Tony Beasley had a long career in the Royal Navy, where he started out at the very bottom with little prospect of a stunning life on the ocean wave, given he had what was deemed a poor education.
He wasn’t one to give up and was able to convince his superiors he was capable of training as a telegraphist. From there he progressed to become an expert radar operator.
His story veers from being a kid with folksy memories of wartime Britain to the delights of life on the elderly training ship Arethusa where had suffered health problems which could have scuppered his career choice.
From there he joined the Royal Navy and from then on, his saga rattles along to a bitter conclusion.
Mr Beasley provided a lot of detail of life serving in a post WWII Royal Navy recovering from the trials of achieving victory over the Axis Powers.
He spends all his time on the more modest ships of the fleet; but he has a number of adventures as he progresses into the specialised and secretive world of radar technology.
The fulcrum of this story should not and will not be spoiled by my review. Suffice to say our hero takes part in a secretive mission aboard the submarine HMS Turpin to monitor the Soviet fleet and there is quite a bit of drama involved.
Mr Beasley received an injury in the process, but his diligence was vital to the outcome of the mission described here.
And then the fun starts…. Not. Mr Beasley was then involved in a sorry episode at the end of his career, serving on a brand-new destroyer which was not a happy ship.
A sequence of events led to his rapid departure from the Senior Service and there followed the great deal of time he spent seeking a fair pension and recognition of the injury he suffered on Her Majesty’s service.
The lengths he had to go to are a classic example of the awful world of cold-hearted bureaucracy that blights the way some countries treat armed forces veterans.
But there is more to it in this case. Because Mr Beasley had been involved in covert work the relevant authority was able to deny his participation for the very reason the work was not recorded on his official records even though it was well known he was definitely part of the operation.
The churlish penny-pinching nature of it all is stark and incredibly insulting when we consider how much money drains away on defence contracts each year. There are other seemly minor but significant insults.
Mr Beasley received a submariner’s dolphins clasp he wasn’t allowed to wear on his uniform and was denied a medal he deserved.
This sorry episode leaves a nasty taste at the end of an otherwise commendable story.
Despite the rotten ending this is a nice book filled with amusing reminiscences and a lot of detail about radar work – ELINT and all that gubbins.
I came away from it feeling quite aggrieved for Tony Beasley. He is a good solid bloke who served his country with diligence. Sadly, his loyalty and professionalism were not reciprocated. The word I have in mind is bastards
.If you are interested in the Royal Navy or even Cold War history, there is stuff here to help expand your knowledge. There is even a bit about Sputnik which I found particularly fascinating.
This is the kind of book that provides the footnotes we find in more grand tomes and it is, in its own way, quite an important read. I’ve enjoyed reading it on my commute into London.
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Writer Edward Couzens-Lake has done a good job of assisting Mr Beasley with his story and, all in all, I am really pleased to have seen this book insofar as events up until the civil servants got involved. Then I just got angry. If that was the authors’ plan, it worked!
BENEATH THE RESTLESS WAVE
Memoirs of a Cold War Submariner
By Tony Beasley & Edward Couzens-Lake
ISBN: 978 1 61200 840 0
Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online