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The Terror of Tobermory
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Biography, Military, History & Adventure
Publication Date
14 May 2015
Available for Sale
Birlinn Ltd
16pp b/w plates

The Terror of Tobermory

by Richard Baker - Find out more about the author

Once the Commodore asked a Commanding Officer what he had heard about the base. ‘Well, frankly, sir,’ replied the CO, ‘I’ve heard you’re tortured until you’re efficient. Then, if you’ve any strength left, you’re allowed to go.’

Without any preliminaries, he flung his gold-braided cap on the deck and said abruptly to the Quartermaster – ‘That is a small unexploded bomb, dropped by an enemy plane. What are you going to do about it!!?’ The sailor . . . promptly took a step forward and kicked the cap into the sea . . . the Commodore warmly commended the lad for his presence of mind, and then, pointing to the submerged cap, said: ‘That’s a man overboard! Jump in and save him!’

This was the legend of ‘Puggy’ Stephenson, Vice-Admiral and Commodore of the Western Isles, best known simply as ‘The Terror of Tobermory’. But Puggy was a terror for a purpose. Tobermory and the Western Isles were a theatre in the Battle of the Atlantic and Gilbert Stephenson knew well the responsibility he faced in training up raw and inexperienced crews into a trained and effective ship’s company. His methods were directly responsible for the sinking of over 130 U-boats and the shooting down of 40 enemy aircraft. Behind his ferocity lay a marvellous sense of humour and a deep humanity. ‘Terror’ he may have been but he was loved and respected by all who met him. Even today he remains a legend. This is the story of his life.

Richard Baker needs no introduction. Writer, broadcaster, newsreader, he is a household name. He served in the Royal Navy for three and a half years, which included a period at Tobermory under the command of the ‘Terror’. He lives in London, but travels widely, appearing regularly on lecture tours, and maintains a keen interest in naval matters.