French Armoured Cruisers, 1887 – 1932 — Review

John Jordan, well recognised for his many books on ships over the years, has penned with Philippe Caresse, a volume on French Armoured Cruisers from the late 19th Century to early 20th Century (1887 – 1932).

The armoured cruiser was like other cruisers, with long range and designed to project naval power to the colonies and elsewhere but it was designed with heavier belt armour, so able to stand up to any ships except battleships.

The role of the armoured cruiser was taken by the development of the battlecruiser, and as a result the armoured cruisers dropped in importance, but lasted until 1922 when the Washington Treaty effectively scuppered them and set a 10,000 ton limit for cruisers and a maximum 8″ guns for main weapons.

Jules Michelet at Tanjung Priok, Dutch East Indies

Who doesn’t love the shape, form and style of the French ships around the turn of the last century? Funnels fore and aft, tumblehomes and really, a transition to the steel warships of the 29th Century.

The Jules Michelet to the right here was one of the French armoured cruisers of the time, with her sister ship, Ernest Renan, built for speed. It is also one of the vessels covered in the book. As with all the ships covered by this book the section commences with a general discussion of the vessel and how it came to be. There as a profile and plan drawing of the vessel, drawings of the bridge deck, layout of the magazines, main guns with detail, the Barr & Stroud 2-metre rangefinder, the torpedo tubes, secondary armament and so on. The authors then go on to describe her sister ship, the Ernest Renan and cover the differences between the two vessels. Further drawings of the Ernest Renan follow.

The authors also cover the specifications of the ship including size of main guns (194mm or 7.6″), medium guns, ATB guns and torpedo tubes. Displacement (in this case, 12,600 tonnes), protection, crew and so on. Each the the vessels is also illustrated with many contemporary photographs of the times from the collection of Philippe Caresse.

Vessels covered are:

  • Dupuy de Lôme
  • Amiral Charner class
  • Pothuah
  • D’Entrecasteaux
  • Jeanne d’Arc
  • Dupleix class
  • Gueydon class
  • Gloire class
  • Léon Gambetta class
  • Jules Michelet and Ernest Renan
  • Edgar Quinet and Waldeck-Rousseau
Armoured Cruiser (le croiseur cuirassé) Dupuy de Lôme

There is also a section in the book on organisation and the Great War 1914-1918 and it aftermath.

French Armoured Cruisers — 1887 – 1932 by By Philippe Caresse, John Jordan and published by Seaforth Naval on 4 September 2019, is a large format book of 272 pages with 240 illustrations, ISBN: 9781526741189.

If you have any interest in the development of modern steel warships and their history, or indeed the French Navy of the 19th and 20th centuries, this book is a must. I have never been disappointed with John Jordan’s works and this book is so well illustrated by contemporary photographs from Philippe Caresse, the book is, quite simply, almost impossible to put down.

Well recommended!

Typhoon Ambo and the Manila Bay Cruise Ships

Typhoon Ambo is heading towards Manila even as I type this. It started as a Tropical Depression off the coast of Mindanao and strengthened to a Typhoon as it progressed north then north-west. It will pass near Manila this afternoon or evening and we are currently under Typhoon Warning Signal #2 in Manila. Surrounding areas (Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan and Pampanga for example) are also under TWS#2.

The cruise ships that were anchored in Manila Bay returning Filipino crew to the Philippines put to sea last night or early this morning to get some sea room should the waters become rough in the Bay and the wind strengthen. This way they will not break anchor cables and are better able to ride our storms when steaming. The illustration above shows the number of them just  off the coast now. I expect them to return tomorrow.

Manila Bay – COVID-19 Isolation Ward of Cruise Ships

When the boat comes in … OK, ship. Three on the horizon arriving, one departing

Over the last week or so of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, I tend to look out (wistfully) several times a day over Manila Bay. I have seen a few ships arriving and the odd ship leaving. Cruise ships, like aircraft, carry transponders so their positions can be logged real time wherever they are in the world. So I did a bit of googling and found the Cruise Mapper website where you can see ships sailing and their courses as well as those docked. More in that later.

Ships parked in the Bay – Ruby Princess highlighted

The now infamous “plague ship” that carried so many COVID-19 infections back into Australia in March, the Ruby Princess, sailed from Sydney to Manila, arriving here a couple of days ago. She is anchored in the Bay (highlighted). The purpose of her trip here was, I believe, to be able to offload the remaining 100 or so Filipino crew still on board, 396 Filipino crew having been flown from Australia back to the Philippines about a month ago on a chartered flight.

120kms off the coast

It hasn’t just been vessels coming, there have been a few going as well.  Over the day about 6  vessels have sailed out of Manila but at the same time, a few have also arrived.

Not all vessels are anchored in Manila Bay however. Carnival Splendour is anchored about 110kms off the coast. This morning Carnival Panorama was also anchored about 15kms away from her. By this evening, Pacific Explorer had anchored about 150kms off the coast having been sailing towards Manila this morning. Carnival Panorama has left. Perhaps they need to wait for a pilot to come to the ship to guide it into the bay, or a spare anchoring position to be available within the bay.

The world view this morning

As seen on this map, there are not so many cruise ships in the Pacific and Indian Oceans currently but still a great number in the Atlantic, most heading towards Europe, and  perhaps home ports and some heading towards the Cape of Good Hope.

The Pink coloured vessels in the Mediterranean and on the coast of Western Europe are ferries. Across the top of Russia, the ice breakers are apparent.

However, Manila Bay does seem to have more than an average number of vessels present, hence the COVID-19 Isolation Ward for Cruise Ships.

There is a similar application on the Internet for tracking aircraft movements, Flight Radar 24, which shows the position of aircraft in real time. Even now, there are a lot of aircraft in the air, but no so many in the busy air corridors over Australia.

Real time flight tracking

Australia Post and the Royal Post Work! – Navwar and Forgotten Orders

On December 31, 2019 I posted two letters, you know, those old fashioned things in envelopes with stamps on them – you must have seen them on the Classic Movie channel! One letter was addressed to my bank in Singapore, then other to Navwar in Seven Keys, Ilford, Essex, England!

I’ve not heard anything back from my Singapore bank yet. Perhaps they do not know how to deal with a letter.

I did notice today, however, that the balance of my credit card had depleted by approximately £100.00. That can only mean one thing – Navwar have packed my order and are about to post it. Ships ahoy. Now in the post 2019 … That’s a Wrap I intimated that I had not ordered any 1/3000 ships. I lied! I did. I can’t remember all I ordered and as the order was made by a letter, I do not have any email confirmations 😦

I do recall that I think I added some US and French World War One vessels as I was a bit light on in that area. Still, it really will be like Santa delivering a Christmas gift (or at least PhilPost) as I will not have a complete idea of what is in the parcel until I open it!

The Naval War in the Baltic – 1939-1945 – Review

I read Freeing the Baltic 1918-1920 about six months ago and as a result I was looking forward to The Naval War in the Baltic 1939-1945. Wow! I wasn’t disappointed.  This book arrived a couple of months ago and I finally had a week where I read rather than painted figures or headed to the pub and this was on the top of the reading pile.

The Naval War in the Baltic 1939-1945 was originally published on 17 May 2017 however it appears to have been sold out and is now due to re-release on 28 February 2018. The author is Poul Grooss. The book is 400 pages long with ISBN 9781526700001.

Poul Grooss is a retired Danish Naval Captain whose career was 40 years long. He served as an intelligence officer and Soviet analyst. He also speaks Russian. He currently is a teacher at the Royal Danish Naval Academy.

I reckoned I knew a bit about World War II and I also knew there was a lot I didn’t know. Reading Grooss’s book has reminded me of how little I do actually know. Grooss starts setting the scene in the book by describing the geography and the history of the Baltic region, then goes on to discuss the political manoeuvring and naval developments between the wars. His coverage of the 1939 to 1945 period starts with the attack on Poland then looks at the Baltic region through to 1941. Later chapters cover the attack on the Soviet Union to Spring 1942; the war between Spring 1942 and 1944; Spring 1944 to New Year 1944/1945; then from that New Year, month by month to the end of the war. He then looks at the aftermath of the war and a retrospective.

The book is easy to read and Grooss has taken advantage of his Russian language skills to collect data from sources not usually referred to western histories. Grooss was writing for the general reader but has managed to write a book that will appeal to both general readers and the more professional historian.

He covers and uncovers the degree of Swedish cooperation with the Germans. He covers the interactions between the Soviets and the Swedes and while this is a naval history of the Baltic, the land battles are included for context, especially Kronstadt and Leningrad. Hitler’s desire to hang on to Narva is also covered.

The Baltic was a training ground for German U-boat crews but what really amazed me was the quantity of mines that were laid there and the amount of shipping that suffered. I should also mention that the Swedes were not as pro-German as we perhaps think, permitting the British to build a listening station on Swedish soil, for example. Both the Germans and the British seemed to have a laissez faire attitude to Swedish neutrality.

This book is not all about Sweden though. Grooss also covers the minor states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) as well as Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland and of course the main protagonists. The book is supported by many fine photographs, most of which have not been seen in print before as well as well drawn maps. There are a number of appendices and indexes with an index of people and another of ships. There is an appendix containing a chronology of the conflict, a glossary of abbreviations, ranks, terminology and explanations. Another appendix is a cross-reference of place names in various languages as well as an extensive list of sources and bibliography. This book is one I will return to many times in the future I think. For the naval historian, the wargamer and the general reader, it is well worth waiting for this re-release and grabbing a copy.

British Warship Recognition – Volume II: Armoured Ships 1860-1895, Monitors and Aviation Ships

British Warship Recognition – Volume II: Armoured Ships 1860-1895, Monitors and Aviation Ships

I reviewed Volume I in hard copy (Boy’s Own Battleships – Book Review) and Volumes III and IV in eBook format (British Warship Recognition – The Perkins Identification Albums – Volume III and IV Cruisers 1865-1939, Parts 1 and 2). I am kind of late getting to Volume II but I am enjoying it nevertheless.

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.

HMS Eagle – National Maritime Museum, N10504

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.

HMS Eagle 1920 – as drawn by Perkins

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.

HMS Eagle in 1923-1929 as drawn by Perkis – note the changes he identified

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.

This volume contains drawaings of

  • Old Battleships
    • Renown
    • Centurion Class
    • Royal Sovereign class
    • Hood
    • Trafalgar class
    • Victoria class
    • Admiral class
    • Benbow
    • Collingwood
  • Turret Ships including
    • Dreadnought
    • Inflexible
    • Agamemnon class
    • Royal Sovereign
  • Central Citadel Ships
  • Barbette and Battery Ship
  • Central Battery Ships
  • Broadside Ships
  • Floating Batteries
  • Monitors
  • Old Monitors
  • Torpedo Ram
  • Observation Balloon Vessel
  • Kite Balloon Ships – buy the book to see 🙂
  • Catapult Vessel
  • Aircraft Carriers including
    • Anne
    • Ark Royal (1914)
    • Ark Royal (1938)
    • Eagle
    • Hermes
    • Courageous class

Well recommended!

British Warship Recognition – The Perkins Identification Albums – Volume III and IV Cruisers 1865-1939, Parts 1 and 2

Part 1

Back in June last year I was fortunate to get a copy of Volume 1 of the British Warship Recognition – the Perkins Identification Albums originally written/illustrated by Richard Perkins. Volume 1 dealt with Capital Ships 1895-1939 (ISBN 9781848323827).

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.

Part 2

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.

First, let me note that I loved Volume 1 in hardcopy, it is one of the favourites on my bookshelf.

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.

HMS Castor

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).

HMS Champion and HMS Canterbury

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.

Boys Own Battleships – Book Review

20160518_211843[1]Pen & Sword Military have produced the first volume of what will be a wonderful series of books. This is British Warship Recognition – the Perkins Identification Albums originally written/illustrated by Richard Perkins. This is Volume 1 dealing with Capital Ships 1895-1939 (ISBN 9781848323827).

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.

20160518_211937[1]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.

As to Perkins’s first volume. One word.

Magnificent!

 

German Battlecruisers – Book Review

9781848321816The good folk at Pen & Sword Military sent me a care package recently with four books in a very large package. I will look at the others later but the first book to take my interest is ShipCraft 22 dealing with German Battlecruisers.

This book provides a useful companion to the modeller when engaging in a build of one of these vessels, however the images of Jim Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg model in 1/700 scale alone is worth getting the book for!

The ShipCraft range of publications are a combination of contemporary photographs coupled with colour references for paint schemes and a critical review of available model kits. In short, they are the type of publication aimed at the ship modeller or perhaps naval wargamer to help get the colour and appearance of their models correct (or at least to the stage of “that looks about right”).

The publication would also be useful to the naval enthusiast as well although to be honest, if looking for information on the vessels, the first book I would reach for when looking for would be my copy of Conway’s. If looking to paint some German Battlecruisers, then this publication would be first to come to hand.

The book runs to 64 pages, a size familiar to modellers and. There are sections in the book covering Design; Careers; Model Products; Modelmakers’ Showcase; Camouflage Schemes; Appearance; Plans; and Selected References.

The vessels covered in the book are Blücher; Von Der Tann; the Moltke class (Moltke, Goeben); Seydlitz; and the Derfflinger class (Derfflinger, Lützow). Mention is also made of the Battlecruisers that were not completed.

The Design and Career chapters provide a reasonable summary, largely covering the service life of the vessels and briefly the battles they fought. There are some useful comparison tables as well. The table looking at the armament characteristics for example is quite useful and illustrates the difference in range for guns of the same weight (see the slight range differences between the 11” L/45 and the 11” L/50 guns).

The next chapter deals with both the model kits available in plastic, resin, paper and white metal along with extras for gilding the lily on those kits. The extras discussed include photo-etched parts, wooden decks, brass gun barrels and masts to add a greater level of realism to the models. A fair roundup of the kits available is given.

Next is for me the pièce de résistance, the chapter dealing with the work of many modellers. Work by the likes of Jim Baumann (perhaps the best ship/water modeller I have seen), Horst Luecke (I can’t believe it is a paper model), Kostas Katseas, and Nick Dogger amongst others. Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg is special as well as the 1/700 scale crew on Dogger’s Lützow.

Two colour illustrations follow, one of the Derfflinger in standard SMS colours circa 1917 and the other showing a camouflage pattern for the Yavuz (Goeben) circa 1942. There is then a discussion on the Appearance of each of the vessels noting the differences between sister ships. The section also discusses camouflage and the lack of it on German vessels in the First World War noting that the standard scheme for vessels was based around light grey. The book finishes with a number of plans and references.

This book provides a useful companion to the modeller when engaging in a build of one of these vessels, however the images of Jim Baumann’s scuttled Hindenburg model in 1/700 scale alone is worth getting the book for! The authors are Robert Brown and Steve Backer with George Richardson drawing the plans and the colour artwork. It is published by Seaforth Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84832-181-6. The ShipCraft series of books are designed to provide information for modellers and enthusiasts.