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Ned Middleton (British professional underwater photo-journalist & author)
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Otters of the World
Otters of the World
by Paul Yoxon
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 18.87
13 used & new from CDN$ 18.87

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5.0 étoiles sur 5 An excellent appraisal of the Otter!, Jan. 6 2015
Ce commentaire est de: Otters of the World (Paperback)
Ever since I first saw Jack Couffer’s 1969 film ‘Ring of Bright Water,’ I have always liked the Otter and have taken notice whenever local headlines informed us they were being reintroduced into former habitats. That said, mine was nothing more than an ‘armchair’ interest and, as far as I was aware, an Otter was an Otter with some species found in the UK and others abroad. Having read this book, all that is now changed.

In this excellent appraisal of the various species, we find the answers to all our queries - and a great deal more besides. Commencing with the simply-put question ‘What is an Otter?, Chapter 1 explains much that we might need to know in a fascinating and hugely entertaining way. In so doing, the book provides a better understanding of this engaging creature which may reappear in our local waters at any time - if not already.

The following chapters are then devoted to the many different species found around the world - as follows; Eurasian, Spotted-Necked, Smooth-Coated, Hairy-Nosed, North American River, Marine, Neotropical/Long-Tailed, Southern River, Giant, African Clawless, Asian Smooth-Clawed, Congo Clawless and Sea Otter before continuing with further chapters on; Rescue & Rehabilitation, Otters and Pollution, Otters and Fisheries, Illegal Trade and, finally, ‘The Future.’ The book then concludes with; Appendices, Further Reading and Index.

Whereas the text is, as I have said, both informative and immensely readable, the supporting colour photography is quite exceptional with all species being included. Whereas it may be fair to say most people know that certain birds (such as the Cormorant) are used by fishermen, I was not previously aware that some Otters are also trained for the same purpose. Elsewhere there are some amazing close-up pictures showing, for example, a Congo Clawless Otter digging for worms, a Neotropical looking as though it is cleaning its teeth, one which is eating a crab, another even eating a Python (a small Python!) and all manner of adults and cubs in various situations.

Well researched, well presented and well written, it is easy to see why those with a ‘real’ passion for the Otter are so driven. Books such as this can only help the overall cause by explaining the creature in such rich detail.

NM

Dive Truk Lagoon: The Japanese WWII Pacific Shipwrecks
Dive Truk Lagoon: The Japanese WWII Pacific Shipwrecks
by Rod Macdonald
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 33.82
21 used & new from CDN$ 33.82

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4.0 étoiles sur 5 I really have agonised over this one!, Jan. 6 2015
After finishing this review, I noticed another posted on Amazon.co.uk which I duly read. Ordinarily I would ignore anything said by other reviewers - be they broadly in agreement with my own sentiments or not. On this occasion, however, the author (Rod Macdonald) had appended his own comments to that review in which he admitted to being in agreement with the criticisms made about the book’s artwork. Consequently, I made suitable amendments to the following.

In the early hours of 17 February 1944 Operation Hailstone was launched. The immediate objective was to establish air superiority in and around Truk Lagoon by destroying Japanese airfields and aircraft. From 0440 hrs, fighters and fighter-bombers from 5 US Carriers continued to attack. Whereas surprise was complete, the Japanese Cruiser Katori, two Destroyers and the Akagi Maru escaped - although the latter was lost soon after. By 1800 hrs US Admiral Spruance had achieved total air superiority and, although he found the Japanese naval fleets absent, he was then able to concentrate on destroying whatever vessels were in the lagoon. Altogether 45 ships were sunk, a further 27 damaged, some 275 aircraft destroyed, 90% of the Japanese fuel supplies set on fire and both the submarine and seaplane pens put out of action. The Japanese death toll was never published but was said to be the worst-ever for a two day engagement. By comparison, the US lost 25 aircraft, 29 aircrew and 11 sailors. Another four Japanese ships were also sunk in later engagements and IJN submarine I-174 was sunk by depth charges. In brief, that is how one of the greatest fleets of sunken ships found anywhere in the world was created. The wrecks of Truk Lagoon (now called Chuuk) have continued to attract divers ever since the advent of scuba diving.

As regular readers of my reviews will know, all good books about ships and shipwrecks are wholly dependent on the author’s ability to undertake and assimilate competent research. It is a time-consuming responsibility which few others are able to appreciate. There are no quick-fixes or short-cuts and one simply cannot get away with paraphrasing other works. Through a number of his books, Rod Macdonald has always impressed me as a writer who realty does understand this concept and, in this instance, has provided a more-than-adequate assessment of the events of 1944. Although I found nothing new, his approach is interesting, informative and reasonably complete. I did not like the way in which the book is divided into 4 sections - each of which commenced with its own Chapter 1. This was reinforced by the headings which are simply inconsistent - as follows; Book One; War, Book Two; The Shipwrecks of Truk Lagoon, Japanese Aircraft Wrecks of Truk Lagoon and US Task Force 58 Strike Aircraft.

One of the most outstanding features of Macdonald’s books has always been the artwork he employs. These paintings of wrecks are of a very high standard. As one who has also commissioned the finest possible artwork to support his own books, I know exactly what is involved in producing such impressions. In some instances, however, we learn from those aforementioned comments that the images produced show some of the wrecks - as they were before having collapsed.

All diving books become out-dated sooner than their authors would care to admit and none more so than those which are dedicated to the fast-deteriorating remains of shipwrecks. Over time, I have studied a number of works on that intriguing piece of marine real-estate called Truk Lagoon (still the preferred name!) aimed at the scuba diver (including those by Dan Bailey, Klaus Lindemann (2 books - although he did insist on using Operation Hailstorm and not Hailstone!), Roy Smallpage and William H. Stewart) plus numerous historic accounts of the relevant wartime events.

All things considered, therefore, I do believe this to be a fair and accurate assessment of the events which led to the provision of so many shipwrecks in a single location and of the various descriptions of each wreck. For those who are new to the subject, this book is a good place to learn of those events and of the individual ships now resting on the seabed. If the reader is able to overlook the fact that some (only some!) of the portraits of those wrecks are not as up-to-date (in terms of deterioration) as one is entitled to expect, it really is a very good book.

NM

The Battlecruiser Hood
The Battlecruiser Hood
by John Arthur Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
9 used & new from CDN$ 56.98

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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Everything you need to know about the Hood., Dec 13 2014
Ce commentaire est de: The Battlecruiser Hood (Hardcover)
There was a time when the Battlecruiser Hood was the largest, fastest and most handsome capital ship in the world. She was also adored by the British public and in many ways came to symbolise everything that was supremely good about the Royal Navy. On 24 May 1941 the Hood was famously sunk by the Bismarck with only three of her crew of 1,419 surviving. It was an act which resulted in Churchill giving the order "Sink the Bismarck" and, of course, they did. More recently, the remains of HMS Hood have been located at great depth in the North Atlantic resulting in renewed interest in the ship itself. Elsewhere, there are websites dedicated to the vessel and a very strong HMS Hood Association attended by those who had previously served on this, the most beautiful of ships. This is an excellent book for all such interested people.

Conway Maritime Press are well known for their "Anatomy of the Ship" series in which they provide the finest technical documentation for specific ships or ship types ever published. "The Battlecruiser Hood" is hard-back measuring 10'" (wide) x 9'" with 127 pages of detailed and factual information. This wide format allows the publishers to produce first class detailed line drawings of every aspect of this ship in a size that is easy to see and follow. All the information is there - right down to the last nut and bolt.

Laid down in 1916, Hood was designed and constructed when ships got close to the enemy and fired straight at them. By the time she was completed in 1918, however, battleships were able to lob their shells great distances with alarming accuracy. This new dimension of warfare at sea with shells "falling from the sky" meant that all warships required armour plating on their decks where previously it had only been on the sides. This requirement, coupled with an explanation of the financial restrictions placed upon the Royal Navy during the inter-war years provides the reader with all the reasons why HMS Hood was lost in the way she was.

This informative introduction continues with a service history of the ship followed by a series of "Tables" which include comparisons in battleship and Battlecruiser designs and information on the ship's; trials, dimensions, displacement, stability, armament, fire control, ship's boats and modifications. Next is 13 pages of historic photographs followed by 93 pages of detailed line drawings and more specific technical information.

And detailed it is too; Under the first main heading "General arrangements" we commence with an external profile of the ship followed by a series of detailed line drawings showing every aspect of this ship in cross section - deck by deck and room by room, from aft to bows. Then everything is repeated from above as we work our way down through every level of the ship from the highest part of the superstructure to the keel. These are followed with more specific technical information under such headings as hull construction, machinery, accommodation, superstructure, rig, armament, fire control, fittings, ground tackle, ship's boats and finally aircraft arrangements.

The inclusion of an expanded view of the clip which secured the quarterdeck hatch gives an indication of the attention to detail put into this book and, once again, I congratulate both author and publishers for a job well done.

NM

The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War (General Military)
The Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific War (General Military)
Prix : CDN$ 7.99

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Long-awaited and much needed!, Dec 9 2014
Author Mark Stille is a retired US Navy Commander with a particular interest in the naval history of the Pacific War. As such, he brings a rich understanding to his works - reinforced by his BA in History from the University of Maryland and MA from the Naval War College. Not only does this man understand his subject from more than one perspective, he also possesses that vital quality of producing fascinating and very readable accounts. Access to all manner of documents and records from both sides of any conflict is essential in determining an accurate sequence of events. Japan, however, does not readily make such information available and I mention this in order to underline the exhaustive and detailed research undertaken in order to produce this outstanding work. This particular assessment of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during WW2 is long-awaited and much needed!

Remarkably, it was a navy which only came into being in 1868 - and yet by 1941 had risen to become the 3rd most powerful in the world. It had defeated China in the war of 1894-5 and humiliated the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905 – in a battle which was the most important and decisive naval engagement since Trafalgar 100 years earlier. By their exploits Japan had astonished the world. By 1941, the only naval force able to counter Japanese aggression was the US Navy and that was a confrontation for which Japan had been preparing and training for twenty years. The size of these two ‘opposing’ fleets favoured the US - although the Japanese expected their training and discipline to tip the balance in their favour. Instead of seeking direct conflict at sea, however, they opted to attack Pearl Harbour in order to remove that opposition at a stroke - safe in the knowledge that ‘big’ ships such as battleships and aircraft carriers took time to replace.

Japanese belief in the superiority of the aircraft carrier was inspired because it was a weapon which was yet to be tested in war. Elsewhere there existed admirals who favoured the carrier and those who still firmly believed in the invincibility of the battleship. A US Army-Navy pamphlet dated 29 November 1941 even carried a photograph of the USS Arizona at sea - next to which was printed the prophetic words; “It is significant that despite the claims of air enthusiasts no battleship has yet been sunk by bombs.” Pearl Harbour was attacked on 7 December 1941 and three days later the British capital ships HMS’ Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk at sea off Malaysia. The era of the aircraft carrier had arrived. The consequences for that unprovoked attack, however, would have been so very different had the US carriers been at home alongside the rest of the fleet… Whereas, for the moment, the IJN seemed invincible, the response from the USA was measured, constant, carefully planned and always certain.

Against that background, we also learn of IJN strategy and their fundamental belief in victory. The Washington and London Naval Treaties are carefully explained alongside the IJN constructions programmes and the doctrines adopted for carriers, battleships, cruisers and other naval vessels. The next 30 pages contain one of the finest potted-histories (complete with maps) of the War in the Pacific I have ever read and includes; the background, Pear Harbour, expansion, early successes, Battle of the Coral Sea, Battle of Midway, Guadalcanal, October 1942, November 1942, After Guadalcanal, 1944, Leyte Gulf and the Final Sortie - culminating in the exploding HIJMS Yamato.

The next 312 pages concentrate on the various IJN ships in the order; Aircraft Carriers, Battleships, Heavy Cruisers, Light Cruisers, Destroyers and Submarines. The final chapter is headed ‘Conclusion and Analysis’ before the work comes to an end with Bibliography and Index. Everything is fully supported with technical details of all aspects of the ships plus an abundant supply of historic photographs - many of which were refreshingly new to me. Once again, Osprey Publishing have included some pretty amazing artwork which include profile and deck views of the ships plus a number of those technically excellent cutaway views - such as the Hatsuyuki, Zuikaku, Yamato and others.

My single complaint is with the description of Pearl Harbour being a “stunning Victory.” Stunning victories come from men and machines facing each other in battle and not from shooting men attending Church Parade before war was officially declared. That, however, does not detract from the sheer excellence of another work from this established expert.

NM

Descent into Darkness
Descent into Darkness
by Edward C. Raymer
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 23.75
18 used & new from CDN$ 12.04

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5.0 étoiles sur 5 This is an incredible tale., Dec 8 2014
Ce commentaire est de: Descent into Darkness (Paperback)
Edward Raymer was in charge of a team of US Navy divers sent urgently to Pearl in the aftermath of that infamous attack. Their first priority was to save as many men as possible who were trapped in upturned hulls. Once that job was considered as complete as it ever could be, their tasks changed as salvage and recovery work got under way. On his retirement from the US Navy in 1996, he wrote this book about the work he had undertaken all those years ago.

Having finally found and read the work, I began by writing a review which explained the content and applauded the overall product but, as I was doing this I thought that many non-divers would fail to grasp the enormity of the tasks those brave men undertook in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbour.

It occurred to me that many people who are unfamiliar with the underwater world would think that those US Navy divers would only have to switch on a torch (and that the US Navy would have provided some very powerful diving torches) and everything underwater would be as clear as possible. Take it from me, there is no light in the world which penetrates oil and water so dark and thick with dirt that the diver cannot even see his instruments when they are pressed against his faceplate or facemask. The inside of a ship’s hull is a large dark space where no natural light penetrates. Add to that, thjere were also two other vitally important factors; Firstly, these US Battleships were amongst the biggest in the world - so big that crew members frequently got lost. These divers had to find their way in (and out again!) without an intimate knowledge of each vessel. Secondly, those ships were now badly damaged, upside down or on their sides. A ship’s layout, therefore, which might have been familiar territory to one of the crew, now had to be memorised from blueprints and followed by Navy Divers after that layout had been completely changed - with their only method of finding their way around - was by feel…

I have been an active scuba diver for almost 40 years, have visited countless shipwrecks including the remains of HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. I mention this to underline the simple fact that whilst I am able to appreciate the work undertaken by US Navy divers in the aftermath of Pearl Harbour 1941, I also have no concept of the filthy and dangerous conditions or of the fear they must have had to overcome in order to complete the enormous task they were set. Certainly, if all diving was confined to such conditions, there would be no civilian divers at all!

I hope this personal element of my review will give the reader a better understanding of how truly magnificent this story really is. Magnificent, because of the achievements of Raymer and his men against all odds in spite of the appalling conditions.

This is a story which will be enjoyed by diver and non-diver alike because it is well written and reveals much that was hitherto not known. It only remains for me to congratulate those men on a truly amazing achievement,

NM

Ship Spotter's Guide (General Military)
Ship Spotter's Guide (General Military)
Prix : CDN$ 1.99

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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Must be a bargain!, Nov. 18 2014
My work as a shipwreck historian involves research into a wide variety of different craft and is usually based on the existence of a particular shipwreck. As such, there is no detail from any vessel which is beyond my interest - no matter how insignificant. Along the way, I have obtained a number of books from Osprey Publishing which contain some pretty amazing artwork. These include profile and deck views of all manner of ships plus the occasional technically excellent exploded-view. In many ways, this work might be described as the best of that artwork collated into a single book.

Measuring only 7 in. wide (190 x 130 mm), the work is a quick reference guide to many of the world’s greatest warships from ancient times to the latest US Aircraft Carriers. That, however, brings into question the book’s title - which should have been ‘Warship Spotter’s Guide!’

Nevertheless, this is one of the most useful additions to my bookshelf for some time. 40 types of warship are included and, without mentioning every ship, are collated in the following date order; Egyptian War Galley and Athenian Trireme, Norse Longship, Warships of the Far East, Tudor Warships, Spanish Galleon, Warships of the Anglo-Dutch War, Pirate Ships, Warships of the War of Independence, Napoleonic Ship-of-the-line, Ironclads, Union Monitors, River Gunboats, Commerce Raiders, British Dreadnoughts, German Dreadnoughts, Super Dreadnoughts, Austro-Hungarian Battleships, Destroyers and Submarines. We then arrive at the time of WW2 and find a useful cross-section of American, British, German, Italian and Japanese battleships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines. The work then concludes with; Vietnam Riverine Craft, American Cold-War Carriers, Nuclear Submarines and American Modern Super-Carriers.

Whereas the content for each vessel - selected as being representative of its ‘type,’ is brief, the detail is, nevertheless, informative. This comprises a one-page introduction and brief history which explains when and where the ship in question came into being in addition to the political machinations of the day. On the facing page we find the technical specifications alongside the artistic view of the entire ship - with cutaway section or sections showing internal features. And all that for GBP £4:99 (RRP) - now that must be a bargain!

Whereas the accomplished expert might gain little from the work, I suspect few people know all there is to know about every type of ship mentioned in this book and most will find something of considerable interest. Alternatively, it will also provide an excellent present for those who are beginning to show an early interest in the subject of warships throughout history.

NM

The Air Battle for Malta: The Diaries of a Spitfire Pilot
The Air Battle for Malta: The Diaries of a Spitfire Pilot
Prix : CDN$ 7.53

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Much more than just the publication of one man’s diaries., Oct. 28 2014
My current studies include all aspects of Malta’s history as part of a lengthy research project. I am, therefore, studying a great deal of material - especially in connection with both world wars. Malta gained strategic imnportance because of her unique position of being isolated in the central Mediterranean. During WW2 her aircraft were able to inflict great damage on Rommel’s maritime supply lines - a situation which would have drastically changed had she fell into enemy hands. In simplistic terms, whoever held Malta would ultimately win the war in North Africa. Consequently, the country was under continuous attack for a period of almost 2 years (11 June 1940 - 20 November 1942). At one point Valletta was subjected to a most concentrated onslaught - known as the Malta Blitz, which lasted for 157 days. By comparison, the London Blitz lasted for 57 days and was directed over a much larger area. The various roles of those who became a vital component of either that defence or resupply have, in some instances, passed in history - occasionally into legend. What is, however, so often overlooked are the many unsung heroes who served at this crucial time plus the role played by Britain’s US Allies - especially in the form of USS Wasp.

Based on the diaries of his uncle - Lord David Douglas-Hamilton, author James Douglas-Hamilton provides the most realistic account of what life was really like for an RAF Squadron Leader at a time when over 14,000 tons of bombs were dropped onto such a relatively small area. Carefully and painstakingly researched, this is the private and not-so-private account of one pilot who flew alongside such famous names as ‘Screwball’ Beurling and ‘Laddie’ Lucas who, with others, combined to provide one of the greatest defensive and strategic campaigns of all time. Only through such personal accounts (i.e. those diaries) do we learn the truth of the ups and downs of such grim times when even the most optimistic of heroic figures must have occasionally harboured personal doubts about ultimate success…

The book opens with an illuminating introduction by ‘Laddie’ Lucas CBE, DSO, DFC which commences with; The Battle for Malta in the Second World War…, will rank in history as one of the greatest defensive and strategic operations of all time. Yet, even now, little is known about it.” How true that is!

The main text is then divided into 13 chapters which, as the reader will quickly appreciate, provide a full and detailed background and history to support the diaries in question. In short, this account is much more than just the publication of one man’s diaries and that makes it more worth reading. Chapter; (1) The Struggle for Survival, (2) Hitler, Operation Hercules and Churchill, (3) The Squadron Commander and his Diary, (4) The first USS Wasp Malta Relief Force, (5) The Fighter Pilot’s Paradise, (6) The Victory of 10 May, (7) Ferocious Encounters, (8) The June Convoy - Invasion postponed, (9) July Battles, (10) The Convoy Life line, (11) The Breaking of the Luftwaffe - October 1942, (12) The Raising of the Siege and the Call of Duty and (13) The Fighter Pilots and the Victory of Malta. The book then concludes with; Sources, Select Bibliography and Index.

In many instances I found this work was able to provide a fresh outlook on established events - something which is not only always welcome but for which the author deserves great credit. On the down side, the book suffers from the way in which the historic b&w images are reproduced. Many of these - including the general setting an example on his bike!, should have been produced on better quality (i.e. glossy) paper and perhaps placed together in the middle of the work instead of appearing in a less-than-ideal manner.

Nevertheless, the book is still thoroughly recommended.

NM

Voices in Flight: The Royal Naval Air Service During the Great War
Voices in Flight: The Royal Naval Air Service During the Great War
by Malcolm Smith
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 60.57
25 used & new from CDN$ 27.96

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Worth every single minute., Oct. 19 2014
Today, it might appear that no sooner had the aircraft been invented, it was used as a weapon of war - especially as all air, sea and land forces employ aircraft of some description. The role of the aircraft in naval warfare is, of course, as interesting as any - especially when one encounters a carefully researched book which provides personal accounts from a war which started 100 years ago.

Author Malcolm Smith served for 30 years as an Engineer Officer in the Fleet Air Arm with a variety of home appointments and sea duties on aircraft carriers. Towards the end of that service he was employed at the Ministry of Defence with particular responsibility for engineering standards and practises on board ships with aircraft capabilities. In short, this man knows his subject. His previous book ‘Voices in Flight - The Fleet Air Arm; Recollections from Formation to the Cold War,’ recounted personal stories from those who were involved throughout that time. Continuing with that same theme, this is a collection of personal accounts and anecdotes from the Great War. Personally, I have enjoyed this book so much I am now looking for a copy of that aforementioned title - it really is that readable.

The work includes the personal reminisces of naval aircrew and flight maintenance staff from a period when flight itself was still relatively new - and even more so when undertaken by sailors. Amongst the first-hand testimonies, for example, we learn of F. J. Rutland (who became known as ‘Rutland of Jutland’) who took off in a Sopwith Pup from a makeshift platform erected above one of the gun turrets on HMS Yarmouth - a feat which caused Rudyard Kipling to commemorate the event in a short story.

That, however, is only one of the many worthy anecdotes collected over time from the extensive archives held by the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Somerset. All manner of personal reports, spoken accounts, diaries, transcripts, log books official and hand-written documents are brought to life. Elsewhere we find the day-to-day personal routine of one individual whose own story does much to allow the modern reader to glimpse at the reality of the life these men led.

In a book which screams ‘fascinating reading’ from every page, I know and recognise the hand of detailed research and, having thoroughly enjoyed the book, can report how those many lonely hours of searching out these many tales was worth every single minute.

NM

RHNS Averof: Thunder in the Aegean
RHNS Averof: Thunder in the Aegean
by John C. Carr
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 46.34
18 used & new from CDN$ 20.45

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A fabulous account of a little-known ship with a big heart., Sept. 25 2014
It is easy to become confused by naval prefixes - e.g.; HMS, HMNZS and HNMS. ‘HMS’ is, of course Her (or His) Majesty’s Ship with ‘NZ’ identifying a naval vessel from New Zealand. HNMS, however, is ‘His Netherlands Majesty’s Ship.’ I add this snippet of digression because I had not previously encountered RHNS (Royal Hellenic Navy Ship). The Greek Royal Family reigned from 1863-1924 and again from 1935-1973 and that prefix will, therefore, have been in use during both world wars and at other times. Today the prefix for Greece is HNS - none of which had previously crossed my desk.

RHNS Averof was built in Livorno and completed in 1910. At 10,200 tons she was the largest vessel in the Greek navy and, therefore, the flagship. Curiously, she remained their largest vessel until 1951 - six years after she had been laid up. Soon after being purchased, she saw action in the Balkan Wars and the Battle of Cape Helles (1912) - where she inflicted heavy casualties on the Turkish fleet. In January 1913, she was instrumental in bringing about victory at the Battle of Limnos. After a major refit and modernisation in 1920, the vessel enjoyed a period of peace. When the Germans overran Greece, she made a remarkable escape to Alexandria whilst under constant aerial attack. After he commander had ignored orders to scuttle the ship, she then escorted convoys into the Indian Ocean and continued in that role for the remainder of the war. In 1945 the Averof was laid up and neglected for almost 40 years. Then, after years of refitting and preservation, she was moored at Phaleron, Athens as a floating naval museum. She is one of only three armoured cruisers still in existence.

Author John Carr was previously unknown to me but, having studied this work carefully, I look forward to more on a similar theme. I note he has previously written ‘A History of the Royal Hellenic Air Force in WWII’ and something similar for their navy would be most welcome.

In the meantime, he has produced a most interesting history of a specific ship which, being so rare, has already got me contemplating a trip to Athens just to visit this important piece of naval history. The work is well laid out revealing great attention to detail. Similarly, between pages 76 and 77 we find a collection of 55 glossy b&w images which have been given the same degree of careful thought. In addition to the historic photographs one might expect to find we also have a wide variety of images from the preserved vessel - including one which shows shrapnel damage to one of the guns, original nameplate, capstan, bridge, captain’s cabin, admiral’s quarters, chapel, powder bucket, uniforms, smokestack hammocks, engine room and so forth.

Altogether, I would describe this as a fabulous account of a little-known ship with a big heart and one which is well worth reading.

NM

The Buccaneer King: The Story of Captain Henry Morgan
The Buccaneer King: The Story of Captain Henry Morgan
by Graham A. Thomas
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 21.02

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5.0 étoiles sur 5 A complex character and a fascinating subject., Sept. 25 2014
According to one dictionary definition, ‘Piracy’ is the act of robbery and theft at sea - although it has come into use for similar acts on land.’ The definition of a Privateer (also Corsair), was pretty much the same - except that they conducted their business on behalf of a government at times of war. Only by being a Privateer could Henry Morgan continue to amass great wealth by attacking foreign ships and settlements without having the Royal Navy at his heels. Similarly had he been ‘just another pirate’ (successful or not) he would not have been Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica on three separate occasions and would not have been knighted in 1674.

In this new biography, the first thing to strike me was the incredible depth of research undertaken. In so doing, author and historian Graham Thomas turns a complex character into the most fascinating subject. We learn how Morgan was an exceptional leader of men motivated by sheer greed. It is, therefore right and proper that this author should pose the questions: Was his prime motivation to attack the King’s enemies at every opportunity and keep whatever spoils of war came to hand? Or did he do so ‘only’ if the pickings were rich enough?

There is no doubt Morgan sacked and plundered ships, towns and even cities all along the Spanish Main as he amassed his great personal fortune. Whether this was from pure greed or overwhelming patriotism - or a combination of both is something for the reader to decide, having read the book.

I know I bang on about research - but how else do we learn the truth about any historical event no matter how old or recent. In this instance, first-hand accounts and official documents from the National Archives are compared alongside the controversial history of Morgan written by Alexander Esquemeling (who sailed with Morgan as his barber-surgeon and confidante) for about 5 years to 1674. It really is fascinating…

To this end, we find a complete work laid in 26 chapters which chart Morgan firstly, as the Buccaneer and, secondly, as the politician. It is a captivating tale worthy of a whole new film - set more as an moving biography than a swash-buckling heroic adventure movie from yesterday, though no less exhilarating and bloody in places…

Altogether, a great job of work.

NM

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