The Coal Black Sea

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Nominated for the 2022 Mountbatten Award for Best Book

On the morning of 22 September 1914, just six weeks into the First World War, three Royal Navy armoured cruisers were sunk by a German U-boat in the southern North Sea. The action lasted less than 90 minutes but the lives of 1,459 men and boys were lost – more than the British losses at the Battle of Trafalgar or in the sinking of RMS Lusitania. Yet, curiously, few have ever heard of the incident.

The Coal Black Sea tells the extraordinary true story of the disaster from the perspectives of the men serving on HMS Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy, and the German submariners who orchestrated the attack. It also examines how the ignominious loss provoked widespread criticism of the highly ambitious First Lord of the Admiralty, 39-year-old Winston Churchill. While the families of the victims grieved, Churchill succeeded in playing down the significance of the disaster and shifted the blame to those serving at sea to save his faltering career.

The Author: Born in Kent, England, former naval officer, Stuart Heaver is a professional maritime journalist and writer, based in Hong Kong. He is a regular contributor to South China Morning Post, to Hong Kong Free Press and works for the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. His work has also been
published in The Independent, The Byline Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and many maritime publications.

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‘Stuart Heaver, himself a former Royal Navy officer, has triumphed with The Coal Black Sea ... It is sobering, and a great read,’

former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, GCB DSC DL

A recording of a live webinar on The Coal Black Sea by Stuart Heaver for The Western Front Association

Book Promotion Events


Interview with Giles Brown of Talk Radio Europe 27 June 2022 - Listen- from 29.00 mins

Coal Black Sea feature in the Kent Messenger dated 14 July 2022 by Gerry Warren 

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