Jean Hood's Website

Come Hell and High Water (original title); Wreck (paperback & E-book title)

Extraordinary Stories of Wreck, Terror and Triumph on the Sea

plaque at Moltenort , Kiel
The crew of Hartenstein's U156

This plaque is part of the U-boat memorial at Moltenort, near Kiel, Germany. There is one for every U-boat that lost a crew member. Many list the names of every member of the crew. The crew of U-156, especially their captain, Werner Hartenstein, were special. Having done their duty and sunk a ship - the Laconia - on 12 August 1942  they discovered that, among the survivors, were hundreds of Italian POWs. Hartenstein initiated a rescue that took no account of of nationality or allegiance. Women and children and the wounded were taken aboard U-156 and treated with kindness. With the help of two other U-boats and one Italian submarine with its own record of rescuing survivors, more than 1100 were saved, most of them transferred to ships of the Vichy Navy in a pre-arranged rendezvous. During the rescue mission, with his boat crowded both  inside and on deck, with several lifeboats in tow,  and with a home-made red cross displayed on the deck aft of the conning tower, the submarine was attacked by a US Liberator bomber with specific orders to sink it regardless. U-156 survived, unlike many of those in the boats or obliged to leave her shelter. But although she lived to hunt again, U-156 was sunk with all hands on the 8th March 1943.
The story of U-156 and the Laconia is one of  17 dramas featured in my book WRECK

It was supposed to be a book of shipwrecks, but I preferred to choose a selection of “maritime dramas” because that covered a much wider field.  Given how many thousands have occurred, choosing them should have been an impossible task, but it was amazing how many  of the seventeen chose themselves. The first on my list was the Rothsay Castle, a ship I had come across in my days at Lloyd’s Register, but not in any detail; the second had to be the attack by Italian special forces on Alexandria Harbour, and I was determined to write about another East Indiaman – so I ended up with two. I wanted the book to have an international flavour, and I can read several languages -  with various degrees of incompetence – and  that opened the way for, among others, the Sirio and the Méduse. And so on, until I ended up with seventeen – all very different, yet with  intertwining themes of leadership (or the lack of it) , endurance, courage and cowardice, humanity and cruelty. So many of those themes came together in the Laconia story.

Who is it written for? Anyone who enjoys a good story of adventure on the high seas and who does not mind a large dose of grim reality. Two of the chapters actually had me in tears as I was writing certain parts of them, though, embarrassingly, on one of those occasions the tears were for the ship.

I have tried to vary the style of the chapters, from full dramatisation to very spare narratives, and I freely admit to some scene-setting with invented dialogue. This occurs  at the start and end of “Taken by Storm, and  the starts of “Maiden Voyage”, “Worse Things Happen at Sea”, “Death Sentence” and “The Brotherhood of the Sea”. Elsewhere in those chapters and throughout the rest of the book, any dialogue is reproduced verbatim or reconstructed from reported speech. The list of primary sources will allow historians to follow my research, and I am more than happy to clarify points.


Laconia: Natal is (in this case) in Brazil
Sirio - silly typo: Italy became a a political entity in 1861, not 1871. To be precise, it wasn't the Italy we know today as, for one thing, Rome and the Veneto were not part of it.

 List of main ships:



 Ship Name

 Date of Incident
Links to additional data
Chapter Ship Name
Date of Incident
Links to additional data


Prince (Compagnie des Indes)

 1752  2
HEICS Doddington
or Dodington


HMS Centaur & HMS Ramillies

 1782 4Albion  (timber carrier)


Méduse (French frigate)
 1816  6Rothsay Castle
 1831Passenger List


Amphitrite (convict ship)

 1833  8San Francisco (US paddle steamer)


HMS Victoria & HMS Camperdown

 1893  10Sirio (Italian emigrant ship)
11Titanic 1912  12USS Squalus (submarine)
R/smg Scirè, HMS Queen Elizabeth,
HMS Valiant
 1941  14RMS Laconia and U-1561942
15Flying Enterprise and Turmoil 1951/52
Kursk and AS-28 (Russian Submarines)


Hardback published 2006 by Conway

400 pages

ISBN 978144860340

US edition published 2007 by Burford Books

UK paperback edition published 2008 as "Wreck"

Pages 408

ISBN: 978-1844860616



Awaiting re-print; currently unavailable via publisher

Limited special offer - £9 including UK postage direct from author - use "contact me"on home page

‘Reads like the best fiction, yet they are all true stories. Packed with all the elements of a cracking good fireside read, this is well worth a look.’
- Warships International Fleet Review
 ‘A wonderful gift to anyone having an interest in maritime history...the academic quality of Jean Hood's work elevates her book to an entirely different plane. Her attention to detail, which she presents in clear lucid language, is very impressive indeed….But the book’s academic strengths never get in the way of her skill as a story-teller. She writes beautiful flowing English, with some wonderful turns of phrase…enjoy this cracking good read.’
- The Review, quarterly journal of the Naval Historical Collectors & Research Association
 wonderful material and obvious writing talent…a relentlessly fascinating series of horrific sea disasters.’
- Publisher’s Weekly
 ‘A positively brilliant addition to popular maritime history….’
- Booklist


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