The Battle of Jutland provides opening action in a 20th-century British naval series that promises to be long on war and short on mushy stuff.
First published in the UK in 1976 and apparently just now brought over the Atlantic to capitalize on the O’Brian phenomenon, this excellent oil-powered sea story should not be compared to the wonderful windblown wanderings of Aubrey and Maturin. The author, son of a naval family and himself a WWII veteran, devotes minimal time to the musings of the Everard family who will see the series on. And quite rightly. There’s no time to play the cello or read philosophy when the Kaiser’s Grand Fleet is steaming out of Wilhelmshaven, heading straight at you and the rest of the flotilla assembled by the brilliant (now retired) Admiral Jacky Fisher. Series hero Nicholas Everard has just been transferred from the thick political atmosphere of a battleship, where he’s blotted his copybook, to the small, no-nonsense world of the His Majesty’s destroyer Lanyard. The transfer was thanks to a bit of rank-pulling by Nick’s highly capable Uncle Hugh, captain of the battleship HMS Nile. Nick’s high-strung and mostly unpleasant older brother David, heir to the baronetcy and Dad’s favorite, is aboard the cruiser Bantry. All three Everard vessels have the good (if you’re a career man) fortune, after months of feints and false alarms, to be in on the action in what will turn out to be the most important naval battle of the Great War. The action here is seen only from the British side, but Fullerton does a good job of laying out the tactics without drowning the reader in seas of detail as two armadas clash in the choppy waters east of Scotland. There is a bit of nonsense on shore involving Nick and David’s pretty young stepmother, for whom Uncle Hugh carries a torch, but it’s quickly back to sea and The War.
Great stuff for hard-core ironside sailors. Woozy sailing types will drift off.