Book Review-‘Recollections of an Unsuccessful Seaman’ by L. Noake, (ed.) D. Creamer

By Martin Bellamy, published December 2020


Len Noake (1887–1929) was a seaman. He trained aboard HMS Conway and then began a 20-year career in the mercantile marine serving aboard deep sea and coasting vessels in a variety of roles from quartermaster to first officer. In his dying days he wrote his memoirs in the form of a 235-page journal illustrated with photographs, postcards and his own water-colour sketches. The memoir has survived in the family and has been edited by his great nephew David Creamer, himself an ex-merchant mariner. The memoir is written in a rather sardonic, self-effacing manner, hence the title ‘recollections of an unsuccessful seaman’ that is full of wit and insight. The editor has tempered some of the original text to make it more compliant with modern sensibilities, which, although understandable, is a bit of a shame as the original language, albeit un-savoury and politically incorrect, would have enhanced our understanding of the author and the times in which he lived. Having said that, there is certainly enough remaining to give more than a hint of how the original may have been worded.

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Filed under: WW1 | Interwar
Subjects include: Biography | Merchant Marines

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