Henry Harwood

Henry Harwood

Peter Hore
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
At last we have a proper biography of Admiral Sir Henry Harwood (1888-1950), who in 1939 drove the Nazi pocket battleship Graf Spee to an ignominious grave, the climax of over three years spent in Latin American waters studying just the raider problem he came to face - and in making himself fluent in Spanish. A technically stellar early career supported a very clubbable man, with an inherent flair for diplomacy, but also suitably decisive when occasion required. Hore's account of the battle and his analysis as it progresses are very clear, succinct and informative.

Perhaps over-rapidly promoted, Harwood was handed a poisoned chalice as Cunningham's successor in the Mediterranean. He was villainously traduced - out of perhaps vanity and certainly wilful ignorance - by Montgomery, in terms that have found their way into various other accounts of the naval war. Whatever Harwood might have been was brought to a full stop by a heart attack and Harwood spent the rest of the war in the Orkneys. Captain Peter Hore here sets the record straight, aided by access to family papers as well as official records. He shows how Tedder failed to give the support that would have let Harwood more vigorously support the army and how Churchill's uninformed interventions and capricious judgements affected Harwood, particularly in respect of Harwood's subtle handling of the emetic French Admiral Godfroy in Aexandria. The defence witness is Cunningham; the case rests.

Captain Hore also brings us useful insights into such other leaders as Pound and Fraser and has sourced a number of interesting photographs. A review would not be complete without the odd niggle. Some of the asides in the notes might have been more helpfully placed as footnotes; and the index entry for Richard Washbourn might usefully have recorded his rise to rear admiral and Chief of NZ Naval Staff.

To the author, a Bravo Zulu*.

* 'Duty well carried out'

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