In Which They Served
During World War II, Britain’s Royal Navy has to expand more than sevenfold, in the faces of the threat of invasion, enemy bombing and the need to carry out campaigns all around the world. To find officers for this force it had to move well outside its normal supply of boys trained from the age of 13. It started by recruiting yachtsmen and giving them a smattering of naval discipline before sending them to sea. Then it sent possible officers into action as ordinary seamen, to live a hard and dangerous life in destroyers. Selected men were then given their officer training in three months in an improved seaside base at Brighton. They sailed as officers in all kinds of ships, but especially in the new landing craft which would invade North Africa, Italy and Normandy. Those appointed to escort vessels in the Battle of the Atlantic came under the fearsome gaze of Commodore Stephenson, the ‘Terror of Tobermory’ before being sent out on convoy escort.
One of Britain’s leading naval historians looks at the social background of British wartime naval recruits, the training methods, the personal experiences of those involved and what they had to learn to become an officer of the watch on the bridge of a warship, or even the captain of a landing craft or frigate in the Second World War. The book draws widely from personal experiences of those who served and presents a rich collection of wry quotes and numerous anecdotes from household names such as Alec Guinness, Evelyn Waugh, Nicholas Monsarrat and George Melly as we follow them through the rigours of the war at sea. It has much to say on seamanship, naval technology, leadership and organisation.