on 22 April 2011
This story is presented in a truly absorbing and informative narrative that paints a very vivid picture of events surrounding this particular incident in the war at sea. It's very obvious that a great deal of research has been involved in the production of this work, and it's well worth the effort. Too many books in this genre can have a very academic feel in the way that facts and statistics are used, making them a very dry read, not so in this case.
The author manages to weave the statistical information into the story seamlessly adding to the unfolding drama. A balance is struck throughout with the events viewed from the different aspects of all those involved. The story told in this way serves to remind us that the war was fought by ordinary people, who faced the same dangers, had the same worries and suffered the same losses regardless of which side they were on.
on 22 June 2012
This is the story of four very different vessels, brought together on one particular dark night in 1944 off Ireland by the fortunes of war: a German submarine, a former whaling ship now converted to a tanker, and two trawlers, one pressed into naval service as a hospital and rescue ship, the other requisitioned as a convoy escort. It is possible that their encounter would have been a mere line in the history of the battle of the Atlantic, had the tanker, Empire Heritage, not been carrying a deck cargo of Sherman tanks. Today, that cargo lies on the seabed in remarkable condition, a magnet for properly equipped and trained divers. Type 'Empire Heritage' into You Tube...
If you know a reasonable amount about the naval history of the Second World War, it's easy to get a handle on the story, but John Peterson has decided to reach out to both those who do and those who don't. So he gives the in-depth history of all four vessels. bringing them to what you could call - if you were being melodramatic - their moment of destiny, when the commander of U-482 struck at the convoy. He explains the convoy system, and U-boat tactics, as well, making this book a very useful introduction to the broader subject. He also deals well with the findings of the court of inquiry that followed the loss of this huge ship and her critically important cargo - as well as that of the rescue ship, Pinto, which was also torpedoed, even as she was rescuing survivors.
The author was inspired to write the book by the discovery that his grandfather was involved in the drama, but he doesn't make the mistake of skewing the content to over-emphasise the family connection. What comes through, instead, is his personal commitment to provide a comprehensive account of a what for the German U-boat arm was a triumphant patrol at a time when their submarines were fighting for their lives. For the Allies it was a rude reminder that they needed to maintain the leadership and organisation in their convoys that had so dramatically reversed the course of the Battle of The Atlantic
on 24 August 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Comprehensively researched and completely absorbing, Darkest Before Dawn is certainly a different perspective on the tonnage war. Combining the academic with the personal, John Peterson has written a most interesting account of sea combat that reminds us that even late in the Second World War men and women were dying in the defence of freedom within view of our shores. Leigh Bishop's underwater photographs are quite superb and clearly illustrate, nearly 70 years on, the results of the action.
There are a few technical inaccuracies but these in no way affect the flow or the thrust of the narrative. I found though, the constant and inappropriate use of "actually", finally" "simply", "in fact" and "managed", to be irritating; this is a fault which could have been easily remedied by a good editor. That said, John Peterson is commended for most ably extending our knowledge of a forgotten event and I strongly recommend his book for those interested in maritime operations in the Second World War.
on 22 May 2013
I chose this book due to my hobby, which is the modern pelagic whaling industry and nothing to do with the main theme of the book, which is the war in the Atlantic. The fact that it deals with a whale factory ship was my sole reason for purchase. Incidentally I have not had time to read it yet, but some of the photographs previously unseen by me are great.