By Author / Illustrator
Tom Palmer, Tom Clohosy Cole
Barrington Stoke Ltd
Paperback / softback
Multi-award-winning author Tom Palmer returns with a thrilling naval adventure inspired by the incredible history of the Second World War Arctic convoys.
Winter 1943. Teenagers Frank, Joseph and Stephen are Royal Navy recruits on their first mission at sea during the Second World War. Their ship is part of an Arctic Convoy sailing to Russia to deliver supplies to the Soviets. The convoys have to navigate treacherous waters, sailing through a narrow channel between the Arctic ice pack and German bases on the Norwegian coast. Faced with terrifying enemy attacks from both air and sea, as well as life-threatening cold and storms, will all three boys make it home again?
Teenagers Frank, Joseph and Stephen have been friends since their schooldays. Now they are Royal Navy recruits and, as the story starts, are on their first mission at sea during the Second World War. Their ship is part of an Arctic Convoy and they are on their way to Russia to deliver vital supplies to the Soviets.
Told over three convoy voyages and based on true events, this is a meticulously researched tale of friendship, sacrifice and bravery. The three main characters are beautifully written. Stephen is the joker of the pack, Joseph the idealistic grammar school boy who longs to see Russia and learn how its people live, and Frank, who tells the majority of the story. The author does not shy away from showing the horror and brutality of war. One particularly moving section of the book occurs when Stephen is jokingly describing to his friends the ten ways they could be killed. This is written in a light hearted way, but the reader is left in no doubt of the truth which lies beneath Stephen's flippant words.
The descriptions of life on board ship and the dangerous weather conditions are so well described you can almost feel the icy water whipping at your face as you read! There is much historical detail contained within the book but it is seamlessly incorporated into the storyline and the whole novel flows along at a fast pace. There is a brief respite when Frank has some shore leave, before he is posted to HMS Belfast and heads towards a dramatic confrontation with the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst.
The last section of the story covers the battle between the Royal Navy ships and the Scharnhorst, and is a masterful and exciting piece of writing. The author brilliantly describes the action, talking of shells raining down, and the sky appearing to be on fire. The book ends on a sombre note as the relief of the British crews, who have won a great victory, soon fades as they realise how many German sailors have perished in the freezing sea.
The author provides information about the Arctic Star medal awarded to the men who served on the convoys, and a very moving personal account from one of the British sailors who was on HMS Belfast during the battle. Information on HMS Belfast itself is also included. Tom Palmer is a very important writer; he has a real knack of bringing history to life in an incredibly readable fashion. This is an engaging, exciting and thought-provoking book, which can be highly recommended.
208 pages / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+