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4.4 out of 5 stars
Midget Submarine Commander: The Life of Godfrey Place VC
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Of all the naval awards of the Victoria Cross (VC) from WW2, that which was earned by Godfrey Place always seems to come to the forefront and the story of how it was earned is already well told. In this excellent biography, however, author Paul Watkins go much further than the book's title would suggest and produces a complete account of this man's life in which we learn it was as full as any ever lived. Having compared the photographs of Place as a small boy with those of him in later life, he always remained recognisable with his appearance never really changing.

Codenamed Operation Source, in September 1943 six British miniature submarines (X-Craft) were towed to Norway. X-5, 6 & 7 were to attack the Tirpitz (the Bismarck's only sister ship) and X-8, 9 & 10 the Scharnhorst. X-8 and X-9, however, never reached the starting line and X-10 had so many technical problems her attack was abandoned and she was later scuttled on the tow back to Scotland. Both X-6 and X-7 succeeded in placing their charges below the Tirpitz although both craft were then disabled and abandoned. Six of the eight crew members escaped these two sinking X-Craft and were taken on board the Tirpitz from where they saw X-5 surface and destroyed at close range. To this day, it not known whether X-5 was retreating after having placed her own charges or was pressing home her attack when sunk. All three commanders were initially recommended for the VC but this was later changed. Eventually, the commanders of X-6 (Donald Cameron) and X-7 (Godfrey Place) both received the Victoria Cross. Henty-Creer, however, who commanded X-5 and was also the overall flotilla commander, received nothing more than a Mention in Despatches - something which remains the subject of much discontent to this day!

In company with many other readers, I was already aware of the foregoing. This book, however, provides considerable additional information about that raid which I did not previously know. When the original X-Craft crews were selected in late 1942, all six were commanded by RN Lieutenants with a sub-lieutenant as First Officer (second-in-command of a crew of four!). Henty-Creer was one of the latter and appointed First Officer X-5. Another officer, Lt Max Shean was held in reserve and, when Henty-Creer eventually took command of X-5, Shean was not very impressed - and said so! Nevertheless, it says much for the Admiralty's decision making process that Henty-Creer was appointed to overall command barely a few weeks later and, having done so, the mission was successful - even if his award of the VC was rescinded. Personally, I regard this as an ongoing national disgrace - but I digress!

Most poignant of all, two months prior to Operation Source, on 17 July 1943, Godfrey Place was married in Lincolnshire and `Henty' (as he was affectionately known) was best man. Henty-Creer, therefore, featured in the life of Godfrey Place throughout his entire life.

In spite of the book's title and my own comments about Operation Source, this work is far more than another account of that audacious raid. Instead, we have a full account of the life of one man who, after being released from POW camp after WW2, continued to serve in the Royal Navy until 30 June 1970 when he finally retired as `Read Admiral B. C. G. Place VC, CB, CVO, DSC - just three weeks short of his 49th birthday! He then went on to chair the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association for another 20 years - and more!

A series of 36 B&W photographs are placed together in the middle of the work showing Place in various guises from infant to Admiral and beyond. Such accounts as this can only come to print by the diligent work of authors such as Paul Watkins and people like the Place family who provided additional information. The result is a fine biography which soon becomes an absorbing read.

NM
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2013
A sort of multi book, with the history of the famous tirpitz attack but also one learns alot about the navy's post colonial activities and also how the navy operates in terms of personnel.

All in all a very good read from which I have learnt alot.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2013
I think the insights Paul Watkins offers about my father are well informed and interesting and the detail is amazing. but this is, in my view, a well written book about my father, how can I claim an objective position? (I particularly like the inclusion of a photo which must have been taken by my mother on their brief honeymoon just before he set off to try and blow up the Tirpitz which has him sitting under a road sign, probably relating to an incipient steep hill, which says "You have been warned".)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2014
Thoroughly enjoyed this book from cover to cover, not just his time in X-craft but his whole life. Though research and attention to detail makes this book an exceptional read. He was a true hero who a nation should hold in the highest esteem, even after he returned to the RN after his time as a PoW he had so much to give and he made a difference to all who served with him. This is a quality read about a man of conviction who was loyal and dedicated with great courage throughout his life. This is an example of a real naval man who we can admire and follow.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2012
When on-board the last Royal Navy establishment I served in, I would often walk past a line of original pencil draw sketches hung on a bland wall. The hand drawn pictures depicted the lead grey faces of Royal Navy Victoria Cross recipients from the submarine service. One sketch in particular would always standout. The chap looked so young, with his child like features and confident smirk. The naval officer looking out of the picture, eyes' following me down the passageway was B.C.G Place VC. In this meticulously researched book Paul Watkins captures the very essence of the man succinctly. It would appear the cheerful sole in the picture did not suffer fools gladly, it also transpires Place was a perfectionist who possessed large amounts of cool, calm, mental stamina. Many of the junctures in which Godfrey Place was instrumental during World War Two have been documented throughout this great book. Paul Watkins not only investigates, explains and expands on these events in detail, especially the X-Craft attack on Tirpitz, but also writes skilfully, portraying the unassuming family man who was instrumental in the outcomes of these events. This is a fantastic and engrossing book about a man whose incredible actions and exciting, influential life needed to be documented in one book. This is it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2013
The Man England expects ,We could really do with more like him to-day .A very enjoyable read. much to enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2013
Having served in the Royal Navy at more or less the same time as Admiral Place the book was all the better for it.A very brave man
who served his country well. Some Naval knowledge would be an advantage.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2013
Well researched biography of a very interesting naval career, spanning the depths of the oceans to the freedom of the skies. i loved it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2014
I thought this book was very interesting being an ex submariner and Royal Navy a very comprehensive story of his life a very brave man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2013
The story of the attack on the "Tirpitz" has always fascinated me,& also I actually met him years ago when we were both in the service,but I didn,t know anything about the man himself,so this book was of great personal interest to me!A very good read!John Pearse.
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