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Victoria Schofield
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With the Royal Navy in War and Peace, O'er the Deep Blue SeaWith the Royal Navy in War and Peace: O'er the Dark Blue Sea

Foreword and edited by Victoria Schofield.
Pen & Sword Maritime, 2018, www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

Excerpt:

The naval career of Vice Admiral Brian Betham Schofield, CB, CBE, spanned the first half of the 20th century, encompassing two world wars. When, in retirement, he chose to record his service in the Royal Navy, he did so in 1956, while his memory was fresh, and before embarking on a second career as a naval historian. What is reproduced here is that memoir, in his own words; as he makes clear, in recollecting the past he was greatly aided by his letters to his parents. Only one has survived (together with some personal correspondence in 1946) and so what would have been first hand accounts are subsumed into recollections. My task, as the editor, has been to put the events he describes in context as well as adding some background information which was common knowledge at the time of writing but is less so to the 21st century reader.

As a late Victorian, the era of his birth dictated his life: having joined the Royal Navy in 1908, he was already serving as a midshipman at the outbreak of the First World War. By the time the Second World War began he had achieved the rank of Captain which, together with his training as a navigator, provided the opportunity of taking command of what were called 'first class ships'. The portrait he paints is of a bygone era, when Britain's naval strength was at its zenith. It was a time when officers and men spent long periods at sea, the ship's log repeatedly recording 'hands employed cleaning ship', 'hands employed painting', 'hands employed sweeping decks', 'hands to mend clothes', 'hands employed preparing for sea' not forgetting 'leave to bathing parties' and 'Divine Service'. Like the service careers of so many thousands, risk and chance played their part. That he was relieved of his command of HMS Galatea in 1941 shortly before the ship was torpedoed off the coast of Egypt meant that instead of Captain Brian Schofield it was Captain Edward Sim who went down with his ship. That, for personal reasons, he relinquished command of HMS Duke of York just before its action against the Scharnhorst in 1943 meant that his successor, Captain (later Admiral Sir) the Hon Guy Russell, had the opportunity of taking part in an historic sea battle. Yet, as all those who join the Armed Forces know, service is a commitment whose outcome can neither be foretold nor preordained.

 

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