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Sailors Behind The Medals. Waging War At Sea 1939-1945. Chris Bilham.

Chris Bilham.
Never in its thousand year history had The Royal Navy faced a conflict of such scope and intensity as it faced in the six years of the Second World. A war in multiple theatres with an ever expanding inventory of innovative weapons each bringing new challenge tested the Sailors of this venerable establishment to their limits.

Chris Bilham has chosen to tell the story of this conflict and the men who fought in it through the medium of their medals. I was a little sceptical at first as I have read a couple of books that have attempted a similar technique and found them a little difficult to enjoy as they did not flow particularly well. From the first chapter however I found Mr Bilhams book entirely different and a joy to read. The reason for this I believe is how he choose his subjects.

Sailors Behind The Medals does not seek to find the high profile medal winners, the VCs or those in high command. Each chapter details the service of a Sailor or Officer not from the headlines but from the engine room, the gun turrets, and directors. The medals are from the campaigns, the mentions in dispatches, and long service.

This gives the book a very broad canvas. It is fascinating to see just how many crucial battles these long serving sailors took part in from Narvik to the later campaigns in the Far East. The stories follow the men through the ships, depots, training establishments, and in some cases through to their discharge. It paints a very intimate and detailed picture of Second World War era Royal Navy And does so in a way that flows wonderfully from man to man. I enjoyed this book very much indeed.
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