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HMS London (Hardback)

Maritime Naval

By Iain Ballantyne
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9780850528435
Published: 6th June 2002
Last Released: 1st August 2007

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There is no current warship in the Royal Navy called HMS London, but vessels carrying the name have featured for better or worse in some of the most controversial episodes of British naval history.

For example, the wooden wall battleship HMS London of the late 18th Century could be called 'the ship that lost America' while the heavy cruiser of WW2 was command vessel for the escort force that failed to safeguard the controversial convoy PQ17.

In 'HMS London' the true stories behind those headlines are told, not least providing a grim insider perspective on the Arctic convoys, which literally broke the heavy cruiser in addition to demoralizing the sailors and marines who sailed in her.

It is, however, a tale of triumphing over the dark satanic seas of the Arctic, of learning from the mistakes of PQ17 and ultimately enduring in the face of the enemy, the elements and an ungrateful Stalin.

Examining the stories of HMS Londons all the way from the English Civil War, through the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 - where Nelson famously ignored signals to break off the action displayed by HMS London - we also learn of the pre-dreadnought London's participation in the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign of WW1.

Iain Ballantyne's fascinating and lively account of the lives of British warships named London primarily looks at history from the perspective of the men who were there, including her post-WW2 mission under a storm of fire from Chinese communist forces to rescue the frigate Amethyst.

In addition to research in various archives, among the people Iain interviewed for the book were veterans of the Arctic convoys of WW2, the Yangtse Incident and warriors of the Cold War and 1991 Gulf War. It all adds up to a thoroughly researched and exciting narrative of naval history.

Adding to the authenticity of the tale, Iain even sailed to Russia in the last HMS London, a Type 22 guided-missile frigate, in August 1991. During a WW2 convoy re-enactment the ship was almost hit by a practice torpedo launched from a Soviet submarine and had to take evasive action.

This fascinating account of the lives of British warships named LONDON looks at history from the perspective of the men who were there; veterans of the grim arctic convoys, the Yangtze Incident, the Cold War and the Gulf War.

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 Iain Ballantyne

About Iain Ballantyne

In a twenty-six year career as a journalist, Iain Ballantyne has written on naval and military matters for publications as varied as The Naval Architect, Evening Herald (Plymouth) and FOCUS (now BBC FOCUS).

However, it was for his work over the past decade, as Editor of the global naval news magazine WARSHIPS International Fleet Review, that Iain received a Special Recognition Award from the British Maritime Charitable Foundation in late 2007.

An established author of naval history books, Iain has written various titles published by Pen & Sword, including HMS Rodney, HMS London, Strike from the Sea, HMS Victory and Killing the Bismarck.

Iain received a ‘Certificate of Merit’ from Countess Mountbatten of Burma, the President of the Maritime Foundation, at the Maritime Media Awards 2010. A distinguished panel of judges paid fulsome tribute to Iain’s book, their citation describing ‘Killing the Bismarck’ as ‘a book of intense drama, compiled with painstaking accuracy and vividly portrayed through the meticulous accumulation of first hand witness accounts.’

Iain is married with two young sons and lives in Plymouth.

Perfect Partner

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When Robert Brundle took the SS Harmatris to Russia with Convoy PQ8 he was 47 years of age. Both ship and master were veterans and had already sailed in convoys across the North Atlantic and to South Africa. The 5,395 ton coal fired ship, laden with 8,000 tons of armaments originally set sail on 27 November 1941 to join convoy PQ6 but encountered a fierce storm in which a lorry broke free in the hold and started a fierce blaze below decks. Despite valiant attempts to extinguish the fire the Harmatris was forced to return to Glasgow for repair. Having discharged its cargo, examined and repaired…

By Michael Wadsworth

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