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  • March 07, 2023 3:16 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    On Wide Seas: The US Navy in the Jacksonian Era

    By Claude Berube

    While much has been said about the presidency and times of Andrew Jackson, Claude Berube finds a serious gap regarding the question of the Navy and naval policy under a man who rose to note on the shoulders of his militia service in the War of 1812. He contends that the eight-year period under Jackson saw the beginnings of what would become the modern United States Navy. In particular, with the creation of the Naval Academy, he argues that an increasingly professionalized officer pool emerged. This pool brought ideas and innovativeness, which would serve them well in two wars (the Mexican-American and American Civil Wars) and produce thinkers like Alfred Thayer Mahan. This professionalization was crucial for several reasons, the most important being that the Age of Sail was rapidly transitioning into the Age of Steam. While many still held a deep traditional affection for the stately ships of the line, the increasing reliability of steam made its rise to primacy inevitable. With this new technology came a need for well-trained and knowledgeable commanders, and while not touched on by Berube, an equal need for skilled enlisted engineers. To Berube, Jackson was a man who was not generally overly fond of the Navy, almost certainly in part because of the lack of significant direct control that he could exert on far-flung commanders. Yet, he recognized the significance of waterborne trade in promoting the nation's well-being and the need for a strong navy to protect and promote it. Thus, he worked to strengthen the national navy, albeit without increasing the debt.

    Berube has made rich use of many sources, the two most significant of which are the records of the Congressional and Senate Naval Committees and the court-martial records of the period. This allows him to show how there was ongoing serious debate around the Navy and how to supply and expand it- some of which never made it into the broader Congressional chambers- but also demonstrates how the Navy was moving towards being a more formalized and standardized service. In particular, by increasingly standardizing punishments for various infractions, the Navy was, in a sense coming into maturity as a modern professional military service where all persons could have a generally shared experience regarding how things were supposed to work.

    In stepping away from the overt land focus of typical Age of Jackson research, Berube has ensured that his contribution to the field will not soon be overshadowed. Future historians will almost certainly refer to the paths of inquiry that it has opened up. Further, by placing the origins of the professionalized Navy in this period, he also brings the navy into the broader military history discussion, which often overlooks the contributions and importance of maritime events, particularly in the Early Republic. Long known for his land-based military accomplishments, Jackson now might be seen as possessing some Live Oak in his grove of Hickory.

    • Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press, 2021
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, xiii + 234 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $54.95
    • ISBN: 9780817321079

    Reviewed by: Michael Toth, Texas Christian University

  • March 07, 2023 3:12 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Pirate Queens: The Lives of Anne Bonny & Mary Read

    By Rebecca Alexandra Simon

    With the thousands of publications about the histories of different male pirates from throughout history, it is refreshing to read one focused on the female. Rebecca Alexandra Simon has published what she describes as the first full length biography of the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Beyond telling the stories of these female pirates, Simon sets the goal of giving insight into the world these women existed in, specifically regarding their gender, and how they continue to be cultural icons today.

    Staring with a discussion on period politics Simon gives early insight into the lives of not only Bonny and Read, but also their mothers. Interestingly, both Bonny and Read come from similar situations where the mothers conceived their daughters out of wedlock and chose to conceal their daughters by dressing them as boys.

    As Simon describes the exciting duels, love trysts, and drama that unfolds in these women’s stories, she continues to include engaging discussions on the world that these events unfolded in. Early in her life when Bonny joins the military, Simon includes information about the different ongoing military conflicts that Bonny would have participated in. This information illustrates the world that shaped Bonny in her early years, unknowingly training her to become a pirate later in her life.

    Simon dedicates almost a whole chapter exclusively to a discussion on the politics surrounding piracy and how they would affect the lives and pirating careers of Bonny and Read. The detailed look at the world of pirates during this time helps draw a contrast between the worlds they had grown up and the ones they were now entering.

    Ultimately, both women end up on the ship of Jack Rackham (aka Calico Jack). During her discussion on Bonny and Read’s careers with Rackham, Simon gives an intriguing look at the geography, economics, and politics that would have influenced Rackham’s choices.

    Simon’s final chapter concludes with a discussion on some of the more prominent publications on Bonny and Read over the last three hundred years. She starts with an intriguing description of the history of Captain Charles Johnson’s General History of Pirates, and ends her chapter with a look at the modern television series “Black Sails.” She finishes with the conclusion that Bonny and Read’s, “memory is alive and well and will remain so for years to come.”

    In conclusion, Simon’s publication and writing style is one that will hold the reader’s attention. The information that Simon provides to create context for the narratives is intriguing and greatly adds to the stories. The publication would be improved with a few more citations regarding some the facts presented. Ultimately, Simon has successfully met the goals that she set out for herself of giving insight into the world these women existed in, specifically regarding their gender, and how they continue to be cultural icons today.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword History, 2022
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xxii + 181 pages
    • Illustrations, appendices, notes bibliography, index. $32.95
    • ISBN: 9781526791306

    Reviewed by: Christine Brin, North Carolina Maritime Museum at Beaufort

  • March 07, 2023 2:42 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Secret Projects of the Kriegsmarine: Unseen Deigns of Nazi Germany’s Navy

    By Nico & Alessio Sgarlato

I was expecting to read about the German Navy's secret and unseen successful projects leading up to and including World War 2 for new combatant craft. However, my takeaway after reading this book was the large number of cited designs, while often creative, had serious flaws ending in either incomplete or failed outcomes. This came as a surprise to me given that the Germans have a long-standing reputation for excellent engineering that, among other endeavors, produced a wide variety of novel and successful military aircraft, rockets, land-based vehicles and armament systems. On the other hand, perhaps these numerous failures were typical for ALL combatants but (to my knowledge) few, if any, books have been written addressing this aspect of warfare. Probably the winners of such conflicts are unlikely to confess or reveal their less successful efforts?

    Having said this, I feel that any student or enthusiast of all things warfare may find this an interesting read given the numerous and detailed examples of the challenges facing a technically advanced military (such as Germany's). The authors are to be commended for their research and the amazing amount of related information. At times I even felt that there might have been too much detailed information provided, but I also feel the authors needed to share what they had discovered. In my view, this is not necessarily a book for a large market but is certainly commendable for its detailed and authentic research plus unusual subject matter.

    • Barnsley: Greenhill Books, 2022
    • 6-3/4” x 9-3/4”, hardcover, ix + 182 pages
    • Photographs, drawings, bibliography. $63.00
    • ISBN: 9781784386970

    Reviewed by: Robert Johnson, Largo, Florida

  • March 07, 2023 2:37 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Shipping on the Thames & the Port of London During the 1940s-1980s: A Pictorial History

    By Malcolm & Reg Batten

    Reg Batten was a professional photographer who worked for a London photography business. He had a lifetime interest in shipping; especially that on the nearby Thames River. After retiring in the mid-1970s he began to visit the Port of London to photograph its marine activity. He continued to do so until 1983. Now his son Malcom has organized Reg’s photographs as well as some of his own in a handsome picture history published by Pen & Sword Transport.

    The photos in the 223-page book are organized topically into chapters; each chapter dealing with a different type of shipping. There are also a number of brief essays on topics relating to the docks and the shipping that visited them. The book is printed on glossy paper and the photographs that usually take up half or all of this large format book are crisp and clear. The range of dates given in the book’s title, 1940-1980s is somewhat of a misnomer. Readers will find few photographs of subjects before the 1970s.

    After the usual introductory remarks, the book begins with an essay about The Port of London Authority, (PLA) the organization founded in 1909 to manage the huge collection of enclosed docks along the Thames River; the largest in the world. The book includes a series of maps showing the docks. It took considerable effort on my part to mentally stitch these together into an understandable whole. Entered and exited by a series of locks these very large impoundments allowed vessels to dock, unload and load unaffected by tides in the river. While the essay nicely explains the history and organization of the PLA, I wish that the author had included more technical details of the operation of the locks and impoundments that they served. Another interesting essay described in better detail the central hydraulic system that the PLA built to operate the hundreds of cranes along the waterfront.

    By far the largest chapter deals with photographs of “Cargo Shipping;” Thames barges, general cargo ships, tankers, coasters, colliers, container ships, and so on. Most of these pictures are formal portraits taken from the bow or stern quarter. This is understandable as Mr. Batten would not have had access to take photographs on board. Of interest to ship modelers is the overall appearance of these working vessels. While it seems that many modelers want to add realism with dirt and rust, most of those that Mr. Batten photographed appear to be well maintained. Of particular interest to me are several photographs of the Lykes LASH (Lighter Aboard Ship) vessels. These American-flagged ships competed against container ships in the 1980s.

    The rest of the book includes chapters on Passenger Ships, Service Vessels, and other miscellaneous visitors to the port. I especially enjoyed the more detailed photographs of the smaller service vessels. Most spectacular are the photographs of the very large floating cranes owned and operated by the PLA. One is shown lifting the steam locomotive Flying Scotsman into the hold of a ship for a voyage to Australia. One of these large floating cranes would be an unusual and interesting subject for an ambitious modeler.

    Economic change is often bittersweet, and the book reflects this. The vibrant activity around the docks and the coming and going of handsome, well-maintained ships has been replaced with upscale high-rise housing incorporating vestiges of the area’s industrial past, entertainment venues, and even an airport. But the Port of London has not died. Where it once sprawled for twenty plus miles along the Thames from the Tower of London to Tilbury, it has now been concentrated at its downstream end around Tilbury.

    Readers with an interest in late twentieth-century shipping will appreciate this wonderful collection of photographs taken during the time when the industry was being transformed from transportation of traditional break-bulk to containerized cargo.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Transport, 2022
    • 9-3/4” x 11-1/4”, hardcover, 228 pages
    • Extensive photographs, maps. $60.00
    • ISBN: 9781399018401

    Reviewed by: C. Roger Pellett, Duluth, Minnesota

  • March 07, 2023 2:30 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    German and Italian Aircraft Carriers of World War II

    By Douglas C. Dildy & Ryan K. Noppen

    German and Italian Aircraft Carriers of World War II, by Douglas C. Dildy and Ryan K. Noppen dives into the aborted efforts of these two Axis powers to create a seagoing air arm to combat England in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

    Forty-eight pages, packed with period photographs, color artwork, and a fast-moving text tell the story in chronological fashion, starting with German efforts in World War I to create seaplane carriers for scouting purposes, due to the slow speed of the Zeppelin airships in this role. Very surprising is the early plan for an actual aircraft carrier, Ausonia, a converted ocean liner envisaged in 1918! Events, of course, ended that plan, but the seed of the ocean liner-to-carrier conversion idea were planted, and there is a full-color rendering of Europa, a 1942 conversion that was eventually cancelled due to the reduction of performance that such a conversion would have resulted in.

    The authors move on to Nazi Germany’s Plan Z, which called for a true flush-decked fleet carrier, Graf Zeppelin, which was laid down, and proceeded to about 85-percent completion before war’s end. The authors lavish some detail on this ship, its construction, and the turmoil that eventually sealed its fate. There is a section on the proposed aircraft for this carrier, Bf 109T (Toni) fighters, Ju 87C-0 dive bombers (with folding wings), and Arado Ar 96B-1 naval trainers. There is even mention (and a rare photograph) of the proposed Me 155 shipboard fighter—I had never seen this before.

    Two more proposed converted carriers, Elbe and Weser are covered briefly, with color renderings and concise information. Other considered projects are mentioned, and all then comes to a screeching halt with an order from Hitler stopping all work on these (and other) ships. This effectively brought Nazi Germany’s aircraft carrier projects to a close.

    The authors move on to Italy next, and we meet the very forward thinking 1920s Italian Navy Chief of Staff, Thaon di Revel, who envisioned conversion of battleships into flush-decked aircraft carriers as far back as the early 1920s. Although several conversions were indeed started, and others planned, the rise of Mussolini soon aborted the projects. The Regia Aeronautica had full control of air matters, and its leadership had no interest in aircraft carriers. Italy did have an operational seaplane carrier, Giuseppe Miraglia, but it was very limited in capability.

    The pressure of a losing war against Britain finally forced the Italians to begin conversion of a liner, Roma, into the fleet carrier Aquila (Eagle). Superficially similar in appearance to Graf Zeppelin, Aquila was an ambitious design, and was to have had radar and an air group of about fifty aircraft. Much German technology was incorporated, as the Italians had no experience in building carriers. Italy’s collapse in 1943, however, ended the project.

    This volume, although compact, is fascinating reading, and contains details I had never known about the events and people surrounding these mysterious ships. Many pictures were new to me, and the statistics are presented in a clear, understandable format. Recommended!

    • Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2022
    • 7-1/4” x 9-3/4”, softcover, 48 pages
    • Illustrations, bibliography, index. $19.00
    • ISBN: 9781472846761

    Reviewed by: Rick Cotton, Katy, Texas

  • March 07, 2023 1:38 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Balchen’s Victory: The Loss and Rediscovery of an Admiral and his Ship

    By Alan Smith

    HMS Victory is a name synonymous with Vice-Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson and British naval power. Yet, Nelson’s Victory was not the first Victory, nor the only Victory with an influential role in shaping British sea power. An earlier HMS Victory, its commander Admiral Sir John Balchen, and their loss in 1744 led to significant change in British ship design and construction that allowed for the successes of later British Admirals, including Nelson. Balchen’s Victory rediscovers the importance of Admiral Sir John Balchen and his HMS Victory on reforming British naval power and laying the groundwork for future glory. Alan M. Smith, a former international shipping journalist and current volunteer at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, sets out to explore the intwined lives of Balchen and his Victory through exploring written, visual, and physical evidence. This story presents an intrinsic link between the commander and his ship and their invaluable influence on reforming the Royal Navy.

    Smith deftly weaves a story of an admiral and his ship from their conception through their loss and subsequent rediscovery. This story begins at the end with the loss. With this scene of loss set, Smith weaves together different sources of evidence, including artwork, poems, and newspaper articles, to exhibit the importance, mystery, and sadness shrouding the loss. He couples the stories of loss and lamentation with the life histories of both Balchen and HMS Victory. These life histories, as Smith shows, parallel one another. Beginning about the same time, both admiral and ship went through a series of trials, successes, and rests before their connection. Smith brings the story back to the loss with the discovery of the shipwreck and the legal battles over the preservation of the site.

    Balchen’s Victory balances biographies of the admiral and the ship with an exposé of the state of the Royal Navy of the early eighteenth century. The breadth of available evidence allows Smith to weave the separate yet parallel life histories together to show the importance of both to their contemporaries. Smith simultaneously illuminates through these histories the state of the Royal Navy shipbuilding enterprise at the time. Balchen through his experiences called for reform to shipbuilding tactics and hull designs, while HMS Victory showed the need for these changes. Smith’s writing style and use of a variety of sources shows the importance of the Navy to Britain’s political aspirations and British society. 

    Smith brings together this story of Balchen and HMS Victory to show that the admiral and his flagship were more than the tragedy of their loss. Following similar works that have reanalyzed similar tragedies, Smith adeptly weaves a narrative of adventure for both the admiral and the ship with the repercussions of their loss. Without the role Balchen and HMS Victory played in both service and loss, the Royal Navy reformations that allowed for future naval dominance would have progressed much slower. Balchen’s Victory offers an example of the importance of analyzing the lives and contributions of lesser-known men and ships. More importantly, it illuminates the need to rediscover tragic losses through the lens of their contributions to future improvements.

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Books, 2022
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2022
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xv + 206 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $52.95
    • ISBN: 9781399094122

    Reviewed by: Allyson Ropp, North Carolina Office of State Archaeology

  • February 12, 2023 11:02 AM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Destruction of the Steamboat Sultana: The Worst Maritime Disaster in American History

    Gene Eric Salecker

    “Definitive” is a fraught accolade, but an accurate one for Gene Salecker’s account of the 1865 destruction of the packet steamboat Sultana and the aftermath. Neither maritime historian nor ship modeler, the author brings his perspective of middle-school teacher and former police officer. The secondary record is finally corrected and complemented with long-overlooked primary source material. Justice is obtained for the victims of this horrific event by shining a bright light on the dark behaviors of a handful of dishonorable and self-aggrandizing persons in positions of authority. The depth and breadth of Salecker’s examination, born of his determination to get the story right and honor the memories of the dead, maimed, and haunted is exemplary. The stunning list of period newspapers he located and studied is just one indication.

    Steamboat travel on the Western Rivers was unforgiving of incompetence and inattention, and further threatened by the immaturity of the science of iron metallurgy, and the still-evolving designs of steam boilers. That form of propulsion was by then over one-hundred-years in use. But even with the U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service in its second iteration, the safety record remained appalling. All these factors contributing to the devastating loss are explained in Salecker’s story.

    This book is not about Sultana as a potential modeling subject. There are only two photographic images known of the steamboat, both included. No original design plans exist, and likely none were ever drawn. To use this book as supplement to the one available set of drawings for model builders requires extraction of details about Sultana from the narrative. A detailed multi-sheet set of plans for model builders were drawn many years ago by David Meagher and were available directly from the artist (2009) and from the Abe Taubman Ships Plans catalogue now owned by Loyalhanna Dockyard

    There are photographs of three steamboats, portraits of those aboard whose stories are recounted in the narrative, and of Union Army officers associated with the hiring of Sultana and the transportation of paroled prisoners for repatriation.

    The book is both a vivid and sensitive accounting and a highly valuable reference. However, the dozens of notes per chapter are infrequently annotated making them useful only as encountered by the thorough reader. For others, we are left with the index. The two maps are of little utility as they are not keyed to events or places.

    Serving as a ready guide to content of interest, the data about major themes in the account might have been more beneficially presented in a graphic or tabular form as appendices or embedded illustrations by chapter. Some topical examples: transported units of the Union Army; Officers responsible for transportation, logistics, accounting for musters of paroled prisoners; participants in the investigation and trial; riverine communities assisting and their hospitals; the track of Sultana—both south toward New Orleans, and north to the fatal explosion and thereafter; lists of those whose individual accounts are included.

    Clearly the author had to compile this data to write the book, making it relatively easy to present in graphic or tabular form. Production costs may have prohibited inclusion.

    It is unlikely another author will attempt to best Salecker, but perhaps a second edition with the foregoing aids to navigation could be considered.

    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2022
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, x + 497 pages
    • Photographs, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95
    • ISBN: 9781682477434

    Reviewed by: Randle M. Biddle, Star, Idaho

  • February 12, 2023 10:58 AM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Victory at Sea: Naval Power and the Transformation of the Global Order in World War II

    Paul Kennedy, with paintings by Ian Marshall

    Some years back noted historian Paul Kennedy agreed to write an introduction and accompanying text for a book his friend Ian Marshall was putting together. A renowned marine artist, Marshall planned a new collection of his paintings in a book titled “Fighting Warships of the Second World War.” For Kennedy the opportunity offered a diversion from his more serious histories. Then, in 2016 Marshall died. Kennedy wanted the project to continue as a tribute to his friend. With Marshall dead it became Kennedy’s book.

    Victory at Sea: Naval Power and the Transformation of the Global Order in World War II, by Paul Kennedy, (with paintings by Ian Marshall) is the result. Instead of using his text to explain the artwork, Kennedy did something more ambitious. He used Marshall’s paintings to illustrate how over the course of roughly ten years the world changed.

    In 1936 it was a multipolar world centered on Europe. Britain, France, Germany and Italy dominated (with the Soviet Union, the United States and Japan providing outlying centers of power). It finished as a bipolar world dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union. Moreover, while Europe dominated the world in 1936, by 1946 dominance had transferred to Asia and North America. Moreover, he shows the role sea power played in that transformation.

    Kennedy recognized the paintings told a story of transformation. Marshall’s artwork captured the change from pre-war stability into the desperation of the early-war years and into the certainty of Allied victory by the middle war years. He decided to explore that transformation in the text.

    The resulting book is broken into five parts. A prewar section explores the six great naval powers that entered the war (in order of power, Great Britain, the United States, France, Italy, and Germany). It looks at the capabilities of and expectations for these navies.

    The second covers the early war from 1939 through 1942. These were the desperate years for the Allies captured in Marshall’s paintings of that period. A third section examines the pivotal year of 1943, when the Allied war machine went into full production. The fourth explore the war’s final two years (1944 and 1945), while the fifth examines the world that resulted from it. Each section offers fascinating insights into the conduct of the war and the role the participating navies played.

    Victory at Sea will most interest two audiences; those interested in maritime history and those interested in maritime artwork. It holds little to interest model-makers or wargamers. Kennedy does his usual sterling job in explaining the tides of history in this book. Like Victor Davis Hanson’s The Second World Wars it is a magnificent strategic-level look at World War II. Kennedy’s exploration of sea power in projecting power and influencing the outcome of the war likely cannot be topped. Similarly, Marshall’s paintings offer a breathtaking view of World War II at sea. They touch on every aspect of the war from its origins to its conclusion. This book is highly recommended to both of those audiences.

    • New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022
    • 7” x 10”. Hardcover, 544 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $37.50
    • ISBN: 978-0300219173

    Reviewed by: Mark Lardas, League City, Texas

  • February 12, 2023 10:53 AM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    The Battlecruiser New Zealand: A Gift to Empire

    Matthew Wright

    As the world increasingly realizes that it lives in “interesting times,” including a renewed era of great-power competition, scholarship focusing on the early twentieth century provides vital insight. In The Battlecruiser New Zealand: A Gift to Empire, Matthew Wright provides such insight, focusing on a singular ship that sits at the intersection of some of that period’s most important events, themes, and trends.

    Wright is a prolific writer and historian of New Zealand, whose works span a wide variety of political, geographic, and military topics. His most recent takes a single vessel as its subject, delivering an exciting approach to history through the “experience” of this vessel as it was designed, proposed, funded, constructed, deployed, embroiled in a world war, and finally, scrapped. This approach is not without its challenges; Wright weaves the firsthand recollections and memoirs of human actors, copious technological information, fast-paced operational military events, and material history together to achieve it.

    The book begins by setting the stage at the dawn of the twentieth century in New Zealand, a fascinating backdrop for understanding this turbulent moment. Why did this colonial government (and by extension, its taxpayers) wish to fund the construction of what was, in its day, a fantastically powerful and expensive weapon bearing the Dominion’s name? This question occupies Wright through the book’s first half. Thereafter, he pivots to a ship’s-eye view of the cataclysm of the Great War, bringing the reader aboard for the tedium of North Sea sweeps and the excitement of the war’s few (yet dramatic) battles, of which Jutland looms the largest. The book concludes with HMS New Zealand’s final decommissioning and subsequent scrapping; a victim equally of lightning-fast technological obsolescence and the postwar fervor for disarmament, budgetary retrenchment, and arms-limitation.

    Wright’s extensive expertise and publication record are on display in the book’s endnotes, and readers who explore them will find hidden gems, such as insights on innovations in range-finding from the author’s own great-uncle H.C. Wright, who served in that capacity during the Great War. Indeed, Wright’s sharp yet accessible descriptions of technological innovations, from battlecruiser design to fire control, are a strength of this book and are helped by numerous image plates and diagrams.

    Noteworthy moments of the book are given over to discussions of scholarly debates on the views of leading lights like Jacky Fisher and Winston Churchill, the motives of major characters in the ship’s life like New Zealand Prime Minister Joseph Ward, and especially to the reputation and choices of John Jellicoe, who held the Grand Fleet command during the war and later used New Zealand as his means of conveyance on a postwar tour of the Dominions. While these excursions to the literature are perhaps surprising, it would be unfair to fault Wright for them, as the savagery with which naval historians often treat one another tends to provoke a certain historiographical thoroughness. “History is,” as Wright notes several times, “a conversation.” Conflagration (or, in a nod to cordite magazine mishaps on Dreadnought-era ships, deflagration) sometimes feels like a more apposite metaphor.

    Wright does fellow scholars a service on several fronts, especially on his treatment of the financing of the battlecruiser, showing that the ship was neither somehow unaffordable nor unusually long in being paid off by its namesake Dominion. Likewise, Wright’s outstanding analysis of the ship’s Māori associations, particularly its talismanic piupiu (skirt) and other gifts which, in popular legend, guaranteed the ship’s survival of the war’s major engagements, is a highlight. These “symbolized Māori engagement with Pākehā society,” but also how “the unfulfilled promise of that engagement - symbolized by the Treaty of Waitangi - could be highlighted in an age of embedded racism by colonial authorities” (109). Through analysis like this, The Battlecruiser New Zealand has the unusual distinction of being both an enjoyable read and a support to experts.

    • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2021
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2021
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 272 pages
    • Photographs, drawings, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $42.95
    • ISBN: 9781526784032

    Reviewed by: Jesse Tumblin, Duquesne University

  • February 12, 2023 10:47 AM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Years of Endurance: Life Aboard the Battlecruiser Tiger 1914-16

    John R. Muir

    John Muir’s reminiscences of service ashore and afloat during the early years of the Great War were originally published in 1937. Seaforth has reprinted them and added a new introduction by Surgeon Rear-Admiral (Ret.) Mike Farquharson-Roberts.

    It is not clear when Muir’s account was written, nor is there any reference to his having kept a diary through the events he recounts. Thus the reader cannot be sure whether the numerous conversations scattered throughout his narrative were reconstructed from notes taken shortly afterward or committed to a diary at the time, or whether they were “recreated” from memory long after the fact, a caveat that extends to the narrative as a whole. All of this is meant to say that while most of the overall picture that Muir presents is probably accurate, the details may not be all that trustworthy. In some cases, too, the overall picture leaves something to be desired, in particular the chapter devoted to the battlecruiser action at Jutland, an account that Farquharson-Roberts rather charitably terms “semi-fictionalized.”

    Lest the foregoing imply that Muir’s book does not warrant reading, it also boasts numerous laudable qualities and provides a participant’s-eye view of the battles of the Dogger Bank and Jutland far removed from those found in most accounts of the latter battle, focusing as they do on the view from the bridge. As Muir makes clear, the view, such as it was, from the medical officer’s station was very different. Indeed, like the vast majority of Tiger’s crew he had no view at all of the battle itself, being at his station far below the waterline providing care for the ship’s men wounded during the action. Hence, the explosion of Queen Mary, next in line ahead of Tiger, was felt rather than seen.

    Muir’s perspective on service at sea and ashore—as Senior Medical Officer at Chatham at the war’s outbreak he had to improvise system for examining the flood of reservists who descended on the port and also to create temporary hospital space out of a former sailors’ hostel for the anticipated flood of men wounded in action—is one not often encountered in naval history and is valuable for that fact alone. Moreover, a medical officer did and does have an unusually broad social experience in the service. Muir was on the one hand a member of wardroom, thus rubbing elbows with most of the executive branch, the engineering officers, the other professional officers (chaplain, paymaster, school instructor), Marine officers and, in the circumstances of war, several reserve or volunteer reserve lieutenants. On the other his duties brought in into regular and intimate contact with men of the lower deck, and although it was socially impossible to bridge the gulf in rank he did, along with the chaplain, serve as one of the ship’s de facto “welfare officers,” as Farquharson-Roberts puts it.

    Muir’s memoir also makes for an instructive, entertaining, well-written, and often amusing read, chock-full of anecdotes and insights into the Royal Navy’s early twentieth-century medical service. Especially recommended to those interested in that service, the Great War at sea, and HMS Tiger. Those engaged in scholarly research should use caution when citing it, however.

    • Introduction by Mike Farquharson-Roberts
    • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2020
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xviii + 202 pages
    • Photographs. $34.95
    • ISBN: 9781399017206

    Reviewed by: John Beeler, University of Alabama

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. 

The listing below includes book reviews for each issue of the Journal starting with Volume 58.  You may browse the reviews by the issue of the Journal, by book title, or by author.

Book reviews marked 'Journal Only' (and are not clickable) are found in the pages of the listed issue of the Nautical Research Journal.


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