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My War at Sea 1914–1916: A Captain’s Life in the Royal Navy during the First World War by Heathcoat S. Grant.
For anyone interested in the war at sea during the First World War (WW1), Grant provides a highly readable insider’s view of the action at Coronel, the Battle of the Falklands and the attempt to force the Dardanelles.
When researching material for the explanatory notes to accompany War Letters 1914–1918, Vol. 2, based on the letters of Philip Malet de Carteret, a 16-year-old midshipman on HMS Canopus during the First World War, I came across a series of seven articles from 1923–1924 in the Naval Review written by Heathcoat S. Grant, the captain of the Canopus between 1914–1916.
With the generous permission of the Naval Review, I have brought together all of Grant’s articles and reproduced them in a single volume to make them more easily accessible. I have also added the account given by Commander Philip J. Stopford of the Canopus which also appeared in the Naval Review.
For the first two years of the war the Canopus had as eventful a time as any ship in the Royal Navy, being involved at Coronel, the Battle of the Falklands and the attempt to force the Dardanelles.
As captain of the ship, Grant’s account, based on his service reports and diary, is a valuable source for those wanting to know more about such key naval events of the First World War. It has the added advantage of being highly readable.
The report of his conversations with Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock sheds a valuable light on events at Coronel, while his description of the measures taken on land to defend the Falkland Islands details an important aspect of the battle often overlooked in accounts which focus primarily on the battle at sea.
The Canopus also played a critical role at the Dardanelles, getting further up the Straits than any other Allied ship, and Grant’s sceptical perspective from inside the higher echelons of the Royal Navy adds further grist, if more were needed, to critics of the campaign. Later his account of the role of the navy in the Smyrna patrol and the subsequent operations against the Turkish coast following the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula provide a fascinating view into this frequently forgotten aspect of the conflict.
Stopford’s account is much shorter and considerably less interesting than Grant’s, but it does offer some additional insights.
There are no notes to accompany the accounts given by Grant and Stopford, and therefore a some prior knowledge of the events mentioned is useful. For those wanting to know more, there are extensive notes to accompany the letters of Philip Malet de Carteret in War Letters 1914–1918, Vol. 2.
The specific references made in War Letters 1914–1918, Vol.2 to the writing of Grant and Stopford can be found by following the links in appendix nine of My War at Sea.