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British Warships & Auxiliaries 1952
British Warships & Auxiliaries 1952
by Steve Bush
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 23.27

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars British Warships and Auxiliaries 1952, 4 Mar 2012
Far-called our navies melt away--
On dune and headland sinks the fire--
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Kipling, `Recessional'

To mark Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, Maritime Press has produced a `1952' edition of their regular product, British Warships and Auxiliaries. Although publication of this annual only started in 1979, this new volume has been written as if it had been compiled in 1952 and the author has successfully avoided including material that has come to notice since. So for the reader, it is as if he had gone back sixty years and purchased a `new' book about the Royal Navy.

While I was not yet serving in 1952, many of the ships listed were familiar in the years that followed, from Vanguard (half a day as a schoolboy) down to Reward (two bizarre weeks as an extra hand to do the astro).

The format is the same as that used nowadays, working through class by class giving dimensions, armament, complement etc., details of current deployments and other interesting notes including lists of intended class members cancelled in 1945 (mostly Battle and Weapon class destroyers and thirty A-class submarines). It needs to be remembered that right up to the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan hardly anybody knew they existed, and even those in the know could not be certain that they would work their sunny magic on Nippon until the surrender actually happened. In mid-1945 some people even thought that the war in the East might drag on until the end of the decade; the ships on order were all intended to join the British Pacific Fleet, for by the end of 1944 only submarines, and shore-based aircraft in Norway, maintained the German threat at sea. The question of how the United States (which was already running out of money), let alone ourselves could have kept this war going that long was encouraging the Japanese to fight on.

Meanwhile in 1952, with Commonwealth assistance, we were maintaining a carrier- and cruiser-based task force off Korea (the Fleet Air Arm was making the only British fighting air contribution to the Korean war), and supporting from sea the fight against Communism in Malaya. We were maintaining warships on station in the Mediterranean, the Far East, the Persian Gulf, the West Indies, and in the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic from dockyards and bases at Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Trincomalee, Simonstown, Singapore, Hong Kong and Bermuda and even that list may be incomplete.

Details are given of sales and transfers to other navies - in 1952 NATO is struggling to its feet and we are well placed to supply ships, particularly frigates and minesweepers, to the not-long-liberated nations of Europe, and to other countries that we suppose might be friendly to us. One of the Algerines became the Greek royal yacht.

There are some eerily familiar themes here such as Implacable and Indefatigable being obsolete even before they entered service because their hangars could not accommodate the Corsair; carriers being completed without a fully angled deck because that couldn't be planned in in time, even though the importance of it was fully understood; Unicorn built for a very specialised purpose and then having to be used as a working carrier; the Victorious rebuild slowed because of shortage of materials.

The main Fleet section (127 pp, five times the size of the current equivalent) is followed by a separate one on the Reserve Fleet (60 pp). Several of these ships in reserve were to enjoy resurrection and further service, for instance Jamaica, Carysfort, Cavalier, Zest, Adamant, Ausonia Hartland Point and Reward.

There follows the `Future Fleet' of which the lead ships (Salisbury, Dundas, Whitby) of several classes have been laid down, the Cat class frigates and the Porpoise class submarines are all on order and work is forging ahead on the new wooden minesweeper fleet. Work has restarted on Centaur but her sisters and the three Tiger class cruisers await events. This section gives a good picture of what the Royal Navy will be like in the sixties. The Ton-class CMS have all been renamed after a foray into insect names - one wonders how a cap tally with `HMS BLUE COCKCHAFER' would play ashore (our sailors used always to go ashore in rig in those days) - let alone `HMS GAY BRUISER'.

Curiosities that did not find space were Bulowayo's in-turning screws, that no three of Boxer's five masts were in line, that the Bar class lifting vessels were to prove the RN's last coal burners, as anyone berthed down-wind of them would ruefully recall, and that the reason Pioneer and Perseus have no sponsons is that they were intended to act as ferry carriers for the Pacific war, picking up American aircraft and taking them to theatre via Panama. It was this last consideration being out of account that allowed the successor class to have a wider beam.

The allocation of over forty pages of `Auxiliaries' is a salutary reminder of how many civilian vessels are needed to keep the main Fleet going. The section takes us from the big RFA RAS ships right down to harbour tugs, remembering that we had many more naval bases, both at home and abroad to cater for in 1952 than is now the case (Mombasa .. Trincomalee ..). I was pleased to see a picture of the water carrier Spa whose bell sits in our local chapel.

Space is then given to each of the Dominion navies - Canada and Australia were operating aircraft carriers and cruisers, New Zealand had two cruisers and so on. The antecedents of each navy are given, for instance the Indian Navy's origins in the East India Company's Bombay Marine.

The Fleet Air Arm, with four admirals of its own, is in transition. Shortages of aircrew in 1951 have given place to shortages of aircraft in 1952 with the prospect of shortage of money to be the next limiting factor as it re-requips for the jet age. Its Fireflies, Sea Furies and Skyraiders are to give place to the Sea Hawk, Sea Venom, Wyvern and Gannet. All these and others including helicopters are illustrated and described, including the Dragonfly which has nearly but not quite replaced the Sea Otter. The author has wisely roped in the highly knowledgeable David Hobbs for this section.

My congratulations to Steve Bush and Maritime Press for the excellent standard of presentation, and particularly illustration, throughout. Over fifteen hundred vessels have been identified, classified and described and several hundred (necessarily black and white) contemporary photographs have been sourced. Three times the size of the current annual (and a hardback), the book complements the equivalent Jane's sections on the RN and Commonwealth navies (if you could find one) but gives much greater depth on the RN and its ships. It is a most valuable cornerstone resource for anyone studying the post-war Royal Navy and definitely one for any naval historian's bookshelf.


British Warships & Auxiliaries 2012/2013
British Warships & Auxiliaries 2012/2013
by Steve Bush
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars British Warships and Auxiliaries 2012, 1 Mar 2012
The book is a compilation which has been produced on an annual basis by Maritime Books since 1979 and takes the form of a 112p A5 paperback. The 2012 edition is up to date to December 2011. It is complimentary to heavyweight works such as Jane's in that it covers the Royal Navy only, but in greater depth.

The author, who spent 22 years in the Royal Navy from 1978, opens with an entirely justified and scathing review of SDSR and its consequences for our maritime defences, and a review of the Libyan operation from a naval point of view, which `highlighted the sheer lunacy of the Government`s assertion that it could mitigate the loss of LRMP through the use of other assets`. The decommissioning of the type 22s is identified as `bringing to an end ... the Royal Navy's at-sea intelligence collecting capabilities'. Well done, Mr Bush. Not that the Government cares.

There are then 26 pages on a rough basis of one per class of our warships, right down to the unarmed P2000 patrol boats, giving dimensions, armament, complement etc., details of current deployments and other interesting notes including planned dates for removal from service. There is a colour photograph for each class. Similar sections then follow for Survey ships, Royal Marines crafts, RFAs, and the considerable SERCO PFI fleet of tugs and harbour vessels (29pp). There are then sections on naval aircraft, missiles, guns and torpedoes; and short notes on three future weapons systems, and a final summary of inactive and museum ships, and ships laid up. There are also some extra full page colour illustrations of some warship types. All the photographs are of very high quality and indeed the whole presentation of the book is excellent.

Clearly this is all a moving target and for instance the MARS contract for future RFAs is now agreed. Nevertheless the book is an excellent datum for those who try to keep up with what is going on in the Royal Navy (or who want to pretend that they understand it) and my copy will, I think, become well thumbed.

Various back numbers are available from the publisher going back to 1979, although some years are no longer available.


Down South: A Falklands War Diary
Down South: A Falklands War Diary
by Chris Parry
Edition: Hardcover

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Down South' by Chris Parry, 23 Feb 2012
".. impossible .. the Navy do not know the word .."
- General Carton de Wiart VC, Norway, 1940

1n 1982 Rear Admiral Chris Parry was the Observer of Humphrey, HMS Antrim's Wessex helicopter. In that capacity he became the only Fleet Air Arm Observer to incapacitate an enemy submarine since 1945, and he helped first insert and then rescue the SAS from a misguided attempt to enter South Georgia via the Fortuna Glacier, and experienced many other helicopter operations well beyond the safety parameters of normal peacetime practice. Every night he wrote, for himself, a detailed account of his and his ship's activities and his thoughts regarding them; for, as a graduate historian, he recognised that all other accounts would be informed by hindsight and rationalisation; his would be unvarnished actuality. He demonstrates this at the end where, the war over, he has to correct the ship's Report of Proceedings where some matters have been incorrectly recorded and some remembered `with advantages' as Shakespeare says.

In 2009 while sorting out for a house move the author rediscovered in a forgotten trunk this loose-leaf diary of the Falklands War, which is now presented to the general reader. We are assured that it is unedited except for the deletion of some items that would cause distress. Given the tart nature of some of his immediate (and apparently justifiable) comments on such targets as John Nott (I never have understood why he was knighted, that seemed to me to be on a par with Caligula making his horse a consul), Admiral Woodward, HMS Endurance and her captain, Cindy Buxton and her father, and unsurprisingly the BBC World Service, one can only regret losing what has been excised.

Endurance, whose captain was junior to Antrim's, particularly got up Parry's nose when her Wasps turned up late and uninvited at 'his' Santa Fe and, superfluously, fired expensive AS12s at her when she was already quite satisfactorily crippled, for which Endurance's Flight commander received a DSC (see Captain Nick Barker's book `Beyond Endurance' (Pen & Sword Books 2001) (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Endurance-Whitehall-Atlantic-Conflict/dp/0850528798/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329751960&sr=1-1 ). Barker should of course be credited with warning Downing Street about Argentine intentions months before the invasion, for which he was punished by being denied further promotion.

Visiting QE2 Parry had a nasty encounter with two Guards officers (identified only as Rupert 1 and Rupert 2) who demonstrated exactly that mixture of stupidity, ignorance and arrogance which appears to me to have been the cause so many of their men being killed and maimed at Bluff Cove (for more on this see Lt Col Ewen Southby-Tailyour's book `Reasons in Writing' (Pen & Sword Books, 2003) (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reasons-Writing-Commandos-View-Falklands/dp/1844150143/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329751994&sr=1-1

In its editorial approach to the conflict the BBC indeed gave little acknowledgment that it is owned by and is funded by a compulsory levy on the British people, nor that this war represented freedom and democracy pitted against a cruel dictatorship. However one cannot help surmising that the information it had in advance of the Goose Green attack and other matters must have been fed to it by a MoD Civil Servant.

Parry's comments on the sinking of the Sheffield give pause for thought. If the reported scuttlebutt is true one wonders how Captain Salt achieved further promotion - but then, he was a submariner.

Antrim's Padre comes in for the occasional gentle sideswipe as he takes some time to realise which way is up. He meets his Waterloo when he tries to confiscate Parry's beloved Wardroom uckers board so as to give it to the Argentine PoWs in another ship.

RN helicopter aircrew are antisubmarine warfare specialists and understand their quarry. Submariners per contra need know little of the air and this deficit surfaced in Woodward's initial estimation of the air threat he would face. Parry's attempts to correct this were not appreciated. Woodward (who seemed to Parry to show that he only took advice from people he liked and knew - a key defect in a Commander) preferred his ill-informed RAF staff officer's erroneous input. Parry permits himself a wintry smile when Woodward is publicly told by CINCFLEET, three days later, to revise his assumptions. Fieldhouse (another submariner) himself rubs Parry the wrong way on their only occasion of meeting, the day before Antrim berths on her return, by clearly not knowing what a Fleet Air Arm Observer is or does.

Another theme is the secrecy with which operations are planned, leaving the man at the pointy end who has to carry them out lacking a full intelligence picture.

As a General List officer Parry entered very fully into the life of his ship, which is well delineated with a wealth of `domestic' detail, including several entertaining dits and examples of matelot humour. When the Royal Navy goes to war it does not leave its sense of humour on the dockside. What also shines through is the Fleet Air Arm's can-do tradition, often an extension of the absolute, age-old determination of the Royal Navy never to leave Percy Pongo in the lurch. This, incidentally, is what informs Nick Richardson's book `No Escape Zone' (Little, Brown 2000) about his escapades as a Sea Harrier pilot over and in Bosnia in 1993 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Escape-Zone-Story-Journey/dp/0751531022/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329754309&sr=1-1 ).

I came to `Down South' from a background of service in the mid-sixties in a DLG (London) (in which I was one of the Flight Deck Officers and therefore somewhat in touch with Wessex operations) and a Leander-class frigate. I found this book compelling and highly informative - not only a primer on the role and tasks of an Observer, but as a refresher on how much our ships and weapons systems had moved on in that time - how much more so after twice that interval nowadays. As to the ship and her weapons, Parry includes a descriptive appendix which includes detail on the ship's organisation. My only cavil with that is some apparently optimistic figures for the performance of her guns. Where he touched on anything I knew something about, his judgments were sound, which has inclined me to trust the remainder. His reservations regarding some individuals are balanced by warm appreciation of others, particularly the ratings of his ship's flight, but also some of the other ship's captains like Captain Christopher Craig of HMS Alacrity (see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Call-Fire-Combat-Falklands-Gulf/dp/0719554535 ). Parry is quick to notice and calumniate (but forebears to name) toadies.

The only judgment I truly find fault with is some of his condemnation of their Lordships regarding anti-air missilery. Of course Seaslug and Seacat were old kit but Seacat was optimised on exactly the sort of attack the A4s were carrying out and (Parry in 1982 wasn't to know this) as it was, as far back as 1969 it was planned to retrofit Seawolf for Seacat in the Leander and Tribal classes. As to Seaslug, it was indeed designed against the high level bomber, but it was conceived in the 50s. It was our failure to develop the technology to cast cordite for a tandem boost missile (like its USN contemporaries Terrier and Tartar) that lumbered us with the County Class' extraordinary magazine arrangements whereby the naval constructors had to start with the rigid box of the Seaslug magazine and design the rest of the ship around it. It is culpable that we remained locked to Hawker Siddely's Seadart when we were already negotiating to buy Exocet off the French (and were yet to start building the Type 42s). An indication that we were wasting our time defending against down-the-funnel shots and that sea-skimmers were the business was Styx, already a Soviet export, sinking the Israeli Eilat in 1967. The real problem in 1982 was the radar invisibility of aircraft over land, something only solvable with a Doppler radar. As it was Seaslug might have notched up the odd kill out in the open sea earlier on, but (as Parry points out) pusillanimous RoE restrictions imposed by Whitehall prevented its use.

Eventually Parry comes to terms with Woodward, recognising his strategic ability if resenting his rather wooden touch, and with his Captain. That moment comes after a rather cagey discussion that follows Parry trying to torpedo a strange submarine which successfully swam off submerged at 28 knots.

In case you wonder why we need yet another book on the Falklands, the justification for this one is its immediacy. That said, if you send several thousand people off to a war, they have several thousand deeply individual experiences. So, for instance, there is little here about the land battle, but few books cover so well the recovery of South Georgia. Antrim was then bombed fairly early in the proceedings in Falkland Sound and had first of all to be patched up, and was then used to return to the area of South Georgia to protect its supply route.

The sinkings of Coventry, Atlantic Conveyor and Belgrano are treated at length, the first too not without censure, the last with entire and carefully explained approbation. Sometimes one can feel the Fog of War closing in.

Given that the text was compiled by someone who was very busy and must have often been dog-tired, its literacy is a credit to Portsmouth Grammar School and Oxford University and one must therefore excuse the odd slip. Perhaps the regular diary writing was cathartic. Parry is an erudite and pithy master of the apposite quotation, and his (unsurprisingly) strong sense of history illuminates the work throughout; the narrative sets a rattling pace. One is grateful to his old shipmates and others for contributing so many original, apposite and often amusing photographs. Besides the account of each day's events, his real-time analysis of them is and will be highly valuable.

With the war over and Antrim heading home, there was time to look back and include a half-dozen `lessons learned' each day. Detail apart, the main one is that the Royal Navy must always practice and be prepared for all-out total war and not let any fudges creep in, let alone any corner-cutting like the use of artificial fibres in action dress, a dishonourable derogation of responsibility on the part of some fool apparatchik in the MoD with horrifying consequences. Si vis pacem para bellum.

Straight from the horse's mouth as it were, this book is an absolutely vital reference for any future historian of the Falklands conflict. It is a treasure trove of operational, tactical and technical detail, particularly for those who have traded the wardroom armchair for one that doesn't slide about any more. `Down South' will appeal to all who are wearing or have worn a blue suit - there's a fair amount of roughers that can hardly escape mention - and I feel sure the story will interest most who have worn khaki or whatever the current pretty pattern of combats is. My only gripe, and a minor one, is that I wish the publishers had stumped up for an index.

But just remember this is not an entertaining novel - it is the narrative of a ship and her people with their lives on the line.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2013 11:16 AM BST


Signalman Jones: Based on the Recollections of Geoffrey Holder-Jones
Signalman Jones: Based on the Recollections of Geoffrey Holder-Jones
by Tim Parker
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.63

5.0 out of 5 stars Signalman Jones, 10 Dec 2011
'Signalman Jones' by Tim Parker (Seafarer Books, ppbk 9.95).

" ... Wet and worry about our ways--
Panic, onset and flight--
Had us in charge for a thousand days
And thousand-year-long night.

We saw more than the nights could hide--
More than the waves could keep--
And--certain faces over the side
Which do not go from our sleep.

We were more tired than words can tell
While the pied craft fled by,
And the swinging mounds of the Western swell
Hoisted us Heavens-high..."
-
Kipling, "The Changelings"

Which, although written as a tribute to the RNVR officers in the Kaiser's War, applies equally to their successors in landing craft, coastal forces and the Battle of the Atlantic a quarter of a century later.

Geoffrey Holder-Jones, born in 1915, was one of these. Fortuitously Tim Parker (only 18 years his junior) met him in 2008 at a dinner at Lancing College to mark its wartime use as HMS King Alfred, in which role it produced twenty thousand RNVR officers, mostly selected from Hostilities-Only ratings. Parker was so enthralled by Jones' dits that he embarked on a project to bring Jones' story for publication (in 2010), and now we are the beneficiaries. I asked for a copy for review after seeing the book mentioned in Jones' obituary in November 2011. The book is written as if it were Jones' autobiography. Parker was also RNVR and did his National Service in the Navy and so is able to serve up the story without a single solecism, which makes for easy reading.

Jones was already an enthusiastic RNVR signalman when the war started, having joined as a weekend sailor in 1933 to mitigate the misery of a demeaning and boring job in a Liverpool drapery store. Dissuaded from a commission before the war because survival in the Mersey Division wardroom depended on having a fairly lavish private income, in the changed circumstances of war he was so selected and trained in 1940-1. By then he had been awarded a DSM and had experienced the shock and horrors of his ship being mined. I will not recapitulate or pré cis his stories as that would spoil them, but they are recounted with a self-effacing modesty which hides the fear, horror and sheer fatigue of life at sea on the heaving bosom of the Atlantic - which I why I have topped this review with that piece of Kipling. As a taster though he was involved in the capture of the U-boat that was eventually commissioned as HMS Graph.

As an officer Jones spent nearly all his time in armed anti-submarine trawlers, rising rapidly (and by accident) to Command in 1942. Technically he was clearly a natural ship-handler and a sound seaman, and more importantly he must have proved a natural leader, for his crews included hard fisher folk who would have needed quite different handling from HO conscripts on board a battleship. The book thus brings us the story of these largely unsung little ships, and in this we have a valuable insight into a somewhat obscure corner of the war at sea. The American who asked Jones if he had really crossed the Atlantic in `that thing' said it all really. The trawlers' part in trying to keep the U-boats at bay while America was still sailing ships independently up its east coast, brilliantly back-lit from shore, did the whole world a service. Weird odd jobs also came their way and no little truly appalling weather, of a severity that can perhaps only be truly appreciated by those who have had the good fortune to enjoy the same. The trawlers themselves are so small and obscure that they have even escaped mention in Janes' WW2 compendium.

After the war, and a brief spell chipping paint off Brighton pier for a bigger wage than he had received to command an HM ship in war, Jones became a teacher and for 22 years a head, surely to the immense benefit of an entire generation of children in Portslade and, later, Hove. He was also a key player in the Sussex RNVR where his experience and leadership must have been invaluable - until his professional duties made this too difficult.

It is our blessing that this variety of adventures was visited on a natural raconteur with an unfailing ability to see the funny side, often of rather dire events. I found this a hugely enjoyable and also educational book and for a tenner, it's any sailor's stocking filler.


The Sea Painter's World: The New Marine Art of Geoff Hunt, 2003-2010
The Sea Painter's World: The New Marine Art of Geoff Hunt, 2003-2010
by Geoff Hunt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 20.40

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sea Painter's World by Geoff Hunt, 27 Oct 2011
The Sea Painter's World by Geoff Hunt

Geoff Hunt is a Past President of the Royal Society of Marine Artists and in this book, besides presenting us with images of his work, explains in considerable depth the practical side of how he goes about his art; at a level, it is a master class; the reader will emerge fully equipped to become a marine artist save only for his own want of talent.

The scope of the book's subjects is large, from large (a battle cruiser) to small (racing dinghys), from Mary Rose to modern, via the ever-evocative age of fighting sail - picturesque now; brutal in its day. We see the artist mostly in oils - beautiful reproductions of finished work and also sketches - but also, showing his versatility, in watercolour and other media.

For a marine painting to be enjoyed by a seafarer, the painter's eye must be matched with that of a seaman. In this Hunt is up with masters like Wyllie and the Van der Veldes. I own a painting by a recognised marine artist which I know was made from a newspaper photograph because I have the actual cutting; the setting is flipped left for right and shows two sets of davits to starboard instead of the three that should be visible, and so also I expect in the variant (HMS Norfolk) commissioned by the Prince of Wales. Hunt never makes a mistake like this; he paints from painstaking inquiry (which he explains in the text). Indeed his research is so thorough that at one point he manages to trip up CS Forester on a point of detail relating to beakheads. Another example is his heart-searching over not being able to fix the fore course tackline leads on the Mary Rose (although perhaps an idea of what would work might be had from the Mathew replica in Bristol, or the Santa Maria elsewhere). He is right to be concerned, for old shellbacks are devils for nit-picking. The retired Vice Admiral Curteis, who had trained in sail, happened to visit Portsmouth Dockyard shortly after the Victory had been re-rigged in the 1960s. His wigging of the Admiral Superintendent regarding mistakes aloft in Victory would have been good listening (but who will correct the 21st century re-rig?). Hunt's detail of rigging and fittings is meticulous; equally, in his work, the sea and the sails completely match the wind. The National Maritime Museum's `East Indiamen in the China Seas' shows a group of Indiamen each of which seems to have a private wind all of her own; although the detail of each is well depicted the painting fails to satisfy in point of seamanship even though the painter had been at sea in Indiamen for years.

Hunt does not only research the physical subject and setting of each picture. He also gives us the circumstantial history, for he is not `just' a painter, he is no mean naval historian. Indeed he describes himself as a `history junkie', and we are the beneficiaries of this in terms of all sorts of arcane points of detail. For the Nile and Trafalgar the likely customer will probably already know the story, but Hunt also covers some much less well-known incidents and engagements and has researched their detail thoroughly, expatiating on these so as to illuminate the resulting picture for us. He really comes into his own with the New England cruise of the Rainbow during the American colonists' treasonous insurrection. Incidentally Hunt might enjoy "A Naval Career During the Old War" by Admiral John Markham (1883) as background to that conflict.

Put all this together and each painting is evocative. For instance, Hunt shows Victory leading the line into contact at Trafalgar. The wind is light; the ships lumber into battle at a knot and a half; so powerful is the painting, that the viewer can see in his mind's eye the silent gundecks, the men prone between the guns. Soon will come the order `Stand To!' (this is the origin of that order): all will rise up and, still silent, taking punishment from the enemy as it comes, will rake their first opponent with a rippling broadside which will leave almost as many French dead as the whole British butcher's bill for the entire engagement. The disciplined silence will give way to roaring cacophony, as the great guns leap to their breech tackles, and battle is joined from the blood-stained gundecks of the Royal Navy. All this is implied in Hunt's depiction of the lowering menace of the approaching ships. It worked for me.

Hunt explains and illustrates the difference between fine, exact work in the studio and rougher, more rushed and interrupted painting out of doors (let alone at sea). There is an interesting juxtaposition between sketch and finished work on p.134 (the fictional HMS Leopard). For me, the spontaneity and immediacy of the first seemed to have more power than the more formal treatment delivered to the client.

I was personally pleased to find a treatment of the Battle of Pulau Aur in which a group of Indiamen finessed Johnny Frog and beat him off in 1804. On a point of order Pulau Aur is in the South China Sea rather than the Malacca Straits but perhaps, as he is illustrating a Patrick O'Brian book, it is that author who has moved it. C Northcote Parkinson has treated of Indiamen in his "Trade in the Eastern Seas" and "War in the Eastern Seas" and Hunt may find more subject matter for his brush therein; for rigging detail if not for atmosphere there are the works of W J Huggins.

Many of Hunt's subjects have of course been treated by others. Try Bill Bishop at [...] , or Google older artists such as Richard Joicey, Norman Wilkinson, or W L Wyllie, for some interesting comparisons (there should still be a good Wilkinson of D-Day, together with his sketches, in the Map Room at the Defence College of Policing and Guarding at Southwick House, Hants).

Will it fit your bookcase? The volume measures 11" deep x 12" high. The standard of reproduction and layout is extremely high (as one would expect from Conway), although the colour balance differs between two separate reproductions of one of the paintings (pp 24 & 81). There is the odd infelicity of English but that will only jar for older readers. There is a useful index and a short bibliography. For those whose appetites have been whetted for a deeper background on sailing warships I would recommend "The Wooden World" by NAM Rodger (Collins 1986).

This book (metaphorically) reeks of salt as well as oil paint. For those who have used the sea and miss Masefield's whale's way, or as a Christmas present for an old sailor, highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2012 4:31 PM GMT


The Life and Exploits of a Maltese Sailor
The Life and Exploits of a Maltese Sailor
by Danny Marks
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life and Times of a Maltese Sailor, 17 Oct 2011
The Life and Exploits of a Maltese Sailor
by Danny Marks (Appin Press, 8.99).

A review by Seaweed

"Splendaciously mendacious rolled the brassbound man ashore" - Kipling

Danny Marks was born in 1925 in Malta and grew up against the backdrop of Grand Harbour, home of our pre-war Mediterranean Fleet in its high noon of bone-white teak and gleaming brightwork under sun-bleached awnings, a Navy where a ship was known by her immaculate boats and her Captain would suffer if it took more than eight minutes from the breakwater to being secured to her head and stern buoys.

As a teenager things were different for Danny as Malta starved under a vicious, murderous and relentless aerial assault by first Italy and then Germany. In January 1941, fluent in English, Italian and obviously Maltese, Danny started a civilian apprenticeship in the dockyard, a bomb destined for HMS Illustrious destroying his newly-issued toolkit on his first day at work.

In 1946, the apprenticeship completed, he was accepted into the Royal Navy as an Engine Room Artificer, eventually retiring as a Lieutenant Commander in 1975. He served in an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, and several destroyers and frigates, in the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, the East Indies, the West Indies and the Pacific. Unsurprisingly he has a few tales to tell.

The result is a considerable feat of octogenarian recollection. Marks writes in a straightforward style and lets the jokes do their own work, the level of farce that underlies naval life happily bubbling up at frequent intervals. He is unsparing of himself and this is very much a warts-and-all portrait, the odd fall from grace jostling with an occasional green rub, as will have been the experience of many another in a blue suit. There are also, drily told, several reminders of the ever-present dangers of the sea as when Implacable loses three pilots in half an hour. Off Bermuda, Sirius, nearly out of fuel, lost a Petty Officer overboard in a hurricane and eventually reached harbour running on a Marks' cocktail of Furnace Fuel Oil, helicopter fuel, and Diesel.

The narrative is well salted with illustrations, including a surely unique photograph of Montgomery (with the author) in Implacable's engine room. Unusually in such a personal work there is an index. Even more unusually Marks has included, as an appendix, extracts from his confidential reports as an officer, which show him as a good team player and a man who always made a contribution after work (particularly as a top class water polo player and in various excursions into amateur dramatics) as well as in his job. At bottom he was clearly a highly competent engineer, as witnessed by a piece of his own manufacture (the requisite spare part being unavailable) which ended up as an exhibit of skill and initiative in the RN Engineering College.

As an officer his first Charge job was HMS Pellew at Portland where he was on two occasions badly let down by senior ratings. Here he encountered Married Quarter problems, being disowned by Rosyth once he left HMS Caledonia, but offered nothing habitable down South. Fortunately he had chosen to marry a Scottish girl who comes across as exceptionally resourceful, supportive and resilient besides being the possessor of a fine singing voice.

Ashore again, Marks had three years at St Angelo and has some interesting things to say about Maltese Independence, and about British attitudes to the Maltese. In this respect we note that he was only accepted for the RN because he had British nationality in right of his English-born grandfather, the son of an emigré German Jew from Poland. Giving that gentleman shelter certainly worked in our favour in the great grandson.

His last sea job was in HMS Sirius, which Showed the Flag from Florida right around the globe to the far Pacific and all points in between, Marks struggling manfully with engineering caused by shoddy work by her builders, Portsmouth Dockyard, which was only forced into very expensive remedial measures by a catastrophic breakdown. I was intrigued to find his experiences of exuberant, exhausting and expensive welcome overseas in the Far-Flung not entirely matched by my own in a similar ship on a similar agenda at the same time (1968), where mercifully the proceedings were usually more subdued. Thank goodness. At all times Danny exerted himself far beyond his nominal duties, organising sport and amateur dramatics and other diversions - he was always conscious of the need to get junior ratings out of the ship since they often did not receive anything like the hospitality offered to their seniors. At Aden in the Gambia he recalled how mutual entertainment between officers messes on the one hand, and between his own senior rates messes and SNCO messes ashore was not matched by anything for Jack.

At 50 Marks took an HNC in Business Studies, doing much of the work for it five miles high as he flew about the world inspecting the engine room departments of the Fleet. Retiring as a Lieutenant Commander, he was taken on by Lloyd's Register as an Engineer Surveyor. Like many another Serviceman before and since, he now came up against the venal chicanery of the civilian business world, but ploughed on to Lloyd's Register's retiring age of 62, at which point he re-tooled himself as a private Quality Assurance consultant, grudgingly retiring from this last career at 69. He says subsequent lessons in golf ruined his handicap. Staunchly supported by his wife, Marks always participated enthusiastically in social activities, often through his church, he being (unsurprisingly) a devout and staunch Catholic.

Marks is justly proud of the Navy in which he served, and of his own contribution to it. He has left a memoir, not only for his seven grandchildren, but for anyone who wants to recall a Navy which Showed the Flag the wide world over besides coping with the odd unpleasantness like Palestine immigration and the machinations of evil men like Nasser and Makarios. Indeed the enthusiasm with which the flag-showing was greeted shows how much we have lost in diplomacy with the continuing, and criminal reduction in ships, let alone losing the Booties' unmatchable Beat Retreat which once gave such a finale to many visits.

Marks, in Shakespeare's phrase, has done the State some service; and us too. He has left an account which will be beyond rubies for the descendants of his seven grandchildren, but is also quite fascinating for us Cold War warriors who held the ring against evil from a poolside chair in tropical sunshine.
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Jackspeak: A Guide to British Naval Slang and Usage
Jackspeak: A Guide to British Naval Slang and Usage
by Rick Jolly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.39

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jackspeak is back!, 19 Sep 2011
"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, And every single one of them is right!" - Rudyard Kipling

This is undoubtedly the best work of this nature that has ever been produced, in a genre stretching back to 1626 to Pocahontas' friend Captain John Smith`s "A Sea Grammar", via many other works including Admiral William Henry Smyth`s "The Sailor's Word-Book" of 1867. The author should need no introduction; if he does, read his "The Red and Green Life Machine" and reflect on the large number of lives saved because of his leadership and organisational and clinical skills in the Falklands in 1982. Meanwhile, here we have Surgeon Captain Jolly as the Navy's Dr Johnson, the Great Lexicographer.

Successive editions have profited from input from many hoary old shellbacks and now this third edition contains four thousand entries, still laced with many, many brilliant illustrations by the late Tugg Wilson, MBE. It's not just a dictionary; it is a memorial to Jack, Jenny and Royal as they were in the second half of the twentieth century and as we must all hope they still are, in spite of the reduction of the Fleet, the disappearance of the broadside mess deck, and the (perhaps) civilising influence of women serving at sea, which I fear may have done for the Two-deck Dash, and This Old Hat of Mine. I enjoyed the first edition, but the economy and apposition of Jack's language still amuse (as do Tugg's cartoons). The sheer scope and size of this work show how inadequate are the two-page `glossaries' commonly included in many books about the Royal Navy.

My own interest in this field stems from a period of intense boredom in hospital in 1976, during which I attempted to list all the naval slang I could remember from the 50s and 60s. Years of polishing, and later reading the result into a computer, eventually culminated in my placing the result (containing, at about 1800 entries, far fewer than Jackspeak) (it turned out, only temporarily) on the internet in 2007. Naval slang is a living thing, and since my service all sorts of new words, phrases and shades of meaning have come in, for instance `Four-knot fudge packer' and `Going (neither, incidentally, yet included).

This should be taken kindly; at over 500 pages it is possible the publisher and author might have had difficulty squeezing any more in; however there are some items which I think are ordinary colloquial business English (like `Hands-on management') which perhaps might have been pruned to make room. I think including ordinary seamanship terms is a slippery slope (unless they have an additional metaphorical meaning) because there are so many of them, and the Admiralty Manual of Seamanship, BR67, can be your guide. For instance `Accommodation Ladder' - so why not Mediterranean Ladder? Also Jolly's `Pilot Ladder' is I think Merchant usage and I prefer `Jumping Ladder'.

Occasionally a spelling error stuck in my throat. A tompion (right) is neither a tampion (wrong) (nor a tampon!) Tingel should be tingle. Sloshy should be slushie which links it to slush, as correctly defined. And it's ALWAYS Pendant, never pennant although that is the pronunciation - originally a flag much longer than broad which therefore hangs down, and is therefore pendant. The Anthony Roll is full of them (I'm a pendant pedant).

In my opinion the (RM) and (esp.RM) tags are a little overused, for instance `Trooped' was common currency in General Service in the 50s and 60s. Many of the (FAA) entries come from the RAF (and the USAAC in the case of `Hangar Queen`).

There is a lot of good stuff about origins, much of which is new to me. I've learned a lot; the author has shown a magnificent grasp of all sorts of minutiae of naval history

Publishing has moved to Conway, and is therefore in good hands, and to (sturdy) hardback which will stand much thumbing of a volume essential to understanding anything anyone ever writes about the Royal Navy.
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Signs of the Times
Signs of the Times
by Bob Carr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Signs of the Times - a Review by Seaweed, 19 Feb 2011
This review is from: Signs of the Times (Hardcover)
Signs of the Times by Bob Carr

A Review by Seaweed

Signs of the Times was published in 2007 and is the author's first published novel. The theme is Grey Power and how a resourceful senior citizen can combat the forces of darkness which seem to be running and ruining our country. That this is not an entirely fanciful objective is shown by a recent news item in which a Granny sent a pack of armed robbers flying by setting about them with her handbag - truly there is nothing to fear except fear itself. Indeed my own father in law, in his eighties, was once accosted by two brave young fellows in a pedestrian underpass - he felled one with an uppercut and the other fled.

Bob Carr roasts the police - at length and in often hilarious detail - for stupidity, mendacity, duplicity and idleness; the Press daily regales us with worked examples, from the stitching up of the wrong man for murdering Rachel Nickell, and the mishandling of the Soham murders, to the apparent soft touch with parliamentary fraudsters, and just immediately allegations of waiting to gather evidence of phone hacking until it has been safely wiped, perhaps to the relief of Rupert Murdoch. All this is unworthy of those officers who put their lives on the line for the citizenry; they are sadly let down by too many of their colleagues. Another major target is the mental health industry and its practitioners, whose fabric Carr tears into confetti.

It would spoil your pleasure if I told you what skills the hero deploys, but I have reason to find such a person entirely believable; one of Carr's training once explained to me how to persuade a person to more compliant behaviour with three strokes of a pick helve, and how to take someone's eyeball out with one's thumb.

Carr's bone dry, sardonic, even cynical humour reached right out to me. I had Tom Sharpe in mind before I noticed, on the wrapper, that the publisher had beaten me to it; what is here is Tom Sharpe meets Anthony Burgess. Carr is in an honoured tradition of English writers going right back to Chaucer in sending up the Establishment and its time-serving, self-serving lackeys. Clearly from the allusions that salt the narrative the author is very well read; the only way to learn to write good English is to read lots of it; this book is very well written. Not only is the prose excellent but so also the construction. There is a pacy run of incidents, devoid of padding, with much just sketched in so that the reader is intrigued into working to discover what is really happening; fast action with no waffle. The characters are excellently drawn and highly believable, as if Carr had a suitcase of Action Men fully delineated and ready for play. Each is, as it were, taken out by a giant hand, given a good verbal slapping, and put back again gibbering. Just when you think you are reading a series of separate short stories, the author reappears still clutching the ends of all the pieces of string which he then deftly ties together, a skill observable in Herodotus. Events crowd into an apocalyptic crescendo. There were times when reading the book was almost like watching a film, the imagery was so well drawn. Indeed I think under an English director this book could make a very entertaining movie.

Older readers will share Carr's nostalgia for a Merrie England which has vanished away - A E Housman's " .. land of lost content, I see it shining plain, The happy highways where I went And cannot come again." I empathise with this, missing my own long vanished childhood world so safe it was policed by a copper with a wooden leg. Each of us in our turn is driven out of the Garden of Eden. Carr mentions the road men who used to work their way along the highway hedging and ditching - it is to the point that these had eyes and ears as well as billhooks; evil can better flourish where there is no one to observe. We get glimpses of a bucolic idyll of rural Berkshire as the old men gather in their smoke-wreathed pub in dungy tweeds, dungy lurchers beneath their chairs, while Carr takes careful aim at Local Government `public servants' on the one hand, and hobby farmers and over-wealthy pop persons on the other, who are tearing it all apart.

Welcome to Tony Blair's Britain (although for me the rot set in when Maggie made Douglas Hurd Home Secretary, as big a slap in the face for the public as when Caligula made his horse a Consul). Carr's catalogue of its social ills will save you buying a Daily Mail ever again; yet there is nothing in this book which could not, at atomic level, be real.

Notoriously, power corrupts, in little as in large. The moral of the book is "Don't get mad, get even". This does require skill, planning and patience. For those who lack the first or second I can reassure them that it is also true that if you sit by the river long enough your enemies will come floating past, destroyed by the very character defects that caused your loathing. My only niggle is that I was sometimes puzzled by the chronology as we moved from typewriters and Greenham peacenik wimmin to CB radio and eventually computers and mobile phones. But that was probably me, not the author.

I will put no health warning on this book as the very people likely to be offended are those who most ought to read it. I could even hope they lie unquiet in their beds. On any scoring system, as a highly enjoyable read, I give the book full marks.


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