The title of this book are words Reginald Cogswell opens the book with to describe HMS EXETER.
In June 1926, a grammar school boy from Westbury Wiltshire, he joined the Royal Navy as an Electrical Artificer 4th Class. More than 40 years later, having retired as a Lieutenant Commander MBE, he wrote of his experiences.
The book covers just a small portion of Lt Cdr Cogswell’s naval career, from August ‘36 to February ‘40 when he served as the Warrant Officer (E) aboard HMS EXETER. Those 43 months encompassed peace and war, aid to civil power during riots in Trinidad, helping earthquake victims at Talcahuano Chile, family separation and re-unions, calm seas and storms. In setting down his memories of peace time ship focussing on 'showing the flag' visits to the ports of South America, the transition to war and the bloody truth of battle at sea in company with HMS AJAX and HMNZS ACHILLES against the Graf Spee off the River Plate, Reginald Cogswell opens a window into the Royal Navy of the period and the impact of WWII.
The chapters devoted the Battle of the RIver Plate are telling - trapped below deck, tasked with maintaining power to the ship, gun directors and turrets, Warrant Officer (E) Cogswell was 'in the thick of it', giving a blow by blow account of the battle, hearing Graf Spee's shells land and tackling the resultant shell damage. The story continues with EXETER's return, via the Falklands for temporary repairs, to Devonport and meeting Churchill, marching with the ship's company through London to an investiture by King George VI and the Lord Mayor's reception at the Guildhall. It ends with the author, and his wife, walking slowly through bomb damaged London to their hotel.
This is not a history of naval strategy and tactics or the manoeuvres of battle at sea, but a most beautifully expressed story of one man’s personal experience of peace and war.
A book to savour and enjoy for the period flavour and quality of the writing.
"Reginald’s ability to recall his time with HMS Exeter is as engaging as it is enlightening. Anyone keen on naval and social history will find both subjects harmoniously united here by the author” - Western Morning News
“Fascinating reading and good to see a style of writing like that -- made me feel as if I was there” David Verghese, Naval Historian & Author
“A book to savour and enjoy Exeter - so rich in detail and that special kind of ‘read between the lines’ ‘stiff upper lip’ pathos” Chris Meddings, Editor Ship Modeller Magazine
“An enthralling book, highly recommended” Commodore Peter C Wykeham-Martin, Chairman Friends of the National Museum of the Royal Navy