“ … Wet and worry about our ways--
Panic, onset and flight--
Had us in charge for a thousand days
And thousand-year-long night.
We saw more than the nights could hide--
More than the waves could keep--
And--certain faces over the side
Which do not go from our sleep.
We were more tired than words can tell
While the pied craft fled by,
And the swinging mounds of the Western swell
Hoisted us Heavens-high…”
Kipling, “The Changelings”
Which, although written as a tribute to the RNVR officers in the Kaiser’s War, applies equally to their successors in landing craft, coastal forces and the Battle of the Atlantic a quarter of a century later.
Geoffrey Holder-Jones, born in 1915, was one of these. Fortuitously Tim Parker (only 18 years his junior) met him in 2008 at a dinner at Lancing College to mark its wartime use as HMS King Alfred, in which role it produced twenty thousand RNVR officers, mostly selected from Hostilities-Only ratings. Parker was so enthralled by Jones’ dits that he embarked on a project to bring Jones’ story for publication (in 2010), and now we are the beneficiaries. I asked for a copy for review after seeing the book mentioned in Jones’ obituary in November 2011. The book is written as if it were Jones’ autobiography. Parker was also RNVR and did his National Service in the Navy and so is able to serve up the story without a single solecism, which makes for easy reading.