Hammond Innes

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Ralph Hammond Innes CBE (15 July 1913 – 10 June 1998) was a British novelist who wrote over 30 novels, as well as works for children and travel books.


Innes was born in Horsham, Sussex, and educated at Feltonfleet School, Cobham, Surrey, where he was head boy, and later at Cranbrook School in Kent. He left in 1931 to work as a journalist, initially with the Financial News. The Doppelganger, his first novel, was published in 1937. In WWII, he served in the Royal Artillery, eventually rising to the rank of Major. During the war, his first books were published, including Wreckers Must Breathe (1940), The Trojan Horse (1940) and Attack Alarm (1941), the last of which was based on his experiences as an anti-aircraft gunner during the Battle of Britain at RAF Kenley.[1] After being demobilized in 1946, he worked full-time as a writer, achieving multiple early successes. His novels are known for a fine attention to accurate detail in descriptions of places, such as in Air Bridge (1951), set partially at RAF Gatow, RAF Membury after its closure and RAF Wunstorf during the Berlin Airlift.

Innes produced books in a regular sequence, with six months of travel and research followed by six months of writing. Many of his works featured events at sea. His output decreased in the 1960s, but was still substantial. He became interested in ecological themes, as in High Stand, his "tree" novel. He continued writing until just before his death. His last novel was Delta Connection (1996).

Unusually for the thriller genre, Innes' protagonists were often not "heroes" in the typical sense, but ordinary men suddenly thrust into extreme situations by circumstance. Often, this involved being placed in a hostile environment (the Arctic, the open sea, deserts), or unwittingly becoming involved in a larger conflict or conspiracy. The protagonist generally is forced to rely on his own wits and making best use of limited resources, rather than the weapons and gadgetry commonly used by thriller writers.

Four of his early novels were adapted into films: Snowbound (1948) from The Lonely Skier (1947), Hell Below Zero (1954) from The White South (1949), Campbell's Kingdom (1957) from the book of the same name (1952), and The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) also from the book of the same name (1956).[2] His 1973 novel Golden Soak was adapted into a six-part television series in 1979. It was partly filmed in Nullagine, Western Australia. An audio adaptation of The Doomed Oasis was repeated on the UK digital radio station BBC Radio 7 (now called BBC Radio 4 Extra).

In 1937, he married actress Dorothy Mary Lang, who died in 1989.[3] Innes's great love and experience of the sea as a yachtsman, was reflected in many of his novels. Hammond and his wife both travelled in and raced their yachts Triune of Troy and Mary Deare. They lived together in Suffolk for many years, in the village of Kersey. After their deaths, they left the bulk of their estate and all of their Public Lending Rights to the Association of Sea Training Organisations, to enable young people to gain training and experience in sailing the element they both loved.[4]

In 1978, Hammond Innes was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to literature.



Books for children (as Ralph Hammond)[edit]

  • Cocos Gold (1950)
  • Isle of Strangers (1951)
  • Saracen's Tower (1952)
  • Black Gold on the Double Diamond (1953)


  • Harvest of Journeys. Knopf. 1960. ISBN 978-0-00-612180-0.
  • Scandinavia (1963)
  • Sea and Islands (1967)
  • The Conquistadors. Collins. 1969. ISBN 978-0-00-217531-9.
  • Hammond Innes Introduces Australia. Andre Deutsch. 1971.
  • East Anglia (1986)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ATTACK ALARM – Hammond Innes's portrait of Kenley's Hardest Day". Kenley Revival. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  2. ^ Humphries, P. (1994). The Films of Alfred Hitchcock. Random House Value Publishing. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-517-10292-3. Retrieved 20 June 2021. The Wreck of the Mary Deare was in fact made into a worthy film in 1959, with an Eric Ambler adaptation of the Innes novel and Gary Cooper giving a memorable performance ...
  3. ^ Obituary: Hammond Innes - Arts & Entertainment - The Independent
  4. ^ "Hammond Innes". UK Sail Training. Retrieved 24 September 2020.

External links[edit]