British Aircraft Carriers 1945-2010
by ANGUS KONSTAM
(Osprey – £12.99)
This handsomely illustrated slim volume on British Aircraft Carriers 1945 – 2010 is the latest edition (NVG-17) to Osprey’s New Vanguard series of brief primers on warships. It follows on from Angus Konstam’s British Aircraft Carriers 1935 – 1945. The book is crammed with information in a different way to the splendid pocket size Ian Allan ‘abc’ series of similar length on warships of the 20th century (by H M Le Fleming) and includes a bibliography and index. The book is enhanced with full page colour paintings and a two-page coloured sectioned illustration of HMS Victorious in 1961 by Paul Wright. The splendid dramatic painting of HMS Hermes, on the cover, with an oversized funnel gives her a more impressive, muscular look.
Rather than a straight chronological account, the subject is covered in three sections, each dealing with different aspects, similar to David Hobbs approach in British Aircraft Carriers: Design, Development & Service Histories. First ‘Design & Development’, which, at over half the book is the main part. It concentrates on the evolution, problems, and innovations (jets, catapults, angle decks, mirror landing aids and VSTOL aircraft). It makes the very valid point that since World War II, the actual age of the carriers was less important than the ability to upgrade them, in line with the latest technological developments and adapt their roles to reflect new and changed needs. This of course remains even more true today with the speed of change of modern technology (drones, hypersonic missiles, etc.). The rest of the section deals with naval aviation, providing a good, concise account of the development of naval aircraft, with their changing roles and deployment as well as the sad decline of the British aviation industry.
After a short section on ‘carriers in action’, which includes a good summary of air operations in the Falklands Conflict there is the main data section. The ‘ship Specifications’, are set out in pretty accurate data tables, though HMS Eagle is described as a ‘light carrier’. The section includes 24 very brief potted histories of each carrier. There is a certain amount of overlap and the individual ship histories need to be read in conjunction with the events described in the previous section.
In short, it is a handy quick reference book with many data tables and summary boxes, handsomely illustrated with many photographs and full colour pictures. It is well recommended.