It gives me great pleasure to welcome Lucinda Neall to the blog today. Lucinda is the daughter of Michael MccGwire who was a midshipman in 1942 and served on the H.M.S Rodney during Operation Pedestal. He later went on to have a distinguished career as an academic after serving in the Royal Navy. Lucinda is a writer, coach, communications guru and mostly recently a publisher with her own press, Leaping Boy Press. Their latest book is A Midshipman’s Tale so I asked Lucinda if she could tell me about the process of transforming her father’s Journal into a book.
At what point and why did you consider making this available as a book?
In 2004 when he was eighty-four Dad was reminiscing about his life at sea and he found his journal and typed up the parts which were about Operation Pedestal, the four days which he spent with the convoy en route to Malta. He typed it up properly with annotations and footnotes (he was an academic after his naval career) and sent it to me and my brothers and sisters. As far as he was concerned the job was done once he’d completed the typescript.
Some years later and during a regular visit to see her parents Lucinda and her husband Peter spotted the original Midshipman’s Journal on a table. They both read it from cover to cover. It provides a moment by moment account of the convoy, as seen through the eyes of a seventeen year-old midshipman, and is illustrated with hand-drawn maps.
Lucinda says ‘in the meantime I’d become a publisher, with my books about bringing up boys and I’d published the books which my Mum wrote for us as children, so I was in a position to do something for Dad. I wanted to do it properly and originally intended to do this while he was still alive but with his health failing that was not to be.
So what gave you the final impetus to publish the book?
Lucinda says ‘Dad died in March 2016 and I had so many emails and messages from people about how much they had respected and looked up to Dad. Many were from people who were much younger than him which made me understand how many people he’d mentored and supported. Publishing his book felt like giving them a gift.’
|H.M.S. Eagle 11th August 1942
I was grateful to Lucinda and her Dad for letting me read his journal shortly after my book, Convoy, was published and while he was still fit and well. We had a telephone conversation about the Operation Pedestal convoy during which he explained to me how paravanes worked. He was self deprecating about his journal which he said were ‘two a penny’ as every midshipman had to write one. I had no doubt that he put far more work into his and was a better writer than many of his fellow seamen.
One of my favourite parts of the journal was from the afternoon of August 11th when they’d just settled down to enjoy the lovely weather. He writes
” Glancing idly round the convoy, I noticed that the Eagle was making rather a lot of smoke and was about to add a caustic comment when it seemed to me that she was taking a list to port. And so she was. While we watched she gradually heeled over until her flight deck was awash and then she paused before finally subsiding beneath the sea 4 mins 17 secs after she was hit. ….
This event sobered up the ship [Rodney] most noticeably.”
Was the process of getting the journal into print straight-foward?
Lucinda – Well I wasn’t actually sure if I was allowed to publish the contents of the journal as technically it belonged to the Ministry of Defence. It should have been handed in at the end of his training but, for reasons which are in the book. it wasn’t. I asked the advice of Sir Derek Thomas who knew Dad from when they worked at the British Embassy in Moscow, who put me in touch with the Archives Collections Officer at the National Royal Navy Museum.I sent some scanned pages from the journal and eventually received the message
This is just to confirm I have heard from the records review team. There is absolutely no issue with publishing any of this material.
I also wanted to include Dad’s drawings and had invaluable help from Deborah Hawkins and Rebecca Chapman who assisted me with the graphics and helped make it stunning. And Professor Eric Grove, naval historian, agreed to write a historical context for the journal.
Editor’s note – it is as close as you can get to holding the original journal and the cover has the hand-drawn map of the route of the convoy, together with little drawings of whales and winds.
Who is the audience for the book?
Anyone with an interest in the Second World War and its naval history. It also gives you a picture of what it was like to be a seventeen year old in 1942 and it is about real people and their experiences, emotions and thoughts.
Where can people buy it?
Via the links on the book’s page, to Hive, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Waterstones.