BOOK REVIEW: ‘British Destroyer’s & Frigates: The Second World War And After’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: British Destroyer’s & Frigates: The Second World War And After

Author: Norman Friedman

Total Number of Pages:  352

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent: 7

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Naval vessel-types have a very distinct hierarchy. At the top are the aircraft carriers (the Queen Bees; if you will); at the bottom, the Worker Bees; the destroyers and the frigates; the vessels that (at least in the opinions of their crews) do the actual work. This is their story; specifically, it is the story of the development and evolution of the destroyers and frigates used by both the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth navies it is affiliated to.

The story is a complex one and in the course of its narrative the reader is introduced to the multitudinous issues which effect and contribute-towards warship design. The numerous non-naval influences which must also be considered (especially in regards to ‘matters political’), are also discussed.

Although the Contents list indicates the Introduction is the first section to appear after it, a single-page List Of Abbreviations holds that honour. There is however no reference to its existence on the Contents page. That detail notwithstanding, the Introduction provides a multi-page summation of the material that appears within the Chapters which follow. A single-column Acknowledgements subsection placed within this section thanks those who assisted with the volume’s creation. The Introduction is followed by the 15 Chapters which comprise the bulk of the volume. The Chapters narrate the development of the two vessel- types over the 1939-2006 period covered by this volume.  It should be noted however that, for purposes of continuity, the volume’s narrative actually commences before World War II. Within the individual Chapter, each page consists of two columns of print. Footnotes are used within each Chapter to provide additional information. These are numbered consecutively within each Chapter, with the citations (where used) appearing at the foot of  each column. Where necessary, subsections within an individual Chapter provide additional elaboration on a specific part of the larger narrative within that particular chapter. Their existence is not however acknowledged on the Contents page. A single-page Bibliography follows the final Chapter and is itself followed by an eight-page section titled Data Tables. This section contains specifications for the vessels referred to within the volume. The information is presented in columnar and tabulated form. Relevant notes appear at the end of each individual section. These are not however in Footnote format but rather occupy the width of the individual section. Abbreviations are used throughout the section. Of these, a small number also appear on the previously-mentioned List Of Abbreviations (in one instance [DCT] with a different meaning).  The majority are however, section-specific, and their meanings are listed in a column appearing at the head of the section, A List of Ships section follows. This provides construction and paying-off details (or, if not relevant, the vessel’s fate) of every destroyer or frigate constructed by British dockyards from 1936 onwards. It also uses abbreviations (albeit in a smaller quantity) and these are placed at the front of the section. An Index completes the volume.  This book contains numerous descriptively-captioned monochrome Photographs from a variety of sources, together with plans and profile drawings of individual vessels. Tables are used for comparative purposes where required. Concept paintings have been utilised where relevant to the narrative while photographs of armaments and electronic antennae are included where necessary.  There is no reference to the existence of any of these (photographs, tables etc.) on the Contents page, although the Index does state that ‘Page references in Italics refer to illustration captions’..

The volume is well-written, researched and eminently readable. It is likely to appeal a variety of readers and may well become a standard reference work on its subject. The potential readership could include both naval personnel, and those with a general interest in the Royal Navy.. Those with a more general interest in naval and maritime matters are also likely to find this volume of interest. ‘The many photographs and drawings are likely to be invaluable to both ship modellers and to marine artists with an interest in British naval vessels.

In this regard, and because of the likelihood of ‘high use’ by its purchasers, this reviewer did wonder if the volume should perhaps have been printed in a ‘hard cover’ format; if only to prolong its cover life.

For this reviewer, this volume is let down by the ‘small details. The result is a ‘Good’ book;  it could have been a ‘Great’ book.

On a Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given it a 7.

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘British Destroyer’s & Frigates: The Second World War And After’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘NAVIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY’

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Reviewer:  NZ Crown Mines

Title: Navies in the 21st Century

Editor: Conrad Waters

No. of Pages: 256

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 7

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A ‘Compendium’ is defined as being ‘…A collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication’. Navies in the 21st Century, fits this definition well.

In the military world, it is always useful to know what the opposition is doing, and if one is unable to make personal acquaintance with the foe, a variety of alternative sources can provide at least a measure of information.  Navies in the 21st Century seeks to be one of these sources.

The volume consists of nine Chapters (termed ‘Sections’), and within each of these are a varying number of subsections covering specific topics.  As it is a compendium, these subsections have been contributed by a variety of authors (14 in total) who are evidently experts in their fields. The Editor also contributes various pieces and a Foreword.

The subjects covered are wide. They include a Strategic Overview; a Fleet Analysis; 21st Century Warship Design; Aircraft, and Personnel. The resultant work is both comprehensive and informed. Photographs (from a variety of sources, both civil and military), graphs, tables and well-executed line and half-tone drawings are also included.

In addition to the previously-noted Forward, the volume has nine Chapters (termed ‘Sections’), and 25 ‘Subsections’. The latter are chiefly concentrated in Section 4 (Fleet Analysis), where they provide well-researched and detailed information on both major and minor naval strengths and capabilities. A Glossary and List of Contributors are also included, together with an Index. Where additional information is necessary, notes are provided at the end of the individual chapters. These are keyed to sequentially-occurring-numbers within the text.

For this reviewer however, the work does have some limitations. Of these the most serious concerns the Index. During random searching, it was noticed that although an entry for New Zealand appeared within Section [Chapter] 4.3 (Asian Fleet Strengths -2015) on page 91, there was no reference to this entry (or indeed to ‘New Zealand’ per se’) within the Index.

As this was found during a random search, there is no way of knowing what other omissions exist. However, the discovery inevitably raises questions concerning the veracity and authority of the Index section and, by implication, the whole volume. In addition, no Bibliography exists, while the Contents section makes no reference to the photographs and drawings appearing within the book. The use of numbers (for example, 4.2.3) to delineate the subsections may also be initially-disconcerting for some readers.

These limitations notwithstanding, this reviewer believes that this volume provides a comprehensive coverage of the contemporary international naval scene. While doing-so, it easily earns the ‘Compendium’ appellation previously given. It is a relatively small and easily carried book and easy to refer-to (the previously-alluded-to Index ‘problem’ notwithstanding). As such it should find a ready home in wardrooms, airbase libraries and on military intelligence files. Defence specialists, and researchers in the geo-political field will also find this work of use, while students of 21st-Century warships and naval design could find it informative. The naval modeller may also find that this volume provides invaluable information in respect of both sea-going armaments and general naval technology. Those with a more general interest in naval and military matters, international relations, or ships in general, are also likely to find this work useful.

In precis, this is an excellent, comprehensive and well-written book. For this reviewer however, it was let down by small but important details, especially in respect of the Index, Had this not been the case, it would have received a higher rating.

On a rating scale of 1-10 where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I would give this volume a 7.

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

BOOK REVIEW: ‘NAVIES IN THE 21ST CENTURY’

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

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