Geoffrey Searle, 1994. At Sea Level. The Book Guild Ltd.
Geoffrey Searle’s account of his time in command of HDMLs and Fairmile B MLs deserves to be far better well known than it is. In it, Searle gives us a thoroughly readable account of his service in the Mediterranean and later, in home waters. He was not short of action, being involved in the sea flank of the battle of North Africa, the disastrous Aegean Campaign (the bulk of the book), D-Day and Walcheren, before aiding in the occupation of Denmark at the end of the war.
Away from the glamour of MTBs and MGBs, Searle gives a detailed account of patrol work, clandestine operations, escort duty and the vital task of guiding the invasion fleet to the beaches of Normandy. As well as recounting his boats’ roles in these operations, Searle gives a good account of life aboard, the struggles of recognition in the small service and the ingenuity of the crews, dockyards and commanders.
He also gives an honest account of himself in that time, his personal life and the difficulties of separation from his new wife, and his own internal fears, both of war and his ability to continue it.
This frankness, seen on other books like Night Action and Motor Gunboat 658, are what make memoirs so much more readable. This is not a sterile trip through a man’s career, but a moving tribute to his role in the war. If you buy any account of MLs in the war, make it this one.
© Spitfires of the Sea