Nicholas Monsarrat was famous as the author of 'The Cruel Sea'. He was also responsible for another book that I found far more interesting. This was 'Three Corvettes' which is the story of his wartime service in corvettes. There's one particular story in it that often comes to mind.
Minesweeping in WW2 has a risky business. A small boat trailed a sweep behind it hoping to snag mines. As it had to be in front of the sweep to tow it there was every chance that a mine might be inconsiderate enough to contact the boat rather than the sweep, with fatal consquences. Monsarrat recalls watching a minesweeper toiling along when a mine was touched off. He saw the boat disappear in a huge column of water and was very relieved to see it emerge unharmed, if rather the damper, from the other side.
Naval officers in WW2 liked to send signals. It was necessary practise for the signallers anyhow, and, with Noel Coward films in mind, there was a great fondness for displaying calm imperturbalility and wit. So Monsarrat signalled to the minesweeper 'that was a big one'.
The skipper of the minesweeper was clearly Oscar material. His reply to Monsarrat outscores Nelson in my book.
His reply was: 'what was?'.
Which bring me to the fact that I'm still making very slow progress and nothing much to report.