- Editorial Staff
- Biographies and personal histories, Ship design and development
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2013 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Paymaster LCDR Eric Charles Talbot-Booth, RD, RNR wrote extensively on warship and merchant ship identification and recognition. Not only did he edit many published works, but he was a skilled draftsman who provided many of his own drawings.
A search of National Archives reveals little about this man. There are two references to him at ADM 337/128/264 and ADM 337/128/518. These documents show that he entered naval service as a Probationary Midshipman RNR on 26 September 1921 and was attached to the London Division (List 1). The only other information is an address: 29 Emperor’s Gate, South Kensington, SW7, which is assumed to be where he lived at the time of enlistment. Another record shows that he re-entered naval service on 21 February 1944 as a Temporary Lieutenant (Special) (SS) posted to HMS President additional for duty outside Admiralty with the Sea Cadet Corps. The record notes former service as a Paymaster Lt Cdr RNR. Finally his appoint-ment is terminated on 31 December 1946. This record also shows a date of birth with the year only of 1924 – this appears to be in error and is more likely to be 1904. In later life he lived at Canterbury in Kent.
His 1940 volume on merchant ships throughout the world was compiled, drawn and edited by him with assistance from Paymaster SBLT E.B.R. Sergeant, RNVR. A copy was recently donated to the Naval Historical Society by one of our members.
Interestingly in this volume under Netherlands ships is an outline drawing of MV Straat Malakka, which was the identity being used by HSK Kormoran in November 1941 when she was intercepted by HMAS Sydney. It assumed that up to this time Allied ships had very few details of Kormoran other than that she was an armed merchant cruiser, with those who could know being prisoners and unable to divulge this information. However, it is believed that early in the war Dutch authorities handed over to the RAN drawings and photographs of their merchant ships that might be used as raiders. What information did HMAS Sydney hold on ship identification and did she have Talbot-Booth’s book available and might this have been used to assist in the identification of her nemesis?
There are many similarities between the works of Eric Talbot-Booth and Fred Jane, the original editor of Jane’s Fighting Ships, although they covered different periods of naval history. While we were able to publish an article on the life of Fred Jane in Jane’s Fighting Ships in the March 2012 edition of this magazine, comparatively little is known on the history of the elusive Paymaster LCDR Eric Talbot-Booth. How did he develop his great draftsmanship and detailed technical knowledge of ship design? Any further information would be welcome.