A Voyage Down the Years

Sam Poole reviews Guy Warner's Book

Guy Warner splits his enthralling autobiography into four parts. Part four is headed Sailing. A Voyage Down the Years - A turbulent life on land and sea; it certainly is, especially the other three sections where Guy lays open his extraordinary high octane life in which he explores his early upbringing on the South Coast. A bomb fell in the back garden and then the subsequent loss of his father before he was a teenager and then the difficult years when his mother bravely brought up her brood of five very different children.

She was always short of money but with a steely determination she ensured that they had good educations and equal opportunities. Brighton Hove and Sussex Grammar School provided the two silver threads that run through the 523 pages - sport and mathematics. These silver threads, like his writing shivers along at break-neck speed, there is never much time for Guy to sleep. Cricket was to be his professional career but at Oxford as well as doing the mathematics that he enjoyed, but leaving out the bits of no interest to him, he gained a Blue in Tennis as well as playing University Chess and Bridge.

Like many of us born in 1940, the Sixties burst into his life at the right time and the world became his brine -filled oyster.

Serendipity plays a big part on Guy’s silver slalom through the years. He joins the Royal Navy because he needs time off to play tennis and perhaps teach Mathematics. Then by chance Guy found himself badly needed by Chief of Staff to Flag Officer Submarines to be a winning partner in the Tennis Championships. A crusty old Admiral Submarines VC (then the veteran head of Tennis Royal Navy!) made it certain that Warner would be available when needed.

Serendipity again. The Silent Service is just entering the growing dangerous, oceanic chessboard of the Cold War and the Underwater War of Cat and Mouse, Tom and Jerry, with the first true submarines, continuously blind, careering at depth and speed, where one poor move could turn Cold into Hot and Armageddon. Mutual Assured Destruction is the name of the game. Destroying an enemy submarine never seen and only detected as a ‘band of noise’ becomes the 'Bearings Only Solution' solved by algorithms and fast computing and then interpretation by skilled teams as the weapons of destroying each other were still, at the outset, close range and either unguided or poorly guided.

Enter Warner, tennis racket partially stowed but with his masterful appreciation of the mathematical methods needed to solve the problem. Warner combined this with swiftly gained expertise in IT and the necessary hardware to aid the quick witted Command Team to hit the target before they hit you. All of this conducted in the inky black of the deep cold ocean. Warner’s modesty would have you skate on the surface as he rushes to tell you of his full, often turbulent and sometimes tragic family times, while developing and applying new Command Team Systems at sea. One day this Silent Service may allow the full story to be told and the country will become aware of the debt they owe to the Submarine Service and the part it played in keeping the Free World free. Here you can read between the lines and like the Submarine Service be ahead of the curve. No deep mathematics required! Guy, took up surface sailing with the same enthusiasm and exuberance that enabled him to break down the inter and intra Service rivalries that he had battled against both as a Serving Officer and in his highly successful civilian occupation of providing the best equipment to the Royal Navy and friendly Navies in another Tom and Jerry world of competitive Grab or be Grabbed.

In the sailing section you will meet many you know. If you have met Guy you are probably mentioned (at your peril or pleasure!) as he recounts his joyous years of being a Member. Stand by to stand by.

This raw account is a 'must read' for the curious and for those of us fascinated by the various forms of leadership, good and bad, encountered along this fast moving, fact packed, name dropping account of a life taken at full speed ahead ,of life on land and sea, with its ups and downs (quite literally and terrifying at times) at break- neck speed.

Guy writes straight from his amazing memory during the two month forced lockdown that denied him playing golf, sailing and socialising. You will laugh and cry, ponder and prosper from the read ,and when you next meet you will not get any more out of him, I promise! But he will sign your book and in return you will be offered a large Horses Neck if he is on board, master of 'Ruby Star': and so much more.