MONSARRAT, Nicholas [1910-1975]

Nicholas John Turney Monsarrat was born at 11 Rodney Street L1 on March 22nd 1910. He records in the first volume of his autobiography that for reasons unknown his mother registered his birth with the incorrect spelling Montserrat. In his autobiography he traces his Monsarrat roots back to an earlier Nicholas who was a wine-grower in the South of France. In his childhood the family moved to the ‘countryside’, a large house called Melbreck on Greenhill Road, Allerton, The house has gone but it is commemorated in Melbreck Road which runs over the land on which the house once stood. They lived here from 1917 to 1923 when they moved a short distance to another large house at 10 Holmfield Road in Mossley Hill. The family had a holiday home on the isle of Angelsey and it was whilst visiting there that his elder brother, Toby, was killed when he fell from some rocks. Another brother, Denys, was killed in a motor accident while serving in the army in North Africa in 1943.

Educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge Monsarrat did not take to his proposed career in law, deciding instead to move to London and establish himself as a writer. He supported himself by doing freelance work whilst completing four novels and a play in the years leading up to the Second World War. This saw Monsarrat, a capable amateur sailor, serve as a Lieutenant Commander in corvettes and frigates. His naval duties brought him back to Liverpool and he established his wife and child in “a small cottage in Gateacre, a village just outside Liverpool”.

 After the war he joined the Diplomatic Service, with postings in South Africa and Canada. He continued to write and making use of his wartime experiences in 1951 he published The Cruel Sea. This novel, and the film version based on it, established him as a wealthy best-selling author although it was not until 1959 that he became a full-time writer. He lived in Guernsey and the Maltese island of Gozo.

In 1964 he published the novel A Fair Day’s Work, which dealt with industrial relations on a ship and was set in his home town.

He died in London on 28th August 1979 and with the assistance of the Royal Navy his ashes were scattered at sea.

11 Rodney Street L1

When the family moved from Rodney Street to Allerton the ground floor was retained as his father's consulting rooms.

Commemorative plaque on the wall of 11 Rodney Street


The most detailed accounts of Monsarrat's life in Liverpool are to be found in his autobiographical works. He published My Brother Denys: Being The Monsarrat Story  in 1948. Nearly twenty years later he returned to his life story in much greater detail in Life is A Four Letter Word. This was published in two volumes Breaking In [1966] and Breaking Out [1970]. The books give not only the story of the Monsarrat family but a wider picture of Liverpool in the early twentieth-century and during the Second World War. The article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a useful summary.