French Battleships of World War One – John Jordan & Philippe Caresse – Review

French Battleships of World War One by John Jordan & Philippe Caresse, published by Seaforth Publishing, on 30 May 2017, ISBN: 9781848322547, 328 wonderful pages.

I know John Jordan works from the wonderful Warship series, Warship 2017 sits on my bookshelf waiting for me to get some spare reading time. Jordan has been the editor of that publication for a number of years. Recent books of his for Seaforth Press include French Battleships 1922-1956, followed up with French Cruisers 1922-1956 and lastly French Destroyers 1922-1956. This book then is a prequel to those.

It is, simply, wonderful. French World War One Battleships were perhaps the most stylish, certainly the most distinctive of the period. The large tumblehome, pronounced “ramming” bows and the eccentric grouping of funnels give French Battleships of the First World War such a unique look that it is impossible to mistake them for any other’s battleships.

Philippe Caresse co-authored this work and is himself a respected author of matters nautical, in particular the German Navy of both World Wars.

That Jordan has spent many years researching French warships, especially of this period and immediately before the war, is clear from reading the text. Caresse provided the historical background as well as many of the photos. This book is worth having for the photo collection alone. That is also has line drawings of the class leaders b Jordan, many in both elevation and plan as well as cross-sectional drawings, discussions of propulsion machinery, hull form and superstructure as well as technical tables of the vessels, and periodically comparisons between the main competitors from other navies makes this book an invaluable sourcebook for French Battleships of the period 1890-odd to the mid to late 1920s.

To the above, add 8 pages of watercolour paintings of various vessels from Jean Bladé and here is a book that I will happily sit and just flick through, looking at a picture here, reading some text there, but all the while admiring the style that was the French battleship of the time.

The book has chapeters on:

PART I TECHNICAL SECTION

  • Pre-History 1870-1890
  • The Flotte d’Echantillons
  • The Charlemagne Class
  • Iéna and Suffren
  • The Patrie Class
  • The Courbet Class
  • The Bretagne Class
  • The Normandie Class
  • The Projects of 1913

PART II HISTORICAL SECTION

  • The Fleet and its Ships 1900-1916
  • The Great War 1914-1918
  • The Interwar Period 1918-1939
  • The Second World War

The chapter on the Second World War is because many of the vessels from the First World War were still in service.

If I had to give this book a rating out of five stars, then I would not hesitate to give it 5-stars. Did I mention that it is wonderful?

Another book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the pre-Dreadnought and Dreadnought periods of battleships, a must have on the naval historian’s bookshelves and under the naval enthusiast’s coffee table.

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