HMS Fearless – The Mighty Lion
By Ewen Southby-Tailyour
Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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HMS Fearless is undoubtedly one of the most famous ships that have ever served in the Royal Navy. Commissioned in 1965 she was the first of two assault ships. At the time of commission she was at the forefront of technology and her design was revolutionary.
She combined in one hull a tank landing ship, a troop transport and an amphibious command ship. This enabled her to be multi-role and a flexible workhorse. During her service she proved her expertise at these roles and acted as a floating “10 Downing Street” for Prime Minister Harold Wilson during his talks with Ian Smith of Southern Rhodesia. In addition she has acted as a mobile embassy, exhibition hall and acted as the co-ordinating centre for civil aid projects. She was awarded the “Wilkinson Sword of Peace” for her service as a civil aid operational centre.
Perhaps her most famous mission was the Falklands War. However, she has been a key asset in Britain’s changing foreign policies and performed a number of successful operations. They include landing a force into South Arabia, landing the “tanks” into Northern Ireland, assisted the UK’s withdrawal from Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. Her last operational mission was in Afghanistan.
Other roles have included acting as the Dartmouth [Britannia Royal Naval College] Training Ship, acting as the UK’s Cold War trials in the Artic, other frontline service and patrolling NATO’s southern flank. Noteworthy incidents include featuring in a James Bond film and in 140 operational exercises. Over the years there have also been tragedies, a collision, a fire and a grounding incident. All of which are re-counted in this superb volume.
Apart from Nelson’s HMS Victory she was the eldest ship in commission when she was paid-off in 2002. She is the most famous and influential ship of her era and the book describes her story in the words and pictures of the sailors, marines and soldiers who knew her intimately.
This excellent history is based on the chronological history of the ship by Commanding Officer. There are a number of personal accounts in the Appendices and these cover the Executive Officers and the Chaplain’s View amongst others. If the history of HMS Fearless appeals to you or if you are a naval historian then this is the “must-have” book on this outstanding vessel.