Q What is this book about ?
A It’s a biography of Roger Keyes. He eventually became an Admiral of the Fleet. He was celebrated as a national hero in 1918 when he carried out the Zeebrugge Raid on the Belgian coast. He became a great friend of Winston Churchill’s. He was chief of the naval staff during the Gallipoli campaign and strongly supported Churchill’s policy of carrying the assault forward in 1915. The two had their differences between the wars and had bitter disagreements in the 1940’s but remained very close personal friends.
Q What inspired you to write it?
A Several things. Keyes was a friend on my relation Admiral Sir William Goodenough – they were shipmates as cadets on HMS Raleigh, one of the last British sailing warships- I think the story of the brave men who served in the Royal Navy of those days deserve some celebration.
Another point is that I find the character of Churchill endlessly interesting. Andrew Roberts’s recent book about him captures his greatness very well. Exploring his relationship with Keyes and their mutual respect and tolerance of each other was fascinating.
Thirdly I am very interested in the story of the maritime aspects of the first world war. The story of Jutland etc has been told many times but the really critical part of the conflict concerned submarines, many of which were based in Flanders. If the Germans had used the Flanders bases sensibly from the start of the war Britain and France would have had to give up. As it happened, they did not realise what an opportunity they had there until 1917 when their U-boats did nearly force us out of the war. Keyes was the man who put a stop to their use of these bases. The story of the Dover Patrol which he commanded in 1918 is a very significant episode on naval history and we should be proud of it.
In addition to all these Keyes’s life is a roaring adventure story especially his adventures in China. If these were written in a novel they would be considered far-fetched.
Q Who will this book appeal to?
A It’s both an adventure story and a history book. It can be read for entertainment or for a study of the history of the early part of the 20th century. I think the book is accessible to anyone who enjoys an exciting read.
Q What facts have you uncovered during your research?
A Quite a lot about Keyes’s home life and his bitterness about his treatment by the Admiralty.
Q What research have you done.
A There are lots of published letters and memoirs of naval people of the time. I must have read at least two dozen volumes of them. I also visited the Keyes family home and was lucky enough to find people there who knew him and his family well.
Q What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A Deciding what to leave out. Definitely.
Q Is there a unique angle to this book?
A. I don’t think Keyes’s relationship to Churchill has been discussed in detail before.
Q Why do you think you were qualified to write this book?
A I have spent some time studying the ships and their armaments used in World War I. I also have the disciplines of a historian, having read history at Cambridge. I have made a particular study of the naval war related to the Flanders bases and the Dover Patrol which feature in two other books I have had published. (Monitors of the Royal Navy and The Hidden Threat). I am a keen sailor and familiar with small boats. There is also the family connection to the Royal Navy and to Keyes in particular.
Q What part of the book are you most proud of?
A I think the analysis of the Keyes/Churchill relationship.
You can order a copy here.