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The Quiet Heroes: British Merchant Seamen at War, 1939-1945
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2011
Having read dozens of maritime history books this is the first covering the experiences of the seaman and ships of the merchant navy. Bernard Edwards writes with a clear emotional connection to the sea, the ships and the men that sailed them, bringing the reader much closer to the daily lives of merchant men at war. I contrast this to other books which are often matter of fact, distant and elitist e.g. Dog boats at war, yet seem to get good reviews. This book is a genuine good read written by someone with a passion for his subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 July 2013
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 careers 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 little insight in the character, motivations 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,Nightmare Convoy: The Story of the Lost Wrens or PQ17 Convoy to Hell - the survivors' Story - in-depth accounts of individual Atlantic, Gibraltar and Arctic convoys respectively, with a strong focus on the merchant ships and written by a convoy veteran; Convoy: The Greatest U-boat Battle of the War (Cassell Military Paperbacks) - an excellent account also with a strong focus on the merchant ships; Convoy Commodore the insightful memoir of a commodore, the officer who commanded the merchant ships; The Rescue Ships, the heroic history of the merchant ships tasked to rescue survivors; or The Real Cruel Sea, a very thoroughly researched and comprehensive although dense history of the merchant service in WW2.
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on 5 August 2015
An easily read book about "The 4th Service" during the Second World War, told with a series of detailed individual events against an abbreviated World situation appraisal. I was a merchant seaman for a time and worked with an old "greaser" who'd been torpedoed out of three ships. These stories could be his. A very enjoyable read, humbling and thought provoking, especially in the last chapter. Mr. (Capt.?) Edwards, I look forward to reading more of you.
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on 13 July 2015
A very good book about life in the Merchant Navy during the war. The ships and men who went into hell after their ship were sunk and spent
long times in open lifeboats for weeks at a time.
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on 8 August 2014
Ideal book for those who study the merchant navy, My criticism of the book would be that it did explain how the Brits ashore regarded the merchant navy.
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on 3 September 2015
very good read and very factual, as an ex merchant seaman you can understand what these brave guys went through
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on 28 August 2015
excellent
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on 11 September 2014
EXCELLENT
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