The Mariner's Mirror Podcast
Fishermen Vs U-Boats
During the First and Second World Wars British fishing trawlers were turned into the Royal Naval Patrol Reserve to help clear the seas of mines and even take on the deadly U-Boats. They became known as 'Harry Tate’s Navy' - a nod towards the celebrity comedian known for his bungling of everyday tasks and slipshod approach to life. Taking this wry criticism on the chin the fishermen-turned naval personnel embraced it and Harry Tate's Navy became a byword for exceptional resource fullness and courage in the face of appalling difficulty and danger. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with the historian and journalist Rose George who is currently working on a major new study of the history of the fishing industry.
Maritime Special Forces 1: The SBS
This is the first episode of a two-part mini-series on the history of maritime special forces. In this episode we hear about the Second World War origins, development and early history of the SBS - the 'Special Boat Service'. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Saul David, a military historian given unprecedented access to the archives of the SBS for his book - SBS - Silent Warriors: The Authorised Wartime History. Founded in the dark days of 1940, Britain's Special Boat Service was the world's first maritime special operations unit. It started as an inexperienced and small outfit that leaned heavily on the courage and enthusiasm of volunteers but went on to change the course of the war. Its operational inventiveness has served as a model for special forces ever since. Their assignments were some of the most challenging of the war. Feted by history they have gone on to become legendary military operations. The SBS operated globally: in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Channel and the Far East. Operating with flimsy canoes and armed with close-combat weapons - often nothing more than knives, pistols and their bare hands - these men operated repeatedly and successfully deep behind enemy lines. They landed secret agents, destroyed enemy infrastructure, attacked enemy shipping, spread uncertainty and fear and paved the way of some of the most important large-scale operations of the war, including D-Day.
Navigation in the Middle Ages
The subject of navigation in the Middle Ages is fundamental to maritime history as it lays the foundation for the exploration, migration, global trade and international wars that followed. It is also a fascinating and multi-faceted topic; one which takes us out into the deep oceans where issues of wind, current, tide and depth are all influential, but also up into the sky where the sun, moon, planet and stars help us find out where we are and WHEN we are: the history of navigation is intimately linked with the question of time at sea. To find out more, Dr Sam Willis spoke with Dr Seb Falk from Girton College, Cambridge, an historian who specialises in the history of astronomy, navigation and mathematics from their ancient origins to modern developments. For Seb the Middle Ages were a time of wonder. They gave us the first universities, the first eyeglasses and the first mechanical clocks as medieval thinkers sought to understand the world around them, from the passing of the seasons to the stars in the sky. Seb is the author of an important recent book: The Light Ages: A Medieval Journey of Discovery.
The Maritime History of Time
The history of time and how it relates to the maritime world is one of the most significant chapters in global history. The question of time is nothing less than the question of civilisation; the question of us. Time itself has been harnessed, politicised and weaponised; clocks have been used to wield power, make money, govern and control; to exchange knowledge and even beliefs. For the maritime world, the history of time takes us from some of the most ingenious inventors and scientists the world has ever seen to the spread of empires around the globe. To find our more Dr Sam Willis spoke with David Rooney, an expert on the history of timekeeping and civilisation who has worked as the Curator of Timekeeping at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and is the author of ‘About Time: A History of Civilisation in Twelve Clocks.’