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Surviving the Arctic Convoys (Hardback)

The Wartime Memoirs of Leading Seaman Charlie Erswell

WWII Maritime Naval

By Charlie Erswell, John R McKay
Imprint: Pen & Sword Maritime
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399013031
Published: 30th June 2021

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Leading Seaman Charlie Erswell saw much more than his fair share of action during the Second World War. He was present at the 1942 landing in North Africa (Operation TORCH), D-Day and the liberation of Norway. But his main area of operations was that of the Arctic Convoys, escorting merchant ships taking essential war supplies to the Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel.

In addition to contending with relentless U-boat and Luftwaffe attacks, crews endured the extreme sea conditions and appalling weather. This involved clearing ice and snow in temperatures as low as minus thirty degrees Celsius. No wonder Winston Churchill described it as ‘the worst journey in the world’.

Fortunately, Charlie, who served on two destroyers, HMS Milne and Savage, kept a record of his experiences and is alive today to describe them. His story, published to coincide with the 80th Anniversary of the first convoy, is more than one man’s account. It is an inspiring tribute to his colleagues, many of whom were killed in action. No-one reading Surviving The Arctic Convoys could fail to be moved by the bravery and endurance of these outstanding men.

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About Charlie Erswell

Born in 1923, Charlie Erswell spent his childhood at Berwick-upon-Tweed. He joined the Royal Navy in December 1941 and for the next five years was in the thick of the action, as described in Surviving the Arctic Convoys.


After demobilisation in 1949, he pursued a varied engineering career. For 12 years before retirement at 65 he manufactured artificial limbs in Leeds for Roehampton Hospital, London.


He lives with his second wife, Betty in Yorkshire. Between them, they have numerous children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


About John R McKay

John R McKay served in the RAF before pursuing a career with the Fire and Rescue Service.


He is the author of seven published novels including The Worst Journey In The World, based on the Arctic Convoys. Inspired by Charlie’s war service, he feels very privileged to have helped Charlie record his story.


A keen football fan, John lives in Wigan with his wife Dawn. He has two daughters and one grand-daughter.

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