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Catastrophe at Spithead Hilary L Rubinstein Seaforth Publishing, 2020 Hardback(£25, $37) 288 pages Order: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Catastrophe-at-Spithead-Hardback/p/17111 General Description This book is a very detailed investigation into the tragedy of the Royal George's sudden sinking on 29th August 1782. It broadly does this by using four primary sections. The first covers the personal history of some of the major players and primarily Rear Admiral Kempenfelt with Captain Waghorn. Secondly it runs through the events of the 29th August and surrounding days in some detail. Thirdly it moves to the resulting Court Martial before finishing with the efforts used to raise the ship and a brief 'what happened to them after'. I was quite impressed. The author has an excellent control of many varied resources and uses them efficiently and, as far as I can tell, in an unbiased fashion. She deftly avoids deciding on one interpretation of events and sometimes even cautions against the validity of evidence before she presents it (thus recognising that dead men gild no lilies and that peoples recollections can change quite drastically with hindsight especially when livelihood and reputation can be involved). In one impressive section she lists what one of the Seaman had reported to the Court Martial in some potentially damning testimony but also notes several other examples where other similar language had been used but had been laughed at by a ships occupants and as the ship in question had not sunk had proved true. This rather deftly avoids leading the reader down a potentially invalid path but at the same time provides useful information to help the reader make their own mind up. I enjoyed the entire book. The first section was good as it provided information that is not widely known - as an example most readers here will know Nelson's history prior to becoming a Captain but a minor Rear-Admiral and equally unknown Officers ?(excepting Phillip Durham). This helps broaden knowledge of the navy though I would have liked more time to be spent here. When she moves to the disaster itself the book picks up nicely and stays at a highly interesting pace for the remainder of the book. I would therefore highly recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the British Navy of around the Revolutionary wars. It will also interest those who want to know more about the day to day running of the navy (even to how they careened ships out of dock!) and the interrelations between ships officers/ warrant officers and crew. A quick purchasing note. The pen and sword link above currently has the book discounted at £20 though the RRP and UK amazon price is currently £25. Pen and Sword USA does not show the book yet but it can be purchased from U.S amazon at the price listed above (currently..). Finally if anyone wants a precis of what the reason for the disaster is then the book does not give a definitive answer. I have made my own assumptions (which may not match the authors) so am happy to discuss in this thread lower down so people who want to make their own mind up can avoid.
The Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Age - Senior Service Mark Jessop Pen and Sword Bopoks 2019 180 pages, hardback, U.S $39.95 UK £19.99 Order: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Royal-Navy-in-the-Napoleonic-Age-Hardback/p/16787 This is an unusual book. The best analogy I can make is that it is like Horrible Histories mainly focusing on the British Navy during the Napoleonic period but without the comedy. If follows the relatively new concept of utilising fictional stories to 'enhance' the history but in this case taking up the entire book coupled with large information dumps. So you get an awful lot of ,' "hey up mate hows it going.", I said as I looked at the papers describing the Nile [big description of the Nile], when finished I told him so but he told me he knew a carpenter who knows a thing about oars and said [big info dump on oars]. I looked over the bay and meditated on this until a frigate appeared which reminded me about an article about Nelson [info dump about Nelson] For the entire book. To a certain degree it works and the information covered is rarely repetitive and in some cases struck some unexpected new ground (which is nice in a historical area I know a reasonable amount about) . I should also note that the author is a much better fictional writer than me so his actual examples are not as bad as my pretend example above. Here is an actual example from the book The book is more intended for a lay reader who does not have a lot of historical knowledge and wants bite sized chunks of easily digestible information. Alternately someone who is not a fan of pure history (and pure history can be extremely dry). Therefore I strongly doubt I am the intended audience also as a historian by training I dislike fiction in history intensely. Simply put to me without evidence it has no place in a history. The potential problems get worse because in fiction the person 'thinking' does not have to know the full picture and that is dangerous. It allows people to potentially lie and hide information in an attempt to almost re-write history as they can ignore normal historical evidence restrictions because the fictional character does not have to understand balance, reliability or truth allowing non-historical spins to be be placed on something that might be used as history. Now there is little evidence of that here though the author does spend an inordinate amount of time (in a book about the Royal Navy, two chapters out of nine) describing US Navy victories and how the US was fighting against the press and strangely neglects to mention the Shannon, or of the actions when the Royal Navy fought successfully back (beyond a single paragraph listing some of the ships captured) or even the fact that the US primary war aim was the land conquest of Canada. Now the fictional characters reporting probably would not know (or perhaps would not care but would care about single ship losses which is another example of my main issue with fiction in history). He has read Mahan, Roosevelt and James so is presumably well aware of the various counter arguments. Personally I tend to follow N.A.M Rodgers view of the single ship actions, 'in the case of 18-pounder frigates in action with 24 pounder ships the disparity of force is a sufficient explanation' and perhaps more interestingly ,'Contemporaries, however, and to a surprising degree subsequent historians, have tended to interpret these actions in moral rather than technical terms, as indicators of national virtue or decline, which is to load them with far more significance than they can possibly bear' [p567 and 568 The Command of the Ocean N.A.M.Rodger]. So 'War of 1812' digression aside if you enjoy fiction to as a way of making History more easy to understand then this is an interesting book that covers several areas of that Navy that are not usually covered in a frankly innovative way.
The Last British Battleship: HMS Vanguard, 1946-1960 - Pen & Sword Books Ltd Company: Pen & Sword Books Ltd Author: R. A. Burt Kit No: ISBN-10: 1526752263, ISBN-13: 978-1526752260 Pages: 128 Retail Price: £ 28.- Available here: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Last-British-Battleship-Hardback/p/16234 The ninth HMS Vanguard, bearing one of the most illustrious names in the Royal Navy with honours from the Armada to Jutland, was the last and largest of Britain s battleships and was commissioned in 1946. Her design evolved from of the King George V class and incorporated much of the fully developed design for the two battleships, Lion and Temeraire, that were laid down in 1939 but never completed. At 813ft length overall and 42,300 tons, she was the last battleship to be built for the Royal Navy and the only ship of her class. She was built during the Second World War and incorporated existing twin 15in mountings, and was part of the Royal Navy s response to the combined and increasing number of German and Japanese battleships in the early 1940s. She was immediately recognisable by her transom stern and high flared bow and had fine sea keeping ability. Her appearance after the end of hostilities, however, and her huge crew requirements proved a conundrum for the Royal Navy, her most significant role being that of Royal Yacht during the royal family s tour of South Africa in 1947. She was broken up at Faslane in 1960. In this new book by R A Burt her design, construction and career are all covered. Armour, machinery, power plants and weaponry are examined in detail and the author has produced some 35 superb plans, profiles and other line drawings for which he is renowned. The text is further enhanced by the addition of some 80 colour and black and white photographs from his collection. His earlier three volumes are regarded as definitive works on the subject of British battleships before 1945; with this new book he finally completes the story of the Dreadnought era, bringing to life the last of a magnificent type of vessel of which the world will not see again. More information about the Vanguard here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Vanguard_(23) Pages: 128 Photos: 150 Folded Plan: 1 Additional 35 diagrams by the author himself, ranging from cross-section views, plans of each superstructure deck, sketches of appearance changes, and diagrams of weapons and fire control systems. Conclusion Pretty solid reference book. The author is known of profund knowledge about british battleships. Lot's of information on the ship's design, weapons, armor, refits, and service career, along with the Royal Cruise of 1949. Every model builder who is interested in detailed information about the Vanguard ships will enjoy this book. My sincere thanks go to Pen and Sword for sending this book for review here on Model Ship World. To buy, ask your favorite dealer.
German Battleship Helgoland: as detailed in the original builders' plans - Pen & Sword Books Ltd Company: Pen & Sword Books Ltd Author: Aidan Dodson Kit No: ISBN-10: 1526747596, ISBN-13: 978-1526747594 Pages: 144 Retail Price: £ 24.- Available here: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/German-Battleship-Helgoland-Hardback/p/16022 Alongside its incomparable archive of British warship plans, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich also holds a selection of drawings from foreign sources. Among the gems of this collection are a number of German warships dating from the First World War era. These are official plans, acquired by the Naval Inter-Allied Commission of Control as part of the peace treaty, and very similar in style, detail and draughtsmanship to Royal Navy ‘as fitted’ general arrangements, including the use of coloured line and washes. The very best of these, in terms of the completeness of coverage and the visual impact of the drawings, relates to the battleship SMS Helgoland, launched in 1909. The name-ship of the second class of dreadnoughts designed by the Germans, she was a big advance over the earlier Westfalen class, having 12in guns that matched those of her British opponents. She served in the High Seas Fleet throughout the war, fought at Jutland, and was ceded to Britain as part of the peace terms – which is probably why the plans are at Greenwich – and was broken up in 1924. This book is the latest in a series based entirely on original draughts which depict famous warships in an unprecedented degree of detail. Using the latest scanning technology to make digital copies of the highest quality, it reproduces complete sets in full colour, with many close-ups and enlargements that make every aspect clear and comprehensible. Extensive captions point the reader to important features to be found in the plans, and an introduction covers the background to the design. The result is a novel form of anatomy that will be a revelation to any warship enthusiast. SMS Helgoland launched in 1909 was the name-ship of the second class of dreadnoughts designed by the Germans. She was a big advance over the earlier Westfalen class having 12-inch guns that matched those of her British opponents. She served in the High Seas Fleet throughout the war fought at Jutland and was ceded to Britain as part of the peace terms. Conclusion Although there are several books about the large ships of the Imperial Navy, there is none that describes the internal structure of these ships more than superficially. This new book from the series "Detailed in the Original Builders' Plans" is not error-free, but it contributes substantially to the solution of this problem. There is a brief introduction describing the ship's design, armor, armament, machinery, and career. Most of the book, however, consists almost entirely of (original) plans and drafts. Similar to the famous British "admiralty draughts", most of these plans are in full colour. This book contains plans for each deck, 25 cross-sections through the hull and a four-sided longitudinal section to fold out. These are complemented by a series of traditional plans depicting the ground plans of the armor and conning tower layouts, pumping and flooding arrangements, fire control circuits, coaling rig, boat stowage, the forward capstans, and the distinctive kingposts of the ship. Finally, there is a color profile of the SMS Posen and plans for the hull midships structure and the double bottom. Considering that the plans are almost 110 years old, most of them look very good. Of course, they are all in German, but English translations for all keys are printed. The level of detail is somewhat uneven. While many of the traditional plans are exceptionally detailed, especially the pump and fire protection plans, the "as fitted" plans are not as precise. Since most plans were printed on a scale of 1:100 or 1:50, and were reduced quite a bit according to the pages, strong glasses or magnifying glasses can't hurt. Every model builder who is interested in detailed information about the imperial German large ships will enjoy this book. My sincere thanks go to Pen and Sword for sending this book for review here on Model Ship World. To buy, ask your favorite dealer.