Book Review: The Cruel Sea Retold: The Truth Behind Monsarrat's Epic Convoy Drama


by Bernard Edwards

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008. Pp. vii, 214. Illus., append., biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN:1591141451

An aspiring novelist and yachtsman, when World War II broke out, Nicholas Monsarrat joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. He spent most of the war on convoy duty in the Atlantic , rising to captain on the Admiralty staff by V-E Day.

During the war, Monsarrat penned a number of short stories based on his experiences in the service, and six years after it produced The Cruel Sea, a novel of the Battle of the Atlantic from the perspective of a RNVR officer.  Subsequently made into a very superior motion picture, The Cruel Sea although now more than 50 years old, remains one of the most notable novels about men and the sea.

In The Cruel Sea Retold, retired merchant marine captain Bernard Edwards, with a shelf of books on naval history to his credit, looks at the events and experiences that shaped the novel.  Examining more than a dozen convoy battles, but focusing in great detail on the three that form the backbone of Monsarrat's book -- OG 71, HG 73, and HG 76 -- in August-December of 1941, draws upon the experiences of numerous officers to provide a look at the events that inspired the novel.  In the process, Edwards also introduces the reader understand the strategy and tactics of the Battle of the Atlantic , the men and ships, and their personal experience of the war. 

A worthwhile read for anyone interested in the Battle of the Atlantic , or submarine warfare, even if they haven't read The Cruel Sea, and is of even more value for those who have.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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