Author of the Fighting Sail series of historical nautical fiction
Thursday, 4 October 2012
Clear Lower Deck - a Review
Roger Paine's book, Clear Lower Deck is a collection of the author's recollections and anecdotes, and provides a fascinating view of the post war Royal Navy from the 'sixties to the early 'eighties. The style is relaxed, competent and extremely easy to read, and the book presents well, in the large format paperback style favoured by Fireship Press. A few illustrations would have been welcome, but this is a minor point. What stands out is the intimate view of the RN of that time; you feel accepted into that tight club, with jargon, slang (always explained), and camaraderie abounding. It is a truly personal account of service life; one which is both authentic and totally captivating.
The author certainly led an active career, with deployments aboard a wide variety of vessels, as well as time at the Ministry of Defence, and on an admiral's staff during the Falklands conflict. Starting as a sixteen year old junior rating, he rose to Commander, a rank he held for several years before opting for retirement. There are no eye witness accounts of great battles or major incidents, but in smaller matters, like entertaining visiting dignitaries, dealing with a manipulative superior, or heading an exercise to secure an ammunition depot, the detail is minute and insight fascinating. Service etiquette is also covered, as well as a good deal of background into various naval traditions. The author even recounts his experiences as he retires from a life he had known since a lad, faces the civilian world, (and further watery perils beyond).
Don't expect side splitting humour; this is not a naval joke book, neither does it paint an overly sentimental picture of jolly Jack Tars, or totally improbable Navy Lark capers. But as an entertaining glance at a time when the RN still boasted more ships than admirals Clear Lower Deck is absolutely first rate, and serves as an excellent reminder of the Navy we have lost.