Percy Westerman was born in Portsmouth in 1876 and for a time attended Portsmouth Grammar School. He was drawn to the sea from an early age, working as an Admiralty Clerk in the Naval Dockyard. Although he had written briefly on nautical topics it wasn't until he reached the age of 31 that he began writing adventure books for children.
His first book was entitled 'A Lad of Grit' (1908) which was inspired by the idea of the scouting movement which had begun when Lord Baden Powell set up the first camp on Brownsea Island in 1907. Westerman was particularly interested in the idea of scouting in a marine environment. The early books which took as their theme the open-air life on land and sea were very popular and by the age of 35 years he was able to give up his Admiralty post and devote himself to writing on a full time basis. The freedom this allowed him meant that he was no longer tied to Portsmouth and he moved to Wareham in Dorset where he lived on board a houseboat.
The first World War saw Westerman involved in coastal duties but he was soon offered a commission in the Royal Flying Corps, an experience that opened up a host of possibilities for his books. The Second World War brought his talents to the service of the Home Guard in Dorset, but throughout both wars he continued to write. In the 1930s he was voted the most popular boys' author in a Daily Sketch poll conducted through libraries.
Westerman's output totalled more than 170 books, many being translated for the benefit of children worlwide, the last being published posthumously in 1959. His total sales exceeded 1½ million. Though his work never wavered from the early quality in later years he became something of a recluse and he died at the age of 82 in 1958.
Percy Westerman married Florence Wager of Portsmouth in 1900 and their son John went on to write over 40 books in a style similar to that of his father. Both of the 'Westermans' books are now sought by collectors around the world.
A short biography by Nigel Gossop
An obituary in The Times (25 February, 1959)
The website
Portsmouth Paper No. 74, 'Portsmouth Novelists'