The Mediterranean theatre is one familiar to Napoleonic warfare buffs that but for a few engagements is generally is overlooked.
This book does not have a great deal of detail on any one engagement but rather provides a brief look at 55 or so engagements around the Mediterranean.
I’ll come out of the closet. I am a wargamer and the Napoleonic Wars are a period I keep looking at but never really get a head of steam up on a project – much as I have a deep interest in the uniforms, the ships, the battles, and the campaigns.
Glover has surveyed action around the Mediterranean and he provides between 2 and 7 pages per chapter discussing the various actions of the time. This includes both naval and land actions. Egypt is covered as is Corsica, Naples, Malta, Sicily and such. Each of the chapters provides a reasonable overview of the action and sufficient information to persuade the reader to look deeper.
For example, one action I had not heard about (or at least cannot remember reading about) is Algeciras in 1801. This was an action between the British, lead by Sir James Saumarez (the next book on my reading stack being his biography) and a Franco/Spanish fleet. The British 74s engaged a fleet consisting of 74s and Spanish 112s, capturing or sinking a couple. The following morning the French Formidable beat off the attacks of two British ships of the line and a frigate, so a mixed result for the British.
The book is full of short descriptions (the one above lasting just two pages) but will provide plenty of inspiration for either further reading or, in the case of wargamers, scenarios for future games.
The book finishes with the elimination of the Barbary pirates, using that as the conclusion of the war in the Mediterranean.
For the wargamer, a useful source for information for scenarios in the Napoleonic period. For the general reader of history, a useful summary of what went on in the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars.
Daniel Mersey, a wargame author with an increasing number of publications, has written a few “Wargamer’s Guides”. Previous volumes have covered the Anglo Zulu Wars and the 1066 Norman Conquest. This volume covers North Africa and the Desert War between 1940 and 1943.
The book is paperback of 118 pages, published by Pen & Sword Military on 12 June 2017, ISBN: 9781473851085. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword.
In many respects, I found this book a better “beginning wargames” book than Iain Dickie’s Wargaming on a Budget as it covers pretty much everything from figure size and model scale, through rules, and figures, and playing the game and setting scenarios.
The book contains six chapters:
The Desert War – an overview of the war covering the early cumsy attempts of the Commonwealth and Italian forces, then the changes broiught about by the introduction of German firces and then lastly the American effect and concluding with Operation Torch and the collapse of the Afrika Korps
Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation of the four armies but with references to more detailed Order of Battle. A reasonable equipment list for wargamers is also supplied. There is also a general painting guide for figures and vehicles here
Wargaming the Campaign – it is what is says
Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Battlegroup; Blitzkrieg Commander; Bolt Action; Chain of Command; Crossfire; Desert Rats; Flames of War; Iron Cross; KISS Rommel; Operation Squad; Panzer Korps; and Rapid Fire
Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes
Scenarios – setting up some battles to get a feel of the desert war
There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.
Mersey relies on previous authors’ works as well, such as Don Featherstone, which is not a bad thing.
The book also has a number of colour plates illustrating the subject in the figure sizes of 28mm, 15mm and 6mm. Many of the colour plates are from the Perry Twins.
Being a wargamer and having grown up on stories of the Rats of Tobruk and el Alamein, I have always had an interest in the Desert War. That it was in the first half of the Second World War when the equipment was being developed that would later be used and characterise the late war was a bonus. Who can not fail to admire the Italians in their tiny tanks or groan at the number of breakdowns of the early cruiser tanks and then marvel at the later Lee/Grant tanks.
This is a volume that should be on any wargamer’s bookshelf. Even now, I am about to post this review, make a coffee and sit in my favourite reading chair and flick through this book again, planning my next Desert War project. Will it be Chain of Command and 28mm or more 6mm and Blitzkrieg Commander? Perhaps even 2mm this time.
It just so happened that I was reading Sixty Minutes for St George, a Nicholas Everard Thriller (Book 2) where Nick as stationed aboard HMS Mackerel, a fictional destroyer in World War I. I can recommend the Nicolas Everard series, ripping good yarns with a very accurate nautical theme. Anyway, while reading that, along came a copy of British Destroyers & Frigates, The Second World War and After by Norman Friedman. This edition is published on 17 May 2017 by Seaforth Publishing, has 352 pages and its ISBN is 9781526702821. There are also Kindle and ePub versions available.
Since the Second World War we have seen largely the disappearance of the old classes of cruisers and capital ships, with the obvious exception of aircraft and helicopter carriers. Over that same period destroyers and frigates have merged and whilst we still refer to FFGs and DDGs, these vessels have moved closer and closer, especially as Frigates have got larger. Friedman covers this transition within the British Navy well in this work, dealing with the political, strategic and tactical issues that have brought forward Royal Navy designs such as the Type 45 air defence escort.
The book itself is well illustrated with over 200 photographs (in black and white) of vessels as well as ship plans by A D Baker III and detail drawings from Alan Raven. The book not only covers the Royal Navy but also Commonwealth vessels from Australian and Canada, among others.
The book contains the following chapters:
Beginning the Slide Towards War
What Sort of Destroyer
The War Emergency Destroyers
New Destroyer Classes
Wartime Ocean Escorts
The Post-war Destroyer
The Missile Destroyer
The 1945 Frigate and Her Successors
The Search for Numbers
The General Purpose Frigate
The Second Post-war Generation
The Post-Carrier Generation
Friedman’s writing style is clear and easy to read and the man knows his subject. A lot of research has gone into this book and it shows from start to finish. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in the development of the Royal Navy through the second half of the 20th century.
I’m ready to start buying some more model vessels to paint after reading through this book.
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
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.
The Royal Navy in Eastern Waters – Linchpin of Victory 1935-1942 by Andrew Boyd, Foreword by N A M Rodger, published by Seaforth Publishing on 20th March 2017, ISBN: 9781473892484. This book contains 538 pages and is a heavy tome to read cover to cover. The book is well researched and is good value to the reader wanting to know some specific things from this era and area.
I must confess however that when I first saw the title, then the sub-title of “Linchpin of Victory, 1935-1943” I was ready to hold a negative opinion from the start – although perhaps that is not such a bad way to approach a book review. I felt that describing the Royal Navy in Easter Waters as the linchpin to victory was to downplay the considerably larger contribution to victory of the Atlantic and Arctic Convoys, not to mention the hard yards performed by the USA and Allies in the Pacific. Boyd’s book, however, lays out the strategy that saw the creation of the British Pacific Fleet in 1945 which was the most powerful British Fleet ever and capable of standing up to anything the IJN had left. Perhaps a more accurate title may have been Linchpin to the British Part of the Victory.
As I started to look through the book I was pleasantly surprised. It is not a book that is easy to sit down and read from cover to cover as it is written in an academic style. The amount of research in the book is simply outstanding, the notes alone stretch from pager 416 to page 500 with a further 27 pages of bibliography. The book is split into 4 parts contaning 8 chapters overall:
*Part I Prpararing for a Two-Hemispehere War
The Royal Navy 1935–1939: The Right Navy fir the Right War
Naval Defence of the Easter Empire 1935–40: Managing Competing Risks
*Part II Existential War in the West
Securing Eastern Empire War Potential after the Fall of France
The American Relationship, ABC-1 and the Resurrection of an Eastern Fleet
*Part III July 1941: The Road to Disaster in the East
Royal Navy Readiness for a War with Japan in Mid-1941: Intelligence and Capability
Summer and Autumn 1941: Reinforcement and deterrence
The Deployment of Force Z and its Consequences: Inevitable Disaster?
*Part IV An Inescapable Commitment: The Indian Ocean in 1942
The Defence of the Indian Ocean in 1942
In addition to the chapters, there are maps and tables as well as some illustrations. THe oreward is by noted naval historian N A M Rodger.
The book looks at the background of the fleet over the period, not the battles although some are mentioned such as the Force Z disaster. Rather this book concentrates on the politics, committees and people who effectively ensured that by 1945 the supply lines from Asia to the Mediterranean had been kept open across the Indian Ocean whilst at the same time building the most powerful British Fleet ever in time for the closing stages of the Pacific War.
There are some areas in the work that may raise eyebrows, like, for example, Boyd’s claims about what the Fleet Air Arm may have achieved should a carrier battle have occurred in the Indian Ocean. That said, the book is sitting at an easy to reach place on my bookshelf, where I can refer to its information as I read further about the British Pacific Fleet in particular.
Rodger notes that “this new account ought to startle the many comfortable ideas which have been doxing too long in the arm-chairs” and I would agree that Boyd’s work is a challenge to long held “truths”. It certainly achieved its aims with me in many areas and the prodigious amount of research present in the book does saves a lot of additional research for the reader while at the same time encouraging the reader to research more.
I first came across the British Pacific Fleet when I read Peter C Smith’s Task Force 57, published in 2001. I was working in Ulaanbaatar at the time and was looking for anything that referred to the sea to read. I had become interested in some of the British formations, Task Force 57 and Force H for example. I have picked up various works on the British Pacific Fleet since.
The British Pacific Fleet (BPF) has a connection to Australia and Sydney and other Australian bases in particular as its logistical base was Australia and much of the training of aircraft was performed at Schofields, Nowra and Jervis Bay.
The BPF was born from the British desire to re-exercise some power in eastern waters. The Royal Navy (RN) had been expelled from the Pacific by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and raids by the IJN on the then Ceylon ensured the RN presence was restricted to the edge of the Indian Ocean, essentially protecting the supply lines from Australia to the Middle East.
Churchill suggested to Roosevelt in September 1944 that a British fleet should become involved in the operations in the main theatre against Japan. The BPF was formed in November 1944 under Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser and its main base was established at Sydney.
While in the Indian Ocean the precursor to the BPF had been conducting operational training and equipping its units which included a large increase in aircraft carriers and changes to the operation of the Fleet Air Arm. The fleet also equipped with an expanded floating supply organisation with about 60 vessels being included in the RN “Fleet Train”.
The BPF eventually was built with vessels from the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy and Royal Canadian Navy, as well as blue funnel line vessels requisitioned.
The Allied commanders in the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz had differing opinions on where the fleet shout be deployed. MacArthur wanted it in and around the Philippines and Borneo area whilst Nimitz wanted it covering the invasion of Okinawa and the advance on Japan. Nimitz was backed by London and the politicians and so the BPF covered the invasion of Okinawa.
While Smith’s book covers Task Force 57 at a fairly high level, Hobbs goes into detail. He covers:
Planning and training
Strikes against Sumatran oil refineries
Australia and logistical support
Operations Iceberg I and II
Replenishment in Leyte Gulf
Repairs in Australia and improved logistical support
Submarine and mine warfare
Strikes against the Japanese mainland
Repatriation, trooping and war-brides
Peacetime fleet and retrospective
There are a number of appendices covering, among other topics:
the composition of the fleet in January 1945, August 1945 and January 1948
Air stations and air yards
Commanding and flag officers
This is a very complete look at the BPF amply illustrated throughout – one of my favourites being HMS Vengeance in Sydney Harbour with the bridge as a back drop, no Opera House, no tall buildings, just a lot of bush around the foreshores.
If you are at all interested in the days when Britain had more than two aircraft carriers at sea, the British Pacific Fleet by Hobbs tells a tale of politics, organisation, operations and dogged persistence. That Hobbs’s writing style is easy to read is added bonus.
In 1964 Geoffrey Bennett wrote a book called Cowan’s War. The book centered on the Battles to help free Russia from the Bolsheviks. I remember reading it when I was a teenager as the concept of Britain being involved in another little war immediately after World War One was interesting, and I had just finished reading a book about a motor boat fighting the Bolsheviks (the name of the book eluding me at the moment).
When the opportunity came to review Bennett’s Freeing the Baltic – 1918-1920 it was a great excuse to reread the history and recapture (briefly) the feelings I had when I was a teenager.
The main text of the book covers the complexity of this war. The Entente Cordiale were in the process of negotiating the Versailles Treaty with the Central Powers at the same time as the Russian Revolution was in full swing with the White Russians trying to resist the Bolsheviks (Red Russians). The Entente would have preferred independant Baltic States (as indeed would the states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania). The Germans were still active in the region until the Entente coould direct support there.
Bennett wrote about the Royal Navy admiral, Cowan, who was tasked with supporting the White Russians, ejecting the Germans, supporting the Baltic States in their quest for independence while dealing with his own government, crewmen who had had enough of war and wanted to return to home ports along with mines and all with some light cruisers and destroyers.
It is a boy’s own story and I enjoyed reading it again as a somewhat older boy. That the Baltic States were subjugated by the Soviets or the White Russians were defeated by the Bolsheviks is not because of Cowan’s inabilities but rather an inevitability of the creation of the USSR.
The cover of the book carries a quote from Leon Trotsky, “[The British] ships must be sunk, come what may”. This was the environment Cowan found himself in. The Admiralty assigned 238 ships to the area including 23 light cruisers, 85 destroyers and 1 aircraft carrier with 55 aircraft. The French asl allocated 26 vessels, the Italians 2 and the U.S.A. 14. Over the conflict 17 British vessels were lost to mines, weatrher and the enemy. Sixty-one vessels were damaged and 37 aircraft were lost.
In the area the Soviets had 30 vessels approximately including two battleships.
Bennett’s son added a preface and an addendum to the book containing information uncovered later. Perhaps the most ineresting was Admiral Walter Cowan’s career in World War Two where he served in the Western Dessert with the Indian 18th King Edward’s Own Cavalry, mounted on bren-gun carriers. Captured by the Italians, then later part of a prisoner swap he returned to the dessert. When the Second World War was over he was invited to Indian to become the honourary colonel of the 18th King Edward’s Own, surely the first naval officer to be so honoured.
I loved this book when I was a teenager and I love it now and really appreciate the excuse to read it a second time. The additions by Bennett’s son enhance the book rather than detracting at all from his father’s work. Thoroughly recommended.
Bennett also wrote Battle of the River Plate; Coronel and the Falklands; Naval Battles of World War Two; The Battle of Trafalgar; Naval Battles of the First World War; and the Battle of Jutland.
This is British Warship Recognition – Volume II: Armoured Ships 1860-1895, Monitors and Aviation Ships under the Seaforth Imprint, (ISBN: 9781848323865, published on 5 September 2016 of 224 pages).
I noted before in previous reviews that a Perkins volume is not for everybody but for those who “get it”. I grew up with the wireless as dinner table entertainment; when to make a telephone call you needed to speak to an operator; and indeed, where telephone numbers were prefixed with the name of the exchange.
Perkins’s hobby was photographing Royal Navy ships. He was such a keen amateur photographer that he photographed and ended up with one of the largest collections of photographs of warships. His collection of photos was bequeathed to the National Maritime Museum where it can still be seen today and where it forms the core of the historic photos naval section.
While he was photographing he found many photographs were neither identified nor accurately dated. He then decided to compile an album of his own drawings incorporating as much detail as possible on the individual ships. He really looked closely at the details, the differences between ships of the same class and then differences in a vessel over time and used his drawings as a catalogue of his photographs.
This book is one of what hopefully will be 8 volumes. It is a photographic reprint of Perkins’s original art books where he set about to draw and paint the British fleet. There is really no other way this could be reproduced, even with the technical marvels available today and that still amaze this listener of the wireless.
Perkins noticed over time that vessels changed – davits were moved forward, funnels thinned or thickened, smaller calibre weapons moved around the vessels, masts removed or changed, funnels added and so on.
The ship illustrated in this review, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, is shown as she appeared in 1920 and then again later in 1923-1929. Also shown is the photograph of HMS Eagle held at the National Maritime Museum, N10504.
The books are big but with Volume II and the rest of the collection they provide a unique view of the Royal Navy in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, a view that you will not see in a Brassey’s, a Conway’s or indeed a Janes. You may need a larger bookshelf or broader coffee table but the payoff is enjoying a cup of NATO standard, and flicking through the drawings and admiring his talent.
I had hoped to get to look at Volume 2 but the day job got in the way and I missed that release. Along came Volumes 3 and 4. Unfortunately because of the size of the book, I can’t get a physical copy for review. Really, it is a very big book.
However, Pen and Sword books were happy to give me access to the electronic version of Perkins Volume III, Part 1, Cruisers 1865-1939. Perkins Volume III part 1 is published under the Seaforth Publishing imprint, is 192 pages long, ISBN: 9781473891456 and was published on 31 January 2017. It is available in hardcopy, as well as Kindle and ePub versions. I received the Kindle version for review.
Pen and Sword books also provided access to the electronic version of Volume IV, Part 2, Cruisers 1865-1939. Perkins Volume IV part 2 is also published under the Seaforth Publishing imprint, is also
192 pages long, ISBN: 9781473891494 and published on 14th June 2017. It is available in hardcopy, as well as Kindle and ePub versions. I also received the Kindle version for review.
Perkins was a keen amateur photographer and he photographed and ended up with one of the largest collections of photographs of warships. His collection of photos was bequeathed to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich where it can still be seen today and where it forms the core of the historic photos naval section. While he was photographing he found many photographs were neither identified nor accurately dated. He then decided to compile an album of his own drawings incorporating as much detail as possible on the individual ships. He really looked closely at the details, the differences between ships of the same class and then differences in a vessel over time. The British government asked him to stop is hobby at the commencement of World War 2 as they worried his works would provide valuable information to enemies.
The Perkins Collection comprises some 11,000 photographic negatives and 8 illustrated recognition albums. The photographic negatives are from a time when a film allowed for 8 to 36 photographs so one can get an idea of the dedication of Perkins to his hobby.
The publications are photographs of the pages of Perkins drawing books. This was seen as the best and probably only way to make these images available to modern readers.
The two volumes for review cover the cruisers from 1865 to 1939. For example, the page to the right shows HMS Calliope Castor as she appeared in 1915 to 1917. He notes the “Calliope 6” included Calliope, Cambrian, Canterbury, Castor, Champion, and C0nstance. He notes the differences between the various ships in the class, as well as a watercolor painting of the vessels (only Caster is shown here).
I must be honest, when I thought about reviewing the electronic versions, I wondered how well they would render on electronic devices. Pen and Sword kindly sent me links for the Kindle Version so I loaded both volumes to Kindle on my phone (LG G4 with a 5.5-inch screen), my tablet, (LG V700 tablet with 10-inch screen), and my PC. The images in this review came from the LG G4 (the top three) and the V700 (the last image).
The images from the phone are higher resolution than the tablet and this can be seen with the difference between the final two images here.
Having said that, the rendering of the physical book into Kindle format has been well done with the text present in the book resizing well after using the usual two-finger gestures. The images are clear enough in the tablet and PC and can be seen on the phone. Perkins notes really need to be read on PC or tablet however.
Having said that, both books are a wonderful addition to a naval book collection. I will be honest and and say that I would prefer the hard copy of the books, they are the type of books that best savoured over a good java in one’s favourite reading chair, flipping between pages at whim and admiring the talent of Perkins while reaching towards Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships Volume 1 and 2 to verify Perkins details.
I have no doubt that the hard copy of Volumes 3 and 4 are every bit as good as the hard copy of Volume 1. I can recommend the Kindle version for those of us with electronic reading devices, colour screens really being necessary to enjoy these works. I di like to be able to take my book collection with me when I travel and the electronic versions of these types of books have finally become every bit as god as the print versions.
I can recommend these two volumes to anyone with a passing interest in the Royal Navy between the wars.
First off I must note that this book is not for everybody. It is a book that you will either love or “just not get”. The older reader (and I count myself in that group) who can remember part of their childhood being spent with an exercise book, coloured pencils and a book on, say German World War 2 aircraft and who then spent hours redrawing the aircraft from the pictures in the book will “get” thins book. I can understand what Perkins was attempting. Had I been in his position and possessed half his talents I would probably have done the same thing.
Perkins was a keen amateur photographer and he photographed and ended up with one of the largest collections of photographs of warships. His collection of photos was bequeathed to the National Maritime Museum where it can still be seen today and where it forms the core of the historic photos naval section. Whole he was photographing he found many photographs were neither identified nor accurately dated. He then decided to compile an album of his own drawings incorporating as much detail as possible on the individual ships. He really looked closely at the details, the differences between ships of the same class and then differences in a vessel over time.
This project grew into an enormous resource covering virtually every Royal Navy ship from 1860 to 1939, when security restrictions forced Perkins to stop work.
The book is, in essence, a photographic reprint of Perkins’s original art books where he set about to draw and paint the British fleet. He then noticed over time that vessels changed – davits were moved forward, funnels thinned or thickened, smaller calibre weapons moved around the vessels, masts removed or changed and so on.
He then decided to paint the differences in the vessels as he saw them. The example I selected is five slightly difference drawings of HMS Agincourt seen to the right.
You will notice that I do not have any scanned images to illustrate but rather photographed off my phone. There is a reason for this. The book is big. A page was bigger than my scanner plate. I could not sit back in my favourite chair with this book in my lap. My lap is not big enough. To look through this I had the book placed on a table and work from there.
The book however in and of itself is superb and the drawings speak for themselves. Younger readers may not understand the significance of this work but all will be able to appreciate the art involved. This book belongs in the collection of any naval enthusiast or historian. Best of all, it is the first of 8 volumes. The next volume is due for release in September this year – it will deal with Armoured Ships 1860-1895, Monitors and Aviation Ships. I for one will be interested int he aviation ships extant before 1895.