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Book reviews — April 2011

'Below The Waterline', by David Carpenter
248 pages, illustrated, ISBN 0-9546488-2-X hardback £16.99
This is quite a change of gear from David's previous book Dockland Apprentice (GLIAS Newsletter February 2011). The story starts in 1961 following on from his shipyard work. Having looked around Leadenhall Street at the impressive offices the shipping companies then had (and from personal memory had there for some time afterwards) he walked into the grand premises of the New Zealand Shipping Company who really seemed to snap him up. His hands-on apprenticeship was clearly highly prized.

Going to his first ship MV Rakaia at Avonmouth, travelling first class by train and already having a narrow gold stripe on the sleeves of his smart tailor-made uniform, things were certainly different from the ship repair yard on the Isle of Dogs, when on the way home from work the conductor could refuse to let him on the bus because he was so dirty. However, this was absolutely not a pleasure cruise. Conditions in the engine room were appalling; turn to chapters five to seven and you will find out. Apart from MV Rakaia, all other New Zealand Line motor ships had Doxford or Sulzer engines: Rakaia's engine was a Burmiester & Wain eight-cylinder double-acting opposed-piston two-stroke diesel. GLIAS members who were fortunate to be present at Sue Hayton's fascinating lecture on British engineers on the European Continent will recall the fine Burmiester & Wain diesel engine in Copenhagen which was used for electricity generation.

The book essentially describes four-and-a-half voyages made on MV Rakaia to and from Britain and New Zealand and covers about 30 months. Although David's modesty perhaps masks this, he must have been very good at his work. Promotion was rapid and he became fourth engineer on the fourth voyage and half way through that was promoted to third engineer. Third engineer was equal in rank to the ship's second officer (second mate).

Below the Waterline will appeal to a much wider audience than Dockland Apprentice. It has international appeal and is likely to have bigger sales. Most people who served in the Merchant Navy 40-50 years ago will find it of great interest. This description of life at sea can be warmly recommended to all GLIAS members. Bob Carr

'Conversations With My Father', by Gary Duncan
Flywrite Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9564954-0-2. £9.99. Web:
Tells of how the Empire Air Training Scheme trained tens of thousands of aircrew in the Second World War and of the problems after the War, with too many qualified pilots. But for some, including Gary's father, it led to a career in the emerging world of commercial aviation and action with British European Airways during the Berlin Airlift. It also brings out the role of Northolt airport during this period, before the expansion of Heathrow.

'Under The Wires At Tally Ho: Trams And Trolleybuses Of North London 1905-1962', by David Berguer
Published by The History Press, 28 February 2011, £12.99, paperback. ISBN: 978-0-7524-5875-5. Web:
An in-depth look at the electric vehicles that served the boroughs of Barnet, Haringey, Islington and Camden from the early 1900s until 1962.

Local historian David Berguer tells the story of that period and describes both the vehicles themselves and the effect they had on the development of the suburbs.

Original material includes newspaper reports, and interviews with those who travelled and worked on the trams and trolleybuses. Many original photos of the vehicles and old street scenes. Includes a chapter on the colourful pirate buses which competed against the trams in the 1920s.

© GLIAS, 2011