World Naval Review 2019 – ed. Conrad Waters – Review

Before anything else, I need to point out that I have a vested interest in this volume. There is a photograph on Page 77 of RSS Swordsman, a modernised Västergötland boat on the Singapore Navy. The photograph was taken by me at a Republic of Singapore Navy Open Day at Changi Naval Base.

Having said that I look forward each year to the release of the World Naval Review with its summary and roundup of the world’s navies. This edition is the tenth annual edition, but regrettably I have only been reading this publication since 2018. I am thinking of starting to look for copies of the previous editions.

Covered in this volume are:

  1. Overview (introduction)
  2. Regional Review – North and South America
    1. Royal Canadian Navy
    2. The Peruvian Navy
  3. Regional Review – Asia and The Pacific
    1. Republic of Singapore Navy
    2. The Indian Ocean and Africa
    3. Europe and Russia
  4. Significant Ships
    1. Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carriers
    2. Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers
  5. Technological Reviews
    1. World Naval Aviation
    2. Modern Naval Communications: An Overview
    3. Autonomous Systems: A New Horizon for Surface Fleets

The introduction is a great place to start reading the Review as it lists the top 10 countries by defence expenditure over the ten years 2008-2017. It then looks at defence budgets and plans and follows that with a summary of the change in type of the Major Fleet Strengths for the ten years 2009-2018.

For example, Australia in 2009 is listed as:

  • 6 x SSK
  • 12 x CG/FFG/DDG
  • 6 x MCMV
  • 2 x AO/AOR/AFS

In 2018 this had changed to:

  • 2 x LHA/LHD/LPH
  • 1 x LPD/LSD
  • 6 x SSK (if they can keep 6 crews up to it)
  • 11 x CG/FFG/DDF
  • 6 x MCMV
  • 2 x AO/AOR/AFS

which partly reflects the change in roles of the RAN over that 10 year period.

Similar comparisons exist for the US, Royal, Brazilian, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean (both), and Indian navies over the same ten years.

The regional review then looks at the strengths of major regional navies. For example, the Americas lists current strengths for Argentina; Brazil; Canada; Chile; Colombia; Ecudor; Peru and the USA.

Given that the cost of regular updates from Janes is beyond most of us, World Naval Review becomes my go to publication for a review of the recent past as well as what is on the horizon for the near future. This is one of my favourite reads along with Warship.

The book is available on both sides of the ditch, published by Seaforth, an imprint of Pen and Sword and also available through the US Naval Institute Press, along with Amazon, Book Depository and so on. It was published in hardcopy, ePub and Kindle versions.

Product Details
  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Seaforth Publishing (UK) and Naval Institute Press (US)
  • Date: November 15, 2018
  • ISBN-10: 1526745852
  • ISBN-13: 9781526745859

Interestingly I cannot find this on the Pen and Sword website, even though my copy came from Pen and Sword. Look for this publication at:

Highly Recommended

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Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume 2 – Julian S. Corbett – Review

Back in September 2018 I reviewed Volume 1 of Julian Corbett’s Maritime Operations of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905. Volume 2 arrived recently and replaced my reading list for a period of time as I followed the maritime operations from the Genesis of the Russian Baltic Fleet, through the Battle of Tsushima (or as Corbett describes it, the Battle of the Sea of Japan) and which completes with a look at the two Sakhalin expeditions.

So this volume covers:

  1. Genesis of the Baltic Fleet
  2. Cruise of the Smolensk and Peterburg
  3.  The Dogger Bank Incident
  4. Situation at Port Arthur to the First Attack on 203-metre hill
  5. The Blockade of Kwangtung
  6. 203-metre Hill
  7. Destruction of the Ships at Port Artur and the Torpedo Attack on the Sevastopol
  8. Fall of Port Arthur
  9. Progress of the Baltic Fleet
  10. Japanese Preparations for the Baltic Fleet
  11. Fleet Movements in March and April
  12. Concentration of and the Final Approach of the Baltic Fleet up to Contact
  13. The Battle of the Sea of Japan (Tsushima) in five phases
  14. Admiral Nebogatov’s Surrender
  15. The Sakhalin Expeditions

I will admit that in the past I have tended to stop reading the histories at the climax that is Tsushima so reading the last chapters in this book were well worth the effort.

Adding Corbett to my Kindle copies of Semenoff as well as the works by Hough, and Warner & Warner in particular, I feel I have a good view (at least as good as an historical view can get) of the Maritime side of the Russo-Japanese War (RJW). I will look for further works on the land warfare at the time but I can’t help but wonder if the performance of the Japanese against the Russians during the RJW encouraged the Japanese to take on the Soviets and Mongolians at Khalkin-gol (Nomonhan), a battle that resulted in the Japanese agreeing to a peace with the Soviets and which allowed the Soviets to concentrate on their war with Germany.

Julian Corbett (Later Sir Julian Corbett) wrote the Maritime Operations of the Russo-Japanese War as a confidential publication for the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty War Staff. It was never made available to the general reader until well after Corbett’s death. Corbett composes a picture of the war by writing a continuous narrative that weaves the interrelationship of land and sea events as they affect each other. He examines the political objectives, the geography of the area as well as the naval aspects to tell that story. Because Corbett writes in a continues narratives he is easy to read as well.

Naval Institute Press published a hardback version of Corbett’s work back in 1994. This is the first release of the history in paperback. It is also released in an eBook version (Kindle). As with Volume 1, there are none of the original illustrations that accompanied the 1914/1915 editions of Corbett’s work.

This volume is smaller than the first volume but arguably more exciting. There are 24 chapters in this volume. 11 Appendices and an Index.

For example, on page 404 is Appendix III, which contains a translation of the Instructions for the Vladivostok Squadron  sent by Vice-Admiral Stark to Rear-Admiral Baron Shtakelberg at Vladivostok  and notes:

I must point out that Japan has not subscribed to the Paris Declaration of the 16th April 1856; and therefore we shall not hesitate to inflict as much damage as possible to the enemy on the sea. Being convinced that during war the Japanese merchant vessels will not think twice about flying the flags of other nationalities, I am forwarding to your Excellency copies of the regulations laid down for Japanese merchant vessels, which may be of use in establishing the actual nationality of vessels stopped by you, of which only valuable prizes captured at no great distance from Vladivostok may be sent to that port; all the remainder must be sent to the bottom without consideration of pity and without hesitation.

This book belongs on any naval historian’s bookshelf, and now that it is available in both paperback and electronic form it is available to a wider reading audience.

As before, as a companion set to Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Vols 1 and 2, look for a copy of The Russo-Japanese War at Sea 1904-5: Volume 1-Port Arthur, the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan and Volume 2: The Battle of Tsushima and the Aftermath by Vladimir Semenoff These works provide a view of the war from the Russian side.

Product Details

In the same way I did with Volume 1, I highly recommend this work, especially for any naval historian, general reader with an interest in naval or Asian history, or anyone interested in the zenith of the pre-dreadnought period.

Silver State Dreadnought – The Remarkable Story of Battleship Nevada

Received in the post today from the Naval Institute Press – there goes my painting and other reading for the next few nights. Very much looking forward to reading and reviewing this one.

Review next week I hope.

River Gunboats – An Illustrated Encyclopedia – Review

I had my reading schedule well planned out then River Gunboats – 
An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Roger Branfill-Cook turned up in the mail and for the last couple of weeks it has taken over from my reading pile. What a great book.

Branfill-Cook has surveyed the river gunboat from their first appearance in 1824 with the Honourable East India Company’s gunboat Diana, in action on the Irrawaddy River in Burma through the river gunboats used in the First and Second World Wars to The US Brown Water Navy in Vietnam and into today’s gunboats.

What was amazing to me was the number of nations that ran river gunboats and Branfill-Cook notes vessels from places such as the Republic of Acre (I had to look this one up but let me give you a hint – think South America 1899); Austria-Hungary; Cameroon; USA and CSA; Estonia; Manchukuo; Sudan (and the Mahdi); Uzbekistan; and Yugoslavia to name a few of the 56 states listed as having gunboats.

Around 40 military campaigns in the 150 years from 1824 involved gunboats – some campaigns were large, some small and some are best described as bizarre. The book does not only look at the historic vessels but updates on modern riverine craft of today.

Apart from a useful bibliography, there are two appendices – one briefly dealing with River Gunboat Camouflage Schemes and the other looking at River and Gunboats in Popular Culture – and many of the older movies mentioned there can be found today on YouTube.

Each chapter looks at the vessels used by that country and includes photographs of the vessels where possible as well as details such as the date launched, armament, speed, and fate.

As an example of the content and as I mentioned Acre above, the entry for Acre covers the period July 1899 to November 1903 and the three declared republics. The gunboats involved were the Bolivian armed launch Rio Afua later captured by the insurgents and renamed Independencia. After the diplomatic peace settlement of 1903 the Independencia became part of the Brazilian Navy.

The book is in Hardcover.  The book contains 336 pages and is published in the US by the Naval Institute Press (published on October 15, 2018). US ISBN: 9781591146148.

The book was originally published in the UK by Seaforth Press on 25 June 2018, UK ISBN: 9781848323650 and is also available in an eBook form (Kindle I believe).

This is a book that would grace both the coffee table and the reference shelf and it is one I will refer to many times in the years coming. Recommended.

 

The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy: A Collection of High-Seas Stories from Comics’ Most Daring Sailor – Review

The All-American Hero – Don Winslow

It was an unexpected surprise. A parcel from the US Naval Institute Press was waiting for me at the Post Office and I had already received the batch of books I was expecting as well as the model ships that were on order. I wondered what it was but as it was raining here, I could not open the parcel to examine the contents until I got back to the office. What a great surprise.

Edited by Craig Yoe and published by Dead Reckoning in September, 2018, the copy I received was forwarded by the U.S. Naval Institute and was the hardcopy of the book. The book is 272 pages long, with ISBN-13: 9781682473238 and is sized at 8.5 X 11 in.

There are, I believe, a Kindle and ePDF (ePub?) version as well.

The back cover – from here it is obvious the style of the content

Who was Don Winslow? The character was first created in 1934 as a newspaper comic strip by Lt. Cdr. Frank Victor Martinek USNR. As this was the period between wars, his erstwhile enemy at this time was a supervillain simply known as “The Scorpion”.

Winslow was noted as being “tall, stalwart, handsome,, all-America, moral, strong, intelligent – in other words, perfect in every way!”

Whether Don Winslow was created as a bit of fun (hobby) or to assist in the recruitment of young men into the U.S. Navy is problematic. What is known is that Don Winslow battled evil in all its forms with intelligence, bravado, and his faithful sidekick, Lt. Red Pennington! Don’s best girl was Mercedes Colby, daughter of retired Admiral Colby and sometime nurse. Don and Red bounced around Asia battling The Scorpion’s evil plans along with the infamous pirate Singapore Sal (you could tell she was a pirate as she had a skull and crossbones on her hat 😁) until Worlld War 2 came along and they could battle the Nazis and Japanese.

Don escaping the Japanese trap (I think)

Don Winslow was made into a radio serial in 1937 and the comic lasted until 1957 when it finally disappeared from the King Features stable.

The book is full of action packed Don Winslow comics as he and Red face-off against the full variety of nefarious enemies in the best pulp fiction manner. My personal favourite nemesis is Singapore Sal. There are 26 comics included (28 if you could the three part Death for Sale separately). Comics such as:

  • The Stolen Battleship
  • Don Winslow of the Navy Climbs Mt Everest
  • Don Winslow of the Navy meets Singapore Sal
  • The Return of Singapore Sal
  • Messenger of Death, and
  • The Doomed Atoll

to name a few!

Don Winslow is really likely only to be familiar to readers from the US as unlike heroes such as the Phantom, Winslow was very much an American here (the Phantom was very much everyone’s hero).

Having said that, I have enjoyed returning to the 1930s and 1940s courtesy of the Craig Yoe’s collection of Don Winslow of the Navy comics – back to a time when heroes wore white and had strong jaws and evil villains were clearly evil villains.

 

Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905 – Julian S. Corbett – Review

One of my favourite periods of Military History is the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 (RJW). I will also admit to an interest in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95  as well as  these were the last real naval battles of the pre-Dreadnought period (OK, so there was the First Balkan War of 1912-13 as well and the poor performance of the Turkish fleet there but I would still set the RJW as the watershed of the pre-Dreadnought naval battles).

My collection of books on this war includes the Fleet that had to Die by Richard Hough (ISBN-13: 978-1841580449 for a paperback version) and The Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-05 by Denis Warne and Peggy Warner  (ISBN-13: 978-0714682341) but until recently I had not seen a copy of Corbett’s work

Julian Corbett (Later Sir Julian Corbett) wrote the Maritime Operations of the Russo-Japanese War as a confidential publication for the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty War Staff. It was never made available to the general reader until well after Corbett’s death. Corbett composes a picture of the war by writing a continuous narrative that weaves the interrelationship of land and sea events as they affect each other. He examines the political objectives, the geography of the area as well as the naval aspects to tell that story. Because Corbett writes in a continues narratives he is easy to read as well.

Naval Institute Press published a hardback version of Corbett’s work back in 1994. This is the first release of the history in paperback. It is also released in an eBook version (Kindle).

The publishers do note however that:

it was impossible to reproduce the illustrations that accompanied the 1914/15 edition of this work owing to their size and condition. References to maps, charts, and plates have been left in the text in order to maintain the scholarly integrity of the work. The only known originals of these illustrations can be found in the Library of the Royal Naval College and at the Naval Historical Branch, Ministry of Defense, London.

This is really the only criticism that I could make against this work but perhaps a quick side trip if visiting England could be fruitful.

After the preface, the book commences with the opening page from the 1914 report and notes that the publication is confidential. It then goes on to say:

This book I the property of H. M. Government
It is intended for the use of Officers generally, and may in certain cases be communicated to persons in H. M. Service below the rank of commissioned officer who may require to be acquainted with its contents in the course of their duties, The Officers exercising this power will be held responsible  that such information is imparted with due caution and reserve.

It then notes:

The attention of Officers is called to the fact that much of the information  which this history is based has been obtained through the courtesy of the Japanese Government in giving facilities to our Attaches, and in placing at the disposal of the Admiralty their confidential  History of the War. This was done under the understanding that the information should be kept strictly confidential, and it is therefore most desirable that the lessons learnt from this History should not be divulged to anyone not on the active list.

Japan was an ally of Britain at this time.

There are 25 chapters to the book as well as 12 Appendices. The appendices also include the fleet lists for both navies at the time of the confrontation.

This book belongs on any naval historian’s bookshelf, an now that it is available in both paperback and electronic form it is available to a wider reading audience.

I would recommend as well, as a companion set to Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Vols 1 and 2, looking for a copy of The Russo-Japanese War at Sea 1904-5: Volume 1-Port Arthur, the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan and Volume 2: The Battle of Tsushima and the Aftermath by Vladimir Semenoff for a view of the war from the Russian side.

The Product Details are:
Paperback : 600 pages
Publisher: Naval Institute Press (March 15, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1591141974
ISBN-13: 9781591141976

As I mentioned, highly recommended. I am now looking forward to getting  copy of Volume 2.

Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II – Marco Ghiglino – Review

Waiting for me at the Post Office today was a parcel from the Naval Institute Press. Posted on 20 July 2018 in the US it arrived at my local post office here about a week ago I guess and the note from the Post Office telling me I had a parcel was received last Friday.

Now I will admit that over the last few weeks I have been reading a Naval Institute Press publication, the brilliant Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume 1 by Julian S Corbett. That was tossed aside as soon as I had a quick flick through Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II by Marco Ghiglino. This has been published by Seaforth Publishing in 2018 and is a book of some 240 pages. The ISBN for this is:

  • 978 1 5267 3539 3 (Hardback)
  • 978 1 5267 3540 9 (ePub)
  • 978 1 5267 3541 6 (Kindle)

What a book! Firstly I should note that the actual size of the book is the same as each of Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II series so sits nicely next to them on the bookshelf. Secondly, this is the first major work on Italian Naval Camouflage of World War 2 in English that I am aware of. There have been some minor publications over the years and references in books ostensibly on other topics as well as Italian language publications (such as La Mimetizzazione della Navi Italiane 1940-1945) but this is the first in English and that makes this information more generally available.

The book is broken up into 12 major chapter:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Early Period and the Experimental Phase
  3. Standard Camouflage Schemes
  4. Evolution and Exemptions
  5. The Dark Grey Factor
  6. Submarines
  7. MAS, Motor Torpedo Boats and VAS
  8. Other Warships
  9. The Greek Factor
  10. Merchant Ships
  11. The Armistice
  12. Ship Profiles

Ghiglino follows the development of camouflage in the Regia Marina from the peacetime colourings and aerial markings through to wartime practice. He also includes a section covering the change of camouflage with vessels captured by the Germans and those remaining in Italian hands and employed by the Allies

One particular area of interest to me in among many areas of interest were the colours used on MAS, Motor Boats and VAS along with the colours used by Italian submaries which carried a number of different schemes.

Each chapter is lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs, some in early colour. Unlike other publications concerning World War 2 the photographs used to illustrate here are good quality, and the detail in those photographs is quite clear.

By far, however, the best section of this book is the one dealing with ship profiles. Profiles are provided for:

  1. Battleships
  2. Cruisers
  3. Destroyers
  4. Torpedo Boats
  5. Escort Ships (Auxiliary Cruisers)
  6. Corvettes
  7. MAS and MTB
  8. Gunboats, Minelayers adn Minesweepers
  9. Landing Vessels
  10. Auxiliary Ships
  11. Armament

Looking at the section on battleships (and who doesn’t like these Queens of the Seas) there is a brief discussion of battleship camouflage, noting that Littorio was the first battleship to receive a camouflage scheme in March 1941. Other ships receiving the camouflage are then listed. Also noted in this short section is the repainting of Veneto, Italia (ex-Littorio) Duilio and Doria in the Allied two-colour livery later in the war.

What then follows is the best part of the book – the CAD drawings of vessels and their camouflage schemes. The drawings generally show the starboard side of a vessel and provide a brief description of the camouflage scheme used, including, where possible, the creator of the scheme. The CAD drawing also displays the scale of the drawing and there are multiple drawings of the same ship indicating the changes to the camouflage scheme used over time. For example, Guilio Cesare is illustrated at 1:900 scale as she appeared in December 1941, January 1942, May 1942, June 1942 (this time with port and starboard views), June 1943 (also port and starboard views) and lastly in 1949 when she was transferred to the Soviet Navy, renamed Novorossiysk and painted Soviet grey.

Other vessels that were captured by the Germans are shown in both Regia Marina camouflage as well as Kriegsmarine camouflage.

I am certain that this book does not illustrate every vessel in Regia Marina Service but it certainly appears to cover all vessels from gunboat size and above.

The book also contains a useful (if you speak Italian) bibliography, acknowledgments and best of the reference sections, an index of ships throughout the book.

Given the number of clashes between the Royal Navy and the Regia Marina in the Mediterranean in World War 2, Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II series would be a perfect companion.

I really can’t find enough superlatives to describe this book. It certainly belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in World War 2 naval history, particularly either the Regia Marina or naval camouflage. If I needed to rate this book out of five, I would have no hesitation giving it 6 stars out of 5. Brilliant book, simply brilliant.

Despatches from the Front: Far East Air Operations – 1942-1945 – Review

Title: Far East Air Operations – 1942-1945
Compiled by: Martin Mace & John Grehan, additional research material from Sara Mitchell
Published by:Pen & Sword Aviation in 2014
ISBN: 9781473841215 (ePub Version)

I received a digital copy of this volume of Despatches from the Front, the Commanding Officers’ Reports From the Field and at Sea covering air operations over the period 1942 to 1945 over the Far East (Burma and South East Asia generally). This is one of the series of twenty books covering Despatches from the Front, dealing with the history of the British Armed Forces and covering topics such as:

  • Capital Ships at War 1939/1945
  • Disaster in the Far East 1940-1942
  • Gallipoli and the Dardanelles 1915-1916
  • The Zulu Wars
  • British Battles of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1806
  • Operations in North Africa and the Middle East 1939-1942
  • Operations in North Africa and the Middle East 1942–1944
  • The War in East Africa 1939-1943
  • The War at Sea in the Mediterranean 1940-1944
  • Western Front 1914-1916
  • Western Front 1917-1918

This is an interesting work and is by and large source material from World War 2 along the lines of a Xenophon – and to those interested in World War 2 in Asia, perhaps as interesting. The book is in four main sections covering four despatches back to “Head Office”, namely:

  1. Air Vice-Marshal Stevenson’s despatch on air operations, Burma and Bay of Bengal 1 January to 22 May 1942
  2. Air Chief Marshal Peirse’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia 16 November 1943 to 31 May 1944
  3. Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia from 1st June, 1944 to the Occupation of Rangoon, 2nd May 1945
  4. Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia 3 May 1945 to 12 September 1945

This is a source book, and a great source book containing as it does the despatches from the field mentioned above. Additionally, as part of the inclusion there are some great photos taken of various air attacks by different units relevant to the despatches themselves.

Each of the despatches in this book covers a period of the air war initially over Burma and the Bay of Bengal and then later of South East Asia generally as the Allies pushed the Japanese back. We often think of the war in Burma in terms of Slim and the Chindits, and Alexander’s withdrawal to India followed by the rebuilding of Commonwealth forces in India before the counter attack so it is good to read these despatches which remind us of the contribution made by the air force initially to the defence of Burma and then later to the victory in that theatre. I would recommend reading this volume in company with:

  • The Fall of Burma 1941-1943
  • The Battle for Burma 1943-1945

Reading the despatches, Air Vice-Marshal Stevenson’s despatches were particularly interesting, highlighting the qualitative difference his 53 aircraft had over the 450-500 Japanese aircraft but also highlighting the difficulties he had with no effective early warning system leading to the risk to his Hurricanes and P-40s.

Air Chief Marshal Peirse’s despatches reflect the position he found himself in where unlike Stevenson’s small, outnumbered airforce, Peirse had 48 RAF and 17 USAAF squadrons under command against a Japanese air force of some 250 aircraft. Peirse also had upgraded aircraft with his Spitfire’s enjoying an 8 to 1 superiority in kills.

The objective of the book (and indeed all in the series compiled by Mace and Grehan) is to “reproduce the despatches as they first appeared to the general public some seventy years ago. They have not been modified or edited in any way and are therefore the original and unique words of the commanding officers as they saw things at the time.”

In the opening of Stevenson’s despatch, General Sir Archibald P. Wavell, G.C.B., C.M.G., M.C., A.D.C. wrote to the Chiefs of Staff, London, “I forward herewith two copies of a report by Air-Vice_Marchal D.F. Stevenson on Air operations in Burma and the Bay of Bengal from January 1st (the date in which Air-Vice-Marshal Stevenson assumed command) to May 22nd, 1942 (the date when the forces in Burma completed evacuation to India.”

When Stevenson took over command from Group Captain E.R. Manning, he noted that he “found that the air garrison of the country comprised one Squadron of the American Volunteer Group, armed with P.40’s at a strength of 21 I.E. based at Mingaladon, and No.67 R.A.F. Buffalo Squadron and a strength of about 16 aircraft, also based at this Sector Station. Apart from the personnel of 60 Squadron – whose aircraft had been retained in Malaya – and the Communication Flight equipped with aircraft of the Moth type belonging to the Burma Volunteer Air Force, there was at that time no further aircraft in the country. Reinforcing aircraft for the Far East were, however, flying through Burma to Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.”

Stevenson goes on to relate other aircraft movements, the defence of key areas and the airfields and so on. There is a wealth of detail in not just the first despatch here but in the four in this book.

This is an interesting book, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on others from the Despatches from the Front Series. I recommend this book to the military historian, general reader with an interest in the Second World War in Indochina and Burma, and the wargamer building scenarios from this theatre!

The book is available in Hardback, ePub and Kindle formats.

Fabulous Flying Boats – A History of the World’s Passenger Flying Boats – by Leslie Dawson – Review

Pen & Sword Aviation have just released Leslie Dawson’s Fabulous Flying Boats – A History of the World’s Passenger Flying Boats in paperback. Originally released as a Hardback a number of years ago, then in Kindle and ePub format (I have a copy in ePub), this edition is now in paperback and good value at half the hardback price. This release contains 320 pages, ISBN is 978-1-52673-969-8 and was published on 2 May 2018.

Where to start? I was watching an old Charlie Chan movie today, Charlie Chan at the Olympics with Warner Oland playing the redoubtable Chinese Hawaiian detective and where honourable number one son Lee won the gold medal for the Berlin, 1936 Olympic metres freestyle final (yes, I know it was a Hungarian first and two Japanese in second and third). Early in the movie Charlie takes a Pan Am Clipper seaplane flight of 18 hours duration from Hawaii to San Francisco (followed by a 13-hour trans-continental flight to New York and a 61-hour Zeppelin flight to Friedrichshafen, chasing the theft of an aircraft remote control gizmo that would change the face of war (it didn’t).

Anyway, the movie caused me to reach for my ePub copy of Fabulous Flying Boats. I have had it for a while now and had not got around to reviewing it as such although I had often flicked through it reading items of interest. I started flicking through it again today.

The book has 11 chapters and a very interesting Appendix. The chapters are:

  1. First to Fly
  2. Bigger and Further
  3. Peace to War
  4. Battle for Britain
  5. Survival
  6. High and Lows
  7. Thoughts of Peace
  8. Post War Years
  9. A Closing Door
  10. End of an Era
  11. Last of the Breed

The book outlines peacetime operations in Europe, the US, the Pacific, Australia, Latin America, South America, Africa, New Zealand, and France (including photos of the largest sea plane, a French aircraft) among others. The author also covers airlines such as Qantas, BOAC, South Pacific Airlines (and the twice weekly flight from Hawaii to Tahiti via Christmas Island), Ansett, Antilles Air Boats, and Barrier Reef Airways.

Aircraft producers came from the UK, France and the US among others with the more famous manufacturers being Short, Boeing, Martin, Douglas and Sikorsky for example. Militarily the flying boats were formidable but more importantly, robust weapons of war that adapted quickly to and from peacetime roles. The aircraft were tough, taking a great deal of punishment before generally being forced to land at sea. The could also deal it out and I can remember being thrilled of tales of the Australian pilots flying Short Sunderlands when I was a kid. The Catalina as well whose role was so important to the victory in the Pacific.

As a kid I can remember the flying boat services taking off from Rose Bay in Sydney heading to exotic sounding locations in the Pacific and the book contains photos of the flying boat base that existed at Rose Bay.

The Appendix is a treat though as Dawson tracks the airlines that used flying boats and identifies registration numbers, aircraft name, aircraft type and fate, by airline. An impressive database.

The flying boats were eventually retired from service with BOAC in the early 1950s hanging on longer in Australia and Africa but eventually being replaced by land-based aircraft which could fly further and faster and that enabled the airlines to reduce their operation costs by reducing the number of aircraft servicing locations and management.

This book is a great review of the Flying Boats and the author’s personal, easy style make the book a relaxing read. The photos are a joy to look at as well. However, I think I will let the author have the last word:

Though no large passenger flying boat remains in service, for a moment we had admired a unique form of flying that had once graced the waterways of the world: from the grey, heaving Atlantic to the dry heat of Africa and the idyllic sun drenched islands of the Pacific.

A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC – Marc G DeSantis – Review

Apart from reading Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees, at the same time I was also reading A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC published by Pen & Sword Maritime in 2017, ISBN 978 1 47386 158 9.

The book is the result of DeSantis’s research for his previous book, Rome Seizes the Trident, where he looked at Rome’s eventual defeat of Carthage at sea by the application of simple tactics against a more skillful opponent along with steadfast resolve. The Athenian fleet (skillful mariners) were brought low by Syracusan blunt force, prow-to-prow tactics.

The Peloponnesian War was largely decided by battles and a strategy at sea. When Athens’ control of the sea crumbled, so did its empire. The classical sources used for the book are Thucydides, Plutarch, Diodorus and Xenophon.

The Naval History of the Peloponnesian War commences with a number of maps of the area of operations as well as a map of the Battle of Arginusae. The book is then divided into 5 main parts parts 3 to 5 consisting of the usual split of the war:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Trireme
  3. The Archidamian War
  4. The Sicilian Expedition
  5. The Ionian War

There are also a Preface, Conclusions, Notes, Bibliography and Index. The itself book covers the naval history of the 27 years of conflict that was the Peloponnesian War.

DeSantis outlines the struggle in the Introduction, noting that Sparta supported by Persian gold eventually overcame Athens although it was the loss of the Athenian fleet at Syracuse that signaled the end for Athens rather than any action of Sparta.

DeSantis traces the war from the sources, first looking at the causes of the war presented by Thucydides as he saw it and he mostly relies on Thucydides’s narrative to 411 BC. Xenophon picks up the tale from then along with Diodorus of Siculus. Plutarch of Chaeronea writing some 500 years or so later in his Parallel Lives looks at the biographies of the Athenians Themistocles, Cimon, Pericles, and Alcibiades along with the Spartan Lysander. Lastly the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia also mentions wartime events including the Athenian seaborne campaign in Asia Minor in 409 BC and the Battle of Notium in 406 BC. These then are the classical references used by DeSantis.

DeSantis covers the economics of the naval build-up of Athens, noting that the 100 talents (600,000 drachmae) in silver extracted from the Laurium silver mines was sufficient to build 200 triremes. He then notes that Pericles estimated the same cost for each year of war against Sparta.

In the second section the author examines the trireme (triers in Greek) with Thucydides identifying Corinth as the first to construct a trireme although there is a competing theory that the trireme may have actually originated in the east with the Sidonian of Phoenicia (trikrotis naus) or the Phoenicans themselves constructing the first such vessels.

The construction of the triremes of Athens is covered including details of where the wood and pitch was sourced from along with the number of men required to move a trireme up the 1 in 10 ramp into its shed (140) as well as take it back into the water (110). One thing that had not occurred to me before but perhaps should of is that there were different quality triremes. The best were known as exairetoi (selects) while others were identified as first, seconds or thirds. Old vessels were converted for troop transport – with a converted trireme able to transport 85 soldiers.

Tactics are covered with discussions of sailing with the wind and under the power of oars. Masts and sails were generally taken down before battle and preferably left on shore to lighten the load in the trireme prior to battle. The main battle manoeuvres are described, being the diekplous and the periplous. Less skillful fleets relied on coming alongside and boarding the enemy.

Rounding out his review of the trireme, DeSantis covers shipboard fighting, funding a fleet, the officers on board, payment on campaign, and propulsion.

DeSantis then moves on the Archidamian War which started when Corcyra and Corinth came to blows over Epidamnus. He looks at:

  • The Battle of Sybota
  • Potidaea
  • The Athenian empire and rival coalitions
  • The Battle of Chalcis
  • The Battle of Naupachus
  • The Attack on Piraeus
  • The Revolt at Lesbos
  • The Second Battle of Sybota
  • Pylos and Sphacteria
  • Strait of Messana engagements
  • Expeditions to Corinth and Corcyra
  • Attack on Nisaea
  • Delium
  • Brasidas’s campaign
  • Amphipolis
  • Meude
  • The Peace of Nicias
  • The Fate of Melos

The next part covers the whole hubristic disaster for Athens that was the Sicilian Expedition.

Lastly the Ionian War is examined. After the defeat in Sicily, the Athenians were spurred on to lock down their Ionian allies, and ensure Euboea in particular remained within the empire. The author looks at:

  • Alcibiades’s seduction of Timaea, the wife of King Agis
  • Alcibiades’s undermining Persian efforts to assist the Peloponnesians
  • The Battle of Cynossema
  • The Battle of Abydos
  • The Battle of Cyzicus
  • Alcibiades and the Athenian plundering expeditions
  • Action off Mytilene
  • The Battle of Arginusae
  • The Battle of Aegospotami

DeSantis concludes with the eventual defeat of the Athenian Empire.

While there were many land battles throughout the Peloponnesian War, it was at sea that Athens was at first strong, then later faltered.

I very much enjoyed this book, especially as I was reading it at the same time as Great Battles of the Classical Greek World. There was some overlap between the two books so taking an alternate view on some matters was a benefit.

If you are a naval tragic like me, and an ancient history addict as well, this book will serve well as an overview of the Peloponnesian War from the naval perspective. Thucydides and Xenophon are still the main sources to read but DeSantis’s book is both easy to read and factual.

This is a good book providing a good amount of detail and covering one the more exciting stories from Ancient Greece. I am now looking for my copy of Thucydides to read further into this conflict again, one that I have not looked at for about 30 years. Recommended.