Churchill's Thin Grey Line

British Merchant Ships at War 1939–1945

Bernard Edwards

Date Published :
March 2018
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
Black and white illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781526711663
Pages : 248
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Also available digitally:
Buy From Amazon Amazon
Buy From Apple Apple
Buy From Barnes and Noble Barnes & Noble
Buy From Google Google
Buy From Kobo Kobo

Casemate will earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking a link here


The first British casualties of the Second World War were not members of either the Royal Navy, the Army or the Royal Air Force but British merchant seamen on the liner Athenia, torpedoed by U-30 on 3 September 1939.

For the duration of the War, Britain’s merchant fleet performed a vital role, carrying the essential supplies that kept the country running during the darkest days and then made victory possible. Their achievements came at a terrible cost with 2,535 British oceangoing merchant ships being sunk and, of the 185,000 men and women serving in the British Merchant Navy at the time, 36,749 sacrificed their lives. A further 4,707 were wounded and 5,720 ended up in prisoner of war camps. Their casualty rate of 25 percent was second only to RAF Bomber Command’s.

Using casebook examples, this well researched book tells the inspiring story of those brave civilian volunteers who fought so gallantly to defend their ships and the cargoes.

About The Author

Bernard Edwards pursued a sea-going career commanding ships trading worldwide. After nearly forty years afloat. Captain Edwards settled in a tiny village in rural South Wales, to pursue his second career as a writer. His extensive knowledge of the sea and ships has enabled him to produce many authentic and eminently readable books which have received international recognition.


"... a most welcome book as it helps to broaden the general interest in an important facet of naval/maritime history..."

- Naval Historical Foundation

“Edwards offers brief glimpses at many heroic mariners, and even some enemy personnel. This offers an interesting look at the war on maritime commerce and may be particularly useful for readers with little knowledge of this aspect of the war, despite the absence of maps.”

- The NYMAS Review

“One might guess that the first British casualties of World War II were suffered by either the Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force. But that unfortunate distinction belongs to merchant seamen on the liner Athenia, which was torpedoed by the German submarine U-30 Sept. 3, 1939. Sailors like those are saluted by Bernard Edwards. […] The author recounts their vital role in carrying crucial supplies during the island nation’s darkest days, then helping make ultimate victory possible.”

- Toy Soldier & Model Figure

More from this publisher