Leonard Reynolds, 1955. Motor Gunboat 658. Cassell.
Leonard Reynolds served on Motor Gun Boat 658 from the moment of its commissioning until the end of the war. In his memoirs of those years he gives us perhaps one of the best accounts of service on Fairmile Ds that there is.
His story takes us from the date of his commission as a midshipman to the end of hostilities, a period in which he took part in many actions. Between 1943 and 1945, Reynolds served on 658 in the Mediterranean theatre, initially around Malta, Sicily and Corsica and then into the Aegean. The two years also saw him rise from midshipman to the CO of the gun boat.
Any account of Coastal Forces is bound to have a good story, but to be a truly good book it needs to be told well. Reynolds truly succeeds here, giving us a gripping narrative full of action, drama, tragedy and humour. His story and style put most fictional accounts of the war in the shade and, given that those novels rely on their storytelling, why bother reading fiction when you can read a true account?
This excellent account is doubtless what led the Imperial War Museum to ask Reynolds to write the three volume history of Coastal Forces in the 1990s. If you ever want to read a book about Dog Boats and men’s service on the the slightly larger ‘little ships’, make it this one.
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