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Court Martial

Mars, Alistair


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Lieutenant Commander Alastair Campbell Gillespie MarsDSODSC and Bar (1 January 1915 – 12 March 1985) was a Royal Navy World War II submarine commander. In 1952 he was court-martialled and dismissed from the service under controversial circumstances and pursued a career as an author.

After spending a short period on HMS H44, in November 1941 Mars was appointed as commanding officer of HMS Unbroken, which he served on until June 1943 on operations in the Mediterranean. From August 1943 until December 1943 he was a staff officer at HMS Dolphin submarine base in Portsmouth. In December he was placed in command of HMS Thule in the Far East, remaining there until November 1945.

After the war Mars was posted 1946 to HMS Dolphin but was eventually assigned to a post in New Zealand, where Mars’ pay of $39 per week as a lieutenant commander proved inadequate to support him, his wife and his two children.[1] The Royal Navy spent four years arguing over an extra living allowance before it was paid. With a sick wife, he was then assigned to Hong Kong where he was unable to afford even the single hotel room he rented. Becoming ill himself and heavily in debt, he returned to the United Kingdom and hospital. On his discharge he requested leave to try to put his finances in order but this was refused. He was ordered to report to Portsmouth but he wrote from his home in London to the Navy refusing to do so and requesting his retirement.[2] He commented in his letter that “I do not wish to plague My Lords with a mass of detail mainly repugnant to them. It should be sufficient to say that I have lost faith in the present governmental hierarchy and all that goes with it”.[1]

Mars entered politics as a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Party at the 1950 General Election. He contested the constituency of Windsor, but finished third.[3]

Mars was arrested and court-martialled for insubordination and absence without leave, which resulted in his dismissal from the Navy in June 1952. The controversy over his dismissal was the subject of a parliamentary question the following month, when the future prime minister James Callaghan asked the then First Lord of the Admiralty whether Mars would receive his pension.[4]

Following his dismissal Mars became a successful author, publishing several autobiographical works and novels. He died in Ipswich in 1985.

pp. 224 First Edition #0721 (No dustjacket.)

Additional Information

AuthorMars, Alistair
Number of pages224
PublisherShakespeare Head
Year Published1954
Binding Type

Hardcover. Original cloth

Book Condition

Very Good +