WARSHIP 2020 and WARSHIP 2021

Reviewed by: SIMON BELLAMY

In the latest volumes in this annual series, the editor has again assembled expert authors to provide articles on warship design and related issues from the past two centuries. Coming up with fresh ideas every year can be no easy task, but Mr Jordan and the contributors continue to find interesting and unusual subjects, many of which can surely have received little coverage elsewhere.

With a focus on technical specifications and design, the articles usually cover a number of topics, from hulls and machinery to weapons and sensors. Service histories, linked to the strategic purposes of the ship, provide a comprehensive picture. There are many excellent photographs, making for an attractive layout and showing the depth of the authors’ research. Source notes at the end of each article will assist the researcher, and the books conclude with shorter articles and book reviews. These items are also worth reading, with a piece on the restoration of a D-Day landing craft being one example from the 2020 volume. Many of the books reviewed will also be of interest.

In the 2020 edition there are articles on France, Italy, Japan, Imperial Germany and the Soviet Union, showing both the geographical and the historical range of topics. All offer insights into specialist subjects, but NR members might be particularly interested in some other items. Experienced author and former aviator David Hobbs’s account of the reconstruction of the aircraft carrier Victorious, in which he served, shows how her design influenced that of later post-war carriers. Another article of great interest is by Michael Whitby, a historian at the Defence Headquarters in Canada, and concerns the story of the grounding of the cruiser Dauntless off Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1928. His detailed account of the event itself, the subsequent salvage, inquiry and the court martial, will offer much for today’s officer. In a reminder of the importance of naval matters to the general public in that distant period, the story was reported in the press around the world, especially where the Royal Navy had bases.

Offering a more modern perspective, Conrad Waters writes about design trends in post-Cold War surface combatants. He looks at a range of areas, including hull and crew sizes and stealth technology, as well as identifying future trends, with autonomous and unmanned platforms among them. For readers wanting to learn more about the new generation of RN escorts, there is much detail on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

The 2021 edition offers a similarly imaginative selection of topics, covering the same countries and reflecting the editor’s strong network of contributors. In his editorial, Mr Jordan comments on the fascination of ship designs which were never completed, prompting ‘what if’ scenarios. A good example in this edition is Stephen McLaughlin’s article on Soviet battleships, the construction of which was abandoned after the German invasion of 1941.

Another little-known aspect of the Second World War is covered in Kathrin Milanovich’s contribution on Japanese submarines. Much has been written about the successful campaign of US submarines in the Pacific, but the role of Japan’s forces deserves to be told. A further article with an overseas subject covers the French La Fayette class frigates, in service from 1996. Jean Moulin and John Jordan explain their design and construction, including the use of stealth technology, as well as evaluating performance. They also demonstrate how the class influenced other designs.

Readers with an interest in the Royal Navy will find a range of eras and subjects covered in this edition. Michael Whitby’s study of Home Fleet destroyers in the crucial months of March to May 1943 in the Battle of the Atlantic is excellent. The photographs are well-chosen and the article analyses two convoy battles, showing how Support Groups of escort ships played a part in the battle on which so much depended.

A different type of ship is covered in Ian Sturton’s article on the third royal yacht to be named Victoria and Albert. In 1900 the vessel almost capsized in dock before leaving for sea trials but survived and was broken up only after the Second World War.

Former Weapon Engineer Peter Marland writes about postwar development of sonar in the Royal Navy. He covers both hull-mounted and towed array systems, setting out technical specifications, performance and the threats which various types were developed to face. In concluding, he argues that RN anti-submarine capability has decreased owing to an increasing focus on air and surface threats in the littoral and limited resources for training at sea.

Both volumes contain other fascinating articles, but it is hoped that these examples will give readers of this review an insight into what the books offer. Whilst not perhaps for the general reader, these annual publications will be a valuable source for researchers and for those interested in less well-known aspects of modern naval history.