For those who relish pouring over technical drawings of boats, British Naval Trawlers and Drifters in Two World Wars will be a treat, says Julia Jones

British Naval Trawlers and Drifters in Two World Wars
Steve R Dunn
Seaforth Publishing, £35

The genesis of this book lies in the legacy of John Lambert (1937-2016).

Lambert trained as a technical draughtsman, did his national service with the RNVR, continuing into the RN for nine years’ service.

He then joined the Metropolitan Police and resisted all offers of promotion as he became more and more absorbed in maritime research.

Lambert’s passion was for the details of warships.

He began by writing articles accompanied by plans but soon the plans themselves became central and he acquired a dedicated following among ship modellers.

His particular interest was in the classes of smaller vessels from destroyers downwards and in accurate depictions of weaponry.

He published a number of detailed reference books, particularly on Coastal Forces.

At the time of his death however there was still a mass of valuable material accumulated towards a potential encyclopaedia.

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For those who relish detailed technical drawings and scrupulous accuracy the 50-odd pages of carefully reproduced plans of different classes of fishing vessels and the guns with which they were equipped, will be a treat.

The text too is full of high quality black and white photos, also from the John Lambert collection.

Naval historian Steve R Dunn is described as editor and as providing ‘an introduction’. This is serious understatement.

Dunn’s 130 knowledgeable and well-written pages offer fascinating insight into the ways variety of ways fishing vessels were used during the two world wars.

Their principal tasks were mine-sweeping, anti-submarine work and convoy escort.

The story of the trawler Northern Gem both on the outward journey of the notorious PQ17 convoy and its return QP14 is a wonderful example of the seafarers’ imperative to save lives.

There are many individual stories within the overall narrative. (I wish there had been an index)

The focus is on fishermen and their role in the RNR(T) (Trawler Reserve) and the RNPS (Royal Naval Patrol Service) This doesn’t give space for the involvement of yachtsmen – such as YM’s own former editor Maurice Griffiths who took a lead in identifying vessels suitable for some of the complex minesweeping work.

The narrative begins at at end of 19th Century – Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – when Britain could reasonably be described as a ‘thalassocracy’ and ports such as Fraserburgh and Lowestoft were crammed with sailing herring drifters.

Sadly, that is no longer the case.

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