The story of HMS Havock as related in this book dovetails rather nicely into my last months revue of HMS Gloucester. In that the two ships shared an awful lot of sea space as part of Admiral Cunningham's hard pressed Mediterranean Fleet. Sadly they shared the same fate albeit in different forms.
- David Goodey and Richard Osborne.
The book opens with a rather interesting précis of British Destroyer development from conception in 1908 As Motor Torpedo Boat Destroyers through to the high speed dashing, thoroughbred, workhorses of the fleet that they were by the opening of hostilities in 1939. Interestingly enough Havock's first taste of action was a rather unexpected bombing by “Insurgent” aircraft on Friday 13th February 1937 of the coast of Civil War locked Spain.
It is of note that this incident caught the ship with its metaphorical trousers down. It would appear that hard lessons were learnt as never after in its many actions, battles, and incidents would the enemy find Havock anything less than highly trained, well prepared,and spoiling for a fight. In her short but eventful two and a half years of war service she earned no fewer than eleven battle honours; from Narvik, to Sirte, to the hell of the Malta convoys, Havock was in the thick of it.
The authors meticulous research has produced a fascinating account of life onboard a ship literally bursting at the seams from battle damage, the crew reeling from fatigue, fighting not only the enemy, but the demands of total war on a ship badly in need of a total refit. The book is written in a style that accurately portrays the mind numbing, relentless pace of operations in 1942 Mediterranean theatre with the constant air attacks by the practicality uncontested Luftwaffe.
It was this pace that in no small way contributed to the tragic loss of this gallant ship off the coast of Tunisia. The subsequent “internment” of the crew by the Vichy French in conditions not dissimilar to those endured by Gloucester's crew at the hands of the Italians. The officers and crew arrived home following their eventual liberation to the oh so Royal Navy tradition of a Court Martial for Havock's commanding Officer.
A quite excellent book with the detail of a manual and the pace of a novel. I highly recommend it.