The March 2013 edition of the NHR contained an article A Paymaster and a Master of Ship Recognition on LCDR Talbot-Booth who gained world fame for his books on ship recognition. One of our members has forwarded a copy of an obituary to him published some years ago in a nautical magazine which provides further information on this rather mysterious and interesting character.
Lt. Cdr. Eric C. Talbot-Booth died in hospital at Canterbury early on December 9th, 1989. An early member of the World Ship Society, he was world renowned for his pioneering ship identification/recognition system. Since the early 1930s he was single-handedly persevering with the naval authorities to get systematic ship recognition taught in the Royal Navy – in this he was repeatedly successful; repeatedly because the lesson had to be re-learnt by each new ‘class’ of senior ranks and fund-holders in Whitehall; with the Air Force perhaps there was less success as records of attacks by ‘friendly aircraft’ bear out. As ship-lovers we owe Talbot-Booth a great debt – not only for his system and the Ship Recognition Corps that was his creation – but for Merchant Ships, his own ‘Jane’ of the merchant shipping world, which set quite new standards for ship books in the 1930s and through the War into the 1960s. Complete with gloss paper, photographs and fleet lists as well as the Commander’s own drawings these books are now rare treasures.
Post-war Merchant Ships runs to thousands of scale profile drawings of some 20,000 current sea-going merchant ships arranged by the T-B system sequence, with essential data appended; especially valuable for tracing sisterships as well as identifying profiles; even identifying ill-reported casualties from the obscure beaches in the Far East (as I did for Lloyd’s Register).
Merchant Ships continued under the Commander’s direction until his death, edited by David Greenman at Canterbury, as one of many Ship Recognition Corps publications, with various publishers, latterly Janes. The nation as a whole may be unaware that it has lost a true patriot and a gentleman of the old school, with a deep Christian faith, who dedicated his life to his cause for his country’s good and security. May we respect the memory of a distinguished man whose contribution to the study and recording of ships was immeasurable. He would have been 86 at the end of the year.