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  • February 11, 2023 4:55 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Forging the Trident: Theodore Roosevelt and the United States Navy

    Edited by John B. Hattendorf & William P. Leeman

    Throughout history, politicians have sought to leave a lasting impact on an organization, institution, or service. Perhaps no individual left a more significant mark on the United States Navy as Theodore Roosevelt, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and as President amid momentous transitions in naval theory, construction, and tactics. His youthful interest in the Navy continued into adulthood where, in his positions of influence, Roosevelt applied his knowledge and sense of innovation to the increasingly effective United States Navy. In their edited collection of essays, Forging the Trident: Theodore Roosevelt and the United States Navy, John B. Hattendorf and William P. Leeman brilliantly demonstrate how, almost singlehandedly, Roosevelt formed the foundation of the modern United States Navy.

    Within this edited publication are several articles which chart Roosevelt’s attentiveness towards the historical role of a nation’s navy, particularly in the way large capital ships could be used to exert influence abroad. As instructors at the Naval War College and the United States Military Academy, respectively, Hattendorf and Leeman relied upon their significant knowledge of military history, particularly the development of American naval strength. Equally fitting, many of the essays touched on Secretary, and later President, Roosevelt’s relationship with the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Iisland. He used the Naval War College, as well as the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, to stage his promotions of a ‘New Navy’ through remembrances of American naval heroism, like John Paul Jones, and demonstrations of the new class of battleships. It comes as no surprise that the editors devoted tremendous attention towards Roosevelt’s interest in shaping the educational mission at these institutions.

    Ever the student of history, the former Rough Rider drew from his own knowledge of naval theory to create the ideological framework which his naval improvements would take place in. He envisioned the Navy as the primary method for demonstrating American foreign policy abroad. Through a new class of steel battleships, the Navy could prove America’s ability to participate on the world stage. The struggle to approve and construct these new battleships exposed many differences between the competing ideologies of the president and the military hierarchy, which the authors chronicle fairly and in detail. Yet, Roosevelt’s indomitable will advanced his vision tangibly and laid the groundwork for adopting successive advances in naval technology.

    For all the attention the authors devoted towards Roosevelt’s naval interests and his own endeavors, they also recounted the supporting cast which influenced his thoughts and advanced his agenda during his time in office. Each chapter extensively the cast of characters revolving around Roosevelt’s in his years as a public servant. Most interestingly, one of the last essays analyzed the president’s relationship with each of his Secretaries of the Navy, perhaps owing to his own previous employment in that office. The author critically examines how Roosevelt managed and encouraged each of these individuals, as he masterfully balanced their own political ambitions with his.

    Many scholars have already heaped immense praise on Theodore Roosevelt’s efforts to reform the American Navy while employed in the Department of the Navy and as President. Hattendorf and Leeman succeeded in delving deeper into his own inspirations, motivations, and aptitude for performing such a task. The collection of essays within Forging the Trident trace Roosevelt’s obsession with naval tactics and theory, as well as his buttressed belief that a revamped navy would be the means which the United States could protect its new empire. The editors succeed in crafting a work which delved deeper into Theodore Roosevelt’s obsession with naval innovations, and which can be appreciated by naval enthusiasts and scholars alike.

    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020
    • 6-1/4” x 9-1/4”, hardcover, x + 293 pages
    • Photographs, notes, index. $48.00
    • ISBN: 9781682475348

    Reviewed by: William Nassif, University of South Carolina

  • February 11, 2023 4:52 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    From Across the Sea: North Americans in Nelson’s Navy

    Edited by Sean M. Heuvel and John A. Rodgaard

    The British Royal Navy was manned, during the period of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, by officers and men from many parts of the world apart from Great Britain and the United Kingdom. This work throws light on the contributions of those born in North America and the Caribbean and includes biographical essays on examples from the lower deck as well as from the ranks of the officers of the fleet. Two of those ordinary or able seamen chosen for study, one of whom was a Native American, were born in the United States.

    The opening sections offer us insights into the positions of the United States and Canada during the period of the Great War of 1793-1815 and the Anglo-American naval relationship at that time. It throws light too on both the myth and the reality of the fraught question of impressment and turns a particular spotlight on North Americans serving in Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar – there were over four hundred of them. The omission of studies of Ralph Miller and Benjamin Hallowell (apart from the briefest of mentions) is, perhaps, unfortunate; both were loyalist American commanders included in Nelson’s ‘Band of Brothers’, originally comprising the captains of the fleet he commanded at the Battle of the Nile in Aboukir Bay. But the variety of the other candidates chosen will not disappoint.

    The contributory essays making up the book are studies by a number of eminent authorities from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, including such well-known authors and naval historians as John B. Hattendorf and Andrew Lambert. With writers of this caliber involved, the book is an excellent and compelling read as well as being fascinating in its content. From Across the Sea will, of course, be of particular interest to American and Canadian readers, but will also be so to any student of the history of the British Royal Navy of the period.

    • Warwick: Helion & Company 2020
    • Distributed in the United States by Casemate Publishers
    • 9-14” x 6-1’4”, softcover, 311 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $34.95
    • ISBN: 9781913118921

    Reviewed by: Roger Marsh, Killaloe. Ireland

  • February 11, 2023 4:45 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Bligh: Master Mariner

    Rob Mundle

    William Bligh in popular thought has come to be a figure most closely defined by arguably the two worst moments of his career; the Bounty Incident and his rather disastrous tenure as Governor of New South Wales. Rob Mundle seeks to remind readers that Bligh was much more than just those two moments, that at his core Bligh was “a bloody good sailor.” Making heavy use of others' research-which he freely admits due to his not being a historian-Mundle traces Bligh's life and career from his childhood in Plymouth to his final years spent mostly reading in his country estate the Manor House. The narrative is handily split into three periods which the author titles "Master Bligh", "Commander Bligh", and "Captain Bligh", with his skills and responsibilities increasing with the progression of each.

    Drawing on his significant personal experiences as a sailor and journalist covering major sailing news, the author crafts compelling descriptions of Bligh’s seagoing skills which guide the progression of the book at a comfortable pace. Those less familiar with nautical terminology will certainly find the included glossary most useful, as well as the chart featuring all of Bligh's postings and commands. Those who are more familiar with Bligh's career will, unfortunately, find little new in this work, and in general, a wider research pool would have served to fill out the reading experience. One notable example in this regard would be Bligh's annotations of James King's accounting of the last Cook voyage (published in 1928 by R.T. Gould), which broadly serves as the closest existent version of Bligh's lost journal of that same voyage. However, such deficiencies are truly minor, and Mundle’s goal of bringing the story of Bligh back into the light of the general public has certainly been met.

    In this the author must truly be praised for he has crafted a narrative which will help to bring more general readership into the study of the many Pacific shores, hopefully sparking increasing interest in the broad array of topics that exist within that subfield of Maritime History. Further, he has provided a well-needed reminder that no person, no matter how (in)famous, is solely what they were in one or two limited moments and that historians and readers alike do well to seek out the deeper truths of all individuals and groups.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2020
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, 240 pages
    • Glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95
    • ISBN: 9781526782281

    Reviewed by: Michael Toth, Texas Christian University

  • February 11, 2023 4:40 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Japan’s Spy at Pearl Harbor: Memoir of an Imperial Navy Secret Agent

    Takeo Yoshikawa

    The December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was the culmination of a long-term plot by Imperial Japan during World War II. Naval officer and imperial spy Takeo Yoshikawa played a pivotal role in this endeavor, sending military intelligence reports from Pearl Harbor to Japanese headquarters through the Consulate-General in Honolulu. Over his career being stationed in Hawaii, Yoshikawa sent over a hundred cables back to his government reporting on United State military instillations and equipment. After the war, Yoshikawa wrote of his involvement in the attack in an article, eventually leading him to appear in a film about his experience. However, he published his complete memoir in 1963 and it is presented here for the first time in English, translated by Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell brings this little-known spy to the for front of the American reader’s mind in Japan’s Spay at Pearl Harbor: Memoir of an Imperial Navy Secret Agent.

    The memoirs were written by Yoshikawa, himself, and later in life. As such, he writes with a tone of explaining his actions, sometimes even apologetically. The book is written starting with how he learned self-discipline and focus from knife throwing and an adherence to a strict exercise routine from his father, all leading him to a life in the military and eventually espionage. He also includes a letter from a US Army pilot of who was at Hickman Field in Hawaii on the day of the attack. He uses this letter to introduce the explanations of all the steps that would lead him to that infamous day.

    Yoshikawa provides interesting anecdotes and important information about Japanese military operations in the early twentieth century. First, he provides descriptions of the selection process for the Naval Academy, as well as their training and culture. He notes the academy’s long-standing traditions, “passed down through the generations,” (p.25). The academy also engrained in him his sense of patriotism and duty. Other anecdotes especially useful for military researchers is his story of the “thunderous boom,” (p.149). On the day of the attack Yoshikawa heard a large boom that he attributes to the success of a sing-manned special submarine from Japan. Though the success of these subs has been refuted by the United State, the Japanese government disagrees. Yoshikawa’s first-hand account, first presented here in English, could provide valuable insight into this debate.

    There are often times are a translator’s note would be helpful. In the beginning section he is discussing his brother’s dietary restrictions. Though he explains it as a “strange food allergy” (pg. 20.) but later in the same paragraph he say that his parents went through every effort to make him eat them, which would align with a food aversion rather than an allergy. This curious paragraph seems like a confused word choice that might have be worthy of a translator’s note. Otherwise, Mitchell’s notes provide helpful historic and cultural context to the reader, anchoring them in their moments in time.

    • Translated by Andrew Mitchell
    • Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2020
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, vii + 299 pages
    • Photographs, notes, index. $21.99
    • ISBN: 9781476676999

    Reviewed by: Traci Andrews, Texas A&M University

  • February 11, 2023 4:27 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    The Battle of Tsushima

    Phil Carradice

    Phil Carradice’s The Battle of Tsushima recounts the fateful 1905 collision of the Japanese and Russian fleets in the eponymous straits - an encounter so decisive it left Russia’s navy in shambles and brought the Imperial Japanese Navy to world attention. Employing a dramatic writing style honed as a prolific author and novelist, Carradice gives the battle a personal treatment through the eyes of the Russians who faced catastrophic loss, drawing upon firsthand accounts of the battle and the 2nd Pacific Squadron’s impressive 18,000 mile voyage from the Baltic Sea.

    Carradice attributes the startling Japanese victory at Tsushima to a combination of superior seamanship, the leadership of Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, technological innovation like Shimose explosive powder, and the failures of Russian high command despite the efforts of Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky and his intrepid sailors. More than geopolitical analysis or technical fleet comparisons, the bulk of Carradice’s text focuses on the experiences of the men who fought at Tsushima in the tremendous journey preceding the battle, and the tactical decisions in response to the disastrous engagement as it unfolded.

    The Battle of Tsushima deals centrally with the Russian experience, with Rozhestvensky taking center stage. Though there is certainly no problem in limiting the scope of one’s work, the book would have greatly benefitted from a more thorough engagement with Japanese sources, and knowledge of Japanese history more broadly. Unfortunately, Carradice’s work also suffers from numerous factual errors--his Japanese monarch is “Maiji” (the ‘hourly’ emperor were this misnomer rendered in English), samurai anachronistically guard buildings over a decade after their caste’s dissolution, the British-built Japanese pre-dreadnoughts are “French-built vessels”(112), to name a few glaring ones--and the only in-text citations appear when directly quoting other works, so if these seeming inaccuracies are supported by secondary material readers are left without an efficient means of verification. While Carradice does introduce new primary source documents in his bibliography, it is otherwise a fairly slim section lacking in any organization that would indicate which chapters particular entries support- not to mention the questionable inclusion of multiple undated Wikipedia articles as sources. It is surprising to see that these issues (in addition to the forty-nine completely unsourced images which appear in the middle of the text) were not caught in the editorial process, particularly if the normally rigorous Naval Institute Press edition is identical to the British edition this review addresses. When one comes across these basic errors it is difficult to not become skeptical of the less familiar information provided in the rest of the work, and Carradice’s minimalist style of source attribution does little to bolster confidence in its quality.

    If viewed as a narrative work for a popular audience, the story of the Russian fleet’s unexpected annihilation contained in The Battle of Tsushima is an easily read and entertaining sea story providing a concise and engaging summary of the climactic battle, but erroneous details and serious deficiencies in sourcing prevent it from being an authoritative scholarly contribution to the study of the Russo-Japanese War.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, 2020
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xvii + 184 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $32.95
    • ISBN: 9781526743268

    Reviewed by: Dayan Weller, East Carolina University

  • February 11, 2023 4:21 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    U-Boats in New England: Submarine Patrols, Survivors and Saboteurs 1942-1945

    Eric Wiberg

    Two infamous days standout in the history of the United States: December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor where 2,403 people were killed and September 11, 2001 in New York City where 2,994 people lost their lives. Both events have been studied extensively due to their high visibility to the public. Eric Wiberg, a renown nautical author and historian, offers another series of events that are comparable to those mentioned above: the use of U-boats in guerre de course in the Atlantic theatre during World War II. He states that during the war the United States Navy was neglectful in securing the New England seaboard, leaving it exposed to a tirade of attacks. This led to thirty-eight vessels being sunk and over 5,000 lives lost during the war off the New England shoreline.

    Wiberg brings together accounts of the known U-boat attacks off the New England coast. One event that stands out in this work is the insertion of saboteurs at Amagansett, Long Island on June 13, 1942. In this instance U-202 ran aground while deploying saboteurs. The tide left the U-boat stranded for several hours, making it a prime target for capture by the United States Navy. However, it was a capture that never took place and was never considered by the United States Navy. Wiberg describes this as a strategic error that contributed to the continuation of U-boat attacks, hence directly supporting his case that the United States Navy displayed a lack of effort in defending the Atlantic seaboard.

    In the subsequent chapters, Wiberg presents strong evidence showing that the United States Navy did not heed the advice of the British and Canadians in regards to their experience with U-boats. Both the British and Canadians employed the tactic, convoy and escort, when it came to merchant trading vessels traveling across the Atlantic. It was not until much later in the war that the United States Navy implemented this strategy and in turn developed their hunter-killer groups that ultimately expelled the U-boats from New England waters. Wiberg does an exceptional job navigating and presenting the multitude of source material on this specific point, allowing for a clear understanding.

    Scholars of World War II maritime history, specifically those concerned with U-boats, will want to add this book to their library. The structure of this work is a chronological narrative that flows sinuously, making it both an enjoyable read and easily comprehendible. The author has assembled a plethora of sources, such as firsthand accounts and naval documents, he uses throughout his work that allows for a detailed analysis of this subject. In addition to this, Wiberg provides a valuable resource with tables in the appendices that detail the fates of ninety U-boats, vessels sunk buy U-boat, ports where survivors landed, burial locations of eight U-boat sailors, and the fates of U-boats after the war. This latest perspective on U-boats in New England and the accumulation of source material will undoubtedly prove useful for academics and future research.

    • Stroud: Fonthill Media, 2019
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 416 pages
    • Photographs, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $55.00
    • ISBN: 9781781557204

    Reviewed by: Raymond Phipps, East Carolina University

  • February 11, 2023 4:13 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    American Merchant Seamen of the Early Nineteenth Century: A Researcher’s Guide

    Anne Morddel

    Anne Morddel has undertaken a monumental task of explaining how to document American seamen who lived and worked during the first thirty years of the nineteenth century. The major problem facing scholars interested in the story of American mariners during the era is that merchant ships normally did not carry crew lists, and even when they did those lists rarely survived. Some information about mariners can be gleaned from the Seaman’s Protection Certificates, which offers descriptions of seamen in question, and details may be found in vessel registration documents. Otherwise, if a sailor got into trouble, there would be some record of them, or if a ship wrecked, was captured, or was stopped at sea there could be a record of an individual. Perhaps when a ship’s captain protested to a consul or to a port authority there could be some information about an individual. As one can see, finding information about individual sailors is much like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

    This volume reveals that some archives and records explained in this book are available at on-line repositories. Yet in most cases, only the archival finding aids or indexes of specific collections may be on-line. Should one be successful in locating the person in question, Morddel reminds us that British repositories send paper copies in the mail, while French and American archives generally send materials via email. To do such research, she also reminds us that scholars needs to be able to read French or even Spanish, and they need to decipher eighteenth and nineteenth century handwriting. A diligent scholar will ultimately find their individual and may even learn that their life at sea did not truly describe the extraordinary nature of their experiences.

    Offering examples of many different British, French, and American repositories, Morddel explains how novices can begin research about maritime topics. First, define the period in which the mariner served at sea. hen look for the ships on which the sailor served. During the period, sailors may have suffered impressment aboard a British warship, thus forcing the researcher to examine British documents. French authorities could have captured them, meaning research in French archives. Morddel offers many examples of the routes of research through archives. Concluding, she provides two case studies that highlight the twists and turns research often takes. One is about a seaman from Marblehead serving on a French privateer who the British captured and who subsequently served in the British Navy. The second was a Nantucket whaler who ultimately died in a French prison. Both reveal the expansive degree of research necessary to document the mariner in question.

    Morddel also offers as a final statement that those interested can get a very thorough survey and explanation of War of 1812 records concerning American mariners through an online course presented by the National Genealogical Society (https:www.ngsgenealogylorg/cgs/war-of-1812-records/). Ultimately, Morddel makes it clear in this useful book that those doing naval/maritime history will also encounter administrative, economic, and political sources at a variety of archives. Those interested in maritime history and documenting an individual who served a sea during the era will find this a very useful primer.

    • The Author, 2020
    • 6” x 9”, softcover, 97 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography. $14.95
    • ISBN: 9791096085095

    Reviewed by: Gene Allen Smith, Texas Christian University

  • February 11, 2023 3:12 PM | PAUL R MITCHELL (Administrator)

    Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World

    Owen Rees

    Owen Rees wants to restore ancient naval narratives to a proper place in the historical record: The aim of this work is to bring the multitude of naval engagements, which pervade the ancient sources, into a broader modern awareness.” He leads his readers in the right direction. His introduction concisely and usefully describes the trireme and its functions in war, emphasizing the offensive tactics of the diekplous (breaking through gaps in the enemy line) and of the less clearly attested periplous (a sailing around), which is an encirclement tactic, one aspect of which is the kuklos, a wheel formation. Rees then handles his thirteen battles in individual chapters over the four parts of the book, with each chapter subdivided formulaically, and efficiently, into Background, Forces, Battle, and Aftermath, which means over half the book treats important historical matters as necessary military and political background to these battles.

    The ancient Greek world of the title is a single hundred-year epoch within the Classical Period (500-323): the battles appear in chronological order from Lade (494) to Cnidus (394). Eleven battles belong to either the Persian Conflicts (499-479) or the Peloponnesian War (divided into the Archidamian War, 432-421, and the Ionian War, 413-404). Naval tactics and technology changed throughout this period, as the Greeks learned from one another, but they acquired special importance after the Peloponnesian War. At Catane (396) the Carthaginians initially defeated the Syracusans with the newly developed quinquereme, and at Cnidus (394), Rees argues, the Greeks were split apart, turned against each other, and then had to seek the support of another strong ally.

    With certain exceptions—Salamis (480) and Arginousae (406) come to mind immediately—ancient Greek naval battles are typically stepping-stones to a definitive and historically more important—"more-glorious”—land battle. For example, Aegospotami (405) is not a straightforward naval battle. The Athenians were camped in a highly vulnerable location, as Alcibiades told them. After five days of the Athenian ships tactically showing the colors and backing off, and the Spartans playing coy, the actual disaster came when the Athenians disembarked and carelessly went foraging, and the Spartans landed their force, then hunted down and massacred the Athenians in a full-on ground assault, with their ships also hindering the enemy’s flight. Significantly, Rees prefers to conceptualize such battles as joint land-sea operations.

    The conclusion highlights the indispensable role of the fleet in resisting Persian aggression, providing the basis for Athenian expansionism, and, ultimately, causing Athens’ defeat after a quarter-century of warfare against the Lacedaimonians and their allies. However, an opportunity to examine Spartan naval operations more closely may have been missed, since after the Peloponnesian War Spartan hegemony (404-371) superseded Athenian naval dominance. Together the introduction and conclusion summarize the author’s principal views and indicate the author’s major themes, but if this project is to be extended long-term, a major infusion from maritime archaeology will be needed.

    Rees succeeds in reaching an essential audience. His writing is lucid, informative, and engaging for the knowledgeable general reader and for students at all levels. Each chapter has a rudimentary battle map; one chapter has two. An index would have helped, but an up-to-date bibliography and numerous endnotes allow such readers to pursue topics that draw their enthusiasm.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2020
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 416 pages
    • Maps, diagrams, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. $32.95
    • ISBN: 9781473927301

    Reviewed by: Frank E. Romer, East Carolina University

  • November 12, 2021 2:31 PM | David Eddy

    Favourite of Fortune: Captain John Quilliam, Trafalgar Hero

    Andrew Bond, Frank Cowan& Andrew Lambert

    In introducing John Quilliam, a Trafalgar hero, to readers, Bond, Cowin, and Lambert state “that Quilliam is so little known in the wider world is all the more remarkable, given his extraordinary career, which can compared with those of the great heroes of naval fiction, Hornblower and Aubrey.” That may be the case for the wider world, but for members of The 1805 Club, Quilliam is a known entity, and held in high regard.

    In John Marshall’s Royal Navy Biography (1825), the only other biography written about Quilliam, we learn that “This officer may be truly styled a favorite of Fortune.” Bond, Cowin, and Lambert confirm this assessment.

    The authors trace Quilliam’s life from the island of his birth, the Isle of Man, through his service in the Royal Navy, to his return to his birthplace as a man considered by his fellow islanders as “Manx Worthy.”

    He entered the service at the age of seventeen in 1785 and worked in the Portsmouth Dockyard. Quilliam was rated as an able seaman, which indicates he had previous experience at sea. As he rose through the ranks he would draw on his dockyard knowledge.

    In 1792, he joined his first ship, the third-rate HMS Lion (64) and sailed to China. The objective of the cruise was to extend diplomatic relations with the emperor of China. Captain (later Admiral) Sir Erasmus Gower looked favorably on Quilliam: “Lion’s voyage to China had transformed him into a man-of-war’s man, Britain’s most important resource in her hour of need, and secured him the support of the Royal Navy’s senior captains.” The authors show that patronage from senior officers, such as Erasmus, James Gambier and Horatio Nelson, was helpful in Quilliam’s promotion prospects. Promotion through patronage was a common practice throughout the fleet. However, as in other historical analyses found in From Across the Sea: North Americans in Nelson’s Navy, an officer’s chance of promotion finally came down to performance. Quilliam had it in spades.

    Quilliam next transferred to the third-rate HMS Triumph (74), again under Captain Gower, who promoted him to quartermaster’s mate; a rank often interchangeable with that of midshipman. Although another captain replaced Gower before Triumph fought at the Battle of Camperdown, it appears Gower was greatly impressed by Quilliam’s performance during the battle and had him transferred to his own ship, the second-rate HMS Neptune (98) as acting lieutenant. Quilliam was aboard for only twenty days, having to transfer again, because he had been promoted to lieutenant.

    With his transfer to a sloop-of-war, Quilliam’s professional life would, for the most part (except for being aboard Victory at Trafalgar), center on serving in  and commanding Royal Navy frigates. He rose to post captain and acquired wealth from prize money.

    As second lieutenant, Quilliam applied his ‘dockyard matey’ skills at the Battle of Copenhagen, in which he quickly restored his damaged frigate to fighting trim. As a result of his performance at Copenhagen, Nelson selected him above other lieutenants to be Victory’s first lieutenant. His performance during Trafalgar and its aftermath ensured Victory survived the battle and the subsequent storm; despite, sadly, the loss of his benefactor.

    Quilliam returned to frigates as a post captain and served in the Baltic, where he successfully escorted critical naval store convoys from Sweden. The Baltic Fleet commander, Admiral Sir James Saumarez noticed his performance, and gave Quilliam command of two additional frigates.

    However, good deeds do not necessarily go unpunished. When Quilliam commanded a frigate on the Newfoundland Station during the War of 1812, his first lieutenant charged him with cowardice for not engaging what might have been one of the United States Navy’s ‘super’ frigates. Quilliam’s charge for cowardice was dropped, together with lesser charges brought forward by his subordinate. The reader will find it interesting to note why Quilliam even faced court martial in the first place.

    Quilliam returned to sea during the waning months of the Anglo-French War and the American War, performing his role as a talented convoy escort commander in the Caribbean. With the peace, he returned to his island home. He regained his seat in the House of Keys and married a local heiress (although he was quite well off himself). Both were in their late 40s at the time. He was active in improving the island’s fisheries and reducing the loss of life resulting in the many shipwrecks in Manx waters. Quilliam can be called the father of what is now the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

    This biography is a worthy read about a Royal Navy officer who was rather unique in his profession; not only a master at commanding a sailing man-of-war at sea and in combat, but also a master of the technology of building, maintaining and refitting the complex machinery of sailing warships. He was “truly styled a favourite of Fortune.”

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2021
    • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2021
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xvi + 181 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, notes, glossary, index. $44.95
    • ISBN: 9781399012706

    Reviewed by John A. Rodgaard, Melbourne, Florida

  • November 12, 2021 2:25 PM | David Eddy

    Big Guns in the Atlantic: Germany’s battleships and cruisers raid the convoys, 1939-1941

    Angus Konstam

    The defeat of Germany and the terms of peace imposed via the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 reduced its fleet to little more than a coast defense force capable of exerting little more than a degree of control within the Baltic. The Navy, however, had greater ambitions and realized its only viable strategy in the event of war with Britain was to strike against trade. Consequently, it developed and put into service warships capable of fulfilling this mission, epitomized by the powerful long-range panzerschiffe of the Deutschland class, the battleships of the Gneisenau class, and the Type VII and Type IX U-boats covertly designed in the Netherlands by the NV Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw.

    This paradigm held sway until the signing of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1935 that permitted the expansion of the fleet to thirty-five percent of the size of the Royal Navy. This encouraged the Navy’s commander, Grossadmiral Erich Raeder, to plan for a balanced fleet to contend against the Royal Navy, an ambition encouraged by Adolph Hitler, who assured him war with Britain would not come before 1948.

    The outbreak of war with Britain and France in September 1939 forced Raeder to revert to the war against commerce using the available warships, both surface vessels designed for long-range raiding and less-suitable short-legged ships that were part of the plan for 1948, and also the U-boat force. Angus Konstam’s Big Guns in the Atlantic is a thoroughly workmanlike exposition of the Kriegsmarine’s surface raider war that ensued against British convoys in the North Atlantic from 1939 until 1941.

    In large part Big Guns in the Atlantic is a chronological presentation of these operations, starting with Deutschland’s cruise in September to November 1939 and culminating in the debacle of Operation Rheinübung and the destruction of the new battleship Bismarck in May 1941. Konstam effectively highlights the successes and failures of this campaign, emphasizing the strategic planning and tactical skill of the German commanders, the efficiency of the ships and their crews, and the importance of both weather and luck to the outcomes. He also notes the hobbling impact of limiting rules of engagement imposed by Berlin that prohibited risking ships in situations that might result in significant damage, rules that resulted from both a shortage of ships and a reaction to serious losses during the Norwegian invasion campaign in 1940.

    Konstam’s analysis of the overall campaign is both succinct and telling. He notes that the total damage inflicted on the convoys by surface raiders over a twenty-month period, some 270,000 tons of shipping, was no more than that sunk on average by the U-boat force each month from the summer of 1940 onwards. A Bismarck class battleship cost about one hundred times as much as a single U-boat and the size of its crew could man forty to fifty submarines. The big surface ships were compelling in their power but woefully deficient as effective commerce raiders compared with the submarines.

    • Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2021
    • 7-1/4” x 9-3/4”, softcover, 80 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, bibliography, index. $22.00
    • ISBN: 9781472845962

    Reviewed by Charles Peterson, St. Louis, Missouri

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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