- Book reviewer
- Biographies, Biographies and personal histories, History - WW2, Book reviews
- RAN Ships
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- June 2000 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Very Ordinary Officer describes itself on the cover as the social and naval story of a Yorkshire-born Australian called Geoff Feasey. The two strands of the story run side by side. One recounts an interesting naval career, from Dartmouth cadet through engineering training to employment as an ordnance engineer officer and weapons electrical officer in destroyers and submarines, and a member of a team evaluating Ministry of Defence research priorities. The daily problems and their resolution are well-described. The second story is even more interesting as it describes the social transition made by the son of a Yorkshire tram conductor in the class-conscious environment of the postwar Royal Navy.
Feasey’s title is chosen as counterpoint to that of a book by another Yorkshireman, J.P.W. Mallalieu, who wrote in 1944 of his experiences in the war-time Navy as a “Very Ordinary Seaman” who later became a Labour MP and Minister for the Navy.
Feasey, born in 1930, joined the Navy post-World War II as an officer cadet and embryonic engineer. Some naval officers seemed intent on putting behind them the period of hostilities and returning to what they regarded as an appropriate peacetime Navy. Although he had problems keeping up appearances on a modest pay and supporting a young wife, and while he met some “old school” officers who regarded marriage as improper before 40, the helping hand of senior officers and naval wives was often evident and always welcomed. He observes however, that more priority seemed to be accorded to appearances than to the reality of requiring weapons and crew to be ready for the demands of war.
His German-born wife found that wives were expected to conform as well. Her husband’s later experiences in submarines reflected, understandably, a stronger emphasis on working together to ensure reliability and good performances of weapons and equipment.
In various postings with the Royal Navy the Feaseys got to meet several Australians who became good friends and, after an unappealing administrative post in London, Commander Feasey decided to respond to the Australian Navy’s search for experienced officers. The final chapter is replete with the warmth of his reception in Canberra, his enjoyment of his new role as Assistant Naval Scientific Adviser, and the pleasure he and his wife found in the informality of the Australian scene. Feasey is clearly a person who enjoys responsibility and hard work and he and his wife have made the most of the opportunity to contribute to their new community.
This is a well-illustrated book, written with an attractive combination of acute observation and good humour. It will have particular appeal to those with a naval background, but will provide an interesting perspective to a wider audience.
(The Canberra Times, 17 April 1999)