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In Action with the Destroyers 1939 - 1945: The Wartime Memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN

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In Action with the Destroyers 1939-1945: The Wartime Memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN


Edited by Anthony Cumming

Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2017

16 x 24 cm format, hardback, 208 pages

30 B&W photos, end notes, bibliography, sources.

MSRP £19.99

ISBN: 978 1 52671 849 5




Summary: An enjoyable memoir.


One could scarcely find a better man than Alec Dennis to write up an overview of life at sea in the Royal Navy during World War II. Dennis‘s memoir In Action with the Destroyers is a refreshingly brisk telling of his time served in destroyers, written in an engaging style and sprinkled with bits of characteristic British humor in the face of adversity. Interwoven with his terse accounts of his ships in action, Dennis gives wonderful insights into the tedium of wartime routines, the hazards of sailing in hazardous weather while under constant threat of danger, and snapshots of time ashore in virtually every far-flung corner of the British Empire.


Dennis served in destroyers for the duration of the war, and he experienced a lot of action at sea: Arctic convoys, the evacuations of Greece and Crete, and numerous battles including Cape Matapan, North Cape, the taking of Diego Suarez, and Operation Overlord, just to name a few. He was aboard the G-class destroyer HMS Griffin when war broke out in 1939, and he stayed with her until 1943 – nearly four years. During those four years, Dennis observed first-hand some of the darkest days of the RN, when the service was stretched to its limits against threats from the combined might of the surface and aerial units of Germany and Italy. He was also around, happily, to observe the changing of the tide as Britain improved its tactics, weapons, and ships, gradually wearing down her adversaries. The gradual changeover from continuous defense to unrelenting offense can be seen, for instance, in Dennis’s starkly contrasting descriptions of the harrowing actions around Crete in May 1941 with the anticlimactic response of the Germans to Overlord three years later.


In 1943, Dennis transferred to the S-class destroyer HMS Savage. Highlights from this period include the ship’s encounter with DKM Scharnhorst at North Cape, screening the invasion fleet for Overlord, and accepting the surrender of German forces at Kristiansand in Norway, where Dennis had the opportunity to examine some of the newest Type XXI and XXIII U-boats.


In June of 1945, Dennis was given command of the Hunt-class destroyer HMS Tetcott. Scheduled to deploy to the Far East, Tetcott was still refitting at Gibraltar when the war ended, bringing Dennis’s naval career to a close as well. As readers, we can be thankful that he both survived the war, when so many did not, and that he subsequently proved to be a gifted writer. His book, coupled with editor Anthony Cumming’s included historical notes, also serves as a good overview of the RN’s actions throughout the conflict. In Action with the Destroyers is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the history of the RN during WWII.



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