The Fourth Force: The Untold Story of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary since 1945, Geoff Puddefoot

The Fourth Force: The Untold Story of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary since 1945, Geoff Puddefoot

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary provides support services for the Royal Navy, running the fuel tankers and supply ships that allow the Navy's warships to continue operating. It does this despite being manned by essentially civilian crews

The book has three main themes. The first is the stress caused by the civilian status of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, valuable in that it allows RFA ships to operate in ports that would otherwise be closed to British warships, but that causes problems when ships need to carry weapons or when they enter warzones. The second is the stream of reforms and re-organisations and the impact on new ships and equipment on the RFA.

The third, and most interesting for those of us without a direct connection to the RFA are the active deployments that have involved the RFA. This has included most of the major wars fought by Britain since 1945, amongst them Korea, Suez, the Falklands and the wars in Iraq, along with a lot of lesser known conflicts as well as a number of humanitarian operations.

The book gets off to a slightly unsteady start, jumping straight into the story with the changes that affected the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the 1950s. It would perhaps have been better if we had started with a look at the RFA in 1945 and how it changed during the period of post-war demobilisation. Instead we launch straight into the arrival of the first new ships after the war in 1950.

After this Puddefoot hits his stride, and the bulk of the book is clear and well written, supported by a well-chosen selection of quotes from current and former RFA personnel. While the book will be of particular interest to that same audience, it should also be of value to anyone with an interest in the post-war Royal Navy.

1 Postwar Changes and the First Tide Class: 1950-9
2 Korea, 'Grapple' and the Cod Wars
3 A Fleet Within a Fleet: 1960-9
4 Aden and the RNSTS
5 The Doldrum Years: 1970-9
6 Apollo, Malta and a Pre-'Corporate' Trip
7 The Falklands War and the RFA: 1980-3
8 South Georgia, 'Sutton' and Fitzroy
9 Force Multiplies, Modern Sea War and the New RFA: 1982-99
10 Saddam Hussein, Bosnia and Humanitarian Aid
11 The Twenty-first Century: 2000-?

Ship Data Tables
Appendix 1 Chronology of World Events and RFA Involvement 1950-2008
Appendix 2 Modern Replenishment at Sea
Appendix 3 Battle Honours Awards RAF ships
Appendix 4 Marchwood Military Port

Author: Geoff Puddefoot
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 243
Year: 2009

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