Health and Morale in the RN, 1939-1945

Fittest of the Fit; Health and Morale in the Royal Navy, 1939-1945. By Kevin Brown. Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley 2019

Reviewed by Tim Coyle

The cover of Fittest of the Fit depicts a bronzed, smiling ‘matlo’, his cap tally showing he is member of the pre-war aircraft carrier HMS Eagle ship’s company, standing on the upper deck. His blue jean collar is ruffled by the sea breeze which billows the huge white ensign behind him. Over his left shoulder can be seen a battleship, possibly the mighty ‘Hood’, then the world’s biggest warship.

This 1930s recruiting poster attracted young men to sign on for at least 12 years to ‘see the world’ through visiting the many ports in the British Empire. There was no shortage of recruits. However, adventure turned to a life and death struggle at sea in September 1939 with the outbreak of war.

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The Last Days of the High Seas Fleet

The Last Days of the High Seas Fleet. From Mutiny to Scapa Flow. By Nicholas Jellicoe. Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, 2019.

Reviewed by David Hobbs

On 21 June 1919 the interned warships of the German High Seas Fleet were scuttled by their crews in Scapa Flow and the centenary of this dramatic event has been marked in 2019 by a number of books and events.  Of these, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review Nicholas Jellicoe’s book The Last Days of the High Seas Fleet.  The author is the grandson of Admiral Jellicoe and he has followed a career in communications, notably with Rolex.  He therefore speaks fluent German and this undoubtedly helped his research and understanding of the High Seas Fleet mutinies of 1918 and the scuttle in 1919. 

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A Carrier at Risk

Argentine Aircraft Carrier and Anti-Submarine Operations against the Royal Navy’s Attack Submarines during the Falklands/Malvinas War, 1982.  By Mariano Sciaroni. Helion and Company, 2019.

Reviewed by David Hobbs

The author is a lawyer who specialises in insurance and commercial matters but his qualifications also include a Masters Degree in Strategy and Geopolitics and a post-graduate course in Contemporary Military History at the Argentine Army’s Military Academy.  He is a Lieutenant in the Army Reserve whose interest in the South Atlantic War was first stimulated when he attended a lecture given by Almirante Enrique Pico who had commanded an Argentine Navy destroyer in 1982.  He had previously thought, like many others, that after the sinking of the cruiser GeneralBelgranothe remaining Argentine ships had rapidly sought sanctuary in port and the Admiral’s story came as a surprise to him. 

Some years later his interest was further stimulated when he met Capitan de Fragata Enrique Fortini who had flown S-2E Trackers from the aircraft carrier 25 de Mayoand his subsequent research led to the publication of this short but informative book.  Its 72 pages include an interesting bibliography and source notes but no index; a number of colour and black and white photographs complement the text and there are colour maps and scale drawings of ships and aircraft.  Both British and Argentine names are used to describe places.  

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ANI seeks book reviewers

 Book reviews are a popular feature of the ANI website. We are seeking  a few more people to help us to provide a varied and qualitative range of reviews.

Reviewers may nominate a title of interest, normally from our two main suppliers, and I will arrange a copy to be sent. Reviewers may retain  the book.

 The range of books reviewed are mainly maritime-related; however other military/history/national security topics are also of interest.

 Interested persons may contact the ANI Book Review Co-ordinator, Dr Tim Coyle at

Take These Men: Tank Warfare with the Desert Rats

Take These Men: Tank Warfare with the Desert Rats. By Cyril Joly. Pen and Sword, Barnsley, 2019 reprint of 1955 classic

Reviewed by Gregory P. Gilbert

‘Take these men for your example. Like them remember that prosperity can only be for the free, that freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.’ Pericles

THERE are many memoirs written by those who served in World War II and while many of these are still of interest after seventy-five years or so, very few are as relevant to modern soldiers, sailors and airmen as Cyril Joly’s classic memoir of tank warfare with the Desert Rats – ‘Take These Men’. It is a vivid description of combat between men and their machines written with exceptional skill. It provides clear observations of courage, teamwork, conflict and death which should resonate amongst young officers across the years. Joly’s work is an inspirational first-hand narrative of command, leadership, learning, morale and downright grim determination.

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British Submarines in Two World Wars

British Submarines in Two World Wars. By Norman Friedman. Seaforth Publications. Barnsley, South Yorkshire. 2019.

Reviewed by Tim Coyle

This latest book by noted naval analyst and author, Norman Friedman, examines the design, development and operation of Royal Navy submarines from 1901 to 1945. It is the first of two volumes on this topic; the second will cover British submarines beyond 1945. As with all other Friedman books, this offering features exhaustive details of all submarine classes, supported by specially commissioned drawings of the highest detail, hundreds of photographs and 75 pages of closely-spaced notes and data, the latter almost worthy of a second volume.

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China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations

China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations. Edited by Andrew S. Erickson and Ryan D. Martinson. Naval Institute Press.

Reviewed by Lieutenant Mitchell Vines, RAN

The latest combined effort by Erickson and Martinson, China’s Maritime Gray Zone Operations, arrives on the heels of the Naval War College’s 2017 China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) Conference themed the same as the book title. In the 7thtitle of the series, 19 contributions unite in this joint publication (CMSI and Naval Institute Press) to discuss gray zone operations in the South China Sea through the lens of the US-China relationship.    

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German Battleship Helgoland plans

German Battleship Helgoland: Detailed in the Original Builders’ Plans. By Aidan Dodson. Seaforth Publications, Barnsley, 2019.

Reviewed by Gregory P. Gilbert

THE Imperial German battleship HELGOLAND was built by Howaldt in Kiel where she was launched in 1909 and completed in August 1911. She served throughout World War I, including at Jutland, and was surrendered along with the rest of the German High Sea Fleet in November 1918.  Plans of HELGOLAND were also ceded to Britain as part of the peace treaty through the Naval Inter-Allied Commission. After extensive study by Royal Navy ship designers and operators, the plans were largely forgotten and finally made their way to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Now it is our great fortune that Seaforth have published the HELGOLAND ship plans for all to peruse.

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McCain and the Triumph of Naval Air Power

Admiral John S. McCain and the Triumph of Naval Air Power. By William F. Trimble. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2019.

Reviewed by David Hobbs

WILLIAM TRIMBLE is a professor emeritus at Auburn University in Alabama whose previous books for the US Naval Institute include ‘Hero of the Air’, a biography of Glen Curtiss that examined the birth of naval aviation and ‘Admiral William A. Moffett’, a biography of the first Director of the USN Bureau of Aeronautics among others that focus on the development of the US Navy’s air arm.  With his deep knowledge of how the air navy developed he was well placed to write a biography of ‘Slew’ McCain and the result is a masterpiece of historical biography.

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Collins of the Sydney

Collins of the Sydney: A Life of Vice-Admiral Sir John Collins. By Anthony K. MacDougall. Clarion Editions, Mudgee, 2018.

Reviewed by Ian Pfennigwerth

TONY MACDOUGALL has taken on the necessary but difficult task of researching and writing a biography of the first Australian officer to command the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Vice Admiral John Augustine Collins KBE, CB. The necessity springs from the central role Collins played in the development of RAN capabilities in operational, organisational and international fields. He is probably best known to Australians today because of the class of submarine named after him.

However, between his acceptance into the RAN College as a member of its first entry in 1913 through to his retirement in 1955, John Collins was associated with almost every stage of the RAN’s progress from a small element of the mighty Imperial Royal Navy to an independent and regionally significant maritime force in its own right. The difficulties arise because the RAN has been far from assiduous in preserving its own records and because John Collins was a notably private person, creating and leaving nothing substantial as a documentary trail of his life, its events and his reflections on them. So, the first plus for this book is that it was written at all. 

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