The Mariner's Mirror Podcast

  • WW2 Battle Convoy: HG-76

    In December 1941 HG-76 sailed from Gibraltar to Britain and was specially targeted by a wolfpack of U-boats whilst, in a rare example of German inter-service cooperation, the Luftwaffe pounced from French airfields. In Gibraltar and Spain, German intelligence agents had known every detail of HG-76 before it had even sailed.Nonetheless, the convoy fought its way through. Improved radar and sonar gave the convoy's escorts an edge over their opponents, and the escort group was led by Commander Walker, an anti-submarine expert who had developed new, aggressive U-boat hunting tactics. The convoy was also accompanied by HMS Audacity, the Royal Navy's first escort carrier – a new type of warship purpose-built to defend convoys from enemy aircraft and U-boats.Through seven days and nights of relentless attack, the convoy reached the safety of a British port for the loss of only two merchant ships. Its arrival was seen as the first real convoy victory of the war.To find out more about this, one of the most dramatic maritime stories of the Second World War, Dr Sam Willis spoke with Angus Konstam, author of a new book 'The Convoy HG-76: Taking the Fight to Hitler's U-boats' that brings the story to life.
  • Smugglers, Pirates and Terrorists: Maritime Crime and Security

    Recent conflict in the Red Sea caused by Houthi attacks on commercial shipping has brought the subject of maritime crime and security into focus. In this episode Dr Sam Willis speaks with Christian Bueger, Professor of International Relations at the University of Copenhagen, Director of the SafeSeas Network for Maritime Security and author of the important new book Understanding Maritime Security. They discuss historical perspectives on maritime crime including smuggling, pirate attacks and terrorism and highlight just how significant maritime crime and security is to the modern world with over 80% of contemporary global trade transported by sea.
  • The Dreadnought Hoax

    The Dreadnought Hoax is one of the most fantastical events of all naval and maritime history. In 1910 four white English people – three men and one woman – pretended to be members of the Abyssinian royal family, complete with black face make up, false beards and magnificent robes, and were given a tour of HMS Dreadnought, the most powerful battleship ever built, the pride of the Royal Navy and the pride of the British Empire. The hoax worked like a dream. No-one suspected a thing. Even more remarkable, one of those people was none other than the young Virgina Woolf, yet to be married and take the name of Woolf and yet to amaze with world with her intellect and literary skill. It is a story that touches on questions of race, gender and empire; on credulity, outrage and humour; on cultural norms and expectations; and all wrapped in ideas about seapower. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Danell Jones, author of the excellent new book The Girl Prince: Virginia Woolf, Race and the Dreadnought Hoax.
  • Vrak - The Museum of Wrecks, Stockholm.

    In this episode we visit Vrak - The Museum of Wrecks in Stockholm. Nowhere else in the world are there as many well-preserved wooden wrecks as there are in the Baltic Sea. People have lived on the shores of the Baltic ever since the end of the Ice Age, where they have travelled, sailed, hunted and waged war, for millennia. The Baltic has special water conditions: it is cold and brackish and has low oxygen levels, which means there is no shipworm to destroy sunken timber. As a result, at the bottom of the Baltic is an exceptional collection of timber heritage sites, from the Stone Age to the Vikings and beyond. Vrak - The Museum of Wrecks is a contemporary museum designed to explore and share this heritage in innovative ways.
  • The First Naval Architect: Fredrik Henrik af Chapman (1721-1808)

    In this episode we explore the extraordinary life of Frerik Henrik Af Chapman, the man considered the grandfather of naval architecture. Born in Gothenburg in 1721 to immigrant English parents, his father served in the Swedish navy before becoming the manager of a shipyard in Gothenburg. His mother was the daughter of a London shipwright. Frerderik was therefore born into a life of ship design and construction and he was just ten when he designed his first vessel. By 23 he ran his own shipyard maintaining and repairing Swedish East Indiamen. This was a period when the science of shipbuilding reached new heights and Chapman, uniquely a mathematician and a shipwright, led the way. Mathematicians who studied shipbuilding lacked the practical skill to implement their own ideas; while shipwrights lacked the mathematical understanding. Frederik was the first person who combined those two skills. He made it possible to predetermine and assess mathematically different attributes of vessels such as stability and sailing qualities. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Jonas Hedberg, curator at Sweden’s National Maritime Museum in Stockholm.
  • Sweden's National Maritime Museum

    The third episode in our mini series on Maritime Sweden is a tour of Sweden's National Maritime Museum in Stockholm: Sjöhistoriska Museet. Listen in as Dr Sam Willis is guided around the museum by its curator, Jonas Hedberg. We hear about the founding of the purpose-built maritime museum in the 1930s; explore the extraordinary collection of ship models; artefacts including a magnificent figurehead from mid 1750s; stories of migrants to Sweden after the Second World War; a rail ferry that once transported Lenin across the Baltic; and a Swedish Royal Yacht from the eighteenth century.
  • The Vikings in Arab Lands

    One of the most fascinating aspects of Viking history is their voyages east, to Arab lands. Vikings from the geographical area that would become Sweden played an important role in the creation of the political entity known as Rus, and some Scandinavians travelled by river to Arab lands, where they traded slaves for dirhams, and to Constantinople, where they served as mercenaries. Many others who did not actually visit Arab lands met Arabs in Khazaria and Volga-Bulgaria, which were major trading hubs north of the Black Sea. Numerous fascinating sources survive from both the Greek and Arab world depicting far-traveling Swedes, some of which shed valuable light on their customs. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Viking historian Tore Skeie, author of The Wolf Age: The Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons and the Battle for the North Sea Empire.
  • Swedish Naval Power 1500-present

    This episode starts a new mini-series on the maritime history of Sweden, and we begin by exploring Sweden’s fascinating naval history over the last 500 years, and how Sweden’s modern defence thinking has been shaped by its past. Founded in 1522, the Swedish navy is one of the oldest continuous serving navies in the world and its complex history reflects the numerous geo-political changes that have affected the countries around the Baltic ever since. With a shifting map of allies, threats and foes, the Swedish navy has been a constant presence and a hotbed of maritime innovation; not least introducing the line of battle as a naval tactic in 1563 under Erik XIV, half a century before its widespread adoption by other European navies. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Fred Hocker, Director of Research at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm.
  • Nelson and the Walrus

    A special episode which explores the young 16 year-old midshipman Horatio Nelson's exploits on the Phipps' expedition in search of a Northeast Passage in 1773, in which he fought off a walrus. The episode is linked to an ongoing project run by St Paul's Cathedral and the University of York '50 Monuments in 50 Voices' which showcases thought-provoking, individual responses to 50 unique monuments at St Paul’s Cathedral from artists, writers, musicians, theologians and academics. Of all of those monuments, Nelson's tomb is the most significant. This episode presents an original piece of prose written by Dr Sam Willis inspired by Nelson's tomb and his exploits fighting off a walrus when he was a teenager. 'I Survived the Walrus' is written in Nelson's voice. It explores the myths that grew up around Nelson's life; the curious mixture of inner strength and physical frailty that characterised his life and exploits; and his ability to inspire and comfort.