The Real Cruel Sea: The Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1939–1943

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Pen and Sword, Jul 6, 2011 - History - 800 pages
The renowned maritime historian’s compelling study of the vital role played by merchant seamen during WWII in the Battle of the Atlantic.

For the British, the Battle of the Atlantic was a fight for survival. They depended on the safe transit of hundreds of merchant ships carrying food and supplies from America to feed the country and keep the war effort going. On top of that, they had to export manufactured goods to pay for it all.

Britain's merchant navy, a disparate collection of private vessels, had become the country's lifeline. While its seamen were officially non-combatants, they bravely endured the onslaught of the German U-boat offensive until Allied superiority overwhelmed the enemy.

Drawing extensively on first-hand sources, Richard Woodman establishes the importance of the British and Allied merchant fleets in the struggle against Germany. This important study elevates the heroic seamen who manned these ships to their rightful place in the history of the Second World War.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - kaki5231 - LibraryThing

This is probably the best book I have read on the Battle of the Atlantic. It details the conflict in exquisiste detail from 1939 through 1943 with great detail and examples. It was such a good book that I had to obtain a copy after reading it in the library. Read full review

The Real Cruel SeaExcellent Book

User Review  - kaki3152 -

This book details the ups and downs of Britains Merchant Navy from the begining of the war 1939 theough the first half of 1943. It is an excellent book full of little known stories of Britans sailors ... Read full review

Selected pages


All who were ever found
The cruel sea
Conduct beyond the call of duty
The courage of ordinary people
This does not look at all good
stay tough

Rulers of the sea
One of the finest bits of seamanship
There was a terrific explosion
end was terrible and violent
We are a seafaring race
Cries for help could be heard
The sky was alight with starshells
Fireflies in the water
The decisive factor
With the precision of a battlefleet
Full of agonized bewilderment

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About the author (2011)

Richard Woodman is a distinguished, prize-winning maritime author. He served at sea from the age of sixteen, spent eleven years in command, spent six years in operational management and is today an Elder Brother of Trinity House. The author of a number of novels, his historical studies include Arctic Convoys 1941–1945, Malta Convoys 194–1943, The Real Cruel Sea: The Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic 1939–1943 and a five volume History of the British Merchant Navy.

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