Book Review – ‘Destroyer at War: The fighting life and loss of HMS ‘Havock’ from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean 1939–1942’; ‘A Hard Fought Ship: The story of HMS ‘Venomous’’ by Derek Law
These two excellent books relate the stories of two Second World War destroyers. Havock was at the centre of the action from her commissioning and was almost worked to death after only five years of very active service, literally bursting at the seams. Venomous was also an active ship, but also a lucky ship, with a near 30-year career which only finished in the breaker’s yard. Both books are based heavily on the personal recollections of crew members, both oral and written, family memories and photographs.
David Goodey’s father joined the Royal Navy as a Rating in 1938 and served with Havock as a stoker until 1941, five months before her sinking. During the 1980s the author tracked down 50 of the crew whom he interviewed, and he arranged reunions and took part in the unveiling of a memorial to those lost in the sea battles at Narvik. Richard Osborne is a well-known naval historian and had been working on the history of Havock. A chance meeting between the two at a World Ship Society event led them to realize they had a shared interest and complementary evidence which could be combined.
A Hard Fought Ship was first published in 1990 by Robert Moore and he was working on a second edition at the time of his death in 2007. His American friend John Rodgaard took over and the second edition was published in 2010, receiving a very favourable review in the Mirror (Mariner’s Mirror 97:2 (2011) 97–8). In a further twist, William Forster of Holywell House Publishing then took on much of the research work for this new edition, in part because his father had served on Venomous. This third edition is published in hardback since it is intended as the definitive version. Like the Goodey work, it is full of photographs and personal recollections with the stated aim of having the photographs assume equal importance with the text.