Command, softback edition


The reviewer was introduced to the saga of Kydd and Renzi by the hardback edition of “Command”. Since then all the previous books in the series have been reviewed and this softback edition was nicely timed as a preparatory for the eight book due in October 2007. For any other reader coming into the saga with “Command” please seek out the previous books – it is well worth the effort. The softback edition will bring Kydd to a wider readership. It is released be midway between the publication of the hardback edition and the next hardback in the series. This book is the seventh in the series tracing the stories of two characters, Kydd and Renzi. Through the series from the first book, Stockwin has developed the characters and brought the reader firmly into their world. At the ending of this book the author is clearly already well on his way to continuing the story through the next book to follow “Command”. We now know that the eight book in the series will be “Kydd: The Admiral’s Daughter” and an extract from Chapter One of this next book concludes the new softback. It shows that Kydd is about to make a further rapid career gain. “Command” is a compelling story, filled with historical fact and with nicely drawn characters. In its own right, the storyline is a little odd because it is really two stories, a natural break appearing some two thirds of the way through the book, almost an engaging novel followed by an equally engaging but shorter work. The full impact may not be made until the reader continues into the next book when it becomes available. I look forward to reading that book because the author sets a new standard in the genre of Napoleonic War naval stories. The hero of the tale is Thomas Kydd, a press ganged wig maker who rises through the lower deck to a commission. With Command, he has reached the dizzy heights of Commander with his first command, the brig-sloop HMS Teazer operating from the newly taken island of Malta and into the Eastern Mediterranean. On receiving orders to Malta and his first command, he parts company with his friend Renzi who remains on HMS Tenacious. The author also made the rise from lower deck to quarter deck and although the ages were very different, his experiences provide him with insight into the challenges, joys, fears and frustrations of this experience. The Royal Navy has always been an organization of opportunity. There have been many over the centuries who have risen from the lowest rank to the highest, including one who not only survived a flogging round the Fleet, normally a barbaric death sentence, but continued his rise to the rank of Admiral. To those coming to naval stories for the first time there may be several things that seem strange but that is the way of the Navy. In recent times one Admiral was proud to tell people that he had reached his high rank as a result of being Court Marshalled. In his case he had reached a situation similar to that facing Kydd in “Command”. He had achieved his command just as the Royal Navy was about to be savagely cut by brain-dead politicians. He ran his ship aground and was sentenced to loss of seniority. That meant he missed the next cull of commanders and when he qualified for promotion again there was a shortage of people giving him a rapid promotion path. Had he not lost seniority he would have been retired from the Navy. The author provides a very engaging story and paints a strong picture of the historical situation. He also explains through the story the disadvantage of a rapid rise to Commander when unexpected peace puts Teazer into Ordinary and Kydd on the beach on half pay. The tale then changes pace and venue into a new story.

Titanic A Journey Through Time


The authors present the Titanic story on a key date-by-date basis. This makes it a useful quick reference guide. The book is well illustrated throughout and the colour section features some superb paintings and some of the artefacts recovered from the wreck as well as images of the wreck itself. Interestingly there is a chapter covering the various films made about Titanic. This is an interesting book in particular because of its coverage of the artefacts recovered from the wreck.

Tirpitz Hunting the Beast

This is a well researched and written history of the German battleship Tirpitz and the series of attacks that led to her destruction. Tirpitz is one of those vessels that attracts much literary attention. As an operational warship her performance was meagre, but is an icon of Nazi naval capability and as a lurking threat, her footprint in WWII naval history is significant. When she was launched in 1939 by the eldest daughter of Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz she was a visible indication of the potential of the German surface fleet and the growing international impact of Nazi Germany. The destruction of her sister vessel Bismark marked a change in German confidence in the capability of surface warships and the ascendancy of the U-Boat fleet in naval priority. As a result, apart from some early minor pinprick actions, Tirpitz was to spend her brief life as little more than a garrison vessel operationally. Her value and importance was that her potential threatened Allied naval and merchant marine operations tying down considerable Allied assets against the possibility that she might try to destroy the Russian convoys from North America or break out into the Atlantic as Bismark had tried.

Tin Hats, Oilskins and Sea boots


A highly readable account of the author’s naval service. He joined the Royal Canadian navy undertaking his training as an officer cadet with the RN serving in the battlecruisers Renown and Hood. He returned to the RCN in 1941 serving in the destroyers Ottawa and Niagara before briefly commanding the corvette Long Beach and ending the war as the executive officer of the destroyer Algonquin.

Time Flies – Heathrow at 60


Heathrow typifies the air transport revolution during the last 60 years. When it opened for business in January 1946, Europe was still suffering from the effects of war. To open a new airport for international air travel at this time was an act of faith. Conditions were primitive and the early aircraft were converted bombers. Over the sixty years from 1946, Heathrow has grown dramatically and still been unable to cope with the needs of those flying to and from London. The 14 million flights and 1.4 billion passengers have made Heathrow the major international airport.

Send A Gunboat


John Preston, who died in 2004, was a highly respected naval historian and this book was originally published in 1967 at the start of his book writing career. Co-authored with John Major, it covers the use of smaller warships as a tool of foreign policy. It is a testament to the research and authorship of the co-authors that this new edition has required few amendments or additions. It is the definitive guide to the subject and a part of Royal Navy history that has received very little coverage. Apart from the Crimean War, which was something of an international sideshow, the period after the Napoleonic Wars until the 1914-18 Great War was one of relative peace. Pax Britannica saw Great Britain at the head of a great Empire that encompassed the world acting as the international policeman. The sending of a gunboat was frequently successful in preventing the outbreak of significant conflict. Great Britain was not alone in employing gunboats in this way and the United States forced Japan to open her ports to US trade by gunboat diplomacy. However, the Royal Navy was THE Navy enjoying global supremacy. In many respects this was the Golden Age of the Royal Navy. Some will argue that fighting capability seriously declined as politicians and the Admiralty failed to invest fully in new technologies to counter potential major enemies, and there is a case to answer that the Royal Navy failed to maintain the Nelson Tradition in big ship fighting capabilities, becoming complacent. However, it was still a period when no other navy considered itself equal and where the advertisement of naval power often avoided the need to use guns. There are parallels in the early Twenty First Century where the United States has been left as the large military supper power but where the lack of a major conflict and the frequency of ‘police actions’ hides the real situation of growing potential risk and a realignment of power groups.

The Autonomous House


Everything you wanted to know about saving the planet but were afraid to ask. This book was published in 1975 at an early stage in the ‘green’ movement development. It is interesting to compare its approach with the 2007 beliefs. At a conference in Cambridge, England, shortly after this and similar books were published, one speaker bemoaned the situation asking that, “we find something to scare the shit out of folk, or they wont buy this”. That something three decades on is the Global Warming extremists. This book was an intelligent attempt to review all of the possibilities that might contribute to a reduction of consumption and pollution. The authors concluded that it was not practical to build a fully autonomous house without deliberately reducing consumption to reduce the input of resources and the output of waste. The book contains a great deal of information with many drawings, charts and tables to support the text. The authors have begun with a description of building techniques that might be employed to produce houses that would provide optimum heat containment and use natural resources as far as practical. They then work through all of the services and systems that could be designed with energy and resource conservation in mind. At the time that this book was written a number of test buildings had been constructed in a number of countries to provide data on autonomous living. There is a heavily “home-made” content throughout the work, with suggestions on how to build a sewage system and store methane gas to be used for cooking and heating. The book describes how the systems could be constructed out of junk such as old vehicle and bicycle inner tubes, jam jars, plastic jerry cans and agricultural materials. Where a house could be designed and built using the suggestions and information in this book, using a mixture of new materials and scavenged parts, the material cost would have been relatively low because so much would have to be made by hand. The labour content would have been high.

Through the German Waterways


This is a new revised edition of a workmanlike pilot for the 4,700 km of West German waterways. Well illustrated with simple charts and black and white photographs, the book devotes the first 61 pages to general advice to anyone planning to cruise German waterways and then continues with 18 routes dividing up the waterway network into a series of cruises, each detailing essential pilotage information and some useful tourist commentary.

This Great Harbour Scapa Flow


Sadly, the author has died, but this is a most welcome third edition and a tribute to his efforts as a writer. Scapa Flow played a vital role in the British naval conduct of the two greatest world wars. Prior to WWI, the Royal Navy had been deployed along the English coast from Devonport to Chatham to face a French threat. The German threat during the Twentieth Century required a new set of battle plans and saw the North Sea become the focus of attention. Scapa Flow provided a large sheltered anchorage from which the Royal Navy could counter the major surface vessels of first the German High Seas Fleet and then the Kriegsmarine of Hitler’s Germany.

This Accursed Land


Having republished The Home of the Blizzard, Birlinn have republished This Accursed Land which takes up the story of Mawson and his Australian expedition. With a foreword by Sir Edmund Hillary, and more outstanding photographs from Frank Hurley, this is an essential companion to Mawson’s own book on his 1912.13 sledge journey.