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The Royal Navy Officer's Pocket-Book Hardcover – 20 Aug 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Conway; New ed. edition (20 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184486054X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844860548
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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).'

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By L. E. May on 16 Oct. 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This little book is indeed a gem. Not only does one salute the writers for their incisive advice to Royal Navy officers in a time of total war, this book makes clear the steep learning curve of those many civilians who became sea officers in World War II. The introduction begins with a lovely quotation from some time RNVR officer Sir Alec Guinness.

But this is more than a document - rather, a collection of documents - of war history. It is a pocket-book that will be instructive for naval officers, of any nationality, even today. Anyone who has had sea command, indeed served in a warship, will enjoy reflecting on chapters entitled "Your Ship", "HMS Duncan - Captain's Orders" and "The Home Fleet Destroyer Orders". Those in the sick bay might not so much enjoy the two chapters aimed at Medical Officers at sea in wartime!

Any naval rating who has been a defaulter will be interested to see the advice offered to investigating officers (too late to request 'to state a complaint' now, though!) and the final chapter, on "Mutiny in the Royal Navy", is a lesson for all time.

The section on leadership is just as relevant today, perhaps moreso, and is not just for naval officers; the advice should be read by anyone in a leadership role, whether in the armed forces or civilian life. Those who have served in the Royal Navy, as well as other services, will surely nod in agreement as they read "Never forget that the Ratings have few rights; but they definitely have got a right to good Officers", and "Do not despise advice tendered to you by your subordinates", as well as "There is nothing more irritating to a sailor than to be addressed as 'You there' or something akin to that. He likes to know that he is known by name.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Faure Marvin on 13 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an ex-Naval Officer, now consultant in leadership, I couldn't pass this book by.

For many people, "military leadership" means strict hierarchy, shouted orders and unquestioned obedience. This book sets the record straight.

The times when shouted orders are necessary are actually few and far between, and unquestioned obedience is earned by mutual respect, patiently built over a long period of time. The book is particularly striking for the emphasis placed on earning that respect, and for the warning against the abuse of power.

In organisations today the abuse of power is usually called "ego" and overbearing managers are referred to as Alpha males. Such behaviour remains unfortunately prevalent in the workplace and is the source of much harmful stress.

In the words of Admiral Willis, Second Sea Lord, writing in 1944: "Do not forget that it is within your power to cause considerable mental anguish to your younger officers by a consistent tone of sarcasm and contempt... and what is worse, nobody is going to tell you about it. In all officers, but above all in Commanding Officers, the words Officer and Gentleman should be entirely synonymous".

The book is full of good, specific advice for people in leadership positions. This advice remains as valid in organisations today as it was in the wartime Royal Navy in 1944.

Here is one example:

"You must look upon your talks with your men as one of the most important things you do. An intelligent man wants both information and inspiration. Work out exactly how to say it beforehand. If Winston Churchill has to rehearse all his speeches, there is no reason why you should not. Explain all you can, giving praise where due."

To get the most of the book, you will nevertheless need a minimum of interest and sympathy for the conditions of life at sea in a warship. At only £3.99, you don't have much to lose!
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Format: Hardcover
This book was wonderful to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have given this book a top rating for a number of reasons.

As a historical document it gives a keen insight as to how the allied war was fought at sea, providing a fair amount of technical information and style of command. Originally published for RN Officers (as a number of separate pamphlets), it gives a surprisingly detailed instruction as to how to effectively manage a ship and it's crew. The book addresses not only the technical aspects of managing a RN ship's crew but also the general attitude and outlook to be adopted by officers.

Bearing in mind that these documents were first published nearly sixty-seven years ago, it is easy to see how the guidelines laid down back then still hold true today. I think that anybody today could well benefit from taking heed from the advice in this book, particularly those in a position of management or command. It effectively suggests that officers should lead by example, but also states the standards for that, including advice on letter writing, dress standards, addressing seniors or juniors and so on. I would go so far to say that it is as much a guide to 'how to be a gentleman' as it is about the Royal Navy!

All of the information and lessons in the book are tied together by a beautiful style of writing which makes the whole book an absolute joy to read. As long as you are not expecting a whole book of continuous flowing prose (it is essentially an instruction manual, not a story) I would highly recommend it. Definitely in my top five favourite books.
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