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HMS Cambria: “A Flagship for Wales”

25 Apr 23


(Self-Published – £15 plus £3.30 P&P)

217 pages

Available directly from Matthew Salisbury, at [email protected]

HMS Cambria, the Royal Naval Reserve Unit in Wales, celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022, following on from the opening in 2021 of a new, dedicated facility in Cardiff. This book, featuring an attractive cover illustration of HMS Cambria, seeks to tell the story of the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) in South Wales from its establishment in 1947 through to the present. Edited by Lieutenant Commander Matthew Salisbury (Retd), who served in the RNR from 1960 to 1994, and featuring contributions from a number of those who have served with HMS Cambria, this book provides a multi-faceted discussion of the history of the RNR in South Wales.

Encompassing 13 numbered chapters, along with unnumbered sections on HMS Cambria’s ‘Medical Department Post 1994’, ‘Memories of the Medical Branch at HMS CAMBRIA’, (by Peter Lloyd Jones), ‘Some Great CAMBRIA Achievers’, and three appendices: one by Commodore Sir Robert Hastie on his career in the RNR, one on the evolution of mine warfare and countermeasures, and the third a biography of Matthew Salisbury. A glossary of mine warfare terms is also included. The chapters cover the headquarters (Cambria has relocated from Cardiff to Sully and back to Cardiff), the ships, commanding officers, and reservists who have served in HMS Cambria. ‘Special Deployments’ (for example, to Canada), along with the Women’s Royal Naval Reserve, its evolution post-1994 following changes to the RNR after the end of the Cold War, operational experience in the Falklands and 2003 invasion of Iraq, as well as ‘Civic and Social Events’, are also covered. HMS Cambria has a rich history, and this is well-told, with some of the anecdotes perhaps highlighting how society has evolved over the past few decades.

This reviewer found HMS Cambria to be a fascinating account of the history of the South Wales RNR, its evolving roles, the people, and its engagement with wider society. From conducting training in mine warfare in preparation for defending against the Soviet Union, to participating in multiple shore engagements on visits to Canada, and preparing for and deploying to the Middle East for Operation TELIC, HMS Cambria effectively conveys the diverse history and experiences of serving in the RNR. It does warrant mention that there are multiple typos (for example, on p. 202, NATO’s founding is given as 1946 rather than 1949) and punctuation errors, which whilst being an inconvenience, do not detract from what is an engaging and readable book. HMS Cambria is also richly illustrated with many photographs, in particular of those who have served with Cambria. This book will certainly appeal to those interested in the RNR, whether in terms of its evolving roles, or from a more social history perspective. All in all, this book provides a fascinating and engaging read.