The British Empire Library

Captain Ward: Pacific Navigator

by Roddy Cordon

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Kelvin Nicholson (Gilbert Ellice Islands 1947-1956)

Many books have been written about the Central and South Pacific islands since the old seamen-navigators recorded their voyages. In the last half-century, most have come from travellers and tourists, and only a few (now happily increasing) from islanders themselves (or onetime residents) who well know the difficulties as well as the pleasures of life in these remote groups. Post-war accounts of Pacific life by seamen themselves are particularly scarce.

Roddy Cordon, who spent some seven years in Tarawa, the headquarters of the then Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony (present-day Kiribati and Tuvalu) has now brought together facts, tales and anecdotes mainly about this small Colony, but as the book's title indicates, has interwoven with these the stories of one such seaman, Vic Ward.

After the 1939-45 war, in which two of his ships were sunk. Captain Ward served in two of the London Missionary Society's ships which were so well-known and welcome from Samoa to Papua and in the waters between. In 1952 he moved from Mission service to that of Government (with all its red tape as the book brings out), and then spent nearly 25 years in command of various ships working out of Tarawa but well-known throughout the two million-odd square miles of sea which made up the Colony.

This inexpensive book is easy reading and Vic Ward's stories and the other informative material that Roddy Cordon has included will "beguile the evening hours", though some of the anecdotes - portraying bumbling officialdom - appear to support those who called the colony the Gilbert and Sullivan Islands. But it is valuable for Captain Ward's personal recollections of his life (including a fascinating account of the wreck of the John Williams V on a wrongly charted reef in Samoa), which are all too brief.

British Empire Book
Roddy Cordon
Cordon & Wood Publishers


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