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Breaking Seas Broken Ships

Breaking Seas Broken Ships

Ian Friel
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
Following Britain and the Ocean Road, Ian Friel expertly navigates the history of Britain and the sea from the Middle Ages to modern times. With Breaking Seas, Broken Ships, we follow the story of Britain's maritime history through some of it's most dramatic shipwrecks. From the country's imperial zenith to the very different world of the early twenty-first century we encounter an extraordinary range of people, ships and events, including... the crew and passengers of a state-of-the-art Victorian steamship who vanished in the Atlantic; the sailors of a doomed collier brig in the dying days of sail - and the wives and children they left behind; a lowly ex-naval stoker who went into showbiz with his version of a disaster caused by an admiral; a First World War merchant ship captain who fought a running battle with German U-Boats; the courage and compassion shown by British sailors who escaped their dive-bombed ships; the people who confronted the 'black tide' left by the oil tanker Torrey Canyon; how the container ship has helped to make a new world for us all - for better or worse. With people at the heart of every chapter, it explores major environmental themes alongside the traditional concerns of maritime history, such as trade, social issues and naval warfare. Their experiences tell us the story of Britain's maritime past, one that is remarkable, moving and at times horrifying. Based on brand new scholarship, it is perfect for history enthusiasts, professional historians and archaeologists alike.

This book whilst dealing with historical wrecks is rather appropriate at the moment with the burning chemicals aboard a ship off Sri Lanka and the concern over the environmental damage potential . This book can be read from cover to cover or you might just dip in to various chapters as you get five minutes for a relaxing read. Each chapter describes a ship, its weight, design etc without being too technical; for example I have leaned what DWT means in maritime terms it when you put a battleship in your bath the water which sloshes over the side provides the measure Displaced Water Tonnage. Very simple really and so were the reasons for the ships being wrecked in hindsight. I wont going into spoiler details but will illustrate, just like the Author does, in simple terms. In the chapter Mastermind for example an Admiral who was a suburb sailor with a Nelsonian reputation made a simple mistake but owing to his rank and renown no one had the temerity to question his order, thinking that he had some brilliant manoeuvre up his sleeve, he didn't and his ship was sunk with lots of deaths including his own . At the court of Inquiry their Lordships agreed that it would have been a court martial offence if any of the officers HAD indeed dare to question the Admirals' commands. I will leave you to read about the Stoker who went on to make a good living for a few years retelling the story.

Then we have a story which just could not be omitted, arguably being the first great environmental disaster at sea, when the TORREY CANYON ploughed in to rocks off the Cornish coast in 1967. If you are of a certain age you may even remember Blue Peter washing down oil stricken birds in a bowl of detergent in their studio. It was a couple of weeks of serious oil pollution happening before the owners declared the ship abandoned and our Government then had the legal ability to tackle the ship. Various remedies were tried and in the end the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF bombed the vessel with explosive and Napalm. I remember this with great detail as us Army Cadets were debating at the time, just where had the Naplam come from?, as our government had stated that we had no stocks of the stuff at the time and we didn't believe the story that we borrowed 'a cup of Naplam from the Americans'. Even at 13 years of age we were quite up on politics and government strategy! Some lads believed we had secret stocks in Porton Down. However one fact which was kept from us, until I read the book, was that of the 160 bombs dropped on the Torrey Canyon ONLY 69 actually hit the ship and went off, the remainder missing an immobile sitting target the size of a supertanker. Not their finest hour.

I am so pleased that I had this book to review as it is very interesting and informative and without reviews like this might have have sunk unnoticed. Ian Friel tells as great story so I shall let him have the last word.

If this book has a message, it is that the people of the world should take much more account of the Oceans that surrounds all of our lands, no matter how impossibly far away it might seem in landlocked nations - a highway, a source of food, a battleground, a dumping ground and a playground. It is also on our front doorstep.

4.5 mushroom heads.

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