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  • May 06, 2024 5:58 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    The Harwich Striking Force: The Royal Navy's Front Line in the North Sea 1914 - 1918

    By Steve R. Dunn

    As World War I ramped up on the continent, the Royal Navy fought to secure the English Channel and thwart German efforts to disrupt Allied shipping in the Atlantic. This task largely fell to Admiral Reginald Yorke Tyrwhitt and the Harwich Striking Force. Under his command, the Striking Force combatted German minelaying operations in the North Sea, engage enemy naval forces, and pioneered naval aviation capabilities. Steve Dunn’s The Harwich Striking Force: The Royal Navy’s Front Line in the North Sea 1914-1918 chronicles the valiant efforts of Tyrwhitt’s command keeping the Imperial Navy at bay throughout the Great War. 

    Naval forces stationed at Harwich occupied many roles during the war, reflective of a Royal Navy adapting to modern naval warfare. The Striking Force performed observation duty as a vanguard of the Grand Fleet stationed up north. As the war progressed, they transitioned to blockading and counter U-boat measures. After Zeppelin and naval bombardments in east England, the public scrutinized the Royal Navy and their inability to defend the British coastline, consigning the Harwich Striking Force to shoreline patrol. Later in the war, Tyrwhitt’s charges performed convoy duties for the Dutch ‘beef fleet’. 

    Most notably, according to Dunn, the Harwich Striking Force pioneered naval aviation combat in the North Sea. At Cuxhaven, the German military established an airbase from which Zeppelins and other bombers could reach England. Tyrwhitt’s carriers HMS EngadineRiviera, and Empress launched seaplanes on Christmas morning 1914 determined to neutralize the German threat stationed there. While ultimately unsuccessful, the sortie helped usher in a new era of naval warfare which Dunn brilliantly contextualizes through quotes from Churchill and Tyrwhitt expressing their enthusiasm for this new method of attack.

    Dunn’s success in The Harwich Striking Force lies in his ability to craft a narrative that is totally encompassing of the naval force stationed in the Essex town. On the grand scale, Dunn’s work details the Force’s victories at Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank, the tragedy felt after the sinking of each of Tyrwhitt’s ships, and the frustration felt by Tyrwhitt battling Admiralty bureaucracy which hindered his ability to combat the enemy. Yet, Dunn’s thorough research also gives the reader a glimpse into minute details of life in Harwich during the war, including how the town changed to accommodate the fleet and life as a sailor stationed there. 

    Few possess more knowledge of the Royal Navy during World War I than Steve Dunn. His research has led him to publish works on the Dover Patrol, the blockade of Germany, and naval efforts in the Baltic. With The Harwich Striking Force: The Royal Navy’s Front Line in the North Sea 1914-1918, Dunn sought to shed light on the all but forgotten efforts of Admiral Tyrwhitt and his command. His knowledgeable perspective of the Royal Navy in this conflict lets him place their triumphs within the larger background of the Great War. For readers seeking knowledge on a lesser known aspect of naval combat during World War I, The Harwich Striking Force is an excellent starting point. 

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Books, 2022
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 336 pages
    • Photographs, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $42.95
    • ISBN: 9781399015967

    Reviewed by: Will Nassif, University of South Carolina

  • May 06, 2024 5:53 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Warship 2022

    By John Jordan

    Warship has been a leading reference book with regard to the design and development of combat ships, for over forty years. The editor, John Jordan, has been in the role since 2004 and over the years has overseen the publication of a wide range of informative articles written by an international field of contributors. This publication for 2022 is no exception.

    The twelve feature articles in the 2022 offering come from the pens (or keyboards) of fourteen contributors from across the world, including one by the editor. Two of the articles are on a British theme: an account of offensive operations in the Channel (Operation TUNNEL) between September 1943 and April 1944; and a technically-rich article on post-war radar development in the Royal Navy. The remaining articles are of an international flavor, with six of them covering generic design issues: the beginnings of Soviet naval power; the development of the small cruiser in the Imperial German Navy; the development of Italian scouts between 1906 and 1939; Soviet battleship designs from 1939 to 1941; and a look at modern European frigate designs. A further four articles looking in detail at specific ship designs: the Imperial Japanese Navy carriers Sōryū and Hiryū; the French battleship Jauréguiberry (translated from the original French by the editor); the Australian Bathurst class of World War II minesweepers; and France’s prototype ocean escort, C65 Aconit. The twelfth article places the development of the Imperial Japanese Navy dockyard at Yokosuka into a historical context, with a fascinating insight into the roles played by the British and the French as the Japanese sought to modernise in the 1860s. While the articles cover a wide range of issues covering a protracted time period—from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day—they all have one thing in common: they are well-researched, well-presented, and provide a wealth of detail, including extensive bibliographies.

    The editor also has included a chapter on book reviews, and the book finishes with some evocative black and white images of the scrapping of the warships AgincourtNew Zealand, and Princess Royal at Rosyth between 1923 and 1925.

    On the face of it, the topics chosen for inclusion in the publication appear random. However, given the length of time that editions of Warship have been produced, there is no doubt that the owner of the full set of this publication would have a bookshelf containing a comprehensive, wide-ranging, and informative collection of articles on a naval theme covering operations, ship design, equipment, and infrastructure.

    The book is handsomely produced and is extensively furnished with a large number of black-and-white photographs. It also benefits considerably from some unusually clear line drawings of ship layouts, equipment, and charts, many of which have been drawn by the editor.

    This is an enjoyable read with informative articles written by authoritative contributors. Recommended.

    • Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2022
    • 8” x 11”, hardcover, 224 pages
    • Photographs, drawings, maps, tables, notes. $60.00
    • ISBN: 9781472847812

    Reviewed by: Jeremy Costlow, Little Rock, Arkansas

  • May 05, 2024 5:12 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Alistair MacLean's War: How the Royal Navy Shaped his Bestsellers 

    By Mark Simmons

    “Alistair MacLean was a giant figure when I was growing up,” writes thriller writer, Lee Child, in his foreword to this book. Many adults and children growing up in the 1950s to 1970s would agree. For many of these readers, Alistair MacLean’s HMS Ulysses was probably the definitive Second World War naval novel, and he went on to write two more books—The Guns of Navarone and South by Java Head—that were directly linked to his wartime service in HMS Royalist, while many of his later books had obvious ties to his World War II experiences. Mark Simmons sets out to explore these links.

    This is not a biography but does cover MacLean’s whole life from growing up in the manse in a Gaelic-speaking area of the Highlands to dying as an alcoholic in Switzerland. He joined the Royal Navy at the age of nineteen in 1941. After promotion to Able Seaman in August 1943, he joined the brand-new cruiser HMS Royalist in Scott’s Yard in Greenock. MacLean was to spend the rest of the war in Royalist. This covered the Arctic Convoys (March to May 1944), the Mediterranean and Aegean (July-October 1944) and the Far East (March-November 1945). Royalist returned to Portsmouth to pay-off in January 1946 and MacLean was discharged on 26 March 1946. 

    After discharge, MacLean went to university in Glasgow for a degree in English Language & Literature, married a German girl (to some family dismay) and became a schoolmaster. While teaching he was persuaded to enter a short story competition in the Glasgow Herald, winning the £100 prize, which brought him to the attention of staff of the publishers, Collins.  They persuaded him to try writing a novel, which Maclean completed in ten weeks: HMS Ulysses. The book sold over a quarter-million copies in hardback within six months, a  record at the time, and within ten years, MacLean was earning the present-day equivalent of three million dollars annually.

    The first half of this book is a detailed comparison of Maclean’s first three books with Royalist’s wartime operations. The mutiny that opens HMS Ulysses has resonance with the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931, which took place only thirty miles from MacLean’s father’s parish, so he must have been well aware of events at the time. The cruiser’s end while attempting to ram the German heavy cruiser Hipper is clearly based upon HMSGlowworm’s ramming of the same ship in 1940.

    There are many other interesting parallels the author draws between MacLean’s experiences and the first three books. The actual island of Navarone is fictitious but the style and  tempo of operations in the Aegean in 1944 is very true to life. Although Maclean was not in the Far East when Singapore fell, he well knew the geography of the area, used in South by Java Head, and would have met many people who were directly involved since Royalist was in Singapore for the Japanese surrender and involved in repatriating some of the prisoners of war.

    The final third of the book covers his writing years, the subsequent films, a brief interlude as a hotelier when he owned the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor in the early 1960s, his move to Switzerland for tax reasons, and his subsequent decline into alcoholism. MacLean, it is clear, was actually a very private person, which may have partly led to his drinking.

    Sadly, this book could have done with better editing; there are spelling errors and occasional infelicitous writing.  Nevertheless, this book is recommended to all those who remember MacLean’s books, especially the first three, for its examination of the historical background to HMS Ulysses, The Guns of Navarone, and South by Java Head.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2022
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xiv + 193 pages
    • Photographs, maps, glossary, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781399019385

    Reviewed by: Jennifer Nelson, University of Iowa

  • May 05, 2024 5:06 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Naval Eyewitnesses: The Experience of War 1939 - 1945

    By James Goulty

    Having already published books on the experiences of airmen and soldiers in the Second World War and Korean War, James Goulty continues to have a special interest in the training and combat experience of ordinary airmen, soldiers, and sailors. In his first chapter, sailors describe how life differed in battleships, cruisers, destroyers, minesweepers, coastal forces, all the way down to motor torpedo boats and even to landing craft. It really shows that sailors could find a style of life that fitted their personalities—from rigid top­down authority to being part of a team.

    Next, the author chronicles the history of British naval aviation and aircraft carriers and the sailors' impressions of their aircraft. He explains why British aircraft were not as good as American planes. Training of pilots involved not only learning to fly, but also practicing take-offs from and landing onto a moving ship. Some operational experiences,  such as torpedoing Bismarck, attacking the Italian navy at Taranto, and surviving kamikaze attacks, are told by those involved. Life on board submarines, whether large or small, including the even smaller four-crew X-craft and chariots, and their exploits are described in Chapter 3 along with anti-submarine warfare. The latter subject area continues into the next chapter which describes convoy experiences,  whether they were in North Atlantic, to Malta, or into the Arctic. Particular mention is made of the disastrous ConvoyPQ-17.

    All of Chapter 5 is devoted to amphibious landings, from the learning experiences in 1940 at Dakar, to the small-scale raids by Combined Operations, including HMS Campbeltown’s intentional destruction at St. Nazaire in March 1942,, landings in North Africa in November 1942, on Sicily in July 1943, on mainland Italy in September 1943, at Normandy in June 1944, and even the raids along the coast of Burma during 1945. How landing craft landed at beaches and then extracted themselves after unloading is well described.

    To answer the question why choose the Navy, a veteran of the First World War trenches advised his son about the various branches of the armed forces: "Air Force: what goes up must come down; Army: you're cannon fodder; Navy: three-square meals and a dry bed until the ship goes down"

    In Chapter 6, the author relates sailors' lives at sea, as well as the experiences of sailors and Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service) at shore establishments in terms of welfare, entertainment, rations, food, drink, love, romance, and sex. The author ends the chapter with a short section on the experiences of survivors of sinkings and of prisoners of war. The German name for prisoner of war camps for naval sailors was Marlags and for merchant mariner sailors was Milags.

    Chapter 7 concludes the book with descriptions of the  demobilization process and sailors' personal reflections on their wartime service.

    What is most attractive about the book is the author's comprehensive appreciation of what it was to be a sailor in wartime. Plenty of books describe naval actions, usually in terms of ships doing this or that, possibly featuring the captain or, sometime, a heroic act. Goulty tells the story from the perspective of the ordinary sailor or officer who was there. There is a comprehensive, six-page Timeline covering events from the 1921 Washington Naval Treaty to VJ Day which serves as a useful reference source for future reading.

    The book is full of direct quotations from written material, but also from transcripts of oral recordings. The latter can be somewhat disjointed and could have been lightly edited. Thoughtfully, Goulty makes good use of explanations to define what is meant by words or phrases.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2022
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xxii + 244 pages
    • Photographs, timeline, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781399000710

    Reviewed by: Helen Jamieson, University of Alabama

  • May 05, 2024 5:01 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Shipwrecks in 100 Objects

    By Simon Wills

    A concise book of one hundred  chapters, each one to two pages long, including pictures and/or images referencing each event. This book covers shipwrecks from across several hundred years and some of the objects and people associated with them, from the Mary Rose in 1545 to the much more recent Herald of Free Enterprise in 1994 and the Marchioness on the River Thames in 1989.

    Also included are chapters on how safety was improved over time due to ships being badly equipped and crews and staff inadequately trained. It explains how life preservers were invented and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was formed to help those in peril on the sea. There are also chapters about sea serpents, pirate ships, U-boats and people surviving for incredible lengths of time in lifeboats or clinging to pieces of floating wreckage.

    Naturally, all the big stories are included, such as TitanicLusitania, and London. But the book also covers smaller shipwrecks that devastated small fishing villages. It does also incorporate the scuttling of the German fleet at Scapa flow. There are also chapters on some of the famous people who were involved in some of these events.

    The author has kept each chapter short and has laid each chapter out like a newspaper article but still manages to pack in large amounts of information about each shipwreck, the reason it happened, what if any conclusions were reached at any inquiries, the death toll if known, and the survivors if there were any.

    All in all, a very enjoyable book to read, not weighed down with too much information on each subject but enough to pique the reader’s interest and keep them reading.

    It is revelatory to learn how safety equipment was invented and brought into use, how the lifesaving services were started and developed., and just how common shipwrecks were back in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, almost always accompanied by an incredible loss of life that sometimes can only be guessed at because records were not always well kept at that time. The memorials to lives lost and also to those who risked or indeed gave their lives to help others are also interesting.

    Highly recommended if you are interested in anything nautical, especially shipwrecks of any kind.

    • Barnsley: Frontline Books 2022
    • 7” x 10”, hardcover, 221 pages
    • Illustrations, index. $49.95
    • ISBN: 9781528792211

    Reviewed by: Margaret Evans, University of Southern Carolina

  • May 05, 2024 4:52 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Hitler's Navy: The Kriegsmarine in World War II

    By Gordon Williamson

    Broad in scope and rich in detail, Hitler’s Navy is a comprehensive overview of the ships, organization, and sailors of the Kriegsmarine. As befits Osprey’s core competency in producing monographs of famous ships and classes, the work is lavishly illustrated and full of technical detail. For those seeking focused accounts of famous campaigns or battles, such as the River Plate, Denmark Strait or the Norwegian Campaign, this is not the work. These engagements have been the focus of many previous works, and the author chooses to give them a minimalist summary in his first chapter. But Hitler’s Navy makes up for the lack of fighting narrative in its ambitious breadth.

    Not only does Williamson cover the usual suspects—BismarckTirpitz, the pocket battleships, and the U-boats—he gives a full accounting of the lesser-known but often harder-fought light vessels. Significant coverage is given to the light and coastal forces: S-boats, minesweepers and minelayers, torpedoboote, sperrbrechers, and human torpedoes, as well as to the auxiliary cruisers, raiders, and their global network of replenishment ships. His coverage of the U-boat arm—the navy-within-the-navy which came to dominate the Kriegsmarine as the larger ships were checked by Allied sea power—is a brisk but comprehensive look at the progression from small coastal types to the seagoing boats of the Battle of the Atlantic, and finally to the highly advanced elektroboote of the war’s waning days. Regardless of size or category, each ship type and class is shown in evolving fashion to reflect the changes in warfare from 1939 to 1945 as radar and anti-aircraft capability become increasingly vital.

    Hitler’s Navy also takes time to paint a picture of service in the Kriegsmarine for the average officer and rating. Training, schools, technical specialty groupings, rank, pay, and uniform are touched on. It is in this section, however, that Williamson treads on dangerous ground. His frank admiration for the Kriegsmarine shows through clearly. It is both true and important to understand that the Kriegsmarine was the most traditional and least Nazi-fied of the various branches of service, it might have been better fir the author to temper his admiration somewhat.

    Unfortunately, Williamson’s sweeping scope is also compromised by slipshod editing. One gets the feeling that there were many more pages of material provided than fit within its pages, leaving it to editors to determine best fit. There are several incorrect or reversed illustrations and captions throughout the book which add a bit of momentary confusion until the reader sorts them out.

    More surprisingly, there are a few technical inconsistencies, which are not in keeping with Osprey’s typical attention to detail. These factual differences serve more to highlight a compromised editing process rather than any lack of knowledge on the author’s part. These niggling issues prevent a very good reference from becoming a great work, but the book is nevertheless both solid and worthwhile for any avid naval historian who wants a single solid source for a review of the Kriegsmarine from its origins in the interwar years to the wreckage that marked its end.

    • Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2022
    • 7-3/4” x 9-3/4”, hardcover, 256 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, tables, index. $40.00
    • ISBN: 97814728247928

    Reviewed by: Jeremy Costlow, Little Rock, Arkansas

  • May 05, 2024 4:44 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Task Force 58: The US Navy's Fast Carrier Strike Force that Won the War in the Pacific

    By Rod Macdonald

    In this rather large volume, Rod Macdonald tells the entire story of the fast carrier forces of the United States and Japan from December 7, 1941 to September 2, 1945. The book actually begins with the Washington Naval Treaty and the subsequent international treaties intended to restrict both the number of specific classes of ships allowed, and the size of those ships - with a focus on aircraft carriers. While the Washington Naval Treaty restricted the number of new battleships and battle cruisers, but also permitted the United States, Britain and Japan to convert battleships and battlecruisers under construction into aircraft carriers. This occurred at a time when the first purpose-built carrier, Japan's miniscule 7,000-ton Hosho, was just coming into service. No navy had carriers anywhere near the size of those created by conversion of the battleships and battlecruisers that would have had to have been scrapped under the terms of the Washington Treaty but could have a size cap above 33,000 tons. This led to Japan's Akagi and Kaga, and the American carriers Lexingtonand Saratoga.

    The author then looks at the 1930s carriers built under treaty limitations, the ships that led the fight early in the war, such as the American Yorktown and Enterprise and the Japanese Soryu and Hiryu. The first post-treaty American fast carrier was USS Essex, commissioned on December 31, 1942. Not much more than a year later, more than a dozen Essex-class carriers were in combat. By the time of the Japanese surrender in 19'45, fourteen Essex-class had seen combat, and another twenty-four were completed and saw naval service after the war. Also included with the light fast carriers, based on the hull of the Cleveland-class light cruisers - nine of them were built and all saw action. The book also looks at the Japanese treaty and post-treaty carriers, several of which were superb warships.

    Going point by point through the history of the introduction and use of the American fast carriers and their Japanese counterparts, this book provides a tight, well-written and clearly well-researched history of fast-carrier warfare in the Pacific. There are other books covering the carrier war, by some prominent naval historians, and this new book should be included among the best one-volume studies of this history. What it successfully presents is a concise, authoritative history of the carrier war, with that added twist of having been written by someone who has personally dived on sunken relics of that incredible war.

    Highly recommended for those who want to read comprehensive histories of this war that cemented America's role as a world superpower and global policeman; a role that lasted through the end of the century and beyond.

    • Barnsley: Frontline Books, 2021
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2021
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xvi + 504 pages
    • Photographs, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $54.95
    • ISBN: 9781399007573

    Reviewed by: Michael O'Brien, San Francisco, California

  • May 05, 2024 4:27 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Rear Admiral Schley: An Extraordinary Life at Sea and on Shore

    By Robert A. Jones

    During the nineteenth century, the United States Navy develop from its nascent stage into an effective fighting force cable of matching established European powers. Civil War naval operations pioneered steam propulsion and steel hulled vessels in combat, and, later, oil supplanted coal as fuel. Commonplace through all of it, was Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Schley. From 1860-1901, Rear Admiral Schley served with distinction in combat on the Mississippi River, in Korea, and the Caribbean, as well as in various administrative positions.  Robert Jones Rear Admiral Schley: An Extraordinary Life at Sea and On Shore follows his illustrious career and highlights his efforts in modernizing the U.S. Navy. 

    The Frederick, Maryland born Schley was imbued with a sense of patriotism and duty as a child. His ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, occupied civic offices, and were vital members of their communities. As such, Schley performed his duties in whatever theater the Navy required. After the Greely Expedition floundered in their mission to establish a research station in the Arctic, Secretary of the Navy William Chandler called upon Schley to command the expedition. Even with little to no experience operating in these conditions, the duty-bound Schley could not refuse. Three years after Greely departed, Schley brought him and six of his crew home safe to New York.

    Jones also highlights Schley’s commitment to his men and fellow officers. The author recounts the Baltimore diplomatic crisis in 1891 where two American sailors were killed and dozens injured by angry locals. Negotiating with Chilean officials to secure the release his sailors from jail tried Schley’s patience, but he maintained his composure throughout as he managed to prevent further hostilities. When relieved of command of Baltimore, the crew presented Schley with an ebony walking cane as a token of their appreciation, which touched the captain deeply. At the end of his career, attacks against his character in the Sampson-Schley Controversy wounded him as he always strove to put his service before any personal accolades. 

    Jones’ biography aims to preserve the memory of Schley’s career and his place in the Navy’s transition to the modern fleet. The author equally lauds his roles outside of combat, including a half decade as chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting, serving in the Treasury Department’s Lighthouse Board, and as an instructor at the Naval Academy. Yet, Jones does not shy away from criticisms of Schley, in one instance commenting on the admiral’s opinions on several South American political leaders. Yet, he does so fairly and within context, often using Schley’s own opinions from his autobiography. 

    Rear Admiral Schley: An Extraordinary Life at Sea and On Shore is a thoroughly researched account of Winfield Scott Schley’s life. Robert Jones gives the reader an intimate account of his service to his country, incorporating the admiral’s own perspectives and writings with solid primary research into contemporary newspapers and other firsthand accounts. The author succeeds in showcasing Schley’s illustrious career and the impact he had on the U.S. Navy. This work is an excellent biography of interest to all naval enthusiasts.  

    • College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2023
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii + 316 pages
    • Illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $80.00
    • ISBN: 9781648431234

    Reviewed by: Will Nassif, University of South Carolina

  • May 05, 2024 4:08 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Tribals, Battles, and Darings: The Genesis of the Modern Destroyer

    By Alexander Clarke

    In TribalsBattles and Darings, Alexander Clarke follows the transition of the destroyer from a small ship suited to a single mission during the First and Second World Wars, into the modern incarnation of a larger ship, suited to multiple missions. He examines the Royal Navy's push to acquire larger, more versatile destroyers in the years leading up to the Second World War, and the continued need for them during the conflict. Not only does he focus on the political and financial considerations that affected naval procurement during the final years of the interwar period, he also describes how larger destroyers helped fill in the gaps within the Royal Navy during the interwar period due to political and financial considerations. He then looks at the personalities who commanded and fought these ships and their role in both peace and wartime. What emerges is not a history of any of the three classes discussed, rather it is an illustration of how destroyers evolved from smaller ships suited to single missions, and operating as part of a larger force, to warships that could perform multiple duties proficientlyand operate independently without the need for a larger fleet to provide support. The transition from specialist vessels to jacks of multiple, if not alltrades is clearly explained.

    Starting with the Tribal class destroyer, Clarke explores why the Royal Navy needed such large, powerful escort ships with heavy guns and how they were used as fast destroyers suited to the conduct of war, as well as maintaining peace. He then explores the circumstances and technological advances, such as radar, that required something suited to a different set of criteria; namely, losses due to aerial bombardment. This was the Battle-class of destroyers. Finally, he transitions into the post-war period and the D or Daring class of destroyers built for the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, the largest and most heavily armed of the three classes.

    Through a series of anecdotes he explores the missions performed by various ships in the classes discussed, and the colorful personnel who advocated for, and commanded these shipsThe result is a highly readable account of the role Royal Navy destroyers played during and after the war that is accessible to both students of naval history and those new to the subject. This book is not a history of any one of the classes, although Clarke does provide sources for those who want to learn more about the topic. What this is, is an exploration of how one type of warship transitioned from plan to construction to implementation to something similar yet different.

    Impeccably researched, this book provides a wealth of both primary and secondary references for readers at all levels, especially those who want to conduct further research. Written in a very informal style, it is accessible to both the layman and the serious academic. While light on the technical specifications for the ships discussed, Clarke's work is packed with blueprints and pictures that describe how the ships were constructed, and the role that appearances play in both the design and perception of warships, both in times of war and peace. He does point out in several places the construction considerations that were taken into account for all of these ships, considerations that allowed them to conduct missions and survive damage that would have sunk lesser ships fulfilling similar roles. Without being overcome by minutia, Clarke explores a group of ships from conception to introduction, through application while offering enough depth to provide something useful to students looking for something new.

    As good as it is, the book is not without shortcomings, the most obvious one being what Clarke does not discuss. While determining why these ships were constructed and what they did during the Second World War, there is less attention paid to the post-war period, particularly the Battle and Daring classes, which had long post-war careers, well into the Cold War. They were present in various conflicts, with various navies, well into the later half of the twentieth century. The lack of exploration of this territory, whether limited by considerations of length, or because it would detract from the author's central thesis, leaves plenty of room for further research.

    Tribals, Battles and Darings opens a window into a period of transition for warships while offering an accessible starting place for looking at the people, events, and ships that influenced this unique period in history. It also provides a clear and straightforward examination of the final stages of the transition of the destroyer from ships suited to a single mission to ships that needed to perform a variety of functions in a changing world.

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2022
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2022
    • 8” x 10-1/2”, hardcover, 176 pages
    • Photographs, drawings, tables, notes, bibliography, index. $52.95
    • ISBN: 9781526772909

    Reviewed by: Kenneth Markle, New Orleans, Louisiana 

  • May 05, 2024 4:02 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Warships in the Spanish Civil War

    By Angus Konstam

    Angus Konstam sets out to cover 58 warships and their activities prior to and during the Spanish Civil War from April 1936 to July 1939. He condenses highly complex alliances and covers Spanish navies from centuries ago to their defeat in Cuba and Philippines in the 1898 Spanish-American War, from which the fleet never recovered.

    The early civil war played out from North Africa to Iberia, the Balearic Islands, even involving the North Sea and Adriatic. The final year of Spain's naval war against itself was narrowed down to the Western Mediterranean, at which point Franco and his allies in Italy and Germany overwhelmed the Republicans, backed by the USSR and volunteers.

    The strength of this book lies in being dispassionate, fully-illustrated and well-captioned. Konstam's conclusion informs his thesis: "The naval war ended with a whimper rather than a bang. It had always been…secondary to the land campaign, but…without it, and the supplies it helped escort into the country, the Republic would have been hard-pressed to resist the Nationalists for so long"

    It is a great relief that Konstam immediately steers readers through the minefields of politics and jargon and designates communists, anarchists and trade unionists as Republicans. Although they won an election, the Republicans managed to alienate the Church, landowners, and monarchists, who along with the fascist-nationalist Falangists became Nationalistsfirmly under General Franco. The Republicans started out with vastly more naval ships yet suffered from fewer officers, a diffuse command structure, and shipyard delays.

    The timeline centers on Franco entering Peninsular Spain, breaking the coup's stalemate with the Nationalist Army of Africa. The Republican failure to stop him, despite their having capital ships and he merely a few gunboats, was probably the most critical error of the war, a war won by avoiding each other's fleets rather than provoking pitched battles. The fleets included battleships, heavy cruisers, dreadnoughts, destroyers, submarines, and torpedo, hydrographic, sail-training, patrolriver, fishery protection, patrol, river, custom boats, as well as tugs and seaplane tenders.

    The ships were crewed from a pool of around 19,000 men, including 1,166 officers. Another 1,000 served in the Navy Air Arm, which was impressively modem and complex, even if they trained on biplanes. A cadre of Marines protected naval bases and ships and were self-administered.

    Many of the pivotal moments for both sides were self-inflicted failures: on Day One, the overall naval chief was killed and his chief of staff arrested. In part due to the class nature of the conflictRepublicans suffered acute crewing difficulties. Sailors revolted against officers, and officers who remained loyal had to consult with and abide by a Comite de Buque, or Ship's Committee. They had insufficiently experienced officers, and many of those ships under construction; one reads often about ships obsolete when delivered.

    The focus of the naval civil war often feels more about blockades and smuggling arms. The Balearic ships were critical to the Nationalists, who held them against attack and used them to convoy Italian supplies to various frontsOne ship began the war in Equatorial Guinea, another off Morocco, one was built in Mexico, but almost all were built to British designs in Spain. The Italians were proxy warriors for Franco, committing 58 submarines that sank and terrorized a number of Republicans ships. Mussolini also sold four destroyers to the Nationalists, who later intercepted and sank the Soviet Union ship Komsomol. This provoked an outrage, and hardened French and British patrols in the Straits of Gibraltar. Stalin sent at least four motor torpedo boats.

    Seven of the fleet were coal-fired, two were hybrid, and the balance of 49 ships used fuel oil or diesel oil; one was capable of 36 knots. Several lacked turret guns, some of which swept their own decks. Indeed, a battleship stuck fake wooden barrels on deck, while another, the heavy cruiser Baleares, borrowed turrets. Coal was a logistical supply problem, particularly for the Republicans.

    Republican destroyers sank Baleares, killing790 sailors;469 survivors were rescued by the British when Baleares accidently fired a star shell above themselves. The Nationalist battleship Espana sank in April 1937 by hitting its compadres' mine off Santander. The Republican battleship Jaime I ran aground, then blew up at anchor. When the battle turned against them on the Biscay coast, Republican ships sailed to England and France. When, in 1939, their Mediterranean ports also fell, they were interned at Tunisia and Algeria, which were then controlled by France. Franco effectively forced the Republican fleet to flee to French North Africa in April 1939. When the war ended that July, there was no Republican fleet to evacuate its loyalists, forcing them to remain and suffer.

    Konstam's work is clear, well-researched, and easy to follow. Of his 17 primary resources, seven are Spanish and one focused on the Italian side. The reader is left curious about how the German U-34 sank the Republican submarine C-3, or which Republican vessels were sunk by Italians or Germans.

    The most striking omission is the lack of a single map or chart, offset by Konstam 's description of cities. In the case of Bilbao the publishers erroneously place it in the northwest. Konstam delineates a fascinating and compelling battleground about which, due to the lack of a singlecataclysmic event, most readers may be completely unaware.

    • Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2021
    • 7-1/4” x 9-3/4”, softcover, 48 pages and 96 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, bibliography, index. $19.00
    • ISBN: 9781472848666

    Reviewed by: Jeremy Costlow, Little Rock, Arkansa

The Nautical Research Guild regularly publishes reviews of books about naval/maritime history and ship modeling.  Each issue of the Nautical Research Journal includes several book reviews, but there are often more book reviews than the Journal can accommodate. 

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