The Ship (novel)
The Ship is a novel written by British author C. S. Forester
C. S. Forester
Cecil Scott "C.S." Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith , an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen...

 set in the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and first published in May 1943. It follows the life of a Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 light cruiser
Light cruiser
A light cruiser is a type of small- or medium-sized warship. The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck...

 for a single action, including a detailed analysis of many of the men on board and the contribution they made.


A vital convoy is heading to Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

, escorted by five Royal Navy light cruisers, including HMS Artemis. It is afternoon, and Artemis, commanded by Captain Troughton-Harrington-Yorke, has just beaten off a number of air attacks. An Italian surface fleet, with the battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s San Martino and Legnano and several light cruisers, will intercept it soon. The convoy must get through, so the British ships must fight. The crew, from the command level officers on the bridge down to the ordinary seamen in the lower decks, prepares for the coming confrontation, while part of them is also occupied with their own, very colorful lives.

Upon receiving reports from the lookouts at the masthead of enemy ships ahead, the cruisers lay a smoke screen, then attack. The ship sustains two hits, the first of which kills the ship's surgeon and several other crewmembers, while the second one does more damage to the ship and requires the flooding of "X" gun turret aft. The other two turrets continue to fire upon the Italian fleet, while destroyers lay a torpedo attack. A single shell, whose history from the mining of the ores to the firing of the gun is described in detail, hits the Italian flagship and strikes the final blow to the morale of the enemy commanders. With the San Martino being hit by a torpedo, the Italian fleet retires as night falls, and the convoy continues for Malta.

The captain remains on the bridge, more determined than ever to continue "the long struggle of sea power against tyranny", which so many naval commanders fought before him.

HMS Artemis crew

  • Captain the Honourable Miles Ernest Troughton-Harrington-Yorke – Commanding Officer
  • Commander James Hipkin Rhodes – Executive Officer
  • Paymaster Commander George Brown – Paymaster
  • Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant James Jerningham – Captain's secretary
  • Able Seaman Dawkins – Helmsman
  • Able Seaman A. B. Presteign – A member of the gun crew
  • Ordinary Seaman Harold Quimsby


  • Vice-Admiráglio Gasparo Gaetano Nocentini, Italian Navy
  • Kapitän zur See
    Captain at Sea
    Captain at Sea, is a naval rank corresponding to command of a ship-of-the-line or capital ship....

     Helmuth von Bödicke, German Navy
  • Korvettenkapitän Klein – Bödicke's translator
  • Luogotenente
    The Italian word luogotenente , plural luogotenenti, is an etymological parallel to lieutenant, deriving from the Latin locum tenens "holding a place", i.e...

     Lorenzetti – Nocentini's translator


The novel is divided into twenty-six short chapters, and describes a very short period of time. The narrative interweaves the stories of the men aboard, from the Paymaster Commander to the Captain to the gun crew that fires the shot that changed the course of history, with chapter headings that come from the Captain's official after-action report.


The author dedicated the book "with the deepest respect to the officers and crew of HMS Penelope
HMS Penelope (97)
HMS Penelope was an Arethusa-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy. She was built by Harland & Wolff , with the keel being laid down on 30 May 1934...

", and the action described is based on the First Battle of Sirte
First Battle of Sirte
The First Battle of Sirte was fought between the British Royal Navy and the Regia Marina during the Mediterranean campaign of the Second World War. The engagement took place on 17 December 1941, southeast of Malta, in the Gulf of Sirte...

. Forester had been invited to a mission aboard that vessel by the Admiralty earlier. Less than a year after the book was published, the Penelope was torpedoed by a German submarine and sank with more than half her crew.
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