Audio Drama Wiki

The Cruel Sea is a radio play by John Fletcher, based on the novel by Nicholas Monsarrat. It was first broadcast in two parts on BBC Radio 4 as installments of the Classic Serial[1]. Broadcast dates were 26 February 2012, and 04 March 2012.


Set during the Second World War. An account of the lives of the inexperienced seamen of the warship HMS Compass Rose. Escorting merchant convoys across the North Atlantic, the vessel is attacked by German U-boats.


  • Lockhart - Gwilym Lee
  • Ericson - Jonathan Coy
  • Ferraby - Carl Prekopp
  • Wainwright - David Seddon
  • Phillips - Peter Hamilton-Dyer
  • Gregg - Harry Livingstone
  • Mavis - Tracy Wiles
  • Coxswain - James Lailey
  • Donnelly - Adam Billington

  • Directed by Marc Beeby

Critical Reception[]

"John Fletcher’s authentic two-part dramatisation does full justice to the book’s juxtaposition of humdrum and high drama as the sailors transform themselves from ordinary civilians to disciplined crewmen reacting in an instant to life and death commands." - The Guardian

"The Cruel Sea" won the Best Use of Sound in an Audio Drama Awards in the 2013 BBC Radio Drama Awards and is nominated for the 2013 Sony Awards.

The Cruel Sea[]

Winner of this year’s BBC Audio Drama Award for Best Use of Sound in an Audio Drama, this is a full-cast dramatization of Nicholas Monsarrat’s 1951 bestselling book adapted for radio by John Fletcher.

The sound engineers, who won the award, were Caleb Knightly, Mike Etherden and Alison Craig. Starring Jonathan Coy and based on Monsarrat’s own naval career, it tells the story of the crew of a Navy war boat during the war in the Atlantic.

Judges of this category, Kevin Brew, Jon Hardy and Jane Thynne said this of the winner: “an astonishing effort, faithfully recreating in sound the physical and psychological horrors of naval warfare ... the near-silence where the protagonist learns of the death of his fiancée is as shocking as any of the battle scenes.”