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The naval historian and retired merchant navy captain recounts the contributions of Britain’s civilian ships during WWII in this “cracking read” (The Bridgend & Porthcawl Gem).
The first British casualties of the Second World War were not members of the Royal Navy, the army, or the Royal Air Force. They were British merchant seamen on the transatlantic passenger liner SS Athenia, torpedoed by a German U-30 submarine on September 3, 1939.
For the duration of the war, Britain’s merchant fleet performed a vital role, carrying the essential supplies that kept the country running during the darkest days and made victory possible. Their achievements came at a terrible cost with 2,535 British oceangoing merchant ships being sunk and, of the 185,000 men and women serving in the British Merchant Navy at the time, 36,749 sacrificed their lives. Another 4,707 were wounded and 5,720 ended up as prisoners of war. Their casualty rate of twenty-five percent was second only to RAF Bomber Command’s.
Thoroughly researched and full of fascinating true accounts, Bernard Edwards’s Churchill’s Thin Grey Line tells the inspiring story of those brave civilian volunteers who fought so gallantly to defend their ships, cargo, and country.
“A cracking read which brings home to the reader how much we in [England] owe to the Merchant Navy . . . Bernard Edwards has done them proud.” —The Bridgend & Porthcawl Gem