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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2011
Highly recommended. An account of the little known defeat of Convoy OG71 from Britain to Gibraltar in August 1941 when Britain stood alone. The convoy had a large escort, varying from 8 to 10 corvettes, sloops and destroyers. Despite this U-Boats sank 8 of the 22 merchant vessels, sunk 2 of the escorts with the loss of almost all their crews and forced the whole convoy to put into Lisbon. Many of the ships sank in a few minutes causing heavy loss of life. The loss of the escorts is explained as the U-Boats had just been ordered to attack them first and with multiple torpedoes. No U-Boats were sunk. OG71 illustrates the dangers on the Gibraltar route and the ascendancy of the U-Boats at that time. The escorts did not yet have radar and the crews had limited experience. The defeat was obscured by wartime censorship.

The book was written as a memorial to the 22 young women from the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) who volunteered for service at Gibraltar. Service women were prohibited from travelling on Royal Navy warships (this was lifted after OG71). All were killed when the Commodore's merchant ship Aguila was sunk. The account avoids sentimentality. It is a moving account of tragedy, duty and courage in war. Besides the Wrens the book highlights two people; Arthur Firth, the Captain of the Aguila, and Lieutenant Commander Cuthberston, the Captain of the corvette Zinnia. Both were among the small handful of survivors from the sinking of their ships and staunchly resumed their duties. Firth was haunted by the tragedy for the rest of his life. Nicholas Monsarrat was a lieutenant on another corvette in the convoy and made Cuthbertson the model of the ship's captain in his famous book The Cruel Sea. Monsarrat, a veteran of the Atlantic convoys and E-Boat alley, described OG71 as his particular nightmare.

The book illustrates the danger faced by Convoy Commodores who commanded the merchant ships in the convoys. The Commodore of OG71, the 60 year old Vice Admiral Patrick Parker died with the Aguila. The return convoy HG73, which included ships and survivors from OG71, was also savaged. The ship carrying 59 year old Commodore Rear Admiral Kenelm Creighton and Captain Firth of the Aguila was sunk with heavy loss of life.

The book is based on veteran's accounts and Admiralty records. The authors, Paul Lund and Harry Ludlam, made a speciality of writing compelling books on convoys and reservist-manned small British warships in WW2. This appears to be the last in the series. It is a human story which compares very well with the short and clinical descriptions of OG71 in the recent authoritative campaign histories. The reader will need to look to the latter for broader context and analysis. There is no index or citation of sources through the text.

For other accounts of convoys see PQ17 Convoy to Hell - the survivors' Story, and Night of the U Boats, both by Paul Lund and Harry Ludlam; Convoy Commodore by Kenelm Creighton and the The Fighting Commodores: Convoy Commanders in the Second World Wars by Alan Burn.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2012
This is one of the most poignant and yet complelling stories to come out of WW2. I suspect that very few people know of this very tragic event.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2013
Item was as described, received in the time stated and in very good condition as described. The book was purchased for my parents they said it was very interesting and a good book to read
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