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Book Review-SBS in WW2
on 23 October 2013
This is one of a number of books written about the `SBS' as a military entity. In his introduction Mortimer makes some distinction as to nomenclature, and there is no doubt that confusion has reigned since the Royal Marines (RM) cheekily adopted the acronym (used initially to describe `section', thence `squadron', followed by `service'!) in the days of the early RM development of what is now known to the world as the Special Boat Service. It is a clever man who fully unravels the confusion of such wartime groupings, but Mortimer soon makes it clear that his affiliation is to the Special Boat Squadron, formed in March 1943 under Captain G Jellicoe as a sub unit of 1 SAS Regiment.
Earlier books on the same subject-`The Filibusters' and `Raiders from the Sea' (Lodwick), and `SBS in World War Two' (Courtney)- are accounts written by actual veterans of these amazing military adventures, and so much of the Mortimer's content will not be that revealing. However, what soon becomes clear, in all of these writings, is that, despite the seemingly casual and often piratical nature of their subject's approach to war, these were serious minded individuals bent on the execution of incredibly brave, innovative and game changing assignments, and there is no disputing the fact that they were significantly influential in altering the course of the war in and around the Mediterranean.
Mortimer steals the march on his fellow authors on two counts. His research has the benefit of access to archive material relatively recently released into the public domain, and so he is more readily able to pronounce upon such matters as the `Special Treatment' meted out to the victims of the Alimnia Patrol, and associated theories of culpability. However it is the illustrations which make the book and bring to life the swashbuckling nature of a type of warfare which, whilst frequently risky in its execution and lethal in its outcome, would have had very clear appeal to a young, and sometimes not so young man of an adventurous persuasion. The quality of some of his pictures may be wanting, but, for the most part they, along with a flowing, logical and articulate narrative, put faces to names and evoke an atmosphere of strong camaraderie, tenacity, and leathery resolve. It does, of course help that, by and large, the sun was usually in sparkling attendance!
This is a cleverly designed work that will serve equally well as fascinating read and useful reference book. Photographic reproductions have been skilfully and tastefully enhanced and captioned. Any discerning military critic of the cover plate's somewhat relaxed and theatrical impression will be glad to learn from the author that it was `staged'. For the less discerning it will probably reinforce their perception of the buccaneering flavour of this rich and important period in the history of Special Forces!