John Kean’s intricately woven SS Thistlegorm, is an in-depth look at the history and sinking of one of the world’s most famous wrecks. What could have been a dry history is brought to life with vivid testimony from survivors and witnesses, detailing not just the sinking, but also the daily life of merchant seamen during the Second World War. The history is brought up to date by first hand accounts from some of those who played a role in rediscovering the SS Thistlegorm in her new incantation as a wreck, and by the view of a dive guide heading out to show the wreck to this week’s holiday divers. SS Thistlegorm brings the story of this ship and her incredible crew to life in such detail that it reads more like a novel than a history book, whilst maintaining all of the factual accuracy of the latter.

One of the biggest tasks for the author was to balance the two faces of the SS Thistlegorm; those of war grave, and of world famous dive site. John Kean does this brilliantly, weaving a fictional but accurate account of a Red Sea dive guide’s day showing divers around the wreck, through the history of the ship. John sets the tone with the foreword, and makes certain that everyone who reads his book will enter the water remembering not just those who served on this particular wreck, but all those who lived and died on similar vessels throughout the war, and the bravery with which they carried out their duties. By allowing the men who survived the attack to tell their stories in their own words, readers can almost picture the events through their eyes, as they unfold. At times, my breath caught in my throat as I was kept on tenterhooks, waiting to discover the fates of the men on board.


This extract is taken from Issue 16 of The Equalizer