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  • Writer's pictureShaun Lewis

Unsung Heroes and Forgotten Campaigns

A continuing theme of my novels is the often unsung heroes and largely unknown activities of the Royal Navy in WW1. My aim is to bring to the fore once again the courageous deeds of great men and highlight that the Royal Navy wasn’t just involved in the Battle of Jutland.

In my first novel, The Custom of the Trade, I have focused on the early days of submarine operations. Submarines in those days were in their infancy and extremely dangerous and unreliable. As will often be the case in my novels, I melded the true-life exploits of several men into one fictional character. In this case, I chose Lieutenant Commanders Max Horton DSO, Courtney Boyle VC and Martin Nasmith VC. In my book I unfurled the outstandingly successful submarine campaign of the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara. Thanks to the submariners, four of whom won the VC during the campaign, when the allies withdrew from the beaches of Gallipoli, the Turks were down to their last week’s worth of ammunition.

My second novel, Now the Darkness Gathers, relates the Royal Navy’s part in forming the antecedents of today’s Secret Service and GCHQ. I feature the first head of the Secret Service, Commander Mansfield Cumming, ‘C’ and begin to introduce WW1’s Director of Naval Intelligence, Captain ‘Blinker’ Hall. Hall’s extraordinary exploits continue into the third novel, The Wings of the Wind. However, the latter book, to be published by Endeavour Media in January 2020, has at its core the story of the early days of the Royal Naval Air Service and its Armoured Car Division. The commanding officer of the latter division and a true pioneer of naval aviation was Commander Charles Samson. Oddly, of all the heroes I have named in this piece so far, he was the only one not to be promoted to admiral. He retired as an Air Commodore in the RAF.

Sadly, the subject of my current work, Where the Baltic Ice is thin, did not live to be promoted to admiral either. Captain Francis Cromie was murdered by the Cheka, the Russian Secret Police. Prior to becoming the naval attaché in Saint Petersburg, he commanded the Royal Navy’s submarine flotilla in the Baltic. Despite the flotilla’s enormous successes, the Baltic campaign became overshadowed by the Russian Revolutions and the mutinies of the Russian forces.

I still have a few other plots for other novels up my sleeve, so hope to promote several more forgotten heroes and campaigns yet.

Royal Navy Victoria Cross

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