LLOYDS Register Of Shipping is famed across the globe. A vessel will remain on it until something happens to her – for example if she is sunk, wrecked, or broken up.
Appropriate then that Jean Hood, pictured, should have been an information officer for the London-based organisation before moving north with husband George to Sandbach 16 years ago and forging a new career charting disaster, demise and heroism on the high seas. Her latest book Carrier, "a century of first-hand accounts of naval operations in war and peace" was launched last week.
"As the title suggests," she says, "my book tells the human, rather than the technical, story of aircraft carriers and naval aviation, using eye-witness stories from those who served and, indeed, are still serving – not just British but US, Indian, Japanese, Italian, Australian and French."
The book starts with the first take-off by an aircraft from a warship – an honour which went to the US civilian pilot Eugene Ely in 1910 – and ends with the successful medical evacuation of two children from Haiti by a helicopter team from the Italian carrier Cavour this year.
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In between are anecdotes of First World War missions, the great operations of the Second World War including the sinking of the Bismarck, Pearl Harbor and Midway, while the opening strikes of the First Gulf War come vividly to life through the words of two pilots and a flight deck co-ordinator aboard USS Saratoga.
Elsewhere, a stoker tells how he abandoned the sinking HMS Eagle, and an Australian pilot looks back on his dramatic rescue after being shot down over Korea.
"Some of the incidents in the book are extremely funny," says Jean, "some are dramatic and some are deeply moving in their tragedy. The funniest is probably the story of the inter-war Royal Naval admiral who was catapulted upside down in the rear cockpit. The most dramatic could well be the US bombardier who was half-ejected in 1991. And the saddest, for me, is the letter written by the captain of HMS Illustrious after she had been bombed in 1941."
The mother-of-one took to writing after finding teaching wasn't for her. She now spends her days gathering astonishing seafaring stories from across the globe, preferably firsthand accounts. Previous works include Submarine: An Anthology Of Firsthand Accounts of the War Under The Sea, 1939-45; Come Hell And High Water: Extraordinary Stories Of Wreck, Terror and Triumph On The Sea; Trafalgar Square: A Visual History Of London's Landmark Through Time; Wreck: Extraordinary True Stories Of Disaster and Heroism At Sea. Her only non-maritime tome was her debut, the children's The Dragon Of Brog.
It's an expertise that hasn't gone unnoticed. Her first book, Marked For Misfortune: An Epic Tale Of Shipwreck, Human Endeavour And Rescue In The Age Of Sail, which relates the wrecking of the Honourable East India Company's ship Winterton off the coast of Madagascar, led to her being approached by the makers of the BBC's genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?
It transpired one of the passengers went by the name of Suetonius McGowan, a direct descendent of impressionist Alastair MacGowan.
That book was itself the result of a 20-year obsession which started when she first encountered the Winterton while at Lloyds Register.
Prior to that, Jean's main historical connection had been with the Sealed Knot, fighting for the Royalist cause at weekends.
Land battles have been put to one side now as the unpredictable might of the sea takes over.
After two years writing and researching Carrier, Jean would love one day to sail a leg of the Tall Ships race – on the day we speak she has just returned from a sojourn to see these mighty vessels at Hartlepool – is already thinking of her next project. "I'm not certain what it will be," she says, "but possibly it will be on the preserved ships of the world, naval and merchant."
Whatever, it will undoubtedly be hugely well received by a sizeable audience fascinated by stories of the sea. All she has to do now is convince some dubious inland book stores that such readers are actually out there.
"I was told by one that they were too far from the sea to stock it," she says. "I said 'you're nowhere near Middle Earth either but you've still got Tolkien on your shelves'!" Another doubter sunk.