Extraordinary Courage – The Volunteer Boaters of World War II

Be there . . . . to volunteer for a new British reserve of “Gentlemen and ladies, interested in
boating and similar activities, wishing to be oriented towards training for management officers,
male and female.” Negatives about this Board of Admiralty RNVSR: no rank, no uniform, no
badges, no flag, no training, no public recognition and, yuck!, no salary. . . . .

For a crushing, top-notch read of an overlooked World War II story of how and why 2,000
brave amateur sailors volunteered to fight in the Royal Navy’s Volunteer Supplementary
Reserve (RNVSR), an organization they knew little about, had no idea what was expected,
and for how long they would serve. All they knew for certain was that they wanted to serve, to offer
their lives, if necessary, for the safety and security of their beloved demi-paradise, their
Britain . . .
“People ashore don’t realize what a sinister war we are waging at sea
with the Germans. A cold-blooded war, in a way, I think, requiring the
maximum courage of the men on both sides in the long run, as
it’s so incessant and intangible. You just don’t know if the next
moment will be your last. . .”
Lieutenant Commander Robert Hichens, killed
In action April 13, 1943
“INCOMPARABLE COURAGE – – The Volunteer Boaters of World War II”, by Julia Jones.
ADLARD COLES Publishing, Bloomsbury Publishing, Plc: 2022, 310 pages, hc; $28. Visit:
www.ospreypublishing.com, or by e-mail, [email protected]
During the Second World War, the British Royal Navy had to increase the possibility of
a German invasion, almost daily bombardments by the Luftwaffe and the need to conduct campaigns in
the Atlantic, the Middle East and the Far East. To recruit officers for this force, it was necessary to move
outside of its normal supply of trained men and teenagers as young as 13. As during the First World War, “the
Reserve” has realized the urgency of finding boaters, registering them and giving the basics
fundamentals and naval discipline before launching them at sea. Then he sent possible young
officers as role models for ordinary volunteer sailors in sailing, combat, survival and combat
again in often badly damaged destroyers. No matter how you cut it, life at sea between 1
September 1939 and May 3, 1945 were as perilous as it could be. Anyone who knew anything
on seamanship was needed on deck.
Now the daughter of one of the first British volunteers in the RNVSR portrays dad, as well as
thousands of like-minded companions, at the cost of extraordinary heroism and sacrifice, commanding, sailing and
fighting in destroyers, submarines and undertaking covert sabotage missions. Some

undertook the daily drudgery of mine clearance, others tackled unexploded bombs, engaged in
high-speed attack or played roles as intelligence commandos. As captivating author Julia Jones
tells, these crews of volunteers needed endurance, ingenuity and quick thinking. Many
died in the process, but for those who survived, their experiences inevitably changed them
still. After surviving World War II to the end, everyone felt the same, first family and country, then
when peace was declared, the return to the pleasure pastime of cruising action in or
sail on yachts or on one of the various types of relatively small vessels.
As for the author of this much appreciated work, unequaled outside his peer, “In which
They Served – The Experience of Royal Navy Officers in the Second World War”, by Brian Lavery
(Naval Institute Press), Julia Jones is a writer, editor and classic yacht owner whose
father, as mentioned, served in the RNVSR from the beginning. She is the literary contributor
for Yachting Monthly Magazine. Julia’s love for the sea began at the age of three when her
his parents bought him Arthur Ransome’s yacht, Peter Duck. She says her berth aboard Peter
The duck was the most comfortable place in the world to read, write and dream of the sea.
From such experiences she was then compelled to write her series of sails “Strong Winds”.
adventures. After being introduced to the River Deben when she was born, she says she will forever be
a shameless sailor from the English East Coast.

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