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As is the mysterious way of such things, I happened to have stumbled upon the outstanding old British spy series, The Sandbaggers, at Netflix when this book came over the transom. The author, Charles Gidley Wheeler, coincidentally wrote a later episode in the series, My Name is Anna Wiseman, one that was less brutal and mercenary than the typical entry but betrayed a deep moral seriousness at a time when such was not fashionable in the West (it was shown on June 30, 1980). Mr. Wheeler -- like the creator of The Sandbaggers, Ian Mackintosh -- is a former officer in the Royal Navy and in this novel he builds his story towards what was, paradoxically, both one of the pivotal moments in the decline of British global power and a little remembered event: the mass mutiny of the Atlantic Fleet at Invergordon in September 1931.though the immediate cause of the mutiny was a Depression era pay cut, Mr. Wheeler shows that the men had many other grievances that had built up over the years until such unrest was almost inevitable.

The novel provides perspective on the Navy and these events through the characters of Frank Jannaway, a servant's son in the household of retired naval officer Jervis Yarrow, whose son, Roddy, brutalizes Frank and whose daughter, Anita, is infatuated with him. Jannaway is a bright boy and shows promise on the piano, so Mr. Yarrow undertakes to pay for his schooling. Roddy is a conniving and thoroughly rotten young man who eventually uses Anita's indiscretions to get Frank thrown out of school and the house and into the Navy as an enlisted man. Meanwhile, Roddy's father gets him out of one scrape after another and advances him far beyond his abilities as a Naval officer. Frank and Anita are reunited years later and begin a love affair that is fated to end tragically, but not as tragically as the reunion of Frank and Roddy aboard HMS Winchester in 1931.

Mr. Wheeler's tale is very dark, marching from one unpleasantness to the next, and the characters, other than Frank Jannaway himself, are generally rather unlikable. But it's a brisk and quite readable book and the history of the mutiny is fascinating.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Sea Stories
Charles Wheeler Links:

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Gidley Wheeler (
    -EPISODE GUIDE: The Sandbaggers: My Name is Anna Wiseman (

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