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Pen & Sword Book Reviews
This is the second monthly review of the best books focusing on WW2 naval history. I hope you find it of value, and many thanks to Pen & Sword.
For most of the twentieth century Britain possessed both the world's largest merchant fleet and its most extensive overseas territories. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Royal Navy always showed a particular interest in the cruiser - a multi-purpose warship needed in large numbers to defend trade routes and police the empire. Above all other types, the cruiser's competing demands of quality and quantity placed a heavy burden on designers, and for most of the inter-war years Britain sought to square this circle through international treaties restricting both size and numbers. In the process she virtually invented the heavy cruiser and inspired the large 6in-armed cruiser, neither of which, ironically, served her best interests. For the first time this book seeks to comprehend the full policy background, from which a different and entirely original picture emerges of British cruiser development.
After the war the cruiser's role was reconsidered and the final chapters of the book cover modernisations, the plans for missile-armed ships and the convoluted process that turned the 'through-deck cruiser' into the Invincible class light carriers. With detailed appendices of ship data, and illustrated in depth with photos and A D Baker's specially commissioned plans, British Cruisers truly matches the lofty standards set by Friedman's previous books on British destroyers.
In most subjects there is a single book which comes to be regarded as the standard reading material. In my opinion for the RN WW2 Cruiser this book is it. It is of a uniformly high standard which is matched by the production values. The photos and plans are excellent, it is well written, contains a great depth of information and is interesting to read. It charts the story of the development of the cruiser in the 20th century from both the political and technical perspectives, showing the importance of these ships to the nation through two world wars.
The book shows in considerable detail how the role of the cruiser evolved from trade protection, through defending the battle fleet against destroyers to air defence. The various pressures facing the admiralty are discussed in depth and used to illustrate the impact on class design. Particular attention is paid to the interwar treaties and the emergence of the heavy cruiser, to be followed by the emergence of the smaller 6in cruiser. The experience of the two wars is discussed in depth. The book concludes with post war cruisers and the coming of the missile age. The appendices have summary information on every ship.
If you are interested in the subject, this is the book you should buy. I recommend you don't miss it.
Next Month's Book Review
This is a new book about a subject that has interested me for a while. The loss of HMS Manchester resulted in the court-martial of the captain, and his removal from active duty.