BOOK REVIEW: ‘ENDLESS STORY: DESTROYER OPERATIONS IN THE GREAT WAR’

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title:  Endless Story: Destroyer Operations in the Great War

Author: ‘Taffrail’ (Tapprell Dorling)

Total Number of Pages: 452

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 8

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This reviewer has over the years, read many volumes of history, and is of the opinion that they come in three distinct and discernible categories. Some (indeed, the majority) are boring, some are mildly interesting, and some are exciting; Endless Story is in the latter category.

In precis, this volume (which is a reprint of the 1931 original, with an additional Introduction to compliment that originally supplied), describes the operations of Royal Navy Destroyer-type warships (including Patrol Boats, Torpedo Boats) during the First World War. It is done well and with authority. The book is essentially a collection of anecdotes and stories (all true), rather than the more usual ‘formal’ historical narratives one would expect to find.  The anecdotes / stories are from both the author and other naval personnel who were active on Royal Navy Destroyers during World War I. These are placed against a background of the historical circumstances to which the speakers are referring. Where necessary, these are in turn reinforced by quotes from Official Histories or from autobiographies written by Senior Officers within the service.  This is an unusual method of recording and presenting ‘history’ and refreshing because of that fact. It is also presented in a very readable manner, and as the author knows his subject well, records the highs and lows (both personal and tactical) that accompanied Royal Navy Destroyer operations during the 1914-1918 period.  As would be expected, specific actions are recorded, with this reviewer finding the descriptions relating to Gallipoli especially interesting.  Chapters devoted to Australian naval operations in the Papua New Guinea region and American Destroyer activities in the Northern Hemisphere also made for fascinating reading. The ‘military’ part of this work ends with a detailed description of the Zeebrugge Raid of 23 April 1918. There is however a following chapter which outlines in depth and detail the development of the Destroyer-type vessel and describes the attributes of the various classes of these types of vessels.

As previously-noted this work is a reproduction of the 1931-published original, and has been provided with a New Introduction which is largely biographical in nature. The rest of the volume is composed of 26 Chapters, four Appendices, a List of Illustrations, a Bibliography,  an Acknowledgements section and an Index. As would be expected, the List of Illustrations details the eight photographic images that appear within the work. Curiously, the diagrams and maps which accompany many of the chapters are also listed within this section.

In this reviewer’s opinion, this work will be of value at several levels. For the naval enthusiast (especially those with specific interests in Royal Navy Destroyers and their operations) it provides technical information concerning Destroyer activities by during World War I. For the Naval Historian it provides personal, first hand details about specific battles and engagements (some of them little known), while for the generalist-historian interested in British naval operations it provides ‘meat’ to engagements large and small, providing the small details against the larger and wider military background of the War itself, the previously-mentioned Gallipoli Campaign being but one example.

As this work was originally published in 1931, its format and content are reflective of publishing practices of that time.  On that basis, this reviewer found it difficult to critique and compare these with those of the Twenty-first Century, but would note that some readers could find the images and maps less-numerous and smaller in size than they may be used to.

In conclusion, this work is rightly considered to be a classic of naval history and it would be of use to anyone interested in the Destroyer-type activities of the Royal Navy and its allied services during World War I.  It will be of value to those professional and amateur historians with an interest in ‘Things naval’ and the conflicts in Europe, the Middle East and the Southern Hemisphere during the period 1914-1918. In this reviewer’s opinion, it would be a valuable addition to the collection of anyone interested in such matters.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it an 8.

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nzcrownmines is also available for book reviewing: Contact nzcrownmines@gmail.com

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘ENDLESS STORY: DESTROYER OPERATIONS IN THE GREAT WAR’

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