Flying the Red Duster

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More About This Title Flying the Red Duster


Following the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk in 1940, Britain was at her most vulnerable. France had capitulated and the Germans had control of ports from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. Nazi U-boats were at Britain’s doorstep, and in that year alone they sunk 204 ships, a gross tonnage of 2,435,667. Britain stood alone against Germany and a vital lifeline was the supplies carried by the civilian Merchant Navy, defended only by the thinly stretched Royal Navy. Winston Churchill conceded that his greatest fear was the slaughter of merchant seamen, who worked in harsh conditions, were often poorly fed, and were always at the mercy of the Kriegsmarine. In Flying the Red Duster, Morris Beckman tells the story of his experiences as a merchant seaman during the Battle of the Atlantic, part of the civilian force which enabled Britain to avoid capitulation to Nazi Germany. Based on his wartime diary—the unique document now held at the Imperial War Museum—this work allows the reader unique access to a time which is fast slipping from living memory.


Morris Beckman served as a radio officer in the Merchant Navy during World War II. He took part in the Battle of the Atlantic and was torpedoed and bombed, which he described in Atlantic Roulette. Late in 1942, he joined the Mogul Line in Bombay and his ships ran supplies to the Middle East—he took part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy. He was the founder member of the 43 Group of Jewish ex-servicemen which attacked and destroyed Mosley's Fascist party in a protracted campaign in the 1940s. He is the author of the acclaimed The Jewish Brigade: An Army with Two Masters 1944-45.