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Seven Seas Nine Lives (P/B)

Richard Pike

RE-RELEASE


This enthralling biography starts when, as a young midshipman Alan Sutton was in command of a small rowing cutter returning a potentially mutinous crew to the battle-cruiser HMS Repulse in which he served. Amazingly it ends in the open cockpit of a Fairy Swordfish torpedo bomber during the legendry night attack which destroyed the Italian fleet at Taranto.

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Captain Alan William Frank Sutton's enthralling biography starts when, as a young midshipman he was in command of a small rowing cutter returning a potentially mutinous crew to the battle-cruiser HMS Repulse in which he served. Amazingly it ends in the open cockpit of a Fairy Swordfish torpedo bomber during the legendry night attack which destroyed the Italian fleet at Taranto.

 This biography has been written with the full cooperation of Captain Sutton who has given the author every detail of his lengthy naval ship and airborne career during World War II.


ISBN: 9781526783400
Format: Paperback
Author(s): Richard Pike
First Publishment Date: 7 August 2020

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  1. Enjoyable read review by PWM on 20/01/2021

    Arthur Sutton joined the RN in 1930 and this is part 1 of his biography. This certainly isn’t the normal style or layout of a biography – no childhood memories and much of it reads more like a novel than biography. The book is split into 3 distinct sections. The first 10 chapters cover his experience as a Midshipman driving the Repulse’s picket boat in Invergordon as the mutiny over pay erupted. Dealing with an unruly bunch of libertymen, quietened down by running the picket boat into a head sea, is followed by dinner in the wardroom where he remarks on the aloofness of the Captain and the systemic inadequacies of personnel management. For a young Midshipman, the inequality of a Lt Cdr facing a 3.7% paycut trying to justify the Admiralty decision to one of his AB’s of a paycut of 25%, was all too striking.
    In the second section, Sutton is the navigator of the destroyer Basilisk deployed on non-intervention duties off the Spanish coats during the civil war in 1937. A more introspective section, Sutton gives his views on Edward VIII’s abdication (“someone who..let down his country”) and the complexities of the civil war – not a simple struggle between left and right. He also shows that he learnt quite a lesson at Invergordon and takes his divisional duties seriously, treating his ratings with respect. The civil war has one unlikely bonus for Sutton – he meets his future wife!
    The third section opens in 1940, Sutton is now married and a qualified Observer flying in Swordfish from HMS Glorious. Given the fate of the Glorious, there are some interesting reflections on the Captain’s manner and his lack of understanding of the use of naval air power, but Sutton soon finds himself on Illustrious with Captain Boyd, an ardent advocate of the FAA. Sutton takes part in the raid on Taranto and describes the atmosphere on board before the attack, and his own words on the attack itself. This is where the book ends with the return of all but two aircraft to the Illustrious.
    Sutton’s observations on everything from the politics of the Spanish civil war to the social barriers in the wardroom are fascinating. The account of the turmoil caused by insensitive handling of the Invergordon mutiny and its subsequent impact on Sutton personally and the Navy’s approach to divisional matters are a good insight into contemporary naval life. There are also some good photos from Sutton’s own albums. I enjoyed the book but was frustrated that it ended with a few terse sentences that say that Sutton endured the bombing of the Illustrious in 1941 and retired in 1964 in the rank of Captain; Sutton deserves a fuller biography.

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