Running a Big Ship

The Classic Guide to Managing A Second World War Battleship

Rory O'Conor

The essential primer in running a warship written by the celebrated Captain of HMS Hood
Publication date:
July 2017
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Contributor(s) :
Brian Lavery
Illustration :
16 b&w artworks
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781910860199

Dimensions : 198 X 128 mm
This book is temporarily out of stock.


• The essential primer in running a warship written by the celebrated captain of HMS Hood
• Beautifully produced with a cloth-bound period-style cover design and complete with 16 cartoon illustrations casting a light-hearted take on the lot of both the wartime officers and ratings

‘Battles are won or lost by men, not ships'

‘If Moses could control the people of Israel for forty years in the desert with Ten Commandments, it would be surprising if more were needed for the commission of a ship'

Having completed the highly prestigious commission of commanding HMS Hood, then the most famous warship in the world, in her halcyon pre-war years, Captain Rory O'Conor brought together all of his experiences to create the ultimate officers' guide for running a steel fighting ship.

Published in 1937, and now recognized as one of the most influential, yet highly accessible, volumes on naval command and organisation, Running a Big Ship provides a truly unique insight into life at sea during the Second World War.

O'Conor famously commenced the book with his ‘ten commandments', a concise code of orders that comprise ‘a little that everyone must know' so that every man knows what is required of him, whilst each was equally ‘entitled to the understanding and consideration of his officers'. Credited with making a significant contribution to the wartime navy's esprit de corps, the book had a lasting impact on shipboard understanding and relations on vessels large and small, as young, diverse crews withstood the considerable strain of actual war.

Such credit is due in large part to the main body of the book which sets out each of the duties required of a Royal Navy Officer in detailed, clear terms and through O'Conor's insightful advice. In effect, a vital and essential guide for those set in authority to learn ‘the great deal that relatively few need to know'. Such knowledge ranges from tips on the issuing and execution of orders, through to attendance requirements, the treatment of defaulters and shipboard theft, midshipmen training, ceremonies, uniforms, cleanliness aboard ship and on through to the management of the Fleet Air Arm and the high-speed service boats. There are fascinating observations and explanations of the finer points of bugle calls, the treatment of guests and complete instructions for many forms of recreation from cinema to regattas.

Running a Big Ship truly sets us below decks and at sea in the Second World War. The book was described by The Naval Review as detailing so much that "… Oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed” and is complete with an extensive introduction by one of the foremost historians of the Royal Navy, Brian Lavery.


Updated with a splendid introduction by Brian Lavery…Recommended for any 'Big Ship' man wanting a trip down memory lane.

Fascinating insight into running a "big ship", essential reading at the time and a welcome facsimile for today's avid collectors.
Books Monthly

While being a fascinating historical record, it is very far from being out-of-date. Indeed, it would make a first class textbook for modern managers of almost any kind of organisation or enterprise. It would also be invaluable for any modern naval officer…A valuable delight.
Baird Maritime

Taken together with a wider understanding of how the XO's task continues to evolve, this book does have something to offer the modern naval professional and I recommend it.
Australian Naval Institute

This really is a delightfully pleasing little book…An invaluable insight into how the big ships of the Second World War were run.
Britain at War Magazine

This new edition is a very welcome contribution to making detailed naval history more accessible, coming as it does with an introduction by Brian Lavery. 5 stars.
Army Rumour Service