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  • May 05, 2024 3:54 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Mediterranean Naval Battles that Changed the World

    By Quentin Russell

    Given that several different civilizations throughout history have flourished around the Mediterranean Sea, it is not difficult to imagine that region at the center of a number of naval conflicts between nations; from the ancient Greeks against the Persians to the terrors of the Second World War, the Mediterranean has been the stage of the most interesting clashes at sea. The struggle for sea power and dominance is, in fact, deeply connected to the development of nations in human history, yet very few books present this struggle, especially in the case of the Mediterranean. One of the few studies is the classic A History of Sea Power written by William Stevens and Allan Wescott published in the 1940s. It was a pleasant surprise to read Mediterranean Naval Battles That Changed the World, Russell's perspective on six naval battles set in the Mediterranean Sea that affected not only the balance of power between the nations involved, but also the world (or what was known as world at the time of the narratives).

    The author presents an extremely detailed analysis of naval strategy of the period, the ships, contemporary naval technological advancements, and also the events surrounding the battles, that makes their stories even more interesting. Six different conflicts are examined: the Battle of Salamis (480 BC), the defeat of the Persians by the Greeks that ushered in the Golden Age of Athens; the Battle of Actium (31 BC), which pitted the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra against the Roman naval forces on the coast of Greece; the Battle of Lepanto (1571) where an obstinate Ottoman fleet fought Catholic Alliance for dominance of the Mediterranean; the Battle of Aboukir Bay (1798) between the British and the French naval forces in Egypt; the Battle of Navarino (1827) where again the Ottoman forces fought for control in the Mediterranean against a coalition of British, French, and Russian naval forces defending the independence of Greece; and the last, Cape Matapan and the Battle for Malta (1940-1942) during the Second World War; a narrative featuring the ambition and movements of Italian naval forces in the region during the war.

    Those who are anxious to know more about ancient warfare will enjoy reading this book as much as Horatio Nelson and Second World War enthusiasts. Whether naval historians or not, I believe readers will highly appreciate the quality of Russell's writing.

    The strongest aspect of the book is Russell's ability to humanize his narrative, bringing out the human aspects behind the major naval battles and technological advancements of very different eras. This is particularly important today, as science struggles with negationist and other retrograde and negative concepts of society. Readers can expect a humanistic, but also deeply researched analysis of naval battles. For example, the study of the Battle of Actium (31 BC) recounts the relationships and dramas between Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Cesar Augustus, and Rome that surrounded the battle. This was the story that captured the attention of another author named Shakespeare in another time, prompting him to dramatize the history for the theater.

    Russell also depicts the struggles of a young Commodore Nelson, a rising naval star, who, at 41 years of age, had already sacrificed an eye and an arm fighting for the Royal Navy. He draws brilliantly from the life of Nelson and his mission of search and destroy, revealing the intrinsic anxiety of the endless search while emphasizing his genius, his insecurities, his bravery and his little note to Lady Hamilton. The reader can find these subtle, peculiar and delicate details on every page.

    The weaker aspects of the book are, firstly, the maps that are located in the initial pages and not among the narratives, which forces the reader to flip back and forth. Secondly, this is not an introductory book: beginners in the naval strategy/history field may find some difficultly with the prolonged details of battles and historical contexts. This, however, makes the book perfect for researchers, especially those in search of more material about ancient naval battles.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime, 2022
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 150 pages
    • Illustrations, maps, bibliography, index. $42.95
    • ISBN: 9781526715999

    Reviewed by: Martin Cassidy, Germantown, Maryland

  • May 05, 2024 3:43 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Naval Battles of the Second World War: The Atlantic and the Mediterranean/Pacific and the Far East

    By Leo Marriott


    Accompanied and enhanced by a well-chosen series of contemporary photographs, the battle descriptions and historical contexts contained in these two volumes provide an respectable introduction to the tactical naval fighting that took place during the Second World War. The introduction to both volumes set out the premise: they are “intended as a basic guide to the main naval engagements in each theatre of operations covered”. Volume One describes naval actions in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, with Volume Two delving into the main maritime fighting events in the Pacific and Far East. Both volumes essentially succeed in fulfilling the introduction’s promise.

    Written as a series of bite-sized battle reports, the author’s easy-to-read style means both volumes provide an enjoyable and interlinked journey. The author’s use of a few naval colloquialisms further reinforces the premise that these two books are written for the inquisitive generalist rather than the historical purist. This occasional lack of precise language led this reviewer to cross-check a few apparently sweeping statements, such as the claim that during the Battle of the Atlantic, Allied merchant shipping losses for June, July, and August 1943 “sank to zero”; some (non-combat) tonnage does appear in Allied merchant loss tables for those months due to ships being lost to collisions, however North Atlantic losses to German U-boat torpedo attack (the theme of the narrative) were indeed nil during that period.

    The descriptions of the fighting set within their broader context by approproiate background material that sets the scene for what is consistently introduced as ‘The Action’. Small but useful track chart of the main protagonists during the various engagements aid visualization of events. Each engagement’s description is a useful summary of events which in many cases were highly complex games of cat, mouse, manoeuvre, risk, or innovative brilliance.

    The author highlights the breadth of contributions to fighting success in his analysis of the longest maritime fight of the war: “The eventual outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic depended as much on scientific innovation and industrial resources as it did on tactics and individual heroism”. The descriptions themselves then allude to some of these tactical or scientific leaps but stop short of the analysis which is often found in more specialist volumes on maritime warfare, or in books focusing on one battle or genre of fighting. A few such books are mentioned in the succinct bibliography at the end of each volume.

    The inclusion for each engagement of tables of the main protagonists, including ships and maritime commanders for both Allied and Axis forces, further adds to the books’ value. These tables thus give the more intrigued reader an opportunity to investigate further the described actions.

    The main attribute of both volumes is the author’s choice of images that accompany the text. In all, nineteen actions merit description in Volume One and twenty in Volume Two. Both the volumes are best recommended as useful primers for many of the key naval battles of the Second World War.

    • Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime 2022
    • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, 150 and 158 pages respectively
    • Photographs, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. $34.95 and $32.95 respectively
    • ISBN: 9781399098939 and 9781399098984 respectively

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

  • May 05, 2024 3:36 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    The Polish Navy: 1918 - 45

    By Przemysław Budzbon

    The history and development of navies in smaller countries typically receive less attention than the major maritime and continental powers. The Polish Navy (Marynarka Wojenna), founded in its modern iteration along with the Polish state after the First World War, is today a growing and increasingly capable naval force in Eastern Europe within the context of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union (EU). Addition of warships by foreign purchases and indigenous planned shipbuilding has gained urgency since Poland stands as a bulwark against increasing Russian bellicosity and regional threats, especially as viewed by the United States and its allies. The Poles have experienced fighting for national existence and defying the odds

    with the military and naval forces available to them up against far superior adversaries. Przemyslaw Budzbon, a naval architect resident in Poland with several naval-related publications in Polish and English over many years, has researched and written this latest offering in Osprey's well-regarded New Vanguard series (no. 307), accompanied by Paul Wright's customary first-rate color ship profile drawings, cut-away views, and original artwork.

    Following Osprey's standardized format, this small book incorporates an engaging, readable narrative alongside pertinent photographs, information tables for particular ships and ship classes, and art illustrations, which pack an amazing amount of detail for just 48 pages in total. The book is divided into three distinct sections covering campaigns and battles during Polish­ Soviet hostilities in 1919-20, build-up of the navy during the interwar years up to 1939, and participation and organization of Polish naval units during the Second World War serving a government in exile dependent on material and training assistance from allies.

    Poland was land-locked in 1918, and the first naval forces originated with flotillas of river craft and armed steamers used to support the Polish Army and counter similarly equipped Soviet river flotillas. Offensives and counter­ offensives depended on the seasons and the initiative of local commanders. The Poles managed to prevent the Soviets from crossing certain key rivers long enough for progress on land and signing of the Treaty of Riga in March 1921ending the war and preserving the country's territorial integrity. As part of the Treaty of Versailles, Poland also received access to the Baltic Sea via a corridor that split Germany from its eastern territories and commissioned a small number of hand-off torpedo boats, river monitors, and minesweepers. Shore facilities for the navy duly developed at Gydnia. Naval missions from Great Britain and then France arrived in Poland to offer assistance and advice for the nascent Polish Navy and its expansion.

    Based on a three-pronged political, military, and economic alliance between France and Poland backed by loans and other financing with French bankers and industrialists, three submarines (from a planned nine) and two destroyers were constructed in French shipyards and delivered to the Polish Navy, headed after 1925 by Admiral Jerzy Swirski. Selected Polish naval officers attended courses and training in France to increase their professional competence. The Polish approach was to acquire or build warships superior in their respective classes, manned by well-trained crews, to guarantee a measured advantage over any other naval forces that the Polish Navy might come up against in reading focused on the Polish Navy and general Polish military history.

    The book cites neither academic journal articles nor Polish source materials, which the author no doubt used in his research. The Polish Navy 1918-45 provides a good general overview for English readers interested in the Polish Navy up to the end of the Second World War as well as ship enthusiasts and scale modelers. In the modelling community, Poland is known for some diverse ship kits, multi-lingual information publications, and detailed ship plans. Making a model of a Polish warship from the period relies on such sources or modifying French and British variation ship kits similar in design type and function.

    • Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2022
    • 7-1/4” x 9-3/4”, softcover, 48 pages
    • Illustrations, tables, maps, bibliography. $19.00
    • ISBN: 9781472847003

    Reviewed by: Edward Fanning, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  • May 05, 2024 3:16 AM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Leyte Gulf 1944: The Battles of the Sibuyan Sea and Samar/The Battles of Surigao and Cape Engano

    By Mark Stille

    Mark E. Stille, a former US Navy officer and prolific naval history writer with a particular focus on the Pacific in the Second World War, seeks to analyse the Battle of Leyte Gulf and dispel the myths surrounding it in these two books that are very typical of Osprey’s Campaign series publications. In order to do this, Stille examines the Battle of Leyte Gulf from the strategic through to the tactical levels, the leadership on both sides, as well as the four key engagements that make up the wider battle in a format meant to be accessible to a wider audience.

    These books examine the background to the campaign, Japanese plans to fight a decisive battle, a comparison of the Imperial Japanese and United States navies, the key engagements, and the implications of the battle. The respective American and Japanese orders of battle, the characteristics of the principal Seventh Fleet ships and Japanese ships involved, and the fates of the ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy First Diversionary Attack Force. Black-and-white photographic plates, tables, and maps are also included.

    At the core of Stille’s works is the critical point that Japanese expectations and capabilities were wildly divergent. The Japanese plan—Sho-I—for defending the Philippines and attempting to draw the United States Navy into a decisive battle never viable in light of the disparity of their respective resources. The Battle of Leyte Gulf did prove decisive though, but for the United States Navy after Imperial Japan lost more ship in combat that any other fleet in modern naval history. After October 1944, the Imperial Navy incapable of large-scale operations and the United States Navy gained control of the Pacific and prepared to launch the final offensives of the war against Japan.

    Through the text, Stille ably examines the causes of the disaster that befell the Japanese, but also discusses the mistakes on the part of the United States Navy, not least divided command structure on both sides and Admiral Halsey’s decision-making. These books provide well-thought-out, well-argued and well-written naval history. They will appeal particularly to those with an interest in the Pacific in the Second World War, American or Japanese naval history, and the impact of airpower on navies. Moreover, they comprise a valuable study across the levels of war: the interplay between strategic planning, operational decisions, and tactical action, plus factors such as the influence of the fog of war, and the impact of fatigue. All in all, both form a worthy addition to any bookshelf and are recommended.

    • Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2021 & 2022
    • 7-1/4” x 9-3/4”, softcover, 96 pages each
    • Illustrations, maps, bibliography, index. $24.00 each
    • ISBN: 9781472842817 and 9781472842855 respectively

    Reviewed by: Mark Casey, St. Louis, Missouri 

  • May 04, 2024 1:40 PM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Battleship Duke of York: An Anatomy from Building to Breaking

    By Ian Buxton and Ian Johnston

    Naval history over the centuries is replete with strategic and operational analyses. In recent decades the impressive output of David Brown and Norman Friedman (among others) has documented the parallel and symbiotic evolution of both naval architecture as a science, and the design development of various warship classes as driven by operational imperatives. Rarely, however, has the actual building and breaking of a particular warship been as completely and as uniquely illustrated as in this volume.  

     That this was possible stems from two happy circumstances: first, the 'remarkable foresight of John Brown Shipyard's management in very early establishing an in-house photographic department to record the progress of construction; and second, the preservation of this exceptional and unique consolidated record of Clydebank shipbuilding during the later decimation of the British shipbuilding industry. Of this treasure trove, over 600 photographs were of the present vessel. This record was augmented by pictures of the scrapping at Faslane between February 1958 and March 1960, photographs taken by the first author while serving a naval architect apprenticeship at the Dumbarton shipyard of William Denny & Co., and by warship enthusiast Tom Ferrers-Walker, who travelled regularly from Birmingham to record the progress. The result is a book which provides a remarkable visual (almost visceral) sense of the complexity of the shipbuilding and ship-breaking process of the era.    

    The book does not dwell on the operational history of the ship. Duke of York was the third vessel of the five-ship King George V class and had a lifespan of only sixteen years, being caught in the post-war modernization funding crunch. Brief chapters on the shipyard's history, its labor/employment practices, costs, and procurement/contracts/ specifications set the scene for the meat of the book, the chapters on armament, armor, construction, plans, and breaking. The chapters on labor/trades, costs, procurement, and specifications/ contract provide fascinating insight into the business of ship procurement and production.    

    The chapter on armament is lavishly illustrated with excerpts from the colored plan and section drawings in the armament handbooks. Each quadruple 14-inch mounting cost £700,000, weighed 1200 tons (excluding the guns), and employed a crew of 107. Each gun was 54 feet long and fired a 1,590-pound shell. The heaviest single component of the mounting was the 200-ton rotating turntable, requiring the ship to be repositioned in the fitting-out berth under the single crane capable of lifting such a weight. The complexity of the mounts was such that they took longer to build than the ship and so armament orders for the last three ships of the class were placed in January 1937, even though Duke of York was not laid down until May 5, 1937. It was launched and named on February 28, 1940. The mountings were not shipped until June 1941 (a one-year delay), and the ship was reported complete ready for trials October 31, 1941.    

    The main chapter of photographs covers the construction and is accompanied by excerpts from daily progress reports. Together these paint a fascinating picture of incremental progress, but also of varying perspectives on issues, in-progress design changes, and impact of local and global wartime events.    

    Of particular interest to this reviewer was to note the numerous design changes during the build progress: extra berthing for an additional 90 officers and men; switching of degaussing cable runs from external to internal; additional splinter protection around magazines (installed after launch); rudder modifications and support strengthening installed during a docking immediately after sea trials); and breakwater alterations based on weather damage to King George V.    

    There is also a chapter of plans, featuring double-page-spread general arrangements in full color, a four-page fold-out inboard profile, as-fitted drawings, plate expansions of fore and aft sections, and a large-scale body plan/docking drawing showing side blocking locations and placement of breast shores to prevent hull distortion due to the exceptional loads of gun mountings and armor.    

    The final chapter covers the scrapping process at Faslane, illustrating how it was progressively dismantled while afloat and gradually edged into the shallows where the final cutting-up was completed at low tide.    

    Overall, this book contains a wealth of visual and factual detail which will fascinate anyone interested in the technical details of large warship construction in the World War II era. The more one dwells on the magnitude and complexity of the process, the more one is moved to retrospective admiration and wonder, not only at the engineering and fabrication feat, but also at the sheer managerial and logistical challenge of orchestrating such an endeavor in the pre-computer era. This volume will be a unique and most valuable addition to any library concerned with the history of warship construction.  

    • Barnsley, Seaforth Publishing, 2021
    • Anapolis, Naval Institute Press, 2021
    • 10” x 11-3/4”, hardcover, 284 pages
    • Photographs, drawings, tables, appendices, sources, index. $80.00
    • ISBN: 9781526777294

    Reviewed by: David Halloran, St. Louis, Missouri

  • May 04, 2024 1:33 PM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    From War to Peace: The Conversion of Naval Vessels after Two World Wars

    By Nick Robins

    The subject of Nick Robin’s, From War to Peace is a synopsis of the many ways that people have transformed warships (and boats) into civilian watercraft. While the conversion of civilian watercraft to warships is generally well-documented, the transformation of military ships into peacetime services is less well known. Warships were not built with post-armistice alterations in mind, and therefore structural adaptation for commercial service carried incredible financial risks with it. Hence, this book’s core theme is an assessment of the economic impact of watercraft conversion, which it does by telling the stories of the many successes and failures of renovations of classes of warship or individual military craft. Whether a success or a failure, each instance illuminates the ingenuity of maritime entrepreneurs. Following two introductory chapters explaining the cultural phenomenon and technical challenges of converting military watercraft for civilian use, eleven chapters follow in a more-or-less chronological order, describing modifications from the nineteenth century through to the post-Second World War period. A concluding chapter serves as an analysis of the “value of conversion.”

    The number of ships outlined in the relatively short work is immense. It covers the conversion of every type of craft from aircraft carriers and large landing craft (e.g., LSTs, LCDs, and LSMs), to bomb vessels, cruisers, corvettes, convoy escorts and rescue ships, minesweepers, military launches, naval salvage tugs, gunboats, patrol boats, subchasers, smaller landing craft (e.g., LCTs, LCGs, and LCMs), torpedo boats, and air-sea rescue boats. These ships and boats were converted into an equally long list of general and specialized craft types, from generic passenger ferries, cargo ships, liners, immigrant ships, ferries, and oil tankers, to polar exploration craft, commercial tugs, dredges, hulks, accommodation ships, excursion craft, pleasure yachts, trawlers and fishing vessels, floating restaurants, weather-watching ships, and tank cleaning vessels. 

    Technical details abound. Descriptions of wartime construction efforts, armament specifications, propulsion configuration, and service history are contrasted with post-modification specifications that emerged with new peacetime utilizations. These details are critical for communicating the “spectrum” of conversion activities people chose to complete. As Robins notes, while converted vessels could cost one-half to two-thirds of the cost of a purpose-built craft, the modifications could lead to considerable blowouts in spending. Hence, conversions ranged from minor reconfigurations to complete rebuilds. Some conversions were outright failures, and others led to incredible commercial success. Another consequence of the decision to convert rather than construct was that use-lives might be affected. A newly built ship may be expected last twenty five years, but a converted craft was more likely to have a much shorter service life. While the work describes many incredible conversions, the author also visually demonstrates transformations with a multitude of “before” and “after” photographs wherein the reader witnesses a veritable external metamorphosis of many ships. Other details outlined in ship biographies discuss the trajectories of craft during wartime and peacetime service, the peculiarities of regional markets causing conversion or leading to economic catastrophe or triumph, business and entrepreneur histories, and the circumstances of a vessel’s wrecking, abandonment, or scrapping.

    Robins’s work heavily emphasizes conversions made in the United Kingdom, though it regularly mentions United States-based construction and modification (understandable considering the role of lend-lease agreements during the Second World War). However, the author also periodically embeds information regarding the conversions of German and Canadian ships, and mentions many other nations, especially when converted ships ended up in their service (e.g., Sweden, Bermuda, Australia, Panama, and Greece); Hence, From Peace to War, should have broad appeal to readers of naval and maritime history.

    • Barnsley, Pen & Sword History, 2021
    • 7-3/4” x 10”, hardcover, 176 pages
    • Photographs, bibliography, index. $42.95
    • ISBN: 9781399009584

    Reviewed by: Nathan Richards, East Carolina University

  • May 04, 2024 1:27 PM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Anson's Navy: Building a Fleet for Empire, 1744 to 1763

    By Brian Lavery

    When the Royal Navy of Great Britain of the Age of Sail is envisioned, it tends to be recalled through the glories of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In this period, the Royal Navy ruled the seas with famous victories such as the Glorious First of June, Camperdown, the Nile, and Trafalgar. In short, what is most readily recalled is Nelson's Navy, which Lavery touched on in an earlier book. However, before Nelson could command his formidable forces, they had to be created, and Lavery traces their origins to the often-overlooked middle of the eighteenth century and the forceful series of changes pushed through by George, Lord Anson.

    While the Royal Navy had achieved note in both the Anglo-Dutch Wars and the War of Spanish Succession, it was an outdated and lumbering beast heading into the 1730s and 1740s. Ill-suited to the changing face of warfare, Lavery sees Lord Anson's successful circumnavigation and capture of a richly-stocked Spanish treasure ship in 1744 as being a moment of renewed pride for a flagging naval service.

    More importantly, combined with his victorious command at the First Battle of Finisterre three years later, in 1747, Anson was propelled rapidly up the ranks, reaching First Lord of the Admiralty from 1751 to 1756 and 1757 to 1762. While he entered the office with no major reforms in mind, Anson repeatedly rose to the task of repairing notable deficiencies within the Royal Navy, including the need for new ships of the line, officer pools deficient in talent, and a lack of modernized naval tactics.

    Over the course of thirteen chapters, Lavery weaves together a multitude of factors that served to affect the reformed shape of the modernizing Royal Navy. From an ongoing mixture of rivalry and collaboration between the navy boards and the Admiralty to the internal workings of Parliament and the quality of available men and ships, Anson's challenge is shown in its nearly Sisyphus-like nature. While less detailed than some die-hard naval enthusiasts might prefer, the flowing prose allows readers to engage with the monumental work that Anson achieved without becoming lost in the haze of minutia. In this way, the book quickly proves its worth as an addition to almost any shelf, particularly when paired with Lavery's two most similar titles Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men, and Organisation, 1793-1815, and Churchill's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organisation, 1939-1945. Those of a more scholarly inclination will doubtlessly appreciate the extensive bibliography, which encompasses multiple centuries of primary and secondary sources, as well as the general layout which allows for a smooth narrative flow. Those of a more casual enthusiast mindset likewise will appreciate that the book does not come to be bogged in the minutia but rather focuses on delivering an easy-to-understand level of information which can then be used to supplement additional research into the era of Anson.

    • Barnsley, Seaforth Books, 2021
    • Anapolis, Naval Institute Press, 2021
    • 10” x 11-1/2”, hardcover, 208 pages
    • Illustrations, drawings, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $70.00
    • ISBN: 9781399002882

    Reviewed by: Michael Toth, Texas Christian University

  • May 04, 2024 1:16 PM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Maritime London: An Historical Journey in Pictures and Words

    By Anthony Burton

    This book, as the title suggests, explores the maritime world of London from its humble origins as Roman settlement, through its rise to one of the great global entrepôts, and into its continued maritime tradition today. Burton defines maritime London as the waterways of the Thames River and all other waterways used by Greater London, a history involving mariners, shipbuilders, watermen, lifesaving organizations, and countless others who made London one of the premier ports in the world.

    Beginning with bronze age maritime archaeological discoveries and Roman Londinium, Burton weaves a narrative of a town whose very identity was built on the water. Medieval and early modern naval warfare transformed London from a modest port town into a shipbuilding and naval center for the English crown. Burton uses written documents, pictorial and archaeological evidence to convey the rise of London shipbuilding and maritime traffic into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Local river traffic too represented an important part of life in the London area. Ferries and barges carried people and cargo in an era when the river formed a highway through London and the surrounding port towns. Royal processions and competitions used these vessels too, tying London’s culture to its riverfront.

    “The story really begins with improvements to Britain’s rivers” writes Burton at the beginning of his chapter on canals, which he argues revolutionized Greater London’s waterways. Systems of locks and canals reached new towns and connected the Thames to the surrounding countryside, enabling canal barges to transport freight and passengers and make rough and mobile livelihoods for entire households. The rise of steam engine propulsion followed canal building to the Thames, a technological revolution that Burton shows through London’s great shipbuilding accomplishments of the nineteenth century namely HMS Warrior and Isambard Brunel’s Great Eastern. The latter portion of the book shifts away from the great ships built and sailed by maritime London to the city’s port. The city’s overcrowded docks were expanded in the nineteenth century, and Burton charts the struggle of dockworkers and the port, which ultimately declined with the rise of container ships that needed wider berths.

    The narrative could include more about maritime London’s role in the vast British Empire, but Burton’s chapter on lifesaving and firefighting shows a side of a maritime city that is often overlooked, a testament to the breadth of this history on the Thames area. Additionally, the book features over 130 pictures and illustrations of the ships, canals, and people that made London a maritime metropolis. Burton ties many of these illustrations into the larger narrative so that their number does not distract the reader. Maritime London’s gripping story and valuable visual additions will be of interest to British, maritime, and urban history enthusiasts alike.

    • Barnsley, Pen & Sword Transport, 2022
    • 8-3/4” x 11-1/4”, hardcover, 144 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $60.00

    Reviewed by: Anthony Peebler, Texas Christian University

  • May 04, 2024 12:59 PM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    HMS Terror: The Design, Fitting, and Voyages of the Polar Discovery Ship

    By Matthew Betts

    The Arctic and Antarctic, as some might say, are some of last frontiers to be explored on this planet. The history of polar survey expeditions is extensive with a multitude of famous vessels that have ventured into the treacherous environment. When discussing these histories, HMS Terror must be included among the ships that took part in those voyages. Canadian archaeologist Matt Betts has brought together a comprehensive assembly of resources to give a chronological history of HMS Terror that shed insight on its life as a British bomb ship, its success as a polar exploration vessel, and the disaster that befell the ship in 1848. Detailed plans have been organized that show the ship in its various configurations throughout its life, as well the first set of lines plans that show the ship as it was in 1845. These plans are used as a reference in this book as Betts offers an extensive guide to modeling Terror in this later design.

    The book is organized into three sections with the first that includes four chapters dedicated to the history of HMS Terror from 1812 to 1848. The second section details the construction of Terror from 1835 to 1845. It includes both plans and historical accounts that allow for an easy understanding of the material. In the third section, Betts outlines his step-by-step methodology for creating a 1:48 scale model of the vessel in its 1845 configuration. In the eighth chapter he discusses his role in the AMC television series ‘The Terror,’ and the 1:1 model of the ship that were based off his plans. The book concludes with discussing the rediscovery of Terror in 2017 and summary of the Canadian Underwater Archaeology Team’s report on the site.

    Scholars of history, maritime archaeology, nautical archaeology, avid ship modelers, and enthusiasts of the subject will want to add this book to their libraries. As mentioned previously the book is laid out in a chronological fashion. The scanned images of the original plans, and digitized plans are of high quality and easy to read. Betts has designed a scantling table that goes into minute detail that should prove useful to modelers of this vessel. He is transparent with the challenges he faced in modeling the ship and offers several workarounds for those that might face similar issues. The bibliography is separated into primary and secondary sources, making it easy for the reader to locate documents of interest to them. Coupling the history of Terror and the construction of a scaled model allows the reader to become closer to the vessel, to truly understand the purpose of the vessel. 

    • Barnsley, Seaforth Publishing, 2022
    • Anapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2022
    • 7-3/4” x 10”, hardcover, 240 pages
    • Illustrations, drawings, maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $31.95
    • ISBN: 9781526783135

    Reviewed by: Raymond Phipps, East Carolina University

  • May 04, 2024 12:39 PM | JAMES HATCH (Administrator)

    Atlantic Linchpin: The Azores in Two World Wars

    By Guy Warner

    Roughly 870 miles west of Lisbon, nine volcanic islands collectively known as the Azores rise from the Atlantic Ocean. Settled by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, the islands became a crucial victualing station for maritime empires well through the Age of Sail. As World War I raged on, both the Allied and Central Powers recognized the islands’ importance in controlling the commercial sea lanes vital to continuing the war effort. Guy Warner’s Atlantic Linchpin: The Azores in Two World Wars is the product of his research into the military history of the Azores during the two global conflicts, as well as their unique role in the development of the airplane for commercial and military applications.

    As German U-boats wreaked havoc across the Atlantic during World War I, Portuguese and American military leaders responded by establishing naval bases on the island of Ponta Delgada. U.S. Navy vessels escorted merchant vessels and countered the U-boat threat through regular patrols and rescue operations. By 1918, Ponta Delgada hosted the U.S. Marines Aeronautic Company and the first successful flights in the Azores. Planes like the Curtiss R-6 flew hundreds of missions in support of the Allied U-boat countermeasures. 

    In the fall of 1943, Operation Alacrity brought the Royal Air Force to Lagens Airfield on the island of Terceira. Aircraft from Lagens brought greater air coverage to merchant convoys bound to and from the United Kingdom. By December, U.S. aircraft in the form of two Consolidated Liberators and two Douglas C-54 Skymasters were stationed at Lagens. The Allied aircraft stationed there again played a pivotal role in preventing German U-boats from halting the merchant convoys bringing the sorely needed supplies and materials to continue the war effort. 

    The greatest component of Warner’s work is the exhaustive primary source material conveyed to the audience. Warner frequently includes direct quotes from those stationed on the Azores, as well as the local inhabitants. These consist of soldiers’ personal journal entries recounting successful attacks on German submarines and reflections upon garrison life on the islands. To capture the islanders’ perspective, he references several newspapers which expressed the gratitude of the locals towards the Allied soldiers. Including these primary sources gives the audience a glimpse into the efforts of British, American, and Portuguese personnel into constructing and maintaining these remote outposts.

    In contrast, these quotes often take away from the author’s own voice and perspective on the source material. So many lengthy direct passages from journals, newspapers, or other accounts can overwhelm readers. Especially those exploring the topic for the first time. Yet, this remains the solitary criticism of Warner’s work and, in fairness, the second half of the book possesses less block quotes than the first. 

    Warner’s extensive research conducted on the military and aviation history of the Azores culminates in Atlantic Linchpin. His thorough examination of personal accounts and government documents permits him to brilliantly describe the careful planning and politicking behind the military operations on the islands. He compliments the grander narrative of the formation of American and British aviation presence there with passages from local newspapers and soldiers’ journal entries, portraying the intersection of military and island life. Atlantic Linchpin: The Azores in Two World Wars remains an excellent companion for anyone interested in learning about the naval and aeronautical roles these islands played in, and between, both World Wars. 

    • Barnsley, Seaforth Books, 2021
    • 7” x 19”, hardcover, 160 pages
    • Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $44.95
    • ISBN: 9781399010900

    Reviewed by: William Nassif, University of South Carolina

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. 

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