The Gun Garden

David Beaty

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20 June 2013
178 pages

Malta 1942 – a thousand miles from friends, isolated, besieged, blitzed, bombed, desperately short of oil, ammunition, ships, aircraft, fuel, slowly being starved into surrender . . .

Into that hopeless situation, as a token the British attitude that attack is the best defence, fly two Wellington aircraft equipped with secret long-range radar. Their role is to find enemy convoys proceeding at night from Italy to Africa, and to lead a tiny naval force of cruiser and destroyer through the darkness to the unsuspecting target.

One is captained by a dedicated R.A.F. pilot, the other by a typical twenty-one-year-old.

Hastily trained, carefree, unwarlike, Peter Forrester is unwillingly pitchforked into this island of heroes – and heroines, for it is here he meets Miranda Black, daughter of a naval captain and a plotter in Barracca H.Q.

Far from being the usual tight-lipped R.A.F. story, this novel, climaxed by the mounting crescendo of a night battle at sea, is delicately balanced between love and war, between humour and sadness, between aircraft and ships, between guns and gardens.