Sound of the Waves by E.A. Alexander

I was recently asked to review Sound of the Waves, a non-fiction WW2 memoir for Liberty Books. This is not the kind of material that I review and would usually politely decline, but I knew someone who would really enjoy it: my dad!

So, full disclosure and transparency, these are my dad’s thoughts about reading Sound of the Waves. He took his role very seriously, and I wouldn’t publish anything that wasn’t sincere:

“Having just read A Game of Birds and Wolves by Simon Parkin, which described how the Royal Navy devised their tactics to hunt down and destroy the U-Boat wolfpacks that were attacking the North Atlantic convoys, it was very interesting to read Dr Alexander’s memoir Sound of the Waves, about his wartime work perfecting the Asdic (sonar) systems that the ships carried to detect the U-Boats.

During my own working career I was lucky enough to work in a lot of the locations mentioned in Dr Alexander’s time at Hertford College in Oxford, and the University side of the city is recognisable from his time there.

Also, at the time of the book, my family were tenant farmers at a farm adjourning RAF Abingdon, about 8 miles from Oxford, so it was easy to relate to Dr Alexander’s experiences in the area surrounding Oxford, both from a military and civilian perspective, (German POWs were sent to be labourers on the farm.)

What was interesting was the amount of secret establishments that were based in the Highlands of Scotland at this time. Again, I personally knew someone who had trained at the newly formed commando training school based there, so found this interesting.

The areas of the book that chartered Dr Alexander’s childhood and formative years in South Africa were a vivid snapshot of society and values in the first half of the twentieth century, and I think a chapter or two chronicling his post-war career and family life would have rounded things off nicely.

This book left me with a few unanswered questions about Dr Alexander’s family, and I wondered about the nature of his work in post-war Russia just as the Cold War was starting, and would have happily read more on these details.

In conclusion, I found the book to be very informative from a historical, technical and social point of view, and underlined the importance the so-called ‘boffins’ had in the winning of the war.”