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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great History meets Great Writing
Iain Ballantyne, Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service, Orion, London, 2013.

The impact of the cold war on the quest for mastery in outerspace has long fascinated authors, journalists and film makers. No less dramatic was the cold war struggle for the inner space of the ocean depths from 1945 to 1991. This story,...
Published 9 months ago by Dr G.H. Bennett

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Over the Top
I have a great deal of respect for submariners but the approach of this book is rather too much hero worship for my taste. In addition, the part referring to HMS London is factually incorrect.
Published 4 months ago by Skimmer


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great History meets Great Writing, 1 Oct 2013
This review is from: Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service (Hardcover)
Iain Ballantyne, Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service, Orion, London, 2013.

The impact of the cold war on the quest for mastery in outerspace has long fascinated authors, journalists and film makers. No less dramatic was the cold war struggle for the inner space of the ocean depths from 1945 to 1991. This story, like the submarines and submariners that wrote it, remained invisible during the cold war years. The Royal Navy's silent service lived up to its reputation for silence and efficiency. Using a range of sources, including interviews with key protagonists, Iain Ballantyne's book brings to the surface the story of the Royal Navy's submarine force during the cold war years.
Ballantyne has quite a story to tell from deadly games of cat and mouse in the Baltic and the Barents Sea to operations under the Arctic ice cap. Stealthy missions to eavesdrop on ship radar emissions, weapons tests and Soviet naval exercises are punctuated by near misses and not so near misses. Ballantyne charts a series of incidents when, even in the coldest of northern seas, the cold war could have got hot as Royal Navy submarines were pursued with potentially lethal force by Soviet forces. The book's revelations are sure to send a shiver down the spines of those of us who lived through the cold war unaware of the dramas taking place 100 to a thousand meters below the surface of the sea.
Ballantyne has done a lot of detective work to piece the story together, but his real art as a writer lies in the way he engages the reader. Stealthy operations and electronic eavesdropping are not naturally the most dramatic fare for a writer, but Ballantyne provides the reader with a series of contexts to allow us to understand the dramas playing out at silent slow speed under the seas. We get to know the submarine commanders, and some of the crew members, of the boats assigned to secret duties. The technologies at play are explained in a way that the average reader can understand. The shifting nature of the cold war, as we move from the 1940s to the 1980s, provides an effective backdrop to the continuing mission of HM Submarines. We also get to know the boats from the Super T's of the 1950s, to the deadly SSBN cargoes of the Resolution class, through to the silent menace of the SSN's like HMS Courageous.
The writer further enriches his story with reference to the wider intelligence games being played between East and West. The Portland Spy ring and the disappearance of Buster Crabb are set against more darkly comic episodes such as the time in the 1980s when the Russian naval attaché visited Plymouth in order to carry out his own "research", and to go around the public houses of Devonport to see if he could recruit the odd agent or two. Such humorous incidents provide moments of release from a narrative which is consistently taught and fast-paced.
A further clever element of the book is the way in which the popular culture of the time is referenced. Films such as The Bedford Incident, Ice Station Zebra and the Hunt for Red October are brought into the text in ways which make the reader wonder where Hollywood was getting its information from. Ballantyne offers us little glimpses of the off-duty world of the submariner watching On the Beach or Das Boot in the ward room of HMS Sceptre. Cold war fiction and Cold war fact blend seamlessly at the edges.
The book is a triumph of writing and of history. It is good history with all the pace and slick writing of a cold war techno-thriller. It is a very hard book to put down and is a joy to read. We travel from outerspace to the depths of the oceans - from cold war strategizing to the claustrophobia and stench of a submarine three weeks at sea. A sense of tension grips each chapter and Ballantyne offers a series of disconcerting revelations about the near misses of the cold war maritime game. And like all good books the author ends with a cliff hanger. Ballantyne reminds us that this game is not over as we move into the era of the Astute class submarine and the steady build up of the submarine force of the People's Liberation Army [Navy]. The struggle to control the ocean depths is alive and well as we move forward into a new era of maritime competition and rivalry.

G H Bennett
Plymouth University
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hunter killers, 9 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service (Hardcover)
I actually served on diesel boats and an SSBN during the cold war and found the book riveting!! The political reviews filled in gaps in my knowledge and I can now understand why we did what we did. A must read for anyone who is interested in submarines
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent- well written, researched book, 10 Dec 2013
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I have read several Iain Ballantyne books- but this in my opinion is his best. An excellent book, which has been thoroughly researched. What I particularly liked, is the fact that as a 'baby boomer' generation, I grew up in the Cold War....and I never knew that Royal Navy submarines had such an important role tracking the soviets.
My only regret is that i did not joint the Navy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, 20 Dec 2013
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Mr. David J. Gregory "freebooter" (todmorden, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service (Hardcover)
Iain Ballantyne has written a thoroughly enlightening account of what was really happening behind the bland official news releases of the Cold War. As someone who served in the Royal Navy during that period, and who was actively involved in surface fleet operations in the North Atlantic/Barentz/Arctic Sea regions, this book is a complete revelation in its description of the various submarine activities going on at the same time. We all knew that these 'initiatives' were being pursued, but had little clear idea of the real war conditions under which these patrols were made, and the dangers faced by the crews of the participating boats. Ballantyne has sensibly threaded his account into some of the personal histories of selected key personnel of the era. It makes for a fascinating read. This is proper and instructive history, written whilst living witnesses are still vibrant and opinionated.

David Gregory
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read on modern submarine ops, 18 Dec 2013
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L. F. Dutton - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service (Hardcover)
A well written and researched book with few errors. Some great interviews and like others who have reviewed the book and like me were on cold war op's on hunter killers the background makes more sense of the foreground we were involved in.

Cold war patrols were never fun but the professionalism of the crews on RN Submarines was second to none, the captains the best in the world. They got us in and out in one piece. This books tells those stories beautifully. It also goes to explain why submariners will always be submariners even 30 years after leaving the mob.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Realistic and well researched, 17 Dec 2013
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Having been one of those cold war submariners I thought this book was excellent ...... it gives a good amount of detail without being too caught up in small issues...... following the careers of a group of people was a great idea !

The research done is good --- and the book is an easy read

Overall I would say it gives a good insight into a world that many are completely unaware of
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britains Deterrent, 3 Oct 2013
This book gave an interesting account of some of the behind the scenes activities of our submarine force
A first class read
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 2 April 2014
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A gripping review of Royal Navy submarine operations (focused on the Hunter Killers, but covering SSBN operations as well) from the 50s to the end of the Cold War. With a comprehensive epilogue and telling many stories that needed to be told (many only rumours until now) this is an essential text for all interested in this topic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hunter Killer: Unseen we come - stories from a murky past, 3 July 2014
By 
A. Leask (Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service (Hardcover)
It's good to see the Cold War story at last unfolding in popular media. Hunter Killer is an easy general read and informative, even though (understandably) limited in certain ways. As the United States Navy records on its Cold War monument at Mount Pleasant SC, the families of serving warriors may be the unsung heroes of the Cold War: perhaps Hunter Killer could have given them greater recognition? For others it is a trip down memory lane.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Insight Into A Covert World, 22 April 2014
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Hunter Killers is an incredibly detailed account of operations that provides a great insight into an invisible conflict at the heart of the Cold War. Meticulously researched and littered with personal accounts, the book is a must for anyone interested in the history of undersea warfare and espionage. My only criticism would be the difficulty I had following the narrative as it jumped between various protagonists and their commands.
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