As an infant in 1940, to a small boy in 1945, I, and my brothers, my mother, my grandmother, along with 40-odd million British: were only alive through the courage, sacrifice and sheer, unadulterated bravery of those on board the cargo ships which were convoyed across the Atlantic by the British, Canadian and latterly American Navy sloops, corvettes and destroyers who served as the only defence against the killer U-boats of Nazi Germany.
It may be an ‘education’ to some readers who, for one reason or another, conveniently forget that the Battle of the Atlantic was fought and won by those Allies who crewed the ships which guarded those convoys, because The Republic of Ireland declared itself neutral and forbade the use of its airfields to the Allied cause, thus widening the ‘Gap’ by up to half a day. The ‘Gap’ was the area mid-Atlantic which could not be covered by long-range air patrols, thus giving the U-boats a priceless advantage in their attacks against the convoys. ‘Eire’ sat, warm and secure under the Allied umbrella; and yet ever-so-friendly to the German Embassy in Dublin. Some may argue that the Republic was correct to claim its Neutrality, but very, very few could ever forgive the visit by DeValera to the German Embassy to present condolences upon the death of Adolf Hitler.
As far as I am aware, there have been only two novels written about British Merchant Navy life in wartime years, and I wrote of one in my post The badge of honour. I have been in storms where you looked ‘up’ at the wave tops whilst standing on the bridge; in seas so calm the surface is like a mirror, but to place yourself in all sorts of weather in the full knowledge that an enemy could be planning to sink your ship and send you to your death takes a strange fatalistic sort of courage.
A film has been made of C.S. Forester’s novel, ‘The Good Shepherd’. The film title is ‘Greyhound’, the rename being the name of the destroyer. It is a wartime film, and, strangely for Apple, it is neither ‘Woke’ nor anything else jarring to the time in which it was set: which was the early days of 1942. There are no ’transgender’ Navy sailors, the black sailors are messmen, because they, at that time in America’s history, were allotted those roles. But those same black sailors served the guns with ‘ammo, and they died, and were buried under the same flag; which was exactly what happened in real life. There were more touches of ‘real life’ with the Captain pausing for seconds before making life-altering decisions, because he IS human, and Is allowed to be seen as such. The Captain kneels by his bunk to say his prayers, because Captain Krause is an old-fashioned Christian.
You have to sign up to Apple TV to view this minor masterpiece, as ‘Greyhound’s’ release was affected by CoronaVirus, so Apple picked this film up for streaming release.
Whilst pondering the book, ‘The Good Shepherd’, which is the film’s source, I would also strongly recommend ‘The Ship’, also by that fantastic wordsmith C.S. Forester,. It tells the story of a cruiser convoying Malta supplies in the Mediterranean. It details, impeccably, with the multitude of individuals brought into a finely-tuned machine which is the crew. It also tells of the travel, through that ship, with the help of that crew; a single shell which altered; according to Mr. Forester, the entire outcome of the War;