By Liana Jacob
INSIGHTFUL action shots of British naval soldiers in the midst of battle during the Second World War have been released this week, as part of a new book written by a former seafarer.
Taken from his own personal archives, the vintage shots show a portrait of the author’s great-uncle Sergeant Albert ‘Nobby’ Elliot, who took part in Operation Torch in North Africa, while another shows a gun crew in action.
Further photographs show the warship HMS Hood, which was sunk by the Bismarck in May 1941, while a different shot shows the ship’s mighty guns.
A Royal Marine band is also shown onboard HMS Glory, while another picture shows the Japanese surrender aboard the same boat.
The retro pictures are compiled into a book titled The Royal Marines and the War at Sea by naval historian and former seafarer, Martin Watts (64). It is published by Amberley Publishing.
“As a former seafarer, it has taken me far too long to write about the war at sea, and it was very rewarding writing about a relative with whom I’ve spent much time when studying in Plymouth,” Martin said.
“The best part was writing about the sea and the tactical and technical analysis of the warships involved.”
Albert Elliott, also known as ‘Nobby’, took part in the British-US invasion of French North Africa known as Operation Torch, part of the North African Campaign.
Martin explains in the book that the overall strategy behind the concept of the invasion was to ‘drive all Axis forces out of North Africa, as a precursor to an invasion of Sicily and then Italy’.
“This would open up what has been termed ‘the soft underbelly of Europe’, and thereby avoid, or at least delay, the cross-Channel invasion so dreaded by Churchill and his military advisers,” he said.
“Operation Torch saw the emergence of General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander, and the establishment of an Anglo-American command system that lasted through to victory in Europe.
The invasion, which began on November 8, ended just two days later on November 10, 1942. The allies paid a heavy price, though, with 574 British soldiers, 526 American soldiers and over 1,346 French being killed in the battle.
“From a naval point of view, Torch required the deployment of what was then the largest invasion fleet in history, with some 600 vessels sailing from ports in Britain and the United States,” Martin said.
“They were tasked with landing 65,000 soldiers at three points – Casablanca, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, and Oran and Algiers, on the Mediterranean coast of Algeria.
“Ideally the main objective would have been Tunis, thus placing the western arm of the Allied pincer very much closer to Rommel’s supply base at Tripoli, but air cover from nearby Luftwaffe airfields in Sardinia and Sicily ruled this out.”
Royal Marines and the War at Sea is published by Amberley Publishing and is available here: https://www.amberley-books.com/the-royal-marines-and-the-war-at-sea-1939-1945.html