Surviving the Arctic Convoys written by John R. McKay and published by Pen & Sword Books – £20.00 – Hardback – Pages 200

Leading Seaman Charlie Erswell saw much more than his fair share of action during the Second World War. He was present at the 1942 landing in North Africa (Operation TORCH), D-Day and the liberation of Norway. But his main area of operations was that of the Arctic Convoys, escorting merchant ships taking essential war supplies to the Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel.

In addition to contending with relentless U-boat and Luftwaffe attacks, crews endured the extreme sea conditions and appalling weather. This involved clearing ice and snow in temperatures as low as minus thirty degrees Celsius. No wonder Winston Churchill described it as ‘the worst journey in the world’.

Fortunately, Charlie, who served on two destroyers, HMS Milne and Savage, kept a record of his experiences and is alive today to describe them. His story, published to coincide with the 80th Anniversary of the first convoy, is more than one man’s account. It is an inspiring tribute to his colleagues, many of whom were killed in action. No-one reading Surviving The Arctic Convoys could fail to be moved by the bravery and endurance of these outstanding men.

This book follows the story in WW2 of Leading Seaman Charlie Erswell, who served on the convoys between Britain and Russia. A book very well written by the author john R. McKay & Charlie Erswell, who has managed to carve a great relationship between author and the main person in the book. Being out on the convoys was a very hard job indeed in that not only did you have to hope you weren’t torpedoed, you had to hope you weren’t shot at or bombed and all in freezing cold conditions.

From a young age Charlie wanted to join the Royal Navy, despite his family tradition of joining the army, he would start by serving as a gunner on HMS Milne. He was part of the convoy crews relay goods over to Russia, his war career involved always trying to avoid being bombed by the Luftwaffe, or trying to avoid the U-Boat threat from beneath. His Naval career wasn’t always based in the arctic, some work did involve being on ships on the Mediterranean and he was involved in the D-Day Landings in Normandy. This was a really enjoyable read, the book was well written and there was a good relationship between the two men. I would most certainly recommend this book to others as a thrilling read.