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Churchill's Admiral in Two World Wars (Paperback)

Admiral of the Fleet Lord Keyes of Zeebrugge and Dover GCB KCVO CMG DSO

WWII WWI Naval Churchill Naval Warfare WWII 20th Century 19th Century

By Jim Crossley
Imprint: Pen & Sword Maritime
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 12 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399001564
Published: 20th August 2021




Video review by Dr Alexander Clarke

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Roger Keyes was the archetype of 19th to 20th century Royal Navy officers. A superb seaman, inspiring leader and fearless fighter he immediately caught the eye of senior figures in the naval establishment as well as the up and coming politician, Winston Churchill. The relationship between these two brave men survived disappointment, disagreement and eventually disillusion. Unlike some of his contemporaries Keyes was unable to make the transition from sailor to politician and was inclined to embarrass his friends and allies by his intemperate language and total lack of political acumen. Always eager to lead from the front and hurl himself at the enemy his mind set tended to be that of a junior officer trying to prove himself, not that of a senior Admiral.

Trained in some of the last of Britain's sailing warships, Keyes served in submarines in the North Sea, destroyers in China and as a senior staff officer in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. As commander of the Dover Patrol he planned and led the highly controversial Zeebrugge Raid and successfully combated U-boats passing along the English Channel. In World War II he begged to be given a combat command but, in spite of their close personal friendship, Churchill realised that he was too old to be suitable for a front line role and his undisguised contempt for many senior Naval and Airforce officers made him extremely unpopular in official circles.

To his credit, Churchill did not let his personal friendship and admiration of Keyes blind him to his temperamental and intellectual limitations. Both men were big enough not to let professional conflict destroy mutual personal admiration and friendship.

Jim Crossley has given the reader a deeply researched, highly readable and well-balanced account of the life of one of Britain’s great sailors. A grand addition to the canon of naval history.

Martin Willoughby, Chairman of the Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

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Video review by Dr Alexander Clarke

"...adds a missing element to Royal Navy literature..."

The Northern Mariner

'A superb seaman, inspiring leader and fearless fighter'.

Military History, May 2021

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This is a hugely enjoyable read with each chapter including a summary of Keyes’s role and impact. The Introduction acknowledges “his fine seamanship, his loyalty to friends, his outstanding qualities of leadership, and above all his utter contempt of danger”. His failings were poor strategic judgement and unrealistic concepts of what he could personally achieve in combat. But this does not detract from a man of great courage and integrity who inspired respect from seamen to dock workers. The opening words are “Keyes was a hero” – you really cannot achieve a higher accolade and this book gives the hero of Zeebrugge proper recognition.

Warship World Nov/Dec issue 2020

This is a well-written and interesting account of the life and times of a famous admiral and worth its place on the bookshelf.

World Ship Society - Marine News, December 2020

The book is a well-produced and thoroughly enjoyable read which brings an astonishing, active and varied career to life.

Mariners Mirror

An interesting biography of one of Britain's most unusual admirals.

The NYMAS Review, Winter 2020-2021

...a short biography that concludes that while Keyes was a superb leader and fearless in battle, he lacked strategic judgement and was often unrealistic about what he could achieve in battle.

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A Blog on Winston Churchill

... overall it is a vivid picture of perhaps a lesser known Admiral of the Fleet, a look at the origins of some key elements of the modern service and something to provoke thinking on leadership issues which still resonate today.

The Naval Review, February 2021

This book should be widely read because it explains exactly why the quality of RN officers made the Royal Navy dominant in two World Wars. One of the mysteries of military history is why so few can name senior naval officers, who made significant contributions to the war effort, but know the names of land forces commanders who often made rather less effective contributions. – Most Highly Recommended

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This is a hugely enjoyable read with each chapter including a summary of Keyes’s role and impact.

Peter Wykeham-Martin

A very good read indeed, I would give this book a very good 4 out of 5 star rating.

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UK Historian

What a delightful book, you might think that this is an odd description for a Nelsonian Seafarer who saw action in parts of two centuries from said to steam. Well this was a really interesting and well biography. Our Admiral like them all started from the bottom (literally at just over five foot tall and 5 stone in a wet raincoat) as a very young midshipman growing into a very tall and youthful looking captain who saw action in China . He was an accomplished Sail master who spent time on the King's yacht then to his dismay was posted to a small ship... A superb story well written and worth 4.5 mushroom heads as a mere pongo I thoroughly enjoyed his story. Get hold of a copy troops.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

The book is a very agile and pleasant biography that describes the life of a great sailor, perhaps finding himself in the right places but at the wrong time, but who did not progress very psychologically and strategically in understanding the military situations in which he found himself. It should be acknowledged that he remained himself to the end and that it deserves to be remembered and celebrated.

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On The Old Barbed Wire
 Jim Crossley

About Jim Crossley

Jim Crossley read Modern History at Cambridge. He has had a lifelong interest in naval affairs. He is himself a keen sailor and springs from a family with a long naval tradition. His own father was a midshipman on the battleship Resolution in 1916 and his mother was a cousin of Commodore William Goodenough, one of the central figures in the Jutland battle.

Jim Crossley was nominated for the Maritime Foundation’s Mountbatten Maritime Award for Best Literary Contribution for their book 'Voices From Jutland: A Centenary Commemoration'.

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