The Cruise of Naromis: August in the Baltic 1939 by G A Jones
There's brave, and there is brave. I may well have been born in a coastal county but certainly would baulk at the idea of setting out to sea with four colleagues in a 37'-long boat. Boats to me are like planes – the bigger the better, and the safer I feel as a result. But luckily for the purpose of this book, George Jones was born with a much different pair of sea-legs to mine, and took to the waters of the English Channel, the North Sea and beyond in Naromis with brio. But – and this is where the further definition of bravery comes in – he did it in August 1939, knowing full well that he would be sailing full tilt into the teeth of war.
|The Cruise of Naromis: August in the Baltic 1939 by G A Jones|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A pleasing little read, showing more depth than you might expect from a man's diary of sailing the Baltic for pleasure in the weeks before WW2. It deserves to break out of its several niche markets and do well.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 122||Date: January 2017|
|Publisher: Golden Duck (UK) Limited|
For someone who was intent on sailing, Jones' job on the Birmingham Stock Exchange couldn't have been ideal. But he certainly had the experience, and if he had had fully-working eyes (by naval definition) he could well have been a distinguished wartime seaman. He did serve, but this book raises the question of just how much service was done by these five chaps on their boat. Photographs of key naval tonnage, bridges, harbours and so on were taken, but not proactively used upon return.
But again, as far as literature is concerned, we should be grateful for this slim little book. It's been edited and compiled with loving care (if not quite the attention to proof-reading it deserves) by George's publisher daughter, meaning she summarises his coming of age and adult thoughts with the help of his diary, and gives a strongly written report on his actual military career – and leaves the black and white photographs and Jones' own reportage as the middle block, brought to life here from the ignominy of a box in an attic, via an earlier private publication.
And I know of at least one person who was very grateful for this book – this reviewer's own mother, who leapt at it, and came out of it with appreciative remarks regarding its connections to Arthur Ransome's nautical life, and comparisons to The Riddle of the Sands. Well, it does share a location with that named thriller, at least. It also has some strong claim to be a lost minor classic as regards historical travel, for it is quite evocative even with its brevity, and even if words of the transit of the Kiel Canal and surrounding landscape are interrupted by notices of which ships were present too.
There is also humour in these pages – from the inevitable falling in to the docks while boozed-up, to a wonderful paean to the roast potato as cooked and had on board. And then it's back, to find those service call-up papers… But this is no flighty little work regarding people on their jollies, and not just because of any alleged civic thoughts that inspired the photographs. You feel the waters, you meet the people and you get a snapshot of multiple countries scattered across the seas and their unified anti-Hitler thoughts. So this read would serve those interested in 1930s history, in boating, and in historical travel reportage. Three minor markets, perhaps, as regards how books sell, but this could well be thought of as a major title for all, and could well escape those little-visited shelves and get a general audience. I hope so.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The guys in this boat were just months away from key moments in WW2 history – as the likes of Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff by Cathryn J Prince can testify.
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