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Book Review


RADIO Officers in merchant ships, especially in times of war, held privileged positions as they were often privy to highly confidential communications between ship and shore and ship to ship. These diaries are written by a Marconi radioman who served throughout the Second World War: during most of the hostilities he sailed in the BI ships Indora, Sir Harvey Adamson and Warina.

Canadian by nationality and in his professional training, Alan Patterson adapted to a life in BI quite different to the one he had left in Canada in 1938 and the Great Lakes' steamers in which he was apprenticed. The diary is full of his experiences in the East, particularly in India and Burma, and his ships and shipmates. Accounts of life on board are interspersed with entries of trips ashore, sightseeing, hunting, photographing and 'rag chewing' with colleagues, mainly in India, Ceylon and Burma. As the diary progresses it becomes, sadly, less detailed, more generalised and contains fewer entries. This is unfortunate because the interesting war years pass at ever greater speed until the whole of 1943 is covered in just six pages. Nevertheless, there are some interesting episodes. Among these were the four months Warina endured in Trincomalee, a particularly 'hot' place to be in a naval supply auxiliary in 1942, as the navy and merchant ships assembled there were subjected to constant Japanese bombardment. Despite the hostilities and the ever-present threat of being over-run by the Japanese, though, it is clear merchant seaman still took all the opportunities they could to get ashore and experience life in the countries they visited. Patterson left Warina in July 1944 and the sea altogether at the end of 1945. Despite his position as Marconi sahib and the access that gave to communications, the book contains surprisingly few accounts or even references to his professional life on board, especially in BI and the war years. On the other hand, the book, edited by his daughter, will evoke many memories for old Burma, India and Coast hands.

The softback volume contains a number of monochrome snaps from Patterson's collection but they are produced at extremely small sizes as screened half-tones, rendering most details almost impossible to see.

Radio Man - Marconi Sahib edited by Mahrie Locket, published by iUniverse, Lincoln, US, 2007. (ISBN 978-0-595-47022-8). A5 softback, pp214 with half-tone illlustrations and photographs. $18.95 (US). (Available through Amazon).

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