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Maritime non-fiction / War history

First-hand account of the convoys

The Steep Atlantick Stream, by Robert Harling



Robert Harling’s career as a seagoing naval officer began in 1941, as the Battle of the Atlantic reached a crucial phase. This very readable memoir, first published in 1946, provides us with a window into the world of seafarers during wartime – from the chaos of combat and alarm to their conversations and moments of reflection about peacetime and their futures after the conflict.

Harling lived to tell his story due to a bout of pneumonia which left him laid up on shore; not long after, he received the shattering news that the captain of his corvette, the Tobias, half his shipmates and almost all his fellow officers were dead after the vessel was sunk by enemy action.

Yet although the book contains deep sadness – in particular, wrapping up with musings about his comrades buried at sea – it is also full of pathos. The characters of his fellow seafarers – their bravery, cynicism, politics and humour – come to life through their conversations. What shines through most of all is the comradeship of these men thrown together by war, making the best of a terrible situation in a very British manner.

The Steep Atlantick Stream: A Memoir of Convoys & Corvettes
By Robert Harling
Seaforth Publishing, £14.99
ISBN: 978 13990 72885

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