Some info on the author
In 1974, as a sixteen year old I joined the Royal Navy, as a Junior Radio Operator 2nd Class. After training and two years on a cruiser (although inaccurately termed ‘destroyer’ for political reasons by the R.N.), I was drafted into submarines. Apart from a short spell in Hong Kong on an ex-minesweeper involved in anti-immigration patrols; for the most part I spent the rest of my service onboard a Polaris submarine; or ashore involved in various aspects of naval communications. Having attained the rate of Leading Radio Operator (Submarines) in my early twenties, for numerous reasons I decided to leave armed service. I was in the process of doing so in the spring of 1982, when I was recalled for ‘Operation Corporate’: otherwise known as the Falklands War. Working ashore on submarine related communications and operations, I was finally released in November of that year.
Long before I had left the Royal Navy I had decided to change the path of my life inherently and do something ‘creative’ (although I also made some serious enquiries into joining the Merchant Navy as a Radio Officer). As a keen photographer it was only natural to take this further. Settling in London, while initially working for a short time in the City and then for three years at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as a Cypher Officer, I honed my skills and made business contacts.
Between 1986 and 1994 I traded as a freelance special-effects still-life photographer. By the early 1990s new electronic technology was making my hard-learned skills redundant and I had no wish to become a glorified computer operator. I experimented with fashion (having learned much from my ex-business partner) but detested and despised ‘fashion people’ even more than I did ‘advertising people’. It was time to do something else.
Already having ‘temped’ in the City previously, I earned my living for a while once again in the ‘Square Mile’. As a specialist in communications operations this was for banks, brokers, shipping companies, insurance groups and corporate lawyers.
Through links with an area of rural Wales I had already begun some purely private research into the lives of some merchant mariners (having photographed their memorials in graveyards on trips there). In time this has taken over my life and I am part way through writing a five-volume history on how the British Merchant Service was affected by the First World War. My freelance genealogical business has come directly from this, as a welcome replacement for the ‘temping’: although I still value the knowledge gained in some of these fields, being helpful in my writing. As a something of a marketing tool, I have gained a Master of Arts degree in ‘War Studies’, from King’s College, University of London. I am, however, not by any means a typical product of this course
In the past I have had a fair number of commercial articles published, such as in Your Family Tree; The Family and Local History Handbook; The Indiaman; and the (Society of) Genealogists’ Magazine. Relating to a spin off from my mercantile research I had an academic paper published in the Society of Nautical Research’s The Mariner’s Mirror in 2003, on the Germans’ first minelaying raid of the First World War. (A slightly amended version of this is now on my website.) Also, the United States Navy’s War College, at Newport, Rhode Island has used one of my papers in Strategic Studies Group Conferences to my knowledge twice. Dealing with Britain’s response to German unrestricted U-boat warfare from 1917 to 1918, this is now on my website. (Again, this is on my website.)
Through continued frustration in submitting papers to academic journals I have self-published more pieces on my First World War research as booklets. Details of these can be found elsewhere on my website.
In part deliberately, I ceased writing for the genealogical press, in order to concentrate on other matters. Apart from spending far more time on my major project, I spent almost three years involved in contemporaneous defence analysis. Although very interesting in its own way, I found that there were just as many that are pretentious and unscrupulous in this sector as in academia. Therefore, I have returned to concentrating on my own research and quite frankly, am more than happy to leave behind all the mercenaries, arms-producers, spooks, shady civil servants, amateur(ish) analysts and rest…