John F Hanley

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The Last Boat – Jack Renouf Book Two

The greatest disaster in British maritime history occurred on Monday 17th June 1940. More perished in twenty minutes than the total losses sustained during the sinking of the Titanic, Lusitania, HMS Hood, and the Battle of Trafalgar. Yet most people are unaware of this shocking event especially as an embargo was placed on the British press at the time and the files have been sealed until 2040!

I discovered this when researching the second novel in the Jack Renouf series and decided to name it THE LAST BOAT in honour of the bravery of the over 6,000 British servicemen and women who lost their lives when the Luftwaffe bombed HMT Lancastria then callously strafed the survivors and tried to set them on fire by dropping incendiary bombs into the lake of oil spreading from the broken ship's bunkers.

Jack, Miko, Lt Commander Brewster, and Saul, who has navigated his father's cruiser from Jersey down to St Nazaire to assist with the last stages of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF),all appeared in the first novel, AGAINST THE TIDE, and at 4 pm that tragic day have just ferried the last group of evacuees from the Old Mole at St Nazaire and are alongside the converted liner trying to persuade its captain to take them aboard when three Ju 88 bombers appear.

I found it very difficult to write the ensuing scenes as I drew on eyewitness accounts which were exceptionally harrowing but I wanted to expose the ruthless and inhuman actions of those German airmen. This is a work of fiction but founded on the most unpleasant of facts.

But this is just the beginning of Jack's adventures during the Fall of France as he tries to escape and is drawn into one of the most important events in the early war when he and his friends assist the French Secret Service to extract the world's entire supply of D20 (Heavy Water) which has been smuggled out of Paris before the Germans arrive. This isn't an entirely fictional account but based on real events as these canisters of expensively produced deuterium oxide are essential to the moderating process involved in splitting the atom and cannot be allowed to fall into Nazi hands!

Although this is a standalone novel, I'd advise reading AGAINST THE TIDE first to become acquainted with the main characters and appreciate how, in those twenty minutes, all the innocence of teenage Jack Renouf is eviscerated and sets him on an implacable path of revenge.

review

ACTION PACKED

From the start the reader is catapulted into the full-on action of World War Two… phenomenal amount of research to give this tale its authentic feel, with an array of cars and guns and planes and boats and motorcycles and descriptions of the different factions that complicated the conflict. Yet it is in no way a book that’s just for the fellas. I enjoyed the development of the characters we met in Against the Tide: Jack, Saul, Rachel and Caroline. Highly recommended, and I look forward to reading the third book in the series. Clement

Review

EXCELLENT SEQUEL TO AGAINST THE TIDE

Characters, expanded let mystery remains as the WWII continues to affect Jersey more and more. The plot thickens and concludes well yet leaves me wanting more. Looking forward to the next one.  Jon Watkins

Review

EVEN BETTER THAN THE FIRST BOOK

Jack is an engaging chap, thoughtful and resourceful... we now find Jack in France helping to rescue allied soldiers. The age of innocence is certainly long gone and Jack has had to grow up a lot in the last year, although he still has his muddled love interests to contend with…well thought out, absorbing and well written tale…very evenly paced and does not lag at any stage. … clearly meticulously researched both as to the events of the early part of the war, and in its detail of places.   Brett H

Review

RIP-ROARING ROLLER-COASTER

Jack, who is caught up in rip-roaring roller-coaster action as the Channel Islands are about to be attacked and taken over by Germany in 1940. The book commences at the actual greatest ever tragedy with the sinking of the troopship Lancastria and a loss of life exceeding that of the combined Titanic and Lusitania disasters. Jack is never to be the same again after witnessing the bombing of the Lancastria and then becoming swept up in killing the enemy - he is hardened and has become a much more ruthless character. D. Elliott Top Amazon Reviewer

Review

A GRIPPING AND COMPELLING TALE

This may be fiction but the author cleverly weaves the story around the true events from the summer of 1940 leading up to the occupation of the Channel Islands.  Small boats from the islands did help to rescue  the British Expeditionary Forces...French Foreign Legion soldiers were involved… a plan to get heavy water safely away from the Germans was real. These factors are skilfully employed to give insights into tensions between Britain and France, expose sympathies by Islanders for Germans, unmask conspirators, reveal intolerance of Jews, outline conflict between Fascism and Communism. D. Elliot (2)

Review

INTENSE AND GRITTY

`The Last Boat' continues with many of the same characters from `Against The Tide'… individuals are as well-crafted as they were in the first book…additional characters and groupings add depth… there are new situations and experiences to build tension and ensure suspense. In spite of the harsh and harrowing reality of the story it is told with a light touch and with use of humour. Though not essential, readers of the first book will have an advantage for this sequel, but everyone should appreciate the swashbuckling style of writing and the non-stop action within the plot. D. Elliot (3)

Review

ACTION WITH ATTITUDE IN THIS SEQUEL

I was plunged straight back into Jack Renouf and his adventures along with all the other characters met in the first book. I hadn't realised how much I missed them all...now with an extra depth to these characters; Jack himself is a year older, a little wiser but still a young man with a lot to learn about life, love and himself. I found myself much more involved and shed a tear before I was halfway through the book as actions and decisions in the past begin to have very real consequences in the present. Cleopatra

Review

A WORTHY SEQUEL

I was catapulted straight back into the mind, body and soul of Jack Renouf. Now, this being a sequel, I would recommend that you read the first book before taking this one up, but I have to say the sequel is even better than the first. Beautifully written again, and I love the writing style of the book. I could almost taste and smell the visions around me. Mrs. R. L. Dove

Review

METICULOUS HISTORICAL FICTION

The last boat is a fast paced action thriller set at a little known time in our islands' history. Like the previous book in the series 'Against the Tide', 'The Last Boat' is set in Jersey and follows the fortunes and pitfalls of Jack Renouf. A young man thrust into war and conflicts of loyalty, it is a real page turner and the action flows. The characters are convincing and engaging whilst the history is meticulous but never pedantic. I can't wait for the next one! Seacreature

Review

A GRIPPING AND COMPELLING READ

So much happened in such a short time in June 1940 that few of us can imagine the multitude of factors that came into play for the people of the France and the Channel Islands…where to escape… how to escape … how far exactly the Germans had progressed… a rich and realistic impression of the invasion and its progress. Most of the cast from the previous book return and personal dramas and issues between the main characters are still to be resolved and these add splendidly to the illustration of the uncertainty of the time. Christoph Fischer 

Review

MASTERLY CRAFTED

We meet up again with a year older Jack, ruthless, more determined and adventurous as the German invasion becomes more real for the island of … very descriptive you learn more about the group as they prepare for war against Germany… low flying warplanes bring tension to the inhabitants, and as the general mood changes from tranquil to unbearable tension people change. Suspenseful, a love-triangle and relationships breaking down or mending…masterly crafted as the author takes you into the world of his characters and actual events that make this believable and entertaining. Lynelle Clark (South Africa)

Review

JAW DROPPING OPENING

The author made me care about the characters so much in his first novel that I couldn't wait to find out what happens next...I certainly wasn't expecting the jaw dropping opening chapters detailing the true events of the demise of the Lancastria… it's the best kind of history lesson because I'm following the journeys and adventures of our protagonists yet filling in those gaps in my knowledge about the war. I especially appreciated the author's notes at the end of the novel to help bridge the storytelling with the true events.  Sarah Sharpe

ACTION PACKED

From the start the reader is catapulted into the full-on action of World War Two… phenomenal amount of research to give this tale its authentic feel, with an array of cars and guns and planes and boats and motorcycles and descriptions of the different factions that complicated the conflict. Yet it is in no way a book that’s just for the fellas. I enjoyed the development of the characters we met in Against the Tide: Jack, Saul, Rachel and Caroline. Highly recommended, and I look forward to reading the third book in the series. Clement

EXCELLENT SEQUEL TO AGAINST THE TIDE

Characters, expanded let mystery remains as the WWII continues to affect Jersey more and more. The plot thickens and concludes well yet leaves me wanting more. Looking forward to the next one.  Jon Watkins

EVEN BETTER THAN THE FIRST BOOK

Jack is an engaging chap, thoughtful and resourceful... we now find Jack in France helping to rescue allied soldiers. The age of innocence is certainly long gone and Jack has had to grow up a lot in the last year, although he still has his muddled love interests to contend with…well thought out, absorbing and well written tale…very evenly paced and does not lag at any stage. … clearly meticulously researched both as to the events of the early part of the war, and in its detail of places.   Brett H

RIP-ROARING ROLLER-COASTER

Jack, who is caught up in rip-roaring roller-coaster action as the Channel Islands are about to be attacked and taken over by Germany in 1940. The book commences at the actual greatest ever tragedy with the sinking of the troopship Lancastria and a loss of life exceeding that of the combined Titanic and Lusitania disasters. Jack is never to be the same again after witnessing the bombing of the Lancastria and then becoming swept up in killing the enemy - he is hardened and has become a much more ruthless character. D. Elliott Top Amazon Reviewer

A GRIPPING AND COMPELLING TALE

This may be fiction but the author cleverly weaves the story around the true events from the summer of 1940 leading up to the occupation of the Channel Islands.  Small boats from the islands did help to rescue  the British Expeditionary Forces...French Foreign Legion soldiers were involved… a plan to get heavy water safely away from the Germans was real. These factors are skilfully employed to give insights into tensions between Britain and France, expose sympathies by Islanders for Germans, unmask conspirators, reveal intolerance of Jews, outline conflict between Fascism and Communism. D. Elliot (2)

INTENSE AND GRITTY

`The Last Boat' continues with many of the same characters from `Against The Tide'… individuals are as well-crafted as they were in the first book…additional characters and groupings add depth… there are new situations and experiences to build tension and ensure suspense. In spite of the harsh and harrowing reality of the story it is told with a light touch and with use of humour. Though not essential, readers of the first book will have an advantage for this sequel, but everyone should appreciate the swashbuckling style of writing and the non-stop action within the plot. D. Elliot (3)

ACTION WITH ATTITUDE IN THIS SEQUEL

I was plunged straight back into Jack Renouf and his adventures along with all the other characters met in the first book. I hadn't realised how much I missed them all...now with an extra depth to these characters; Jack himself is a year older, a little wiser but still a young man with a lot to learn about life, love and himself. I found myself much more involved and shed a tear before I was halfway through the book as actions and decisions in the past begin to have very real consequences in the present. Cleopatra

A WORTHY SEQUEL

I was catapulted straight back into the mind, body and soul of Jack Renouf. Now, this being a sequel, I would recommend that you read the first book before taking this one up, but I have to say the sequel is even better than the first. Beautifully written again, and I love the writing style of the book. I could almost taste and smell the visions around me. Mrs. R. L. Dove

METICULOUS HISTORICAL FICTION

The last boat is a fast paced action thriller set at a little known time in our islands' history. Like the previous book in the series 'Against the Tide', 'The Last Boat' is set in Jersey and follows the fortunes and pitfalls of Jack Renouf. A young man thrust into war and conflicts of loyalty, it is a real page turner and the action flows. The characters are convincing and engaging whilst the history is meticulous but never pedantic. I can't wait for the next one! Seacreature

A GRIPPING AND COMPELLING READ

So much happened in such a short time in June 1940 that few of us can imagine the multitude of factors that came into play for the people of the France and the Channel Islands…where to escape… how to escape … how far exactly the Germans had progressed… a rich and realistic impression of the invasion and its progress. Most of the cast from the previous book return and personal dramas and issues between the main characters are still to be resolved and these add splendidly to the illustration of the uncertainty of the time. Christoph Fischer 

MASTERLY CRAFTED

We meet up again with a year older Jack, ruthless, more determined and adventurous as the German invasion becomes more real for the island of … very descriptive you learn more about the group as they prepare for war against Germany… low flying warplanes bring tension to the inhabitants, and as the general mood changes from tranquil to unbearable tension people change. Suspenseful, a love-triangle and relationships breaking down or mending…masterly crafted as the author takes you into the world of his characters and actual events that make this believable and entertaining. Lynelle Clark (South Africa)

JAW DROPPING OPENING

The author made me care about the characters so much in his first novel that I couldn't wait to find out what happens next...I certainly wasn't expecting the jaw dropping opening chapters detailing the true events of the demise of the Lancastria… it's the best kind of history lesson because I'm following the journeys and adventures of our protagonists yet filling in those gaps in my knowledge about the war. I especially appreciated the author's notes at the end of the novel to help bridge the storytelling with the true events.  Sarah Sharpe

June 1940 - German Blitzkrieg

June 1940 - German Blitzkrieg

Lancastria in happier days

Lancastria in happier days

Ju88 briefing before attack on HMT Lancastria

Ju88 briefing before attack on HMT Lancastria

RMT Lancastria steaming from Plymouth to St Nazaire

RMT Lancastria steaming from Plymouth to St Nazaire

Ju88-pilot bomb-aimer and engineer

Ju88-pilot bomb-aimer and engineer

HMT Lancastria ten minutes after bombing by Ju 88s

 HMT Lancastria ten minutes after bombing by Ju 88s

HMT Lancastria - artists impression of survivors

HMT Lancastria - artists impression of survivors

HMT Lancastria memorial in St Nazaire

HMT Lancastria memorial in St Nazaire

St Nazaire graveyard for the many bodies pulled ashore from the Lancastria

St Nazaire graveyard for the many bodies pulled ashore from the Lancastria

Royal Jersey Militia marching through St Helier

Royal Jersey Militia marching through St Helier

11th (Royal Militia Island of Jersey) Battalion

11th (Royal Militia Island of Jersey) Battalion

11 Officers and 193 Other Ranks depart on SS Hodder

11 Officers and 193 Other Ranks depart on SS Hodder

SS Hodder takes the Milita to the UK

SS Hodder takes the Milita to the UK

June 1940 Queuing for evacuation St Helier Harbour

June 1940 Queuing for evacuation St Helier Harbour

Potato Lorries last shipment to the UK

Potato Lorries last shipment to the UK

Heinkel III bomb aimer lining up for attack on Jersey

Heinkel III bomb aimer lining up for attack on Jersey

28th June 1940 7pm three Heinkels bomb St Helier Harbour

28th June 1940 7pm three Heinkels bomb St Helier Harbour

1st July 1940 Royal Square painting white cross to avoid more bombing

1st July 1940 Royal Square painting white cross to avoid more bombing

Germans land and remove Jersey flag

Germans land and remove Jersey flag

German victory parade in St Helier

German victory parade in St Helier

To the victors, the spoils

To the victors, the spoils

June 1940 - German Blitzkrieg

Lancastria in happier days

Ju88 briefing before attack on HMT Lancastria

RMT Lancastria steaming from Plymouth to St Nazaire

Ju88-pilot bomb-aimer and engineer

 HMT Lancastria ten minutes after bombing by Ju 88s

HMT Lancastria - artists impression of survivors

HMT Lancastria memorial in St Nazaire

St Nazaire graveyard for the many bodies pulled ashore from the Lancastria

Royal Jersey Militia marching through St Helier

11th (Royal Militia Island of Jersey) Battalion

11 Officers and 193 Other Ranks depart on SS Hodder

SS Hodder takes the Milita to the UK

June 1940 Queuing for evacuation St Helier Harbour

Potato Lorries last shipment to the UK

Heinkel III bomb aimer lining up for attack on Jersey

28th June 1940 7pm three Heinkels bomb St Helier Harbour

1st July 1940 Royal Square painting white cross to avoid more bombing

Germans land and remove Jersey flag

German victory parade in St Helier

To the victors, the spoils