The Sea, War and Barbed Wire...

...a Story of Merchant Navy Men, from Fonthill Media

Title: The Sea, War and Barbed Wire
Author: Philip Algar

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-682-5


Fonthill Media have continued with a Naval theme, and in this case looking at an aspect of WW2 which is perhaps overlooked.  We are used to books which talk about the role of the Merchant Navy in WW2, particularly with the stories of the convoys and the U-Boat war, the Battle of the Atlantic and the Russian convoys in particular.  This adds much more to the story, set around the core of the iary ekpt by Stanley Algar, who was Master, or Captain, of a tanker (the Agnita) belonging to the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company.  t was intercepted by the German raider, Kormoran.  The crew were taken off and the ship sunk.  That was in 1941.  The crew were taken on board the raider and later passed on to a supply vessel, which eventually landed them as POWs in France.  They ended up in a Prison Camp in North Germany.

What we get in the book is the context of what was going on, the story of the capture of the Agnita, Stanley's travels and his treatment and conditions along the way.  He was fortunate to be able to keep his diary hidden while in the POW camp, along with other Merchant Navy prisoners, kept largely separate to military prisoners such as RAF, Army and Royal Navy POWs.  We hear how they coped with poor conditions, bugs, rats, poor food and generally unpleasant situation he found himself in for over 4 years.  While in the camp they were subjected to a deal of German Propaganda, which was largely seen through, though real news did get through thanks to new inmates when they arrived in the camp, and the increased access to illegal radios they managed to smuggle in and conceal.  We hear of his depression at prolonged imprisonment, how he missed his wife and his two children, one of whom he had not actually seen before being captured.  He witnessed the allied bomber raids on surrounding towns, and expresses his rather understandable lack of sympathy with the German townsfolk who were under attack.

There is a lot more added to the story, with details of people and events that surround the wider story of the war and especially what was happening with the ships of the Merchant Navy.  It gets to the end of the war, and how liberation finally came to the camp and the organisation of how POW's were looked after and repatriated.  It is a fascinating story and one which clearly demonstrates how it felt to be imprisoned for so long, and the conditions in which he had to live.  Nicely, it also adds the details of the life he went home to with his wife and children, and a successful career working with tankers for many more years.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.