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Book Review, NRJ 69.2

June 30, 2024 10:24 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

Warships After London: The End of the Treaty Era in the Five Major Fleets 1930 - 1936

By John Jordan

  • This work is a sequel to Jordan's 2011 Warships After Washington and continues his analysis of the building and modernization programs carried out by the world's five major navies during the second half of the Treaty Era. Building upon his previous work and utilizing the same style for continuity, Jordan examines the six main types of vessels affected by the London Treaty's design limitations. Each nation's rationale and design process is well covered, showcasing the advancement of technology, the reactionary elements to foreign design, and the comparative results. Standardized charts, simplified blueprints, and photographs are located throughout for increased understanding, bolstered by an acronym and abbreviation glossary and unit conversion tables. A postscript on the failed 1936 treaty, an appendix transcribing the 1930 treaty, endnotes, bibliography, and an index compliment Jordan's analysis to round out the text.

    The book begins with an introductory examination of the 1930 London Treaty, the participant nations, and the implications of its acceptance (or in the case of France and Italy, partial acceptance) on the existing and planned vessels of each country. To avoid retreading his earlier examination, the ramifications of the Washington Treaty are briefly spoken of when necessary, with parenthetical references to relevant chapters in Warships After Washington placed where readers may desire a more detailed analysis.

    This is followed by the core six chapters of his work, essentially self-contained studies on Capital Ships, Aircraft Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines, and Small Combatant and Auxiliary Vessels of the London Treaty Era. Each section follows a pattern of brief introduction to the constraints and patterns imposed by the treaty before delving into each nation's resultant actions. This usually consists of initial ship designs by the countries, with reactionary actions discussed in chronologically placed subsections. The delicate balancing act of creating effective designs within the bounds of allowed tonnage and stipulations is thoroughly covered, to include proposed designs that were ultimately rejected such as America's plans for a sub­ category (b) Flying Deck Cruiser.

    Funding is often exposed as the general limiter of each nation's ambitions, with additional constraints unique to each nation coming into play. The two-ocean nature of America's navy saw vessel beam and displacement additionally constrained by the width of the Panama Canal, while tensions between France and Italy centered around the former 's "perceived need to police ... overseas territories" leading to both a refusal to accept full parity and a miniature naval arms race.

    Technological advancement is often touched upon within the work, as its evolution greatly affected vessel design and rebuilding. The section on battleship modernization is particularly impressive in this regard, showing how reduced numbers of more modem propulsion systems could result in faster, more efficient ships all while freeing tonnage for increased armor and armament.

    The dangers of trying to fit too much armor, armament, and equipment on too small a hull are also made clear, as some of the built designs were clearly over-gunned and overweight. This was particularly true for the interwar destroyers of America and Japan, where disproportionately heavy armament on small hulls led not only to gross over-tonnage, but structural weakness as well.

    Each chapter contains its own conclusions subsection, where Jordan analyzes the overall logic and goal of the chapter's ship designs, with discussion of their eventual practicality and evolution under the treaty-free restraints of World War II.

    His postscript acts as a conclusion to the era, examining the world events that put a strain on the treaty system, and its eventual collapse with America's March 1937 invocation of the escalator clause against Japan and the June 1938 raising of battleship displacements by Britain and France . Jordan's well-reasoned arguments and insights paint a clear picture throughout the work of ship design, counter-design, and the strains of diplomatic planning verses technological reality.

    Jordan has provided an excellent examination of the interwar naval vessels of Britain, the United States, Japan, France, and Italy. His concise, easy-to-read style and subdivision of the work into vessel types has created a convenient comparative study for those interested in ship design, interwar international agreements, and treaty vessels' service before or during World War II. His efforts to standardize profile drawings and data have created a greater level of accessibility for foreign designs than previously available, making Warships after London a welcome addition to the historiography of international naval ship design.

  • Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2020
  • Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020
  • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 320  pages
  • Photographs, diagrams, tables, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $48.95
  • ISBN: 9781526777492

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

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