The sailors of the Royal Navy fought from the very first day of the Second World War until the very last.

They fought a campaign of unparalleled geographical scale, in every ocean of the world and along every major coastline. They were witnesses to a world at war: from America to Africa, and from the Arctic to Australia.

They fought in every conceivable vessel: vast aircraft carriers and cramped corvettes, fast motor boats and rickety minesweepers, Swordfish biplanes and ageing submarines.

They experienced the war at sea in all its forms: nerve-wracking convoys, epic gun battles, devastating aerial bombardment and swashbuckling amphibious landings. After hostilities had ceased, they began delivering humanitarian aid and bringing home prisoners of war.

Citizen Sailors tells their stories: from the battles with the Bismarck and the Scharnhorst to the infamous convoy campaigns in the Atlantic, the Arctic and the Mediterranean; from the desperate battles for Crete and Malta, to the ill-fated campaign in the Far East.

It evokes everyday life and extraordinary experiences; discipline and leadership, morale and psychology; and explores what it meant to be a sailor in the most prestigious navy in the world.

Great Britain was a maritime superpower: her financial and military strength depended on naval might. In this global struggle, ships formed the sinews of war, of industry and of empire.

Far from being detached from ordinary civilians, the sailors’ struggle was vital to the war effort.

Citizen Sailors puts the Royal Navy and its sailors back at the heart of the history of Britain’s world war.

During the Second World War the Royal Navy was the most powerful of Britain’s armed forces.  Its sailors fought across the globe in vast battleships and claustrophobic corvettes, makeshift minesweepers and silent submarines. They endured nerve-wracking convoys, fought epic gun battles, carried out deadly secret missions, rescued entire armies and landed the largest invasion force in history.  


Naval power was the foundation of Britain’s war effort, and sailors shaped the nation’s destiny.



Drawing on hundreds of contemporary diaries and letters, along with memoirs, oral history and official documents, Citizen Sailors is a groundbreaking history of Britain’s war at sea.

This is an epic human story which stretches across the globe: from the frozen ports of northern Russia to the coral atolls of the Indian Ocean, from the windswept coastline of Newfoundland to the suffocating humidity of Sierra Leone, from the vice dens of Alexandria to the imperial opulence of Singapore, and from the grey skies above Scapa Flow to the Pacific Ocean.


© Glyn Prysor

Citizen Sailors by Glyn Prysor is available now