The Cruise of Naromis: August in the Baltic 1939
This is far from a straightforward cruise log: part diary, part biography, part naval history. The timing may be unique: having sailed up the German coast and passed through the Kiel Canal, the heroine ends her three-week voyage at Grimsby on Saturday 2nd September 1939, the day before the Second World War began.
Lt.-Cdr. Jones’ call-up papers were waiting for him and he wrote his account of exploring the Baltic with four friends two years later while serving on the West Africa Station at Freetown. After a successful war as an RNVR officer, he became a boat builder on his beloved River Deben and, in retirement, the owner of Arthur Ransome’s Peter Duck.
Naromis was a traditional gentleman’s motor cruiser designed by Higley Halliday, a prominent engineer and naval architect and founding member of the Club. The text is illuminated with a lines drawing supplied by Colin Davis, now a Club member and keen student of Halliday’s works; there are also photographs from the cruise, some of which were passed to the Director of Naval Intelligence at the beginning of George Jones’ service. His daughter Julia, a well-known author, has done an excellent job of rounding off the story with both family background material and the wider historical context.
All of this, though, misses the crucial point, which is the narrative tension created by the political atmosphere. Ominous news headlines stand in stark contrast to the homely vignettes which are the stuff of a foreign cruise: Germany and Russia sign a Non-Aggression Pact while it rains in the Skagerrak; German youths sing the Horst Wessel Lied while a Danish grocer digs for potatoes in the dark to keep the British lads fed. This short but enthralling book is a worthy successor to The Riddle of the Sands. An overstatement? Read it and judge for yourself.
Reviewed by: Ian Stewart, January 2017