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Running the Gauntlet (ePub)

Cargo Liners Under Fire 1939–1945

Maritime > Merchant Shipping WWII

By Bernard Edwards
Imprint: Pen & Sword Maritime
File Size: 5.1 MB (.epub)
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781399097871
Published: 8th March 2022


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The British Merchant Navy dominated the world trade routes in the years leading up to the Second World War. The star players of the fleet were the cargo liners, faster and larger than the tramps and offering limited passenger accommodation. On the outbreak of war these cargo liners became crucial to the nation’s survival using their speed and expertise to evade Nazi warships, raiders and U-boats.

Initially operating alone, but increasingly relying on Royal Navy protected convoys, these key elements of the Merchant Navy plied the oceans and seas despite mounting losses, throughout the war years.

This superbly researched book describes numerous dramatic incidents. Some ended in disaster such as the New Zealand Shipping Company’s Turakina which was sunk after a running battle with the German raider Orion. Others were triumphs for example Operation Substance when six fast cargo liners succeeded against all the odds in reaching besieged Malta with vital supplies.

The common denominations in all these historic voyages were the courage and skilled seamanship of the Merchant Navy crews. As Running The Gauntlet vividly illustrates, their contribution to victory, too long overlooked, cannot be overstated.

"Bernard Edwards has been fortunate in being able to call upon eye-witness accounts and, as he says, there can be no better storyteller than one who was there."

Africa Ports & Ships - 7 August 2023

"...This well-researched book..."

International Federation of Ship Masters’ Association (IFSMA) Newsletter No 67 August 2023

This was a mostly enjoyable book, which flows well in a style intended for the general reader.

Read the Full Review Here

Naval Review

"The book is rich with stories of bravery and self-sacrifice and is eminently readable."

Mariner's Mirror

Captain Bernard Edwards draws on his 40 years in the Merchant Navy – and his skill as an experienced maritime author – to tell the story of the blockade-running cargo liners of the Second World War.

The crème-de-la-crème of the British fleet, these ships at first relied on their speed to escape German raiders. As the war grew more brutal, the Admiralty began relying upon the cargo liners to perform special missions, which required crew to expose themselves to terrible risks.

Edwards brings these stories of heroism and hardship to life through extensive use of eye witness accounts and official reports written by the seafarers themselves. From Dunkirk to the siege of Malta, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, he gives us admirably clear overviews of the tactics involved in each encounter, and the vivid personal stories of those involved.

The book is, in many ways, a memorial to a more adventurous era at sea. Now 96 years old – and therefore part of that era himself, having made his first voyage in 1944 – Edwards has some hard words for the younger generations who have allowed the UK’s Merchant Navy to shrink. It is a privilege to read about a different maritime era from someone with not just knowledge, but a deep personal understanding of what it was really like to go onboard in that time.

Book of the Month - The Nautilus Telegraph - Nov/Dec 2022

A tribute to the heroics and sacrifice of Britain’s merchant seamen.


The author's conclusions are so poignant, as he reflects that the book is a way of a 'fond farewell to an era fast disappearing into the mists of time; an era of long, lazy sea passages....with 'He Who Must be Obeyed' ensconced in his eyrie below the bridge, of sextants at the ready and the mournful wail of fog horns in the Channel'. A further reflection on the authors part, of the continual demise of British merchant shipping, beyond the end of the war years.

Jon Sandison

The research in this book is great and the book was an easy compelling read, most one to recommend. In a way, these guys were just as brave as those fighting on the battlefields of WWII.

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The History Fella

Most of those that read my brief reviews served in the Royal Navy and many will have relatives who served during WWII. Many of the WWII Veterans will have stories to tell of their experiences of being attacked and the dangers they faced on a daily basis especially when at sea. But how many had to endure this situation when serving in the Merchant Navy, often on old slow and difficult to manoeuvre ships that had the minimum of armament often left overs from WWI. The Merchant Seaman sailed knowing the threat that faced them from bomb and torpedo and the slim chance of rescue should the worst happen. But still they went often after having had their previous ship sunk. The bravery of these men equaled that of their RN escorts. However this book tells it as it was with paragraphs related by the men who served in the merchant marine.
A well researched book written by a retired merchant ship captain tells it like it was. I recommend all to read it, to wonder and to be thankful that we had such men protecting & supplying us during the war years.

Bob Dean - Navy Daze, The Ton Class Association

In conclusion, it seems most fitting that this thoroughly recommended book, and the memory of all those crews who served the country so valiantly throughout six years of war, can perhaps be best summed up in a précis of the very words of brave Captain Capon himself on his return to Liverpool in September 1942:

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"This excellent book guides the reader around the oceans and seaways of the world from the beginning of the Second World War to the D-day landings in June 1944."

Roger Coleman, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

I really enjoyed this book, as gripping as a good novel, until it hit home how inappropriate is the word ‘enjoyed’. The men in this book are not fictional characters from some author’s imagination. This is the story of some of the brave men who did a very dangerous job many of whom died in the course of their work. Some were blown to pieces in an instant others died after many days adrift in an open boat or on a Carley float. The job those fellow merchant seamen who survived did, showing courage and skilled seamanship, was crucial to the nation’s survival.
This well researched book covers only a few of the losses to the merchant navy fleet but it is well representative of the service we should never forget.
Once started it is a difficult book to put down and we highly recommend it.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel
 Bernard Edwards

About Bernard Edwards

Bernard Edwards pursued a sea-going career commanding ships trading worldwide. After nearly forty years afloat. Captain Edwards settled in a tiny village in rural South Wales, to pursue his second career as a writer. His extensive knowledge of the sea and ships has enabled him to produce many authentic and eminently readable books which have received international recognition. Beware Raiders!, Attack and Sink!, The Cruel Sea Retold, The Quiet Heroes, Twilight of the U-Boats, Death in the Doldrums, The Road to Russia, The Wolf Packs Gather, The Decoys and U-boats Beyond Biscay have been published by Pen and Sword Books.

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