their normal business, were the first to be involved in the war against Nazi Germany. For almost six years they faced their own private hell of torpedoes, bombs, shells and mines, all the while fending off their old arch-enemy the sea. The price they paid was horrendous - 2,246 ships lost, 29,180 men killed and countless maimed or wounded. This book tells the story of just a few of these Quiet Heroes.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Ltd (6 Jun 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0850529115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0850529111
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,256,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Captain Bernard Edwards spent 37 years at sea with the Merchant Navy commanding ships trading worldwide. On retirement he settled in South West Wales to pursue his second career as a Naval historian. His knowledge of the sea and ships has enabled him to write a series of internationally recognised works.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vital historical document 24 April 2004
By A Customer
The song or prayer "For those in peril on the sea" refers to the dailybattle seafarers encounter from the oceans and elements regularly faced.Ships formed into war-time Convoy's for purported greater safety, toooften presented a skittle-alley to subamarine torpedoes, a fairgroundshooting-range to armed raiders or battleships, and even crawling prey tothe falcons flying above.
This book required none of the drama building of a novelist orscreenwriter, its naked, oftentimes understated revelations about therealities of being a seaman, during a destructive world war, areoverlooked stories.
It was amazing to learn the Merchant Navy lost a far greater proportion ofits strength than 'any' of the armed services, yet these men were 'not'concripts, rather they were volunteers, doing a job, and called upon torisk all - routinely. That one-in-three of them died, and, we do not knowabout it, seems obscene. I think we should salute them. An informative andthought provoking read.
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Stories of courage and tragedy about British merchant ships in WW2. The death rate amongst British merchant seamen in WW2 (17%) was higher than the Royal Navy or the RAF (both around 9%). The book has 21 short chapters, usually following a particular merchant ship until it was attacked, with a description of the fate of the crew, and the career of the attacking vessel and captain. These vignettes cover a range of circumstances: ships sailing in convoy or independently; in different oceans; and attacks by submarines, surface ships or aircraft. Mostly they involve ships being torpedoed and sunk by submarines. One notable chapter describes two different actions where a lone merchant ship successfully fought off with gunfire an Italian submarine attacking on the surface.

The author is a professional merchant captain who began his career at the end of WW2. His feeling for the profession is evident. The book is easy to read. Its value is in highlighting the unheralded work-a-day courage of merchant seamen. Once attacked survival was a lottery. Most poignant are the stories of men lost without trace. The book is otherwise disappointing. The vignettes are superficial and repetitive, providing limited insight in the character and circumstances of the officers and men of the merchant service. There is a brief overview but limited analysis or context to deepen the reader's understanding.

For those seeking greater depth and insight into the great trials, and highs and lows of conduct in the merchant service see Night of the U-boats,
... Read more ›
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I can only agree with the previous reviewer
It is easy to read books such as this as some form of adventure story but when one sits back and puts the experiences into perspective one realises that that these are tales of unbelievable herosim and suffering by ordinary men doing their duty in the cause of our country at the time of its most dangerous and darkest hour.
The book deserves its 5 stars for drawing our attention to the sacrifices made on our behalf but the Quiet Heroes themselves deserve a galaxy of stars for their dedication.
For information I must draw attention to the fact that this book has been previously published under the title of "They sank the Red Dragon" by the same author
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