Sailor in the Desert

B1921

One of the most delightful aspects of the 1914 Centenary is that many of the books emerging cover aspects of the Great War that have received very little attention previously. This new book is a son’s biography of his father.

This is a very interesting account of a way of life that was already ending. It covers a campaign that has received very little coverage. Highly recommended

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NAME: Sailor in the Desert
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 180113
FILE: R1921
AUTHOR: David Gunn
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 148
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: gunboats, riverine warfare, WWI, World War One, First World War, Great War, 1914-1918, sail & steam, coaling, oil paintings, Turks, Mesopotamia, Iraq, Calcutta River, shore bombardment
ISBN: 1-78346-230-2
IMAGE: B1921.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/nrsb7wc
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: One of the most delightful aspects of the 1914 Centenary is that many of the books emerging cover aspects of the Great War that have received very little attention previously. This new book is a son’s biography of his father.

Phillip Gunn was an 18 year old Ordinary Seaman on a Royal Navy sloop in the Far East when WWI broke out. The British Empire had reached its peak by 1914 and the Royal Navy was responsible for protecting the sea lanes between the parts of a far flung Empire, and also protecting British interests beyond the Empire. As a result, the RN had in commission a wide range of small warships, including the sloop Clio on which Phillip Gunn was serving. She was typical of the small sail and steam vessels that began joining the RN from the middle of the 19th Century. She was one of the more heavily armed minor warships, equipped with a main armament of six 4 inch guns that were heavier than many destroyers of the time.

Phillip Gunn had joined the RN in 1911 as a boy seaman and was to later be commissioned, retiring as a Captain. The RN had long selected promising seamen for officer training, considering that skill and ability was the only justification for raising a cadet/Midshipman or a boy seaman to the Wardroom.

With Turkey entering the war on the side of Germany, the RN rushed naval units to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East to support the troops who were being inserted into the theatre to confront the Turks in protection of British oil interests and to protect communications with India and the Far East.

Clio was sent to the River Tigris and Gunn was detailed to command a Calcutta River Police Launch and armed barges. This was a great responsibility for a young seaman and suggests that he was already being prepared for rapid promotion. The Police launch was a steam-powered vessel that followed a design employed in the Empire as a tug and as suitable vessel for police duties. The two barges were of a type known as horse boats and were frequently employed to move cavalry up rivers during colonial campaigns and in support of general policing. In this case they were effectively towed monitors, each armed with a 4.7 inch gun and equipped with a large magazine.

The author has provided, in detailing his father’s career and WWI experiences, a fascinating description of one group of details of Empire. His father produced a number of oil painting and these have been reproduced in a colour plate section, providing a charming and interesting view into his life at the time. B&W photographs and maps have also been included in support of the illuminating text.

This is a very interesting account of a way of life that was already ending. It covers a campaign that has received very little coverage. Highly recommended

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