Grieve not, but try again

N.A.M. Rodger

  • BuyThe Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 by Peter Hennessy and James Jinks
    Allen Lane, 823 pp, £12.99, June 2016, ISBN 978 1 84614 580 3

Warships are built for war, but not only for war. They have always had an eloquent symbolic value as expressions of power, wealth and resolve, as instruments of threat or reassurance. They speak this language in peacetime just as much as in war. But ‘language’ should really be in the plural. Different kinds of warship convey different meanings, in different languages, and the languages are not easy to translate. This applies to all warships, but especially to submarines. The range of ideas and associations linked with German submarines, for example, in the period of the two world wars and since, were not the same inside Germany as outside. For many episodes of Anglo-German submarine history there are at least three versions of the narrative: the British, the German and what actually happened.

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