on 13 November 2012
Richard Woodman's prolific contribution to British commercial seafaring history particularly the war record of merchant seaman is immense and a national treasure.
The detailed accounts in Fiddler's Green of shipping and activities on the China and other far eastern coasts are well researched and interesting as are the world wide trading patterns over 80 years of a range of British shipping companies recounted.
There are useful accounts of various Officer training schemes such as that run by Alfred Holt & Co., at Pangbourne, the Warsash School of Navigation and the cadet ships of the Blue Funnel and New Zealand Shipping Companies. It is therefore surprising that no mention is made of the National Sea Training Schools at Sharpness [TSS Vindicatrix] and Gravesend which for 27 years gave basic training in deck and catering skills as a precursor to entering the MN to 70,000 youths between 1939-66.
Woodman is perceptive in giving recognition to the loyalty of most seamen, whether Officer or rating, towards the Company with which they sailed. A compliment not always reciprocated by the Owners. The examples of some reasons for the demise of the British ship building industry are devastating.
Fiddler's Green provides a great insight into the reasons for the decline and disappearance of the British MN and is a must for anyone wishing to understand how a conglomeration of private shipping companies came to be labelled the Merchant Navy. Maybe principally as a consequence of the contribution by its Officers, Engineers and men. to victory [quickly forgotten ]during two World Wars
Having read this Volume I have now purchase Volume 4, `More Days more Dollars', which covers the earlier 35 years during which many of these Shipping Companies were in their heyday.
on 17 June 2014
A pity that some of this is not required as true history for schools. As an Island nation the British are sublimely ignorant of the facts of the wars at sea in particular, and the absolute disregard of successive governments for the country's economic future. Also a pointer to the arrogant, misguided, and, in a lot of cases, dangerous and unpunished attitude of senior members of the Royal Navy when considering the serving men of the Merchant Navy (who in most cases were completely professional at their jobs in comparison to the Admiralty's collection of Gung Ho amateur. I wish i had a £1 for every time some RN comedian Officer of Watch has put my previous commands into danger!!
Master Mariner Class 1 (by Competency not by RN Service)
on 19 January 2012
This is an extraordinary and detailed part of a national history series about what made the UK a world power. We might have a Royal Navy, but without the Merchant Navy we would all starve and have no IPads!
Richard Woodman's story is both, by turns, inspiring and depressing. It inspires through the actions and stories of the seafarers and seatraders themselves, and it depresses due to the actions and inactions of successive Governments and the shortsighted over profite centred ship owners....
A brilliant book - anyone interested in UK History should read it.