Book Review: Churchill's Thin Grey Line: British Merchant Ships at War 1939–1945


by Bernard Edwards

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate Publishers, 2018. Pp. x, 244. Illus., biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 1526711664

The British Merchant Navy at War

Edwards is a retired merchant marine captain with several shelves of books on maritime history to his credit, perhaps most notably The Cruel Sea Retold, on the events that inspired Nicholas Monserrat’s famous novel. In Churchill’s Thin Gray Line, he takes an innovative approach to the tale of the British merchant navy in WW II.

In this work, rather than giving us the “Big Picture”, Edwards tells the story of merchant mariners at was by through the experiences of nearly twenty ships, many of which failed to survive attacks by torpedo, shell and bomb. He uses these stories to throw light on the evolution of ship and convoy defense as well as the development of the tactics by enemy submarines, surface raiders, and air craft, while recounting some desperate fights under often terrible conditions. In the process of do so, Edwards also offers us brief glimpses at many heroic mariners, and even some enemy personnel.

Churchill’s Thin Gray Line offers an interesting look at the war on maritime commerce, and may be particularly useful for readers with little knowledge of this aspect of the war, despite an unfortunate absence of maps.


Note: Churchill’s Thin Gray Line is also available in several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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