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Our Reviews

In the course of our research, we have found several books and other media useful so we've listed and reviewed them. Select a category to browse the list, use the form to search for a specific topic, or select from our featured reviews.

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Featured reviews :

  • British Submarines in Two World Wars

    Norman Friedman
    This book was a real eye opener for me. I thought I knew quite a lot about submarines but my knowledge paled into insignificance when found the wealth of information before me. Here is a book that tells you all you need to know about submarines. One could probably build a period submarine with little more than the plans and descriptions here laid out. But the book is more than a technical manual. The thinking and attitudes which under pinned the planning and the execution of the Royal Navy’s submarine strategy are well described. The inter-war years are particularly fascinating in this respect. The vessels themselves and the thinking behind them range from the actual through the practical and onto the weird and wonderful. Many things caught my eye and imagination among which were beam firing torpedoes, a large submarine cruiser mounting 6 x 6” guns, some very strange and ugly hull forms, and an aircraft carrying submarine which was built but never went into service. There is also a special mention for the only action in which a submarine has torpedoed another while both were submerged.
    This is a large book, 295 mm by 250 mm portrait with 429 pages. There are many photographs, about one per page in total, all appropriately annotated. There are many reproductions of technical drawings from the National Maritime Museum and numerous superb John Lambert drawings. There are also two three page and one four page spread of whole ship drawings from the NMM. It is clearly the product of a massive amount of research written up in a very readable style. However I would caution against cover-to-cover reading unless you can absorb facts at a very high rate. There is no dross, ‘all meat and no gravy’ as my grandfather would say.
    This is a rather special book and we highly recommend it.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • The Last British Battleship HMS Vanguard 1946-1960

    R A Burt
    The last books I reviewed, published by Seaforth, were two volumes on Coastal Forces [see elsewhere on this site] which dealt with the smallest WW2 Naval craft so it is quite a jump to the largest battleship we ever built. Vanguard’s displacement was about 500 MTBs a truly magnificent ship which I know from personal experience having been on board at a Navy Day in Portsmouth in the late 1950s. So my question was is this book as good as the Coastal Forces books and will it do the ship justice?
    My hopes were fully realised by the text, the photographs and the technical drawings. The text is very technical in parts which truly reflects the subject but in the main can be easily followed. Although there are a few difficult bits where unexplained initials are use. The photographs are many and varied showing every stage of the ship from builders yard to breakers yard. One very poignant picture, the last in the book, is of the bow section just lying forlorn in the mud.
    The technical drawings, nearly all by the author, are superb. The drawings are of the whole ship including two three page and one four page spreads. There are also many detailed drawings of weapons systems, radar etc. All drawings are fully annotated as appropriate to their scale.
    All this is presented in a beautifully produced large portrait format, about 260mm X 300mm.
    We very highly recommend this well researched work.
    Footnote: There is an error in the title as the Royal Navy still has a battleship in commission
    i.e. H M S Victory, flying the flag of the Second Sea Lord/C-in-C Naval Home Command.
    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • Wellington's History of the Peninsular War

    Stuart Reid
    In this book we find the four long memoranda concerning the Peninsular war which Wellington wrote. He only did this for the years 1808, 1809, 1810 and 1811; it is a pity that he did not do the same for the remaining years of the war. However these years are covered by the author in selecting some dispatches from Wellington concerning the major battles 1812 to 1814. This is the first time that this material has been brought together as a continuous narrative. It is supported by brief summaries of the careers of the officers mentioned in Wellington’s dispatches, by a set of 21 very nice annotated colour plates, and 8 moderately useful maps. Appendix 2 is particularly worthy of mention as it contains a breakdown of the Peninsular army from 1808 -1814. It goes into much detail even to the extent of movement of regiments between division and temporary commands of various formations.
    What I found really interesting is the way Wellington writes about events, actions and other people which reveals so much about himself. The times he goes through the thought process in considering the for and against an action proceeding to explain why he came to the conclusion he reached. He constantly makes reference to the well being of the men and to the subsistence of both men and animals. He held to Napoleon’s maxim ‘an army marches on its stomach’ far better than Napoleon ever did. This is Wellington’s performance review of his own and his subordinates actions and we see a generous nature in his praise of them.
    This is a very good read for the general reader and a valuable resource for the specialist. We highly recommend it.

    Frontline Books, 2019
  • Battleship Bismarck

    W.H.Garzke Jr., R.O.Dunlin Jr. & W. Jurens
    This is a most remarkable book. The three authors have done an incredible research job in pulling together probably all there is to be known about the Bismarck. The bibliography includes over three hundred items ranging from previous Bismarck books, interviews with authorities, to American, German and British government documents. The result is encyclopaedic with the narrative covering the first concept of the design within the German navy’s developmental path to the survivors stories and on to the exploration of the wreck site. The political inputs to the saga particularly from Hitler and Churchill are covered. Other German military assets and actions as well as their parallels in the Royal Navy are given good coverage so as to place the design and operation of the Bismarck in its full context. Supporting the written word are masses of photographs, suitable maps and technical drawings. The index is most comprehensive and makes this a superb reference work.
    What raises the book to an even higher level is the extensive forensic analysis of the wreck site bringing the story right up to date. Physically this book is impressive weighing in at 7lbs [just over 3 kg] measuring 310mm by 240mm and 40mm thick.
    However the book is not without some faults. The annotation to some drawings is so tiny that a magnifying glass is necessary for reading them. The way the book is laid out under different headings results in a large amount of repetition of particular facts. I found it irritating when occasionally this occurs within a couple of pages. Also, while one recognizes that the authors are American and we must accept some strange spellings e.g. maneuvers for manoeuvres, it is annoying to see the measure ‘metre’ written as ‘meter’. But to the British naval enthusiast worst of all is the metrification of British gun sizes. We had 16 inch, 15 inch, 14 inch etc. and the gun was named by its measurement in Imperial size, it is simply a misnomer to call it otherwise.
    This work will sit well on the bookshelf of everyone with an interest in the amazing Bismarck saga both as a jolly good read and as an important reference work.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • The Trans-Atlantic Pioneers

    Bruce Hales-Dutton
    A timely book, all about overcoming the many problems associated with crossing the Atlantic by air, made more poignant by the fact that it was being reviewed during the very week of the centenary of that first crossing. In the true spirit of similar narrative histories of pioneers, this book begins with the problem itself, and has several chapters following the earliest attempts, followed by the successful ones of the 'Nancy boat' NC4, then Alcock and Brown's successful single hop, and those of the gallant fails. There's a sympathetic coverage of airship R34's oft-forgotten double crossing only a few weeks later, but all this is set against the fact that this was 1919, barely 13 years after the Wright brothers first flight, and less than a year after the trauma of the First World War.

    The next few chapters follow the golden years of the 1920's and 30's, with different celebrity flyers trying to out-do each other and set new records, while the Graf Zeppelin serenely, and controversially because of the Nazi propaganda it inevitably created, attempted to make trans-Atlantic travel luxurious and almost routine.

    It then moves on to another oft-forgotten aspect, that of the ferry flights back and forth between the aircraft factories of the US and the theatres of operations in Europe, with the stories of the exhausting schedule of the pilots who carried out this vital and un-sung work, and the thousands of aircraft they delivered.

    The final section of the book moves into commercial aviation and covers the story of scheduled airline trans-Atlantic flights. It takes you from the basic postwar days of the prop-airliner, through the introduction of the jet, the jumbo and wide-bodies, the move to twin engine turbo-fans and, of course, Concord. Each of these latter chapters takes a particular aspect of aviation that significantly affected these routes, and while such a collection could never cover everything in detail, it manages to give a good account of why each thing matters while remaining human and anchoring itself with first-hand account from those 'who were there'. For personal preference, I would have liked more maps, for example of the various routes used to cross for the early flights, but the chronology of key events is very comprehensive, and the whole book is well paced, well constructed, enjoyable and recommended.
    Air World - an imprint of Pen & Sword, Barnsley., 2018