Books written by Sailors

It would appear that a number of sailors had hidden talents when they were in the Navy which only appear when they leave.  The following books have been written by sailors on their life experiences, the ships in which they served and record the history that we all enjoy.

  • THE WHITE ENSIGN IN NEW ZEALAND – This book is written by Rear Admiral  John O’Connell Ross.  First published in 1967. This book is the story of a Naval base, of the ships and men who sailed out of it to fight in the Maori Wars in the days of Queen Victoria, and of its subsequent history.
  • HMNZS BLACKPOOL (New)The book is written by Gerry Wright and is the Story of HMNZS Blackpool. In 1965, in an effort to maintain four operational frigates while one was in refit, it was agreed to hire a frigate from the Royal Navy while HMNZS Canterbury was being built. Initially offered HMS Whitby it was eventually agreed to hire HMS Blackpool for a period of five years. This is the story of HMNZS Blackpool, and those who served in her, during her service in the Royal New Zealand Navy between 1965 and 1971. 478 pages with colour and black and white photos.  Email .

  •  Change of the Ensign (New) The book is written by Gerry Wright  and is a snapshot in time (20 June 1968) celebrating the change from the Royal Navy White Ensign to the New Zealand White Ensign.  It is A5 in size and totals, 84 pages with much of the book in colour.  Email Cost $15.00 (plus $5.00 p&p). 
  • Fire Sugar, Fire Pudding (New) – Pat Clark-Hall’s letters from a torpedo Boat 1943-1945 – This hardback book was produced for the family of Pat Clark-Hall. Full of sketches and humour, this tells the story of a Kiwi who served in Coastal Forces in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is an excellent companion for North Sea Warrior as told by Pat himself. The book is available from Pat’s daughter, Annie Bonifant, 15 Keetly Place, Ohoka RD 2, Kaiopoi 7692 Price $40.00 plus $5.00 P&P
  • Salty Dits – Gerry Wright
    The history of the RNZN HDMLs and stories from some of those who served in them. (Email $30 plus $5 P&P)
  • The Long Engagement – Hugh Benson –“Many times one has heard ‘Someone should write a book about this’ but nobody had. Unlike others’ whose excellently presented historical and operational material have sought to inform or advise readers, the author of The Long Engagement presents his personal memories as he remembers them to have been. Without doubt many will find the work entertaining, and many will rediscover their own cherished memories”. Available from Beech Communications Limited PO Box 32071, Christchurch 8147 1 Gilby Street, Linwood, Christchurch 801, New Zealand Ph +64 3 365 0435 or email $45.00 incl postage.
  • Bamiyan – Heart of Afghanistan This full colour, 204 page book with its beautiful page layouts of virtually all the images from the recent Bamiyan exhibition is an absolute stunner! Relive the experience, savour the images of the people of Bamiyan, recall the history of the region, review the scenic sights and historic sites, drool over SGT Chris Weissenborn’s remarkable panoramic images, revisit the work of the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team,enjoy the children’s artwork, savour again the photographs of Pedram Pirnia and ponder the words and thoughts of the local interviewees. Every aspect of the stimulating exhibition that was visited by over 60,000 people is encompassed in the book. Buy your copy now and celebrate the memory of the exhibition and Porirua’s Friendly City relationship with Bamiyan. Email $25.00 incl gst
  • Morse Code and Snowflakes – David Davies
    The story of HMNZS Irirangi, the Naval Radio Station at Waiouru and of the people who served there in war and peace. This is the story of New Zealand’s most strategically important naval shore establishment and also, arguably, the most important radio station in the South Pacific. It is also the story of a naval community who were sent to the furthest point away from the sea in New Zealand under wartime conditions and the people who welcomed them into their midst. It is a story of hardships, and of happy times, of a will to do the job as well as possible under very stringent financial conditions. It is the story of a group of sailors and their families, well outside their natural environment, who learned to make their own amusements and learned to survive the harsh winters of the Central Plateau of the North Island. This is the story of HMNZS Irirangi, Waiouru, from it’s building to it’s final de-commissioning when technical developments made it no longer necessary for the station to operate as a fully manned establishment. Most of all, it is a story of servicemen and women who took great pride in being members of the Senior Service and in the uniform they wore as they went about their business among the tussock of Waiouru. Available Royal NZ Navy Museum
  • Overstayer – Maurice Hayman
    This book covers the life of Maurice through until the late 1980’s. Details are accurate although he may have the timing a little out on earlier events. He has written this for his family and that someone may pick it up and enjoy finding out what his tearaway got up to. He has certainly not tried to bore the pants off the reader. A worthwhile read.
  • Don’t Rock the Boat – Ian Bradley
    Ian Bradley was 15 years old when he joined the Navy. Twenty seven years later, after what some have described as a brilliant career, he was relieved of his command without warning or explanation. His book follows his career from Cadet Midshipman to his final disgrace, his battle to clear his name, and his subsequent career in politics and industry. His exploits as Captain of HMNZS WAIKATO are the stuff of legend and placed him in the public eye, a position he holds to this day, in the wake of controversy over the Auckland Regional Council’s rating policy. He sees this book as his last opportunity to get justice, while at the same time he hopes that it will entertain and enlighten the reader.
  • Worlds Apart – Anne Hine nee Ashby
    New Zealand widow Raven thinks her mother’s American fiancé is the loveliest man. Visiting his home in Maryland, she unfortunately finds his son the exact opposite. Greg’s animosity and distrust forces Raven into an unpalatable position of safeguarding her mother’s happiness. His arrogant assumption his father has been conned by a gold digger enrages Raven and she assumes the mantle to prove him wrong. Soon finding herself attracted to Greg, Raven is certain he is incapable of feeling anything deeper than the lust he makes no effort to hide. Even if she is wrong about him, she can’t extricate herself from her pretence and she’s afraid he could never forgive her deception, her lies. She was his father’s fiancée, wasn’t she? Greg discovers Raven’s subterfuge within days of her arrival. His initial enjoyment of her antics quickly palls as his feelings for her deepen. Desperate to bring her lies into the open he manoeuvres her into a situation where she’ll be forced to own up, only to have his scheme back fire. But Raven has other secrets. Secrets that could drive Greg away, forever. Print versions are selling for $US13.99 while digital is $US6.75.  Click HERE to order
  • Devon’s Dream – Anne Hine nee Ashby Time reveals all secrets. Single mum Devon fled Auckland as a pregnant teenager and made a life for herself and her daughter, Trix, in Australia. With her musical career blossoming their future is set. But a car accident while visiting Auckland puts Devon in intensive care and she awakens to learn she has sent Trix to her father.
    Ignorant of Trix’s existence, widowed Rick is bewildered and angry at losing twelve years of his daughter’s life. He will not be denied another day away from Trix. Trix loves being part of an extended family. To her mother’s consternation she tricks Devon into accepting an invitation to stay at Rick’s house after release from hospital but will her plan work? Could her scheming bring her parents together? Print versions are selling for $US13.99 while digital is $US6.50 for Devon’s Dream. Click HERE to order
  • Throw me a Line – Chris Carl ‘Throw me a Line’ was published in 2002. It outlines his career, with amusing incidents, some history and how he survived some difficult situations and the transition to civilian life. Initially sold through Whitcoulls, and also by Christopher visiting clubs and service organisations, it has sold 750 copies through 4 printings. Christopher had a 36 year career in the RNZN, he retired in 1987 to become a rural lifestyle block owner and dog kennel proprietor for 15 years. He is presently retired, living in Taupo and involved with the hospice, RNZN Association, RSA and local body politics
  • Left hand down a Bit – Jack Harker A little trawler that played a big part in the lives of New Zealanders pre-war and wartime naval reservists. HMS trawler Wakakura, purchased from the Royal Navy scrap heap to be a training ship, also left an impression on various wharves and a couple of other ships as she roamed from port to port around NZ instructing young would-be sailors in naval procedures. Primitive she might have been, and uncomfortable. But there was genuine affection for the unlikely warship.
  • All at Sea – Jack Harker – All at Sea is the fascinating life-story of naval sailor and radio operator Jack Harker.  He tells the story of his long and eventful life. Born in 1916 in Govenors Bay, his mother died in the 1918 influenza epidemic, and he survived an alcoholic stepmother and a lively childhood of getting into and out of trouble in Christchurch, to sign on as a trainee radio operator with the NZ navy. He served on a number of ships, as well as Leander and Achilles, which both saw active service in WWII. After leaving the navy, he worked in a variety of occupations, including farming in Northland, and for the NZBC, before settling on civil engineering. In 1972, he was part of the Greenpeace protest fleet sailing to Mururoa on the yacht Tamure, with Maurice Shadbolt.
  • HMNZS Achilles – Jack Harker The Battle of the River Plate is considered today to be the first major naval battle of World War 11.and still to today the largest naval battle of the South Atlantic. Just after the battle in December 1939, one of the three ships involved with the attack on the German Pocket Battle-ship, the “Graf Spee” victorious the Achilles, returned to a heroes welcome in Auckland, she arrived home Feb 1940. Queen St turned on a Victory parade for the ship and crew, later in the day a reception was held at the Auckland town Hall.
  • Almost HMNZS Neptune – Jack Harker The story of the ship Neptune, launched in peacetime, her work during WWII, refitting to become part of the NZ Navy, and her demise in a minefield off Tripoli whilst diverted en route to NZ. Only one of her 750 strong crew survived. He spent 15 months in a POW camp before being returned to England and sent back to sea by the Royal Navy
  • Soldier, Sailor, Priest – Jack Harker This is the biography of the late Padre Robson, representing a significant era in church and military history in New Zealand. Rev Robson served as a priest in Anglican rural home mission stations and parishes, as Chaplain to the New Zealand Territorial Forces (1917 – 1919). Following the First World War he returned to Parish life, serving in St Mary’s Hokianga and then St Johns Te Awamutu. He was Senior Chaplain Royal New Zealand Navy (1927 – 1948) and as the Navy Base Chaplain he was called upon for duty in all three services before the second World War. He was awarded the OBE in 1940. An infinitely patient man, deeply versed in service life and in the knowledge of men, he worked widely among naval people and their families during World War II.
  • The Birth and Growth of the RNZN – Jack Harker
  • The Rockies – Jack Harker A factual history about some of New Zealand minesweepers and their ship’s companies including Kiwi and Moa. The author gives an account of a perilous attack by the two minesweepers on a Japanese submarine in 1943 which is highlighted in the cover painting.
  • Well Done Leander – Jack Harker With maps and illustrations, the life of this New Zealand cruiser, especially in the Pacific against the Japanese.
  • North Sea Warrior – Gerry Wright Jim Macdonald was the most highly decorated New Zealand naval officer of World War II. He joined the Naval Reserve in 1938 as a 16 year old ordinary seaman. Sent to England he was promoted to officer rank and soon earned his first bravery award. He became the youngest man to command a Royal Navy warship and by 23 years of age was in command of a flotilla of torpedo boats. This is his story. (Email $25 plus $5 P&P)
  • A War by StealthGerry Wright Gerry Wright discovered Wally, as we know him, while researching someone else and became intrigued by his story. On the outbreak of World War 2 Walter Drake DSC volunteered to join the Army. From guard duty in Wellington he joined the Navy, travelled to England, served in the Battle of the Atlantic and was promoted to officer rank before joining Coastal Forces based in Felixstowe. There, Wally joined a Fairmile Motor Launch involved in laying mines off the enemy coast. Wally later led this team. This unsung group, with strict orders to ‘make smoke and run on meeting the enemy,’ probably caused more damage to the German war effort than any other similar sized unit. This is Wally’s story. (Email $25 plus $5 P&P)
  • Mururoa Protest – Gerry Wright The story of the 1973 Kirk government’s protest against the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere in French Polynesia by the French. The government sent two frigates and a Cabinet Minister, supported by an Australian naval tanker, to make this protest. The story includes many aspects never revealed before. The author was part of that operation and has written two other naval historical books. (Email $25 plus $5 P&P)
  • We Were There – Gerry Wright This story has been compiled mainly for the benefit of those who served in HMNZ Ships Pukaki and Rotoiti during Operation Grapple and their descendants as a record of thier service. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the first of nine British nuclear weapon tests off Christmas Island in 1957. This is not the story of nuclear bombs but the story of those who served in Pukaki and Rotoiti during their weather reporting deployments for Operation Grapple in 1957-58. I am very grateful to those who have contributed – it is their story. (Email $25 plus $5 P&P)
  • A Kiwi on Our Funnel – Gerry Wright ‘A Kiwi on Our Funnel’ The story of two small ships manned by the Royal New Zealand Navy during ‘Confrontation’ – an undeclared war between Indonesia and Malaysia in 1965-66. The book includes several maps and action photographs. (Email $25 plus $5 P&P)

Other Authors

  • Gunner Billy – Grant Howard “Gunner Billy” is a book about Lieutenant Commander William Sanders, VC, DSO, RN. William Sanders is the only New Zealander to have won the Victoria Cross while serving in the Navy. William Sanders was in Command of British ‘Q Ship’ HMS Prize – an armed ship disguised as an ‘innocent merchant vessel’ to trap German U-boats during World War One. Available Royal NZ Navy Museum
  • Service from the Sea – Kelly Ana Morey As a nation New Zealand has always been bound to the sea. From our earliest beginnings the sea has brought to us our peoples, our food and out wealth, and we have sought to protect out shores and those of our allies through out knowledge and skills as a seafaring people. This is the story of the New Zealand Navy, of the courageous men and women who have helped build our country with their service form the sea. Form a ditty bow to an artillery pouch; from ships’ cats to weapons and medials, this story is told through the collections of the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum. The fascinating personal mementoes and artefacts from New Zealand’s naval history tell of courage, sacrifice and friendship and, above all, of the dedication of those who serve. Available Royal NZ Navy Museum
  • Warrior Nation – John Thomson  “This is the story of heroes- of soldiers, sailors and airmen who left New Zealand to do battle as front-line warriors. It is the story of New Zealand’s rich record of loyalty, courage and sacrifice that built the confidence of a young nation. John Thomson’s gripping account covers a century of conflict, from the guerilla warfare in South Africa to the bloody disasters at Gallipoli, Passchendale, Crete and Cassino, victories in the air over Europe and success in North Africa, Asia and the Pacific. In the first fifty years of the century New Zealand servicemen fought three times in foreign lands in response to calls from Britain. In the second fifty years young New Zealanders served as peacekeepers in trouble-spots around the world.”

16 Responses to Books written by Sailors

  1. Dave Neil says:

    Don’t forget the late Maurie Hayman’s book – title escapes me at present but will check with the Riverton Public library as they have a copy.

  2. Dave Neil says:

    Book is titled “Overstayer”. Have sent you an e mail with personal contact details
    if you want to try for a copy

  3. Frank Rands says:

    I don’t know if this the right place to mention it but..have started reading a book by Miles Dalrymple, called “The Long Engagement”. Am halfway thru it and I’m glad I joined when I did. This is a very good read about life from the lower deck perspective
    and there are a ton of laughs as well. Brian Henman

    • michael catlow says:

      I have bought this book as well and just finished it – a good read and certainly not PC but a load of fun reading all the same

  4. gunther says:

    how does one get a copy of ian bradleys “dont rock the boat”

  5. gunther says:

    Rgr tks for that frank. I am tracking it down as I type..
    have a great xmas..(the last in her “great little navy”)

    • Peter Mitchell says:

      I received my copy of Ian Bradely’s Don’t rock the Boat, direct from Ian on the 6th of June 2015. The day before he went to New York and died in the states on the 20th of June. I am half way through this magnificant written book.

      Peter Mitchell

  6. John Titmus says:

    I have just finished reading a couple of Gerry Wrights, they are very good and I have enjoyed them all. I now come the point of my posting.
    I always held Arthur Venus in the highest esteem and thought his character was beyond reproach (still actually believe that) however when I was reading “We were there” Operation Grapple I got to page 224 guess what I found
    QUOTE: In the Senior Rates Mess there was a tight group comprised of Yeoman Arthur Venus, PO Electrician Austin Jones, POs Jock Peacock and Ken Pritchard. They went ashore on Monday 15 Sep to celebrate Arthur Venus’s coming 30th Birthday. Somehow Arther got mislaid and spent the night asleep on the beach under the stars. Appearing before his Captain the next morning Arther was awarded two weeks stoppage of leave for being absent without leave. The frigate was expected to be at sea for the coming fortnight so the punishment was taken with a smile.
    Not sure when it was but stoppage of leave was changed in later years to reflect only those days in port, that would have wiped the smile off Arthurs face.

    Suppose it does prove that even Arthur is human

  7. Geoff Brindle says:

    Your list should include “The White Ensign in NZ” by J.O’C Ross printed 1967 by Reed

  8. JohnC says:

    Ian Bradley was not “relieved of his command without warning or explanation”. The circumstances were very clear. He may not have agreed with the command’s decision, but lying about what happened doesn’t help his cause.

  9. Don Norman (formerly Kirk) NZ15020 says:

    Miles Dalrymple’s ‘The Long Engagement’ is a graphic description of the life of a Seaman Boy/Boy Telegraphist in the early 1950s – I know because I was there, too. Our 30th Boys class was the usual mix fun and fantasy of 15 and 16 year olds leaving home for the first great adventure. Miles encapsulates all of this and the ruggedness and challenges of the ‘Rock’, Tamaki. Miles is still about but hard to find.

  10. Vicky 'Rets' says:

    Anyone know if you can still get Morse code & snowflakes? Have asked at the museum but no luck so far

  11. Hi. One on trade right now

  12. One on trademe right now.

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