HMS Ocean’s Decommissioning Book

It gives me great pleasure to provide details of my second book to be published in 2018 – HMS Ocean (VI) 1998 – 2018 The Mighty ‘O.’ This book was written on behalf of HMS Ocean to mark the decommissioning of the Fleet Flagship in the presence of her sponsor, HM The Queen, on 27 March 2018 in Devonport Naval Base.


Drawing on official records and interviews with a cross section of those who have served in Ocean, including the majority of the former Commanding Officers, this book is the first account of the Royal Navy’s only purpose built helicopter assault carrier HMS Ocean, from her origins in the early 1950s to her paying off ceremony in 2018. This book follows in the long line of commission books that have been published by the Royal Navy’s warships for over a century and is intended to serve as a lasting record of Ocean’s rich heritage for members of the final Ship’s Company. The HMS Ocean Decommissioning Committee, which instigated the production of this book and invited me to write the story, wanted to share the ship’s action packed history with a much wider audience and decided to make part of the print run available for sale to the general public via Navy Books.


The completion of the sixth ship to bear the name Ocean in 1998 represented the dawning of an exciting era for the Royal Navy when she became the first of a new generation of amphibious ships to join the Fleet. Designed from the outset to project the Royal Marines by air and sea, Ocean marked a considerable step change in capability compared to her converted predecessors. This was swiftly put to the test during her hot weather trials when she provided humanitarian assistance in the Caribbean to the victims of Hurricane Mitch. This dramatic, unexpected twist to the ship’s programme set the precedent for an action packed career in which Ocean has rarely completed a deployment in accordance with the original plans.


During two decades of high tempo operations, Ocean has been deployed across the globe from the Arctic Circle to the West Coast of Africa, from the Mediterranean to East of Suez and both North and South America, while fulfilling a diverse range of roles including supporting the 2003 invasion of the Al Faw Peninsula; launching helicopter strike missions to protect Libyan civilians in 2011; supporting the security operation for the 2012 London Olympics; counter piracy operations, intercepting drug smugglers; delivering humanitarian relief; trade promotion; defence engagement with key allies and serving as the Fleet Flagship. Ocean has also earned the affection of Sierra Leone’s people who refer to her as the ‘Angel of the Seas’ due to her repeated deployments to the nation at pivotal moments in its recent troubled history. Ocean’s primary purpose throughout all of these operations has been to enable the embarked air and land forces to fulfil their missions. The ship’s versatility has been clearly demonstrated since 1998 by the routine embarkation of units from all three services, as well as, detachments from the Armed Forces of other nations.


The ship’s story came full circle during her final deployment when she was diverted from the Mediterranean to deliver humanitarian support to British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and the wider region in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Afterwards, Ocean returned to the Mediterranean to conclude her operational career at the heart of international defence activity as the Flagship of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2.


Painting a vivid picture of life on board one of the Royal Navy’s most important warships of the 21st Century, the author brings Ocean’s story alive using interviews and first-hand accounts. As part of his research the author has interviewed a representative cross section of those involved in the ship’s rich heritage from junior sailors, Royal Marines and members of the embarked squadrons, to nearly all of the former Commanding Officers, as well as, those involved in the events leading up to her construction, the development of her design and completion by VSEL’s Barrow-in-Furness shipyard. The book is fully illustrated throughout with a rich selection of photographs, the majority of which have been reproduced in full colour, and as such it is sure to appeal to all with an interest in the Royal Navy and its warships.

Title: HMS Ocean (VI) 1998 – 2018 The Mighty ‘O’

ISBN: 978 0 9932984-1-7

Publisher: Royal Navy Decommissioning / Commissioning Books

Author: Richard Johnstone-Bryden

Foreword: Captain R G Pedre RN

Format: Hardback

PP: 304

No of illustrations: 425

RRP: £25

Available Exclusively from:

Navy Books

Tel 01628 947 740

The book can be ordered online from the Navy Books website via the link below:

HMS Ocean Book listing on the Navy Books website


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The Concorde Pocket Manual is Released

This project has marked a slight change to my usual work in that I have taken on the role of editor to assemble a series of key documents that tell the story of the iconic supersonic airliner Concorde. These documents describe how the aircraft was designed and developed as well as ground-breaking moments in the type’s commercial history.

First flown in 1969, Concorde was the first supersonic aircraft to go into commercial service in 1976 and made her final flight in 2003. She was operated primarily by British Airways and Air France. British Airways’ Concordes made just under 50,000 flights and flew more than 2.5m passengers supersonically. A typical London to New York crossing would take a little less than three and a half hours compared to around eight hours for a ‘subsonic flight’. In November 1986 a Concorde flew around the world, covering 28,238 miles in 29 hours, 59 minutes.

Today, the surviving aircraft can be viewed at museums, including the IWM Duxford, Brooklands and the Fleet Air Arm Museum, as well as at Heathrow, Manchester and Paris-Orly airports.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (22 Feb. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472827783
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472827784
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19 cm
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The Concorde Pocket Manual

2017 has been an incredibly busy year for me. I have been working on three new books which are due to be released in the first half of 2018. I am can confirm that the Concorde Pocket Manual will be the first of the trio to be on sale. It will be officially released by Osprey Publishing on 22 February 2018 and cost £8.99. I will be releasing more details about this book and my other projects in the New Year.

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A New Booklet


It gives me great pleasure to announce the publication of a new booklet about Norfolk’s surviving trio of wherry yachts. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads are home to over 1000 indigenous traditional sailing craft ranging in size from the 14ft Norfolk One Design Dinghies to the mighty Norfolk Wherries. The majority of these boats were either built or inspired by designs that were drafted in the first half of the 20th century including the sole surviving trio of wherry yachts Olive, Norada and White Moth. By a curious twist of fate these wherry yachts were all built by the Wroxham based boatbuilder and designer Ernest Collins. They spent over three decades within his hire fleet followed by a period of mixed fortunes in private ownership after the Second World War before they were reunited under the banner of the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust (WYCCT) in 2012.

The Trust very kindly invited me to write this booklet to help raise awareness of this trio’s rich heritage and raise much needed funds towards their on-going preservation. This 20 page booklet includes 25 colour images and 3 line drawings depicting the internal layout of each featured wherry yacht. Copies are available for £5 including postage and packing from The Friends of Wherry Yacht Charter. Cheques for this booklet should be made payable to Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust and sent to:

Friends of Wherry Yacht Charter

c/o Mark Walters

25 Abinger Way



The booklet’s details are as follows:

Title: The Wherry Yachts – The last three survivors: Olive, Norada and White Moth

Publisher: Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust

ISBN 978-0-9935619-0-0

RRP £5





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Launching my latest book

IllustriousBKNo-4LRThe National Museum of the Royal Navy held the official launch for my latest book HMS Illustrious (V) 1982 – 2014 on 21 September 2015. I was very honoured to be joined by three of the ship’s former Commanding Officers, Admiral Sir Jock Slater GCB LVO DL, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB DL and Captain M K Utley OBE RN who kindly gave presentations about their time in command of this great ship.

Dale McEwan of That’s Solent TV produced a very good piece about the launch which can be seen via this link Book Launch Film. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice that I should of course said that Illustrious was sent to the Philippines in 2013  in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.

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The Story of the 5th HMS Illustrious


It gives me great pleasure to provide a few more details about the rich heritage of the Royal Navy’s longest serving aircraft carrier which is covered within my latest book HMS Illustrious (V) 1982 – 2014

The origins of the Royal Navy’s longest serving aircraft carrier date back to the early 1960s, when a series of studies were commissioned to establish the best design for a new class of escort cruisers. This work gained increased significance in the wake of the Government’s controversial cancellation of the fleet carrier CVA-01 in 1966 and led to the construction of the three Invincible class ships. Initially known as through deck cruisers for political reasons, the trio ensured the survival of aviation in the Royal Navy into the 21st century and laid the foundations for the significantly more capable Queen Elizabeth class carriers.

The fifth ship to bear the name, Illustrious was launched in 1978 by HRH Princess Margaret as the second member of Invincible class. The outbreak of the Falklands War in April 1982 triggered a round the clock operation to bring forward her completion by three months. Uniquely commissioned at sea, Illustrious sailed for the South Atlantic where she relieved her battle hardened elder sister Invincible and assumed responsibility for the air defence of the Falkland Islands until the extension of Stanley airfield’s runway was completed in October 1982. This remarkable deployment set the tone for an action packed 32 years of active service in which Illustrious steamed a total of 931,713 miles. The ship’s flexibility was clearly demonstrated by her ability to successfully operate in the anti-submarine, strike, commando, diplomatic, trade promotion and humanitarian relief roles.

On returning from the South Atlantic in 1982, Illustrious assumed her designated role of providing anti-submarine protection for NATO’s Strike Fleet Atlantic in a series of major exercises. Within hours of sailing as the flagship of Global 86 Task Group, Illustrious suffered a gearbox explosion. Despite the extensive damage, Illustrious rejoined the Task Group in Singapore for the most significant stages of the deployment after 13 weeks of repairs followed by the 8882 mile high speed passage from Portsmouth. In 1989 Illustrious paid off into reserve prior to a £156 million modernisation in Devonport. When she recommissioned five years later, Illustrious sailed to the Adriatic to help maintain the no-fly zone over Bosnia. During a subsequent tour of duty in the Adriatic in December 1995, she became one of the Royal Navy’s first warships to directly operate under NATO control. Members of the Ship’s Company participated in the ceremonies to mark the hand over of Hong Kong to China on 30 June 1997 while Illustrious remained on standby over the horizon to provide assistance if required. She deployed to the Gulf for the first time in January 1998 to assist the enforcement of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

The publication of the Strategic Defence Review in July 1998 confirmed that the Invincible class would spend their final years in commission operating the widest range of aircraft in a power projection role. This, coupled with the routine embarkation of the newly formed Joint Force 2000, ensured that they played a crucial role in the development of tactics and operating procedures for the Queen Elizabeth class carriers.

In 2000, Illustrious undertook a further tour of duty in the Gulf. During the return voyage, a mechanical failure on board an Iranian tanker at the head of the north bound convoy forced the Fleet Flagship to spend 24 hours trapped alongside in the Suez Canal. Shortly afterwards, her involvement in a routine NATO exercise was interrupted by the deteriorating situation in Sierra Leone when the British Government diverted the carrier to provide air cover during the evacuation of British nationals from the capital Freetown. She remained on station when the UK’s involvement in Sierra Leone extended to the provision of stability in the area while reinforcements arrived to strengthen the United Nations peacekeeping force.

From 2001 to 2002, Illustrious supported operations in Afghanistan following an overnight conversion at sea from the strike to the commando role. In 2006, along with HMS Bulwark, HMS Gloucester, HMS York, HMS St Albans and RFA Fort Victoria, she helped evacuate British citizens from Beirut during the Israel-Lebanon crisis. The retirement of the proven Harrier triggered the permanent conversion of Illustrious into a commando carrier in 2011. Two years later, during her final deployment East of Suez, she was diverted to the Philippines to play a major role in the international relief operation in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Illustrious concluded her active service by heading to Rosyth to participate in HMS Queen Elizabeth’s naming ceremony before returning to Portsmouth for the last time on 22 July 2014.

Painting a vivid picture of life on board one of the Royal Navy’s most important warships of the post war era, the author brings the story of Illustrious alive using interviews and first-hand accounts. As part of his research the author has interviewed a representative cross section of those involved in the ship’s rich heritage from junior sailors and members of the embarked squadrons, to all of the former Commanding Officers, as well as, the man responsible for her construction by Swan Hunter’s shipyard. The book is fully illustrated throughout with a rich selection of photographs, many of which are previously unpublished, and as such it is sure to appeal to all with an interest in the Royal Navy and its warships.

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The Royal Navy’s Longest Serving Aircraft Carrier


It gives me great pleasure to announce the release of my latest book which covers the action packed career of the Royal Navy’s longest serving aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. This book was commissioned to provide the final members of her Ship’s Company with a record of the carrier’s rich heritage from her origins in the early 1960s to her withdrawal from service in 2014. The book includes first hand accounts from all of the former Commanding Officers and a cross section of those who served in her from flag officers to junior sailors, as well as, the man responsible for her construction by Swan Hunter. This book is now available to members of the public via the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The RRP is £25.

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25% Discount available for two of my books

Webcover3Book Cover


I am very pleased to be able to share this offer with you. Seaforth Publishing is offering a 25% discount to those placing direct orders for copies of my books on HMS Belfast and HMS Cavalier using these PDF flyers HMS Belfast book 25% discount PDF Flyer and / or HMS Cavalier book 25% discount PDF flyer. Those who prefer to place their orders by phone can still benefit from this discount by calling Seaforth’s parent company Pen & Sword Books Ltd on 01226 734222 and quoting the following reference numbers:


HMS Belfast Book Reference Number: 104196

HMS Cavalier Book Reference Number: 313551

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New books on the way

Book Cover


It gives me great pleasure to announce that I have written another two books which are due to be published in the coming months. The first of these is the 6th volume in Seaforth Publishing’s successful Historic Ships series and focuses on the UK’s sole surviving wartime destroyer HMS Cavalier. I will add more information about the book to this website very soon including a sample gallery and PDF flyer which will enable readers of this site to save 25% on the published price. News about the second book will be released shortly.

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Another new gallery



I have just added three new galleries (within the Motor Boats section of the Galleries menu) devoted to one of the most beautiful wooden motor cruisers to be built on the Broads. The bespoke 43ft Broom Admiral class motor cruiser Katinka was built for Professor Jack Mayne of Cambridge in 1961. She still remains on her native waters where her current owner continues to lavish the same level of TLC she has received since the day of her launch.

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