Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume II – Book Review

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume II, written by John Lambert and Al Ross deals with Vosper MTBs and US Elcos. It was published on 9 April 2019 by Seaforth Publishing, an imprint of Pen and Sword Books, is 256 pages long and has ISBN: 9781526747556.

Like volume I, this is a reprint of a book first published by Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, in 1994 the picked up by  Conway Maritime Press in 2002. It was reprinted again in April 2005 by Conway’s. This volume deals with sixteen Vosper MTB designs, and the US 70′, 77′ and 80′ Elco designs.

Also, as with Volume 1, there are copies of volume 2 from 2002 available still, new, for US $72.40 at various outlets.

Vosper was established as a company in 1871. They became famous for the unstepped planing hull-form they developed which was the basis of their Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) and Motor Gun Boats (MGB) for the Royal Navy in World War II. The original boats had a length of 68 feet and were based upon the prototype MTB 102, which survives to this day as a museum piece.

Vosper 70′ MTB in Admiralty Light Basic scheme with recognition star used in the Mediterranean

Vosper’s designs were copied by many, especially given the speeds they acheived with their planing hulls. Apart from MTBs and MGBs, Vosper also built high speed launches for the the Royal Air Force for the rescue of air crew who ditched into the sea.

Vospers were not only built in the United Kingdom but also in the United States under license.

The illustration here are some of the vessels illustrated with differing camouflage designs are taken from the book. Apologies for the quality, I photographed with my tablet and one hand and it is a heavy tome.

Elco 80′ PT Boat in Measure 33/7P

As with the previous volume, the detail, drawings, plans and photographs in this book are super. Al Ross had a reputation as a very fine draughtsman and it shows in his drawings throughout the volume. Lambert covers the details of the vessels, the equipment that was present on the vessels, selected weapon systems and additional data.

The table of contents, apart from the usual sections of Foreword, Preface, Abbreviations and the like covers:

  • Vosper Ltd
  • Elco – a short history
  • Vosper’s private venture (MTB 102) and Bloodhound
  • Vosper MTB designs 1938-39
  • The Vosper 45ft MTB Design
  • Vosper designs 1940
  • MTB 74
  • MTB 103
  • Vosper designs 1941
  • Vosper designs 1942
  • MTB 510
  • Vosper designs 1943-45
  • Vosper construction
  • The Elco 70ft PT
  • The Elco 77ft PT
  • The Elco 80ft PT
  • Licence-built Vospers
  • PT construction
  • PT camouflage
  • The Packard 4M-2500 marine engine
  • Selected weapons systems (0.5in Vickers machine guns; 20mm Oerlikons (single and twin); 9mm Lanchester machine carbine; 18in and 21in torpedo tubes; PT torpedo armament and the Dewandre turret)
  • Additional data covering US 20mm, 37mm and 40mm mounts and guns; Rocket launchers; Development of bridge and wheelhouse during the Second World War; Notes on operating the Royal Navy Packard engines; Free French Vosper MTBs; The Vosper survivors; and Restored Elco PT 617.

As with the first volume, the writing in the book is clear an easy to both follow and understand. It has been fascinating to read about these vessels, so much so that I am looking for similar works on Axis boats. It is a shame that the third volume mooted back in the 1990s never eventuated as it would have dealt with the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs which were also very successful boats.

This also is a must have book for anyone interested in coastal warfare and a great companion to Volume 1. There is nothing I can think of that is really missing from this coverage. Best, along with volume 1, it is on special at the moment (23 July 2019)  at Pen and Sword.

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Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume I – Book Review

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume I, written by John Lambert and Al Ross deals with Fairmile Designs and the US Submarine Chasers. It was published on 12 December 2018 by Seaforth Publishing, an imprint of Pen and Sword Books, is 256 pages long and has ISBN: 9781526744494*(see below).

I do love naval history and I have a particular interest in small boats (and big ships and all in between truth be told). This volume deals with some of my favourite vessels, the Fairmiles.

Fairmile Marine was a British boat building company founded in 1939 by the car manufacturer Noel Macklin using his garage at Cobham Fairmile in Surrey for manufacturing assembly. His company was run as an agency of the Admiralty, the company carrying out business without turning a profit, the staff being in effect part of the civil service.

Fairmile B – Admiralty Light Modification Scheme

His first design was the Fairmile A Motor Launch (ML) but the most ubiquitous of the Fairmiles was the Fairmile B ML. Over 600 of these were built over the period 1940 to 1945. Originally designed as submarine chasers the Motor Launches were fitted with ASDIC. Later versions of the Fairmiles (the C, D and F versions) were fitted out as gunboats with the Ds also rigged as Motor Torpedo Boats.

Coastal naval warfare in both the North Sea and the Mediterranean were fiercely fought skirmishes between the Allied MLs, MGBs and MTBs and the Axis E-Boats, R-Boats, MAS boats and the like. The Fairmile boats made up a considerable portion of Coastal Command and fought in all theatres.

Fairmile B – Admiralty Dark Modification Scheme – a harbour defence ML

The illustration here are some of the vessels illustrated with differing camouflage designs are taken from the book. Apologies for the quality, I photographed with my tablet and one hand and it is a heavy tome.

The detail, drawings, plans and photographs in this book are super. The authors cover the details of the vessels, the equipment that was present on the vessels, selected weapon systems and additional data, including the fate of most of the vessels. For example, we can see the builder, when a vessel was completed and its fate. In the case of ML 400, this vessel was built in New Zealand and completed on 18 November 1942. It served in the RNZN where it sailed as HMNZS Kahu, being sold in 1947 and sailing then as the Dolphin.

US Submarine Chaser, SC497, part of a class of 110′ sub chasers in measure 14 camouflage

The US Submarine Chasers are covered as well, although not in as great a detail.

The table of contents, apart from the usual sections of Forewards, Authors Notes, Prefaces, Abbreviations and the like  covers:

  • The Fairmile company
  • The Fairmile B ML
  • The Canadian Fairmile B ML
  • The Fairmile C motor gunboat
  • The Fairmile D MTB/MGB
  • The Fairmile F MGB
  • The Fairmile H Landing Craft
  • The SC 497 class 110 ft sub chaser
  • Depth Charges and anti-submarine equipment
  • British Coastal Forces radar
  • British Coastal Forces camouflage
  • Engines and engineering
  • Weapons systems (depth charge projectors, flares, machine guns, 1- and 2-pounder guns, 4.5in guns and the like

The extensive appendices include:

  • Schedule of British Builders
  • Fairmile production analysis Yard analysis Consumption of major materials
  • Area comparisons
  • Building times

all in all, 12 appendices.

The writing in the book is clear an easy to both follow and understand. Best, most of the book is in shorter chapters making it easier to read and follow over shorter reading sessions. I have learnt so much from this work that I am really itching to start on their volume 2 which covers perhaps the most famous of the Allied coastal vessels, the Vosper MTBs and US Elcos. There is a third volume being prepared covering the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs which were very successful boats.

This really is a must have book for anyone interested in coastal warfare. There is nothing I can think of that is really missing from this coverage. Best, it is on special at the moment (20 July 2019)  at Pen and Sword.


* Please note the following (21 July 2019):

This work was originally published in 1994. in the US it was published by the Naval Institute Press (and I am guessing by Conway’s in the UK). In 2005 it was reprinted and published by Conway’s in the UK (and I am guessing that the Naval Institute Press may well have republished then too). I have not seen either of those editions so I can’t comment on any change in content in this edition. I can, however, note that a new copy of the 1994 version is selling on Amazon for US $225 dollars and the 2005 version new for US $165.60. The £32.00 current version from Pen and Sword therefore looks good value by comparison.

I should also note that unfortunately, the third volume covering the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs was never published.

Recent Book Arrivals

I had a couple of packages arrive recently with the odd book to read. OK. so there was a lot. Some interesting titles in there however and I wuill get around to reviewing when I get a chance (which means when I actually finish reading a few. The temptation is to read them concurrently rather than serially. I shall try and resist that temptation.

The first batch will be pretty quick reading:

The second batch will tale a wee bit longer I will admit:

Mind you, I started on the second batch, in particular Steve Dunn’s. Southern Thunder, The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One, which frankly I new absolutely nothing about. I can see some great scenarios for a wargame or three there as well as the need to acquire some more ships. Navwar order coming up.

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

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.

Another favourite YouTube channel – Drachinifel – warships!

I mentioned the Little Wars TV Channel a while ago as a favoured YouTube channel and the Little Wars guys are preparing another season. I suspect there is a frustrated TV channel executive in the group.

Another channel that I particularly enjoy at the moment is Drachinifel’s. As many of you know, I have a great interest in matters nautical, both historical and wargaming. I have a collection of 1/3000 scale ships for wargaming with, 1/1200 coastal forces and ancient galleys tucked away somewhere.

As mentioned above, Drachinifel’s channel is one of interest to me at the moment. In a series of 7 to 10 minute pieces (sometimes longer) he looks at a particular ship of interest and builds a programme around it – with contemporary photographs where available, sometimes with reference to a model and with archival film where available. He also runs a Patreon account to garner support for his efforts.

The link to his channel is below – well worth having a look if your bent is a nautical bent (and even if it is not).

Drachinifel

 

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.

 

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.

Wartime Standard Ships – Review

Wartime Standard Ships, published by Seaforth Naval and written by Nick Robins (ISBN: 9781848323766, published: 23rd August 2017) looks at the Wartime Standard Ships of both World Wars.

There are many books looking at “linchpins to victory” and “decisive contributions to the winning of the war”, be they the fleets, corvettes, rapid production, the RAF and the Battle of Britain, Dunkirk, the entry of the USA, the Soviet efforts and so on. A war cannot be won, however, if  a country is cut off from its supplies of food, raw materials and completed goods and keeping those supplies coming (as Germany and Japan failed to do in World War 2) is critical to winning the war.

This was the very real threat facing England the United Kingdom in both World Wars as the German u-boat campaigns went into full swing. The solution (apart from more and better convoy escorts) was to build ships faster than the enemy can sink them.

To rapidly build ships, standard designs become necessary and that is the theme of this book. Nick Robins discusses Standard Ships from the concept of them (austere, functional and lots of them), through the design criteria and then splitting the book into essentially two sections, looking first at the First World War and then the Second World War. In both cases he discusses ship building in Great Britain, the USA and Canada in particular. Interestingly the Australians, who owned substantial fleets in both wars in terms of numbers if not weight, and who were one of the main suppliers of food and raw materials, did not really get into the swing of building Standard Ships.

The author also looks at the Standard Ships built by the Germans in the Second World War and the limited numbers of the Japanese Standard Ships. The Liberty Ship is covered in some detail of course as is its successor, the Victory Ship.

Robins concludes by examining the successes and failures, concluding that perhaps the “unparalleled success of the American ship-building programmes in both World Wars” was a major contribution to victory. Robins quotes the United States Maritime Commission in 1943 which noted:

The Liberty ship is a product of war use. It can be classed with the tank, the fighting plane and other materials of war. It was produced to be expendable if necessary. If expended, it had served its purpose.

The 172 pages of this book are well illustrated with relevant black and white photographs as well as interesting sidebars. I have a well-known interest in naval history and the ships that form much of it and had of course heard of the Liberty and Victory ships and the contribution of the merchant marine to the overall victory but in this book it seemed that I was learning something new on every page.

There is a useful References chapter at the end of the book and index that contains among other things, a lot of references to individual vessels.

This is another good work on a little understood subject and one that will continue to keep these largely defenceless vessels in the place they deserve to be in the history of both World Wars. Recommended.