Brock Martin’s SIDE LAUNCH follows the wartime experience of the Captain of the corvette HMCS Collingwood, Ian Thompson, who is tasked with protecting vital Allied convoys from German U-Boats, trying to cut off trade to the United Kingdom. Along with his sweetheart and friend Kate Andrews–an electrical engineer determined to use her skills and talents, and those of the Wrens she commands–they are trying to find new ways to protect ships at sea. Kate and Ian are both likeable, intelligent, capable characters, introduced by Kate’s brother and Ian’s friend, Robbie. The pair work well together and have a solid basis for a romantic relationship, rooted in mutual respect and love. We are given both their perspectives – plus, on occasion, even that of the Nazi Admiral Donitz – in order to have a wider view of the war in the North Atlantic, present both at deadly sea battles and administrative and technical discussions. We see Ian’s frustration at the helplessness of the corvettes, in large part, to protect the convoys they are tasked to guard from the hidden submarines, and Kate’s need to persuade others to take her seriously as a female engineer before she can even begin to do the work she needs to do to help the war effort. We also see the affectionate, brotherly camaraderie among Ian’s crew – especially with respect to the ship’s most important crew member, Smokey the cat — and the sisterly, supportive cooperation of Kate’s Wrens, especially her closest friend Barb.
The courage and strength of those who fought the war, both at sea and on land, is clearly visible here, along with the humor, playfulness, and mutual support that kept people going in difficult times. The battles themselves are described in direct, straightforward sentences without much commentary, almost as if they were being reported on by a newspaper reporter in real time. This is helpful in that it gives readers a clear, play-by-play account of what’s going on – on the other hand, it can be somewhat dry in tone, taking away from the emotional force of the events as they occur. There’s a lot of explanation and explication in this book, which is very useful for those interested in the historical events and for understanding what happened, but in places it is enough to distract from the immediacy and power of the story itself. Still, for those with an interest in military history, particularly in naval history, this is an intriguing, intimate look at what it was like to fight an invisible, deadly enemy in the cold stormy waters of the North Atlantic in World War II.
Brock Martin’s SIDE LAUNCH gives a close-up and dramatic view of the struggle against the U-Boat menace in the North Atlantic WWII, bringing the reader directly into the action both at sea and on land.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader