Reading and learning are two of my passions and it is my pleasure to share these books with you.I have read them all and have found them to be both insightful and engaging. I encourage your feedback and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Maj Chris Buckham
Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Forgotten Sacrifice: The Arctic Convoys of World War II - Michael G Walling
Title: Forgotten Sacrifice: The Arctic Convoys of World War II
Author: Michael G
978-1-84908-718-6 Hardcover Pages: 284 Publisher: Osprey
One of the most
under-appreciated facets of the Second World War has to be the valour and
sacrifice of the sailors of the merchant marine and the navies of the Soviet,
British, American and Allies that struggled against tremendous odds to maintain
a supply lifeline through the frigid Arctic waters, to the Soviet Union
throughout the particularly bleak years of 1941-1943. Ranged against them, and
no less determined and valourous, were the units of the Kriegsmarine and the
Luftwaffe who did their utmost to strangle this 'warm line' of support.
Relatively speaking, little has been written about these efforts and the voices
of these sailors and airmen have remained silent. This is no longer the case as
a result of the efforts of Mr Walling.
The impact that the
convoys had on the war effort may best be summarized by a quote from Mr
Waling's book: "If a submarine sinks two 6000-ton ships and a 3000 ton
tanker...(to achieve an equivalent loss) by air bombing, the enemy would have
to make three thousand successful bombing sorties: from a 1943 US Navy
assessment". This begins to provide strategic perspective on the
importance played by these men and women and the merchant/convoy system to the
success of the Allied war effort in the East.
Walling presents his
book with a synopsis of the convoy system, the nature of the threat posed by
the Germans, the intelligence gathering methods of both sides and the methods
available to the Allies to counter the Germans; this is critical as it provides
the reader with the background to appreciate the rest of the book. The
narrative of the book is both a rendition of the Allied convoy experience and a
medium whereby the voices of the participants are heard again through
recollections of survivors.
The author is
particularly adept at blending the narratives of the survivors within the
larger storyline. This adds depth and appreciation of the sacrifices made by
these crews and the incredible hardships to which they were exposed. Walling
touches upon the fate of PQ-17 in some detail, representing as it does, the
tragedy that results when German tactics coincide with Allied errors. What I
found particularly interesting, were the sections relating to German surface
and subsurface operations in the Kara Sea to the east of the Ural Mountains.
The German cruiser Admiral Hipper and a number of u-boats conducted operations against
secluded Russian northern coordination and tracking centres. There is little to
no account of these operations in any detail that I have seen before and I was
struck by the sheer isolation of these encounters in one of the most hostile
environments on earth.
Mr Walling has
written a fantastic book; a well-researched, high quality and eminently
readable publication. The risks undertaken by those operating in the north were
enormous and the bravery exhibited by both the Allies and Axis sailors and airmen
in their struggle for supremacy must stand as one of the least appreciated
aspects of the Second World War. I strongly encourage those with any interest
in the history of this regional conflict to read this book.