Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen (Blackheath) and Scott (Glebe), our secondhand managers, every month here as they takes a closer look at a couple of titles from their shelves.

March 2020

Gleebooks Bookshop - Tuesday, March 03, 2020
We have recently acquired a large collection of WW2 military titles. They are predominately books describing major air and naval battles. As the generation that fought this conflict now pass from living memory, these accounts—many are paperback editions from the 1970s and 1980s of titles published 15 or 20 years earlier and many long out of print—assume greater importance as an historical record. Here are two. These paperbacks are in Very Good condition considering they are over 40 years old. The edges are browned but the spines are uncreased. They are intact and readable. Part of a library cared for over a lifetime.


The Mighty Hood by Ernle Bradford
The Hood fired first. She was followed a second later by The Bismarck, and then by The Prince of Wales at a range of 25,000 yards (24 kms) …Now all about the ships, the sea broke into high shouting pillars of foam. The roar and thunder of the guns, the scream of approaching shells, the harsh clang as steel splinters struck home, the smell of burnt cordite, all these combined in the blinding moment of battle.
5.52 am, 24 May 1941. The opening moments of the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Some eight minutes later, at a range of 16,500 yards (15 kms), The Hood exploded in a pillar of fire a thousand feet high. A shell from The Bismarck had stuck the ship’s magazine. She sank in two minutes. Of her crew of 1,418 only three survived. Naval officer, yachtsman, and prolific author Ernle Bradford (1922–1986) recounts the twenty-year life (and death) of The British Navy’s flagship and last battlecruiser, in this moving and dramatic book. $20


Abandon Ship! The Death of the USS Indianapolis by Richard F. Newcomb, $15
The story told here is not a happy one and no official navy imprimatur will be found upon it. Nevertheless, the events related did occur, and I have tried to tell them with accuracy and equity. If this account is unworthy, the responsibility is mine.
Just after midnight on 30 July 1945, in the Philippine Sea en route to Guam, the heavy cruiser USS. Indianapolis—fresh from delivering components of the atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ to Tinian Island, in the most highly classified naval mission of the war—was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in waters that the Captain, Charles McVay III, was assured by his superiors were safe. The ship sank in 12 minutes. Of the crew of 1,196 men, 300 drowned. Some 916 men abandoned ship. Over the next four days and five nights, they faced a horrifying ordeal for survival against a merciless sun and packs of sharks. Eventually, 317 were finally rescued after they were accidentally discovered by a Navy Patrol plane. Capt McVay was controversially court-martialed for ‘hazarding his ship’—the only US Captain to be so charged in wartime. The sentence was later remitted. In 1968 McVay died by his own hand. In 2000 he was posthumously exonerated by President Clinton. War correspondent Richard Newcomb (1914–2004) was the first author to interview Indianapolis survivors. He later recounted: Some people knew one part of the story and some knew another but the myth and mystery that had grown up around the case was amazing. The lack of authentic knowledge extended even into official quarters and was most affecting where it was most unexpected- among those who had suffered through it. His book—part narrative, part investigation—was also the first to cast an unsparing eye over this most notorious and tragic of US wartime naval disasters and rescue it from obscurity. The wreck of the USS Indianapolis was discovered in August 2017. As of January 2020, there are 10 living survivors of the crew.


John Masefield’s Letters From the Front 1915–1917 (20, HB)

Nothing else in the world matters but to stop this atrocious thing. Blood & intellect & life are simply notheing. Let them go like water to end this crime. You’ve no idea of it, you can’t even guess the stink of it, from the bloody old reeking stretchers to the fragments hopping on crutches, and half heads, & a leg gone at the thigh, & young boys blinded & grey headed old men with their backs broken. I never kew I loved men so much. They are a fine lot, a noble lot, I love them all. At the outbreak of WW1 John Masefield volunteered as a medical orderly for the British Red Cross.Shocked by his experiences & the apparent official unconcern he planned to create a mobile field hospital much closer to the Front. After a propaganda tour of the US to drum up medical aid he returned to France in August 1916 and was asked to write an account of the Somme campaign. These 167 letters written to his wife Constance unfold in graphic detail and with great power the march of total desecration wrought by the Great War.


 
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