Wednesday, January 29, 2014
This is NOT 'yet another' WW2 naval memoir!
For one of the finest accounts of the experiences of a young naval rating followed by his further experiences as a young officer in the Royal Navy during WW2 you will find it hard to beat 'A Passage to Sword Beach', published by the Naval Institute Press.
Brendan Maher, a native of Manchester joined the Royal Navy in February 1943 and was sent to HMS Raleigh, the shore-based training establishment in Devon, for his basic training. Here he was issued with his ratings uniform, received instruction in drill, seamanship, signalling, gunnery, etc. and on successful completion he was evaluated as a potential officer. In the meantime he held the rank of Ordinary Seaman and after a short spell in barracks at HMS Drake at Devonport he was posted to the light cruiser, HMS Cardiff. Here he quickly learned about the lower deck, of ‘piped’ orders, hoisting the ship’s boat, mess catering, the daily ‘tot’ of rum (enjoyed by his 'mess mates' as he was too young), how to sling his hammock, etc., until July 1943 when he was posted to HMS King Alfred at Hove for training as an officer.
On passing out from his officer course, which again he describes in some detail, he held the rank of Midshipman and after training in gunnery at HMS Pembroke at Chatham and in minesweeping at HMS Lochinvar, on the Forth River near Edinburgh, he served briefly in HM Motor Minesweeper 84, for some months in the Halcyon class minesweeper HMS Jason and then transferred to Coastal Forces and the minesweeping capable ML137 as third officer. ML 137 was attached to the 1st Minesweeping Flotilla and with shallower draft was able to sweep further inshore than most at Sword Beach, in advance of the Normandy invasion of 1944, hence the book's title.
There have been many books of naval memoirs but this one is a real gem. It is subtitled 'minesweeping in the Royal Navy' but it is so much more than that, describing life on board and explaining simply the naval evolutions of both normal ship routine and handling as well as in action. Sadly this book does not appear to have been published in UK but only in the United States so if you have an interest in Naval matters it may have passed you by. Fortunately we have a few copies in stock to fill that gap in your library but we can't supply what should be the demand for this book so look out for a copy!
(Extract from a fuller version published on the ABfaR Blog in August 2013)