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Pen & Sword Book Reviews
This is the fourth review of the best books focusing on WW2 naval history. I hope you find it of value, and many thanks to Pen & Sword.
Few warship types have had as much written about them as the Kriegsmarine’s capital ships – Deutschland, Admiral Scheer, Graf Spee, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Bismarck and Tirpitz continue to generate intense interest among warship enthusiasts, despite the fact that no new source of information has been unearthed in decades. What has come to light, however, is a growing number of photographs, many from private albums and some that lay forgotten in obscure archives. These include many close-ups and onboard shots, of great value to modelmakers, and rare action photos taken during wartime operations.
This book is a careful selection of the best of these, but on a grand scale, with around 100 images devoted to each ship, allowing in-depth coverage of its whole career, from launching and fitting out to whatever fate the war had waiting for it. For sake of completeness, there are even sections reproducing the various design studies that led to each class, while an appendix covers the uncompleted Graf Zeppelin, Germany’s only attempt to build an aircraft carrier, the type that during the war clearly displaced the battleship as the capital ship of the world’s navies.
Essays on the technical background and design origins by the well-known expert Siegfried Breyer and explanatory captions by Miroslaw Skwiot draw out the full significance of this magnificent collection of photos.
The cover says "The Ultimate Photograph Album"; this is quite a claim, so how good is it. In short it is outstanding. It covers the major units starting with the Deutschland Class, through the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, to the Bismarck and Tirpitz. The design and evolution of each class is outlined together with an overview of their war experiences. However, this is done quickly and fairly superficially and is really not the point of the book. The focus is the photographs. It is a large book with 432 pages, and I estimate that over 95% are dedicated to photos. And what photos! The majority are published for the first time and are of an extremely high quality. It is a pleasure turning the pages.
To illustrate the value, I counted 85 photos of Bismarck alone, varying from double spread to 4 or 5 on a page. I recognised a few from Rheinubung, the rest are from private collections and completely new to me. There are many detailed shots of the ship, ideal for model makers, as well as some stunning general views
These ships cost a lot of lives, and dominated the allies strategy for fighting the war. They were also superb technical achievements are were arguably among the best warships of the twentieth century. The book is well worth the money.
Next Month's Book Review
For some years contributors to the site have been preparing drawings of WW2 ships. The principal difficulty has been the availability of accurate plans. This book publishes the official plans from the collections of the National Maritime Museum. So is it problem solved?