Yuletide Selection II

I’m a bit of a gruff creature when it comes to the commercialisation of Christmas – but there’s one thing that I fervently believe: a book is a present that, if well chosen for the recipient, will give hours of pleasure and be a lasting reminder in itself of someone putting thought, not just money, into a Yuletide gift. So do consider adding one or more from this selection to your gift-buying list. From the origins of Christmas to Scotland’s shipbuilding heritage; the heroism of Danish war-time resistance to Britain’s unsolved murders – and a photographic chronicle of the history of US submarines, hopefully there’s something for everyone in this somewhat eclectic selection.

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Hitler’s Savage Canary by David Lampe

xmas 2aHats off to Frontline Books for reprinting this little-known story of the Danes under German occupation during the Second World War. The Danish Resistance, the Modstandsbev?gelsen, was not a meek canary, but a dangerous and courageous bird of prey that refused to be caged. The scale of the resistance is without equal: twenty-six million issues of illegal newspapers had been published by 1945; radio guides for Allied aircraft had been set up on the coasts; boat services ran between Sweden, Denmark and Britain; a news bureau provided a stream of inside information to the Allies; German ships were unable to move out of the ports; and enemy troops were frustrated by the sabotage of railways and air bases. A thrilling story of heroism and daring.


United States Navy Submarines 1900-2019 by Michael Green

xmas 2bSubmariners are a special breed. This little tome presents a series of fascinating photographs from wartime archives as it chronicles the submarine’s development from the Holland VI, taken into service in 1900, to the nuclear-powered vessels of today. As well as the weaponry and physical construction of the various classes of submarine, the images document the challenges of life on board, especially in the early days. One Second World War class however boasted the luxury of a washing machine, unheard of in any other navy at the time!


Dickens and Christmas by Lucinda Hawksley

xmas 2cThe great great great grand-daughter of the famous writer describes what it would have been like to celebrate Christmas in 1812, the year in which Dickens was born. She takes the reader on a journey through the Christmases Dickens enjoyed as a child and a young adult, through to the ways in which he and his family celebrated the festive season at the height of his fame. Dickens and Christmas is an engaging exploration of the 19th-century phenomenon that became the Christmas we know and love today and of the writer who changed, forever, the ways in which it is celebrated.


Britain’s Unsolved Murders by Kevin Turton

xmas2dBritain has its fair share of unsolved murders, crimes that have both fascinated and horrified in equal measure. Spanning the 100 years between 1857-1957, this book re-examines thirteen of these murder cases. Each chapter provides an account of the circumstances surrounding the killing, of the people caught up in the subsequent investigation and the impact it had on their lives. It also explores the question of guilt and to whom it should, or should not, be attached. For each of these murders no-one was ever proven to have committed the killing despite, in some cases, accusing fingers being pointed, arrests being made and show trials taking place. One for any crime fan you know!


Leith-Built Ships by R O Neish

xmas2eI launched my naval career as a seagoing shipwright, so my interest in historical accounts of shipbuilding is not surprising. Scotland has a long proud history of this activity, most recently centred on the west, the Clyde in particular, but many people are unaware of the part played by the shipbuilders of Leith, in the east of Scotland. Leith had begun building ships some 400 years before the great shipyards of the Clyde and these vessels reached all corners of the globe. With a pedigree of shipbuilding second to none going back over 660 years of recorded history, the ships built at Leith deserve their place in history and this book, the first of a trilogy begins the story.


Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message
Enjoy!

Yuletide Selection I

 

I’m a bit of a gruff creature when it comes to the commercialisation of Christmas – but there’s one thing that I fervently believe: a book is a present that, if well chosen for the recipient, will give hours of pleasure and be a lasting reminder in itself of someone putting thought, not just money, into a Yuletide gift. So do consider adding one or more from this selection to your gift-buying list. Four have a maritime theme; there’s also a Georgian miscellany – and a look at the real ‘Dad’s Army’. Hopefully, there’s something for everyone in this somewhat eclectic selection.

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xmas19gAll Things Georgian by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden

This book is written by the authors of the popular blog ‘All Things Georgian’ and takes the reader on a romp through the long eighteenth-century in a collection of 25 short vignettes. Topics covered are rich and varied, from an annual sculling race to the French court at Versailles. In roughly chronological order, and covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830, the stories are brought to life by over 100 stunning colour illustrations. A delightful book to dip into!

The Falklands War There and Back Again by Mike Norman and Michael Jones

xmas 19aOn 1 April 1982 Major Mike Norman, commander of Naval Party 8901, was looking forward to a peaceful year-long tour of duty on the Falkland Islands. But the next day the Argentinians invaded and he and his small Royal Marines garrison found themselves fighting for their lives. They took up defensive positions in and around Government House and on the approaches to Stanley to protect the Governor and delay the enemy’s advance. Forced to surrender they famously returned to proudly run up the Falklands flag again. I was privileged to meet some of the Royal Marines who took part in the liberation of this remote South Atlantic archipelago and this book is a powerful and moving tribute to them.

Glasgow Museums: The Ship Models by Emily Malcolm and Michael R Harrison

xmas19fThis superbly produced publication is the first full catalogue of Glasgow Museums’ internationally important collection of ship models. Almost all of the 676 models, which range from elegant cruise liners to humble Clyde puffers, and from simple half-hull design models to magnificent display models, were produced by Clyde shipyards or Glasgow-based ship owners. As well as informative general chapters about the collection, a colour photograph of each of the 676 models is included, along with their salient features. Models of famous ships built on the Clyde include RMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Hood, as well as historically significant vessels such as the very first passenger steamer Comet and the world’s first commercial turbine-powered vessel King Edward. I’ve not yet had the pleasure of visiting Glasgow’s museums but this book has certainly whetted my appetite to do so.

Trim by Matthew Flinders, Philippa Sandall, Gillian Dooley

xmas 19dI’ve long been an admirer of the achievements of Mathew Flinders &nash; and of course am a passionate cat lover – so it was a labour of love to pen the Foreword to this little jewel.
Trim was the ship’s cat who accompanied Flinders on his voyages to circumnavigate and map the coastline of Australia from 1801 to 1803. He lived quite the adventurous life. As a small kitten he fell overboard while at sea but managed to swim back to the vessel and climb back on board by scaling a rope. This cemented his position as Flinders’s beloved companion, and together they survived a voyage around the world, the circumnavigation of Australia and a shipwreck.
An ode to this much-loved feline, which will warm the heart of any cat lover.

Hard Down! Hard Down! by Captain Jack Isbester

xmas 19bI always enjoy memoirs of the last shipmasters in sail. They obviously had a quite different perspective to those in the Sailing Navy but all shared a daily battle with wind and sea. This book details the life and times of Captain John Isbester from Shetland, and takes the reader back in time 120 years, revealing minutiae of not only shipboard conditions but family life in the Shetlands and ports of call. Captain John’s wife, who often sailed with him, penned numerous letters about places such as Sydney, San Francisco and La Rochelle. The author is the grandson of Captain John. Old black and white photographs, maps, and various technical information inform this tale of a life we will never see again.

To the Last Man by Malcolm Atkin

xmas 19cBox sets of the TV show ‘Dad’s Army’ are often dug out for family viewing at Christmas. But just how true to life is this show? The Home Guard was formed in 1940 to fight an uncompromising and essentially suicidal campaign that was to buy a few hours’ grace for the regular forces to re-group after a German invasion. Using official documents, contemporary histories, stories, artwork and poetry, and comparing these with post-war films and histories, Atkin explores how the myths of the Home Guard arose and were exploited by official propaganda and the wartime and post-war media. He also shows how the strong sense of gallows-humour amongst its volunteers was taken up to become the basis of the TV series. A gritty appreciation of the role that the Home Guard was expected to play in the Second World War.


Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message
Enjoy!

BookPick: Autumn Selection

With the warmer months well behind us now it’s always a pleasure to curl up with a good book indoors. I have to say that much of my reading time is taken up with specific research for the current Kydd manuscript I’m working on but during breaks from that I find myself delving into an eclectic variety of titles over a broad range of historical periods. This BookPick highlights four very different tomes I’ve enjoyed recently.

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Oct191Great Escapes of the First World War Edited by Rachel Burton

These first-hand accounts of daring war-time escapes were written when the experiences were still fresh in the soldiers’ minds. On reading these remarkable stories you cannot help but wonder just how far you yourself would go to escape. Bury yourself under a floor? Board a boar with a rotten bottom? Would you tunnel underground? Included in the book are various rarely seen images, maps and plans, along with biographical information on each soldier. A moving tribute to extraordinary courage and tenacity rarely seen today.

1545 : Who Sank the Mary Rose? by Peter Marsden

Oct192This book by one of the country’s leading experts on Mary Rose contains a full account of the battle in which Henry VIII’s warship was sunk. It examines the design and construction of the ship and in detail how she was used. Marsden also shows conclusively that the French fleet arrived unexpectedly to seize the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth a day later than was once believed, that the many bodies found in the wreck reflect her at action stations, and that the ship had had an extra deck added and was therefore more unstable than was previously thought. The author’s recontruction of what happened onboard, deck by deck, in her last moments afloat made compelling reading for me. A fascinating account of the career and demise of this most famous of ships.

Madame Tussaud: Her Life and Legacy by Geri Walton

Oct193It’s one of London’s top tourist attractions, and boasts over 20 other popular wax museums worldwide. Indeed it was one of the first places Kathy and I visited when we arrived in Britain in the 1980s. This book chronicles how the traumatic and cataclysmic experiences of Madame Tussaud’s early life influenced her legacy. Her original wax models were often of the famous and infamous people she personally knew during and after the French Revolution &nash; Voltaire, Robespierre and Napoleon to name just a few. A remarkable biography of a feisty woman and the turbulent times she lived in.

Passage Planning Companion by Alastair Buchan

Passage Planning BuchanThe regulations of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea make it mandatory that “Prior to proceeding to sea, the master shall ensure that the intended voyage has been planned using the appropriate nautical charts & nautical publications for the area concerned”, a stricture applying to any sea-going craft, including yachts of all description. Common prudence would add to this statutory requirement all of the multitude of preparations ranging from familiarising the crew with man overboard drill to verifying battery charge. Better to discover discrepancies while still alongside than helplessly in the remote wastes of the ocean. And I’ve not come across a better aid to the entire process than this neat spiral-bound, splash proof planning companion. Very reasonably priced it provides what amounts to a comprehensive check-list against which a first class passage plan can be generated. Much recommended.


Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message
Enjoy!

To The Eastern Seas ~ and Beyond

My next Kydd tale, To The Eastern Seas, is published in just a couple of weeks, in hardback and ebook on October 17. The audiobook follows a little later this year and will be narrated as usual by the highly talented Christian Rodska. This is the twenty-second book in the series and features the doughty crew of HMS Tyger and her gallant captain Sir Thomas Kydd, along with a number of real-life historical personages such as Stamford Raffles, the First Lord of the Admiralty and Rear Admiral Pellew

Here’s a taster of the book :

With Bonaparte held to a stalemate in Europe, the race to empire is now resumed. Britain’s ambitions turn to the Spice Islands, the Dutch East Indies, where Admiral Pellew has been sent to confront the enemy’s vastly rich holdings in these tropical islands. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd joins reinforcements to snatch these for the British Crown.

1024-TO THE EASTERN SEAS - HB packshotThe two colonial masters of India and the East Indies face each other in mortal striving for the region – there can be only one victor to hold all the spoils. The colonial genius, Stamford Raffles, believes Britain should strike at the very centre of Dutch spice production, the Moluccas, rather than the fortresses one by one but is fiercely opposed. Kydd, allying himself to this cause, conspires to lead a tiny force to a triumphant conclusion. Subsequently a battle for Java and an empire in the East stretches Kydd and Tyger‘s company to their very limits.

Balkan Glory

A number of readers have asked me what am I working on now. The next Kydd book is provisionally titled Balkan Glory and will be out in October 2020. Kathy and I had a most fruitful location research trip recently for this book and our travels included the iconic city of Vienna and various areas in the Adriatic.
adriatic 2
I’ll be offering a Collector’s Set of Balkan Glory. This will comprise a signed, numbered and embossed UK First Edition and a signed cover postcard. The Set is strictly limited to 500. To add your name to the reservations list email julian@julianstockwin.com with your full details, including postal address.


And with Christmas approaching why not check out the items in the Kydd Shop. I’m always happy to add a personal inscription on request to one of the books.

1024-TO THE EASTERN SEAS - HB packshot1024-TO THE EASTERN SEAS - HB packshot

Bookpick : War at Sea

Although my primary interest is in the Age of Fighting Sail, having served in two navies – the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy – I’m also interested in books about ships and weapons of around my time and before at sea. My selection for this blog includes a fascinating reassessment of the deliberate scuttling of fifty-four warships of the German High Seas Fleet; a tribute to the last British battleship HMS Vanguard; Norman Friedman’s analysis of British submarines in both world wars, and two volumes on the John Lambert Collection. I commend these titles to you and hope that students of naval history, ship modellers, maritime enthusiasts and even my old shipmates alike will find something of interest below.

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Aug VanguardThe Last British Battleship by R A Burt

The ninth HMS Vanguard bore one of the most illustrious names in the Royal Navy, with honours from the Armada to Jutland. Commissioned in 1946, she was the last and largest of Britain’s battleships. Part of the Navy’s response to the combined and increasing number of German and Japanese battleships in the early 1940s, she was recognisable by her transom stern and high flared bow and had fine sea keeping ability. Her appearance after the end of hostilities, however, and her huge crew requirements proved a conundrum for the Navy, her most significant role being that of Royal Yacht during the royal family’s tour of South Africa in 1947. She was broken up at Faslane in 1960. This book covers her design, construction and career, armour, machinery, power plants, and weaponry and includes some 35 plans, profiles, and line drawings as well as colour and black and white photographs. The author’s previous three volumes are definitive works on the subject of British battleships before 1945. With this new book he completes the story of the Dreadnought era, bringing to life the last of a magnificent type of vessel, which the world will never see again.

Aug submarinesBritish Submarines in Two World Wars by Norman Friedman

As with all Friedman’s books, this title is based on impeccable scholarship and analysis. For me the most valuable aspect of this is his revealing the actual decision-making processes behind the designs, the economic, political and professional pay offs that resulted in the appearance of the warships that we now know so well. On the way he brings to light much information that few will be aware of, such as the fact that in 1914 Britain had the largest submarine fleet in the world. And at the end of World War I it had some of the largest and most unusual of all submarines – whose origins and design are detailed by the author. During the First World War British submarines virtually closed the Baltic to German iron ore traffic, and they helped block supplies to the Turkish army fighting at Gallipoli. British submarines were a major element in the North Sea battles, and they helped fight the U-boat menace. These roles led on to British submarine operations in World War II. The author demonstrates how a combination of evolving strategic and tactical requirements and evolving technology produced successive types of design. The Royal Navy was always painfully aware of the threat enemy submarines posed, and British submariners contributed heavily to the development of British anti-submarine tactics and technology, beginning with largely unknown efforts before the outbreak of World War I. Between the Wars British submariners exploited the new technology of sonar (Asdic), both to find and attack enemies and to avoid being attacked themselves. As a result, among other things they pioneered submarine silencing. And it was a British submarine that demonstrated the vital postwar use of submarines themselves as anti-submarine weapons, sinking a U-boat while both were submerged, a unique feat at the time.

British Naval Weapons of World War Two by Norman Friedmann

Aug lambertA truly fascinating and ground-breaking work. John Lambert was a renowned naval draughtsman whose plans were highly valued for their accuracy and detail and which did so much to add graphic detail to Friedmann’s own works. By the time of his death in 2016 he had produced over 850 sheets of drawings, many of which have never been published. These were acquired by Seaforth and form the basis of a planned series of titles on selected themes, reproducing complete sheets at a large page size, with commentary and captioning. Two published volumes to date concentrate on British naval weaponry used in the Second World War, completing the project John Lambert was working on when he died. The first volume is on destroyer armament, the second covers weapons carried by the various types of British escorts and minesweepers of this era, including the passive elements like sweeping gear, decoys and electronics. The drawings are fittingly enhanced with essays by Norman Friedman, and a selection of well-chosen photographs are a welcome addition. Over time, the series will be expanded, offering a unique technical archive in published form.

Aug High Seas FleetThe Last Days of the High Seas Fleet by Nicholas Jellicoe

On 21 June 1919, the ships of the German High Seas Fleet – interned at Scapa Flow since the Armistice – began to founder, taking their British custodians completely by surprise. In breach of agreed terms, the fleet dramatically scuttled itself, in an operation that consigned nearly half a million tons, and 54 of 72 ships, to the bottom of the sheltered anchorage in a gesture of Wagnerian proportions. But even a century after ‘the Grand Scuttle’ many questions remain. Was von Reuter, the fleet’s commander, acting under orders or was it his own initiative? Why was 21 June chosen? Did the British connive in, or even encourage the action? Could more have been done to save the ships? Was it legally justified? And what were the international ramifications? This new book analyses all these issues using material from German sources and eye-witness testimonies. The circumstances of the scuttling are reconstructed, and the aftermath for all parties laid out. The story concludes with the biggest salvage operation in history and a chapter on the significance of the scuttling to the post-war balance of naval power. This book is an important reassessment of the last great action of the First World War.


Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message
Enjoy!

BookPick: A Summer Selection

 

With the warmer months well underway in the Northern Hemisphere one of the great pleasures for me at this time of year is relaxing outdoors with a good book – and perhaps a chilled beverage. I have to say that much of my reading time is taken up with specific research for the current Kydd manuscript I’m working on but during breaks from that I enjoy an eclectic variety of titles over a broad range of historical periods. This BookPick is a selection of six titles I’ve enjoyed recently including a hunt for lost booty, an account of the now-vanished world of the lighthouse keeper, a war correspondent’s memoir, and a recreation of the last moments of the ill-fated Lusitania.
The Hunt for Moore’s Gold by John Grehan

summer 19 mooreHistory abounds with unresolved puzzles; one particularly intriguing one is the loss of the British Army’s military chest during Sir John Moore’s desperate retreat to Corunna in 1809 which I actually depict in
The Iberian Flame. In sub-zero temperatures, his troops traversed the snow-clad Galician mountains at a punishing pace. As they trudged on in deteriorating conditions, the bullocks pulling the army’s military chest could no longer keep up. In order to prevent the money from falling into enemy hands, the chest was thrown down a deep ravine. What happened to all those dollars and doubloons? A number were pocketed by the pursuing French cavalry. Some were retrieved by British soldiers who intentionally lagged behind, though their greed cost them their lives on the end of a French bayonet. But what of the rest of the booty? This question prompted the author to set off to search the archives and the mountains of Galicia in a bid to find Moore’s gold.

The Lusitania Sinking by Anthony Richards

summer 19 lusitaniaThe sinking of Lusitania is an event that has been predominantly discussed from a political or maritime perspective. This book tells the story in the emotive framework of a family looking for information on their son’s death. On 1 May 1915, 29-year-old student Preston Prichard embarked as a second class passenger aboard Lusitania, bound from New York for Liverpool. By 2pm on the afternoon of 7 May, the liner was approaching the coast of Ireland when she was sighted by the German submarine U-20. A single torpedo caused a massive explosion in Lusitania‘s hold, and the ship began to sink rapidly. Within 20 minutes she disappeared and 1,198 men, women and children, including Preston, died. On hearing of the tragedy Preston’s family wanted answers. Preston’s mother wrote hundreds of letters to survivors to try to piece together her son’s last moments. Anthony Richards based his moving book on their replies.

A History of the Royal Hospital Chelsea by Stephen Wynn and Tanya Wynn

summer 19 chelseaThe Chelsea Pensioners are always a distinctive sight in their red uniforms representing a much-venerated institution where they find a haven in the autumn of their days. The Royal Hospital was created at a time when few cared about veterans. It was a ground-breaking attempt to provide a system to repay the sacrifice of military personnel when their service was over and it was their turn to be cared for by society. The authors look at the hospital’s beginnings, with its Royal patronage and heritage which dates back to King Charles ll – and some of the colourful characters who have lived there over the centuries. This little volume is a fitting tribute to a warriors’ repose.

Walking Waterloo by Charles J Esdaile

summer 19 waterlooThis month, 204 years ago, the Battle of Waterloo, one of the decisive battles in European history, was fought. This compact guide to the battle illuminates the experience of the soldiers who took part in the battle through their own words. In a series of walks the author describes what happened in each location on 18 June 1815. Each phase of the action during that momentous day is covered, from the initial French attacks and the intense fighting at Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte to the charges of the French cavalry against the British squares and the final, doomed attack of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. The book is illustrated with a selection of archive images from the War Heritage Institute in Brussels, modern colour photographs of the battlefield as it appears today and specially commissioned maps. A particularly informative guide to this historic site.

Archie’s Lights by Archie MacEachern and Anne MacEachern

summer 19 lightsBorn at a clifftop lighthouse in 1910, Archie MacEachern was a remarkable individual, one of the third generation of his family in the service of the Northern Lighthouse Board. Written using Archie’s words, this account by his widow Anne, vividly portrays a unique way of life by focusing on one man. From peacetime through war, the story brings to life the challenges of living and working at a lighthouse, including raising a young family at such an isolated and potentially dangerous place. Lighthouse men had to be resourceful and courageous; the sea ruled their lives. Archie’s service as a full-time keeper continued in part-time capacities, extended over a period of 67 years. A revealing window into a close-knit world, now gone.

Deadlines on the Front Line by Paul Moorcraft

summer 19 correspondentWhen Kathy and I lived in Hong Kong we often had the pleasure of meeting and partying with reporters from various war zones at the Foreign Correspondents Club. I was therefore very interested to read Paul Moorcraft’s biography on assignments for wars in over thirty combat zones in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. As a war correspondent and paramilitary policeman, he was somewhat of a magnet for drama and action. His descriptions of sometimes tragic and often hilarious escapades in war-torn countries are written in a self-effacing but gritty style chronicling hazardous travels to strange, often little-known places where he met people who were often all too keen to lock him up or try and kill him. As well as being an entertaining read the book offers an insight into the turbulent world of the late 20th and early 21st century.


Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message
Enjoy!

To The Eastern Seas: Collectors Set

I’ll be offering a Special Collector’s Set of my next book, To The Eastern Seas. This will comprise a signed, numbered and embossed UK First Edition and a signed cover postcard. The Set is strictly limited to 500. To add your name to the list email admin@julianstockwin.com with your full details, including postal address. The Set, inclusive of p&p, is £29.99 for delivery to addresses within the UK and Europe; £39.99 for delivery to addresses in the rest of the world.

If you pre-pay, you’ll go into the hat for a full refund of your purchase price! This offer is valid until the end of April. The book is published on October 17 and we’ll get the Collectors Sets out shortly before that date.


To whet your appetite…

1024-TO THE EASTERN SEAS - HB packshotWith Bonaparte held to a stalemate in Europe, the race to empire is now resumed. Britain’s ambitions turn to the Spice Islands, the Dutch East Indies, where Admiral Pellew has been sent to confront the enemy’s vastly rich holdings in these tropical islands. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd joins reinforcements to snatch these for the British Crown.

The two colonial masters of India and the East Indies face each other in mortal striving for the region – there can be only one victor to hold all the spoils. The colonial genius, Stamford Raffles, believes Britain should strike at the very centre of Dutch spice production, the Moluccas, rather than the fortresses one by one but is fiercely opposed. Kydd, allying himself to this cause, conspires to lead a tiny force to a triumphant conclusion. Subsequently a battle for Java and an empire in the East stretches Kydd and Tyger‘s company to their very limits.


Spring Selection

I make no apologies for choosing the same subject matter, the Royal Navy, for all the titles in this Selection. As a former officer and before that, artificer, much of my value system and sense of duty has been shaped by my time in the Service and I have an abiding interest in both the Old and the New Navy. These three books deal with different aspects, from the memoirs of a vice admiral who joined when Britain really did rule the waves to an overview of the period of the war against revolutionary France 1793-1800 to the role of the Navy in the Scandinavian trade in the First World War. I commend them to all those interested in our naval history.

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The Royal Navy 1793-1800 by Mark Jessop

spring 19 1When France declared war on Britain in 1793 the Royal Navy barely had enough ships to cope. But eight years later she could claim to be a naval superpower. Author Mark Jessop, who himself served in the Royal Navy, seeks to show how this transformation actually occurred. Using primary sources of the era and secondary sources from the nineteenth century he gives a flavour of the language and opinions of politicians, naval officers and ordinary people swept up in the tumultuous storm of the last years of the the eighteenth century.

With the Royal Navy in War and Peace by Vice Admiral B B Schofield

spring 19 2Brian Betham Schofield served in the Royal Navy for forty-two years, joining in 1908 as a midshipman and retiring in 1950 with the rank of Vice Admiral. His long and varied career included diplomatic and well as command roles, with action in several theatres of war. In retirement he wrote numerous articles and books on naval history. This memoir, written in a graphic yet modest style, is a fascinating insight into a bygone era. The book is fittingly edited by his daughter Victoria, an historian and commentator.

Southern Thunder by Steve R Dunn

spring 19 3A detailed and compelling account of the Royal Navy’s hard-fought campaign in the North Sea to protect Britain’s vital Scandinavian supply lines and deny Germany the food and raw materials that she so badly needed. It is the story of destroyers and U-boats, critical merchant ship losses, the commencement of convoy, and the acute consequences for Germany of the Royal Navy’s ultimate success. First-hand accounts of the fighting from those who took part help create a vivid narrative of this little-known and often ignored aspect of our naval history.


Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message
Enjoy!

BookPick: New Year Selections

Sometimes I feel it’s hard to keep up with all the excellent maritime/military titles being published. Last year I highlighted a selection of these books that especially appealed to me and I hope you found some titles of interest in my regular BookPick blogs. I’m kicking off the New Year with three fascinating and superbly illustrated reference works on various types of sea vessels – along with a book on the Peninsular War and a moving account of the tragic loss of HMS Truculent. Happy Reading!

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The World of the Battleship Edited by Bruce Taylor
new year1

This new volume presents a global vision of the development of the world’s battleships of all the maritime nations, covering historical, technical and gratifyingly their social and cultural aspects. In a collection of chapters by international experts, the design, building and career of emblematic battleships from twenty-one of the world’s navies is explored. A significant book on the great capital ships and their role in the expression of a nation’s seapower.

 

River Gunboats by Roger Branfill-Cook
new year2

The first recorded engagement by a steam-powered warship took place on a river, when in 1824 the Honourable East India Company’s gunboat Diana went into action on the Irrawaddy in Burma. In the 150 years that followed river gunboats played a significant part in over forty campaigns and individual actions, down to the Portuguese and American Brown Water fighting in Africa and Vietnam respectively at the end of the twentieth century. As well as the individual vessels, maps of the river systems where they operated are included, together with narratives of the principal actions involved.

 

They Were Just Skulls by John Johnson-Allen
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Few people are aware of the loss of submarine HMS Truculent in the waters of the Thames in 1950 – and the human error that led to the tragic loss of over 60 men. Johnson-Allen, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, has put together, from many hours of recording, a personal account of the last survivor, Fred Henley. As well as the horrific nature of the disaster, the book chronicles Fred’s incident-filled Service life, providing a fascinating snapshot of the Royal Navy of that era. A touching and atmospheric read.

 

French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786-1861 by Rif Winfield and Stephen S Roberts
new year4

In 1786 the French Navy had just emerged from its most successful war of the eighteenth century, having often outfought or outmanoeuvred the Royal Navy in battle, and made a major contribution to American independence. Despite the quality of its ship design and fighting skills, within a few years it would see defeat after defeat. Fine ships continued to be built, but it was only after 1815 that the navy revived, espousing technical innovation and invention, to produce some of the most advanced ships of the age. A comprehensive picture of the overall development of French warships in the latter half of the sailing era, and one that has its special place on my own reference book-shelf.

 

The Napoleonic Wars As illustrated by J.J. Jenkins
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Originally published as Martial Achievements of Great Britain and Her Allies From 1799 to 1815 this is one of the most magnificent of all period art books ever produced. The text is unashamedly British propaganda but needs to be seen in the context of the times. The inclusion of fifty-four stunning colour plates make the book a must for the collector of British or Napoleonic military art and literature.


Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message
Enjoy!

Listen to any good books lately?

The audiobook market continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Spending on audiobooks has more than doubled in the past five years, and demand continues to increase. I have been very fortunate to have had Christian Rodska as the ‘reader’ of the Kydd series right from the beginning. A multi-talented actor/narrator, he has a truly superb range of voices – and a real feel for stories about the sea. Kathy and I, along with many fans, have listened to the entire series several times.

The Kydd Series is now available as audio downloads worldwide. As a Kydd audiobook offers over 11 hours’ listening time, with 21 books out now that’s over 230 hours’ entertainment! Or nearly a month listening every day for 8 hours!

The latest audiobook, A Sea of Gold, is generating rave reviews; here’s three recent ones:

Julian Stockwin is like the gift that just keeps giving. This is an excellent series that I suspect I will just never grow tired of listening to and this is one of the very best of the recent books. There is lots of action, intrigue and for me no little learning about the period in which it is set. It’s hard to believe that this series has been going so long but when Stockwin can keep the like of Kydd, Renzi, Stirk and co. so fresh and introduce new and vibrant characters like the somehow dourly swashbuckling Cochrane to the scene, and Rodska can bring them all to life so authentically, a prognosis for a long and happy life for the series seems sound.

Amazing, can’t wait until the next adventure! Rodska is perfect in his narration.

Patrick O’ Brian’s Aubrey is excellent, C S Forester’s Hornblower is slower but very good, but Julian Stockwin’s Kydd Series is the best, I would recommend this to anyone of any age – it has the lot, historic and naval facts but best of all a darn good copper-bottomed yarn. I must also say that Christian Rodska has brought the whole series to life in a way that I can not see bettered.

(There’ve been a few rights issues with several of the latest titles in the US but I’m pleased to confirm that the whole Kydd Series is now available as audio downloads in the States.)

Where can I buy the audiobook?
In the UK : Audio downloads are available via Amazon UK
The Series is also available via iTunes
(Library users in the UK can borrow the audiobooks in CD format, but the latest titles are not offered for retail sale at the moment.}

In the US
Audio downloads are available via Amazon US
It is also available via iTunes


1024-JulianKathyStockwin 2013Christian Rodska had this to say: ‘It’s always a pleasure when my agent calls to say I have another Kydd adventure by Julian Stockwin to record… His research is impeccable, his knowledge and understanding of the sea and those who spend their lives upon it unparalleled and I look forward to the next one!’
So, on this the last blog for 2018, it just remains to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year from Team Stockwin!
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