This book by Britain's greatest 20th century admiral is a treasure. It is not an easy read as it is long and full of detail while being almost without humour. The first hand accounts of the war in the Mediterranean are without equal and he is quite modest about his part in it. Starting in destroyers, which remained his passion, he commanded almost every type of ship in the navy and was responsible for some of Britain's most successful naval actions. The meetings with all the major figures from the King to Stalin and Roosevelt make fascinating reading as with the difficulties in keeping Churchill's hand off the helm. The fact that he reached the highest rank and position in the navy he ascribes to luck which may be a bit under-stating the case. However, understatement was a facet of his character much remarked on at the time.
The man himself seems to have been a typical dour Scot with all the pluses and minuses implied. He rarely shows feelings or any emotion in a convincing way. Thus, we learn from him that he got married about half way through the book, but nothing about his wife. In fact on one occasion he visited Malta which gave him the opportunity to visit two destroyer squadrons and his wife, he remarked that all three were doing fine! He is lavish in his praise of colleagues in the book, if he was not always on the bridge at the time.
Few men in history have come from being a boy sailor through 50 years of career and three wars to end up as Admiral of the fleet and first sea lord. The story of how it happened is truly fascinating.