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Destroyer at War...


...the Fighting Life and Loss of HMS Havock from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean 1939-1942, from Pen and Sword


Title: Destroyer at War

Author: David Goodey & Richard Osborne

Publisher: Frontline Books

ISBN: 978-1-52670-900-4

I found this a really fascinating read.  As they explain at the beginning, it is a collaborative work between two authors with a common interest.  Richard as a naval historian and David as his father had served on HMS Havock during the war. 

Launched in 1937, the book details her busy service life.  Before the start of the war she was in the Mediterranean while the Spanish Civil War was in progress.  She then went to the South Atlantic before returning to the UK.  Early in the war she was one of the Royal Navy destroyers involved in the Battle of Narvik, Norway.  Then to the Netherlands, bringing refugees back to the UK before being sent once more to the Mediterranean.  Convoy escorts duties, an escort for the carrier Illustrious when she carried out the attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto.  She sank an Italian submarine , the Berillo, in company with sister ship HMS Hasty.  In action again at the Battle of Matapan and at another point rammed by the battleship HMS Valiant, and badly damaged.  The historical story is well illustrated with many personal accounts from veterans, including the author's father.  These bring the story very much to life and one or tow of the stories in particular one can hardly imagine their impact on someone's life.

Pretty much constantly in action from the start of the war, there were times she needed modifications and repairs which were often hurried and she was pushed back into service in a minimum time frame.  Very much a workhorse of the fleet.  In March 1942 she was damaged again, seriously this time, by a 15in shell from the Italian Battleship Littorio.  This was to lead to being sent to Gibraltar for repair.  What we then get is the detailed account of her grounding on the Tunisian coast and the total loss of the ship.  Her crew were interned by the Vichy French.  The story is continued with the subsequent Court Martial of her Commander, Lieutenant Commander Watkins, when he was charged with negligence that led to the loss of the ship.  I gives a fully detailed account of the court martial, the evidence of each person used in his defence as well as the final verdict and subsequent career.  Add several appendices which list detail of the service of HMS Havock which includes the Roll of Honour for crew members.  All in all  what can be described as a detailed account of an action packed career for this Royal Navy destroyer during WW2.  Heartily recommended.


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