THIS BOOK is a follow-up in similar format to the earlier Seaman's Pocket-Book 1943, re-issued by Conway in September 2006.The present book, compiled and edited by Lavery, brings together a number of official pamphlets issued during the war to provide advice to officers on a wide range of subjects. The section on leadership is well worth reading because it is as relevant today as it was more than sixty years ago - and not just to those in the armed forces.
Lavery provides an informative ten-page introduction and commentary on the seven pamphlets, which range from "The Officer's Aide Memoire", through "Your Ship" to "Dealing with Mutiny". He opens with a quote from the late Sir Alec Guinness who, as an RNVR officer, commanded an infantry landing craft. He said: "My own lack of know-how and swift, rash judgements hampered the Allied Cause like small but irritating gnatbites."
It was inexperience such as this that led to the pamphlets chosen by Lavery who highlights the fact they deal with almost every aspect of life in the Navy, except for fighting and technical subjects such as engineering. There are occasional hints of some of the problems that led to the need for the original wartime pamphlets. The chapter entitled "Your Ship" has a section dealing with petty officers. It says: "They (petty officers) are the connecting link between the Officers and the men. At present the tendency is for them to be too close to the men and too distant from the Officers. It is your duty as Captain to rectify this tendency..." One suspects that on many ships this would have been a hard nut to crack.
This is a book bound to appeal to those who served afloat during the Second World War or in the years immediately after. It will also attract anyone else who is seeking a more thorough understanding of Britain's wartime navy and the way it worked.
-- Reviewed by Richard Taylor for The Review, Journal for the Naval Historical Collectors & Research Association
About the Author
Brian Lavery is one of Britain's leading naval historians and a prolific author. A Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and a renowned expert on the sailing navy and the Royal Navy, in 2007 he won the prestigious Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award. His naval writing was further honoured in 2008 with the Society of Nautical Research's Anderson Medal. His recent titles include Ship (2006), Royal Tars (2010), Conquest of the Ocean (2013), In Which They Served (2008), Churchill's Navy (2006), and the Sunday Times bestseller Empire of the Seas (2010).'