The Mariner's Mirror Podcast


How to Drive an Aircraft Carrier

In this, the first of several episodes on the maritime history of airpower, Dr Sam Willis meets three Royal Naval flag officers to discuss the complexities and challenges of commanding and operating aircraft carriers. Sam's guests are Vice Admiral Jerry Kydd, the current Fleet Commander of the Royal Navy, who served as the very first commanding officer of the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, launched in 2014 and the largest and most powerful vessel ever constructed for the Royal Navy; Rear Admiral David Snelson, who served in the Royal Navy between 1969 to 2006 on both Ark Royal 4 and Ark Royal 5, and was the Commander Maritime

Forces and Task Group Commander for Royal Naval forces in the second Gulf War of 2003; and Rear Admiral Roy Clare who commanded HMS Invincible 25 years ago, seeing operations in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Arabian Sea and The Gulf, with Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force squadrons embarked. They discuss a commander's responsibilities with regard to aviation and airspace; the thorny issues of logistics, and how to manage fuel, food and spare parts; the formidable challenges of engineering both in terms of air engineering and weapons engineering, including radars, radios and satellite comms; the challenge of commanding people, of training and handing on skills; and the issues of Task Group command - how does a carrier fit into a Task Group? Does the captain of a carrier also act as the Commander of a task Group?

These remarkable insights from the recent (and sometimes very recent) past help us understand the development and use of carriers and airpower from its inception in the first quarter of the twentieth century until today.

More Episodes


Pearl Harbor

We explore the extraordinary story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on 7 December 1941.To find out more Dr Sam Willis speaks with Mark Stille, a retired commander in the US Navy,who studied at the Naval War College and has recently finished a 40-year career working in the intelligence community, with tours on the faculty at the Naval War College, the Joint Staff and US naval ships; he is also the author of numerous works focussing on naval history.This episode is designed to sit alongside the most fabulous 3D animation exploring the Shokaku -one of the Japanese carriers involved in the attack. The full video can be seen on the Mariner’s Mirror podcasts’s Youtube and Facebook pages with shorter clips on Twitter and Instagram.Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack, launched by the Japanese against the American naval base in Hawaii, before the formal declaration of war between the two nations. The Japanese goal was nothing less than to destroy the American pacific fleet. From six aircraft carriers, The Japanese launched hundreds of aircraft in two waves. Less than two hours later the Japanese had crippled or destroyed nearly 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes. Dry docks and airfields were also destroyed. 2,403 sailors, soldiers and civilians were killed.Importantly, however, the Japanese actually failed in their goal to cripple the Pacific Fleet. By the 1940s, battleships were no longer the most important vessel in the navy as they had been in the previous war: Aircraft carriers and seaborne airpower had now changed that nature of seapower and all of the American Pacific Fleet’s carriers were away from the base on December 7 and escaped destruction.Moreover, for the the first time in years of discussion and debate about America entering the war, popular opinion now dramatically swung towards joining the fight. The following day America declared war on Japan, and three days later, on Germany.

Iconic Ships 13: Thermopylae

In this episode we hear about Thermopylae, one of the most magnificent clipper-ships ever built, and some claim the finest of them all. In 1879, before her second wool voyage from Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald eulogised: 'The fastest and handsomest ship in the world is now lying at the Circular Quay loading for London, and those who take pleasure in seeing a rare specimen of naval architecture should avail themselves of the opportunity of doing so. Of course, we allude to the Thermopylæ, the celebrated Aberdeen clipper. [The] Thermopylæ has all the appearance of a yacht, and yet she carries a good cargo, is a beautiful sea boat, and stands up to her canvas well.' Built in Aberdeen and commissioned in 1868, but long over-shadowed in public recognition by her rival, Cutty Sark (a ship built specifically to out-pace her in the China tea trade but only once succeeded in so doing), Thermopylæ lives on as arguably the finest all-round clipper of them all.Clipper ships like Thermopylae were astonishing to behold, and were the culmination of centuries of refinements in sailing technology that led to some of the most beautiful and fastest merchant ships ever built. They revolutionised global trade tearing around the seas carrying tea, wool, luxury goods, and of course people as this era of migration changed the populations and economies of the world forever. Their heyday was short lived, however, as increasingly efficient steam engines and railways changed the way that goods were transported – all over again.To find out more, Dr Sam Willis speaks with Captain Peter King. Peter recently retired from the merchant shipping industry after over 62 years of continuous service in a wide range of maritime disciplines. In the 1980s, while serving as Managing Director of one of the Christian Salvesen group companies in Aberdeen, he developed an interest in the George Thompson Jnr’s Aberdeen-based shipping enterprise leading to his researching and publishing the first definitive history of Thermopylæ.