Kit Layman CB, DSO, LVO joined the Royal Navy in 1956, and served for 35 years in many parts of the world, including the waters around Patagonia where the Wager was wrecked. He commanded five ships of different sizes, from a minehunter based in Hong Kong to the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible. In 1982 he was commanding HMS Argonaut and the Seventh Frigate Squadron in the Falklands war, when his ship suffered damage and casualties but came home safely. As a Rear Admiral he spent a happy time as Commander British Forces Falkland Islands when he was able to study the old settlement founded by Commodore Byron in 1765. His last appointment was at NATO Headquarters for three interesting years, during which time the Soviet Union and its empire collapsed. On retirement he worked for various companies and charities and his local Community Council, was appointed Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod (an Officer of the Order of the Thistle), and wrote two books.
It takes an experienced seaman intelligibly to describe, as Layman does, the seamanship aspects of this story....Admiral Layman does us all a service by bringing this adventure story before us again, explicating its ramifications with great clarity. -- Rum Ration This book is far more than a heroic story of British seagoing endurance, though the 2,500-mile voyage of a handful of starving, desperate seamen in an open long-boat round South America is in itself epic. But the narratives of the 'Wager'survivors, now collected and edited by Admiral Layman, are infinitely richer than any one-dimensional Victorian tale of British grit. They are tales of horrific, often repulsive suffering; they are sinister mysteries; they are tales of moral dilemmas. Above all, these narratives present us with a cast of extraordinary, vivid human characters. Some are struggling with their consciences; some are obsessed with hatred and fear. There are steady and resourceful men who nevertheless let the weak die in order to save the strong; there are traitors determined to reach safety so that they can denounce their own shipmates. And - most fortunately for us - there are a few marvelous young men who never stopped observing the places and peoples they encountered and somehow - in the face of ghastly extremities - recording them with wonder and in detail. Almost forgotten for more than a century, the 'Wager' story in all its fearsome complexity and tragic horror is now returned to us in lasting and well-illustrated form. -- Neal Ascherson