From first joining the Royal Navy in 1940 until the end of the campaign against Japan, Tony Ditcham was in the front line of the naval war. After brief service in the battlecruiser Renown off Norway and against the Italians, he went into destroyers and saw action in most European theatres – against S-boats and aircraft in ‘bomb alley’ off Britain’s East Coast, on Arctic convoys to Russia, and eventually in a flotilla screening the Home Fleet. During the dramatic Battle of the North Cape in December 1943 he was probably the first man to actually see the Scharnhorst and from his position in the gun director of HMS Scorpion enjoyed a grandstand view of the sinking of the great German battleship (his account was so vivid that it formed the basis of the description in the official history). Later his ship operated off the American beaches during D-Day, where two of her sister ships were sunk with heavy loss of life, and he ended the war in British Pacific Fleet preparing for the invasion of Japan.
This incident-packed career is recounted with restraint, plenty of humor and colorful descriptive power – his account of broaching and almost capsizing in an Arctic winter storm is as good as anything in the literature of the sea. The result makes enthralling reading, and as the surviving veterans rapidly decline in numbers, this may turn out to be one of the last great eyewitness narratives of the Second World War.