Hell and High Water by John McKay

My review below is of the previously published version of this historical fiction, based on fact, which was called: The Worst Journey in the World by John R McKay.

In December 2022 Sharpe Books re-published it (having re-edited it) as Hell and High Water by John McKay.

Riveting Read     

My rating:  5 out of 5     

An enthralling story about life on board a Royal Navy frigate escorting, and protecting, supply ships travelling to Russia.  Although this story is fiction, it is based on conditions endured during  World War 2.

The Worst Journey in the World

George Martin joins the navy at 19 years old, and finds himself on a convoy frigate  escorting and protecting supply ships travelling to Russia.  The book is narrated as told by George as he joins up, becomes a telegraphist,  and endures what Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world”. 

The whole experience of being on a ship, at war, in freezing conditions is vividly described by George, including clothing, food, living conditions, attacks by submarines and the camaraderie and loyalty of the sailors and their officers.  Particularly moving parts of the book include what it is like to be working below decks when the ship is under attack, as well as on deck.  How ice had to be removed from the decks and weapons, to save the ship from sinking, and what happened when things went wrong!

Wow, I had many gasp out loud moments reading this book.  The story is so well written, in a style I imagine George would have used, that the action and events seemed completely real.   As was the poignancy of his trips home to Liverpool and the complications of keeping in touch with the girl he loves.  The ending of the book was a real stand out moment.    

A story that I hope will be made into a film, but in the meantime I highly recommend the book.  The images formed by reading this will stay with me for a very long time.

There is a short historical note at the end of the book.

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