A new novel explores the experiences of the River Thames Auxiliary Patrol, based on detailed research by the author Douglas Lindsay, who spent much of his life at sea.


A river like the Thames looks very different from the deck of a boat. It becomes a highway, a means of getting somewhere and its banks merely the confining limits of the watery flow. In World War Two it became less and more so. Less because the endless stream of large world-girdling ships slowed to a trickle as they all move to West coast ports to escape the bombing. More, because a huge traffic of small boats and service craft built up for a myriad of warlike needs.

A principal part of this new traffic was the River Thames Auxiliary Patrol, launches and the likes providing for the Royal Navy’s needs. The Navy had barely been present on the Thames between the World Wars but with war came a demand for its services, organising convoys, providing defence support and a great deal of general administration. The Auxiliary Patrol was a primary means of serving this on a day-to-day basis, as the river was an unsinkable, unstoppable highway for its needs.

The ‘Wren Jane Beacon and War’ series of novels, set in that convulsive period, follows the erratic career path of the eponymous central character as the Navy’s first pioneer boat crew Wren. When a deeply doubtful male Naval establishment allows her to run a boat with an all-Wren crew, the Thames and the Auxiliary Patrol are a natural place for her to go. So these first boat crew Wrens have a grandstand view of the Blitz and the battering London gets while performing their duties brilliantly, up and down the river. Wren Jane Beacon runs the Tideway is the third book in a series which follows her from 1939 through many twists and turns to 1946 and adventures in the Baltic after demob. Her time on the Thames, described in graphic detail in ‘Runs the Tideway’ is a pivotal period in her progress and makes a gripping read for anyone with an interest in the River Thames.

Wren Jane Beacon runs the Tideway – by D J Lindsay is available to buy online.

You can read more about WWII and the Thames in Gustav Milne’s new book The Thames at War, published by Pen & Sword, available to order online from their website.

Pen & Sword are currently offering a 25% discount, just £14.99 per copy, if you use the code THAW25 at checkout.