It was not every young man who got to do his National Service aboard one of the Royal Navy’s most iconic warships, such as HMS ILLUSTRIOUS. David Woodward, however, was determined he would be among those who did, and made that ambition sufficiently clear so as to be invited to join the Fleet Air Arm. At the time he was working on a farm across the Waveney Valley. That helped, perhaps: “You must be used to the fresh air,” said the Recruiting Officer. “You’ll get even more on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.”

Probably like so many 18-year olds at that time, he had never spent a night away from home before he reported for basic training. Furthermore, apart from his daily journey from his native Beccles over the river into Norfolk, he had rarely seen any other part of the country, nor met many people from outside East Anglia. For him, as for so many such young men, National Service was to prove a truly eye-opening experience.

“An Illustrious Service” documents that experience and the effect it had upon him in the form of a reconstruction of the numerous letters he came to write, to parents, friends, old school mates, and those he’d worked with on the farm.