Friday, 13 January 2012

Some new books about warships

As will be obvious to regular readers of my blog, I like ships (well I couldn't spend so much time at sea on cruises if I didn't, could I?) ... and I like warships in particular.

Warships were (and to some extent still are) the pinnacle of military design. They are the product of a series of compromises between conflicting requirements (e.g. speed vs. protection vs. firepower) ... and I find it fascinating to read about how warship designers have tried to achieve the best balance between those requirements to produce warships that meet their country's particular needs. It is equally fascinating to see how designers have arrived at different solutions to similar problems ... and how designs that were sometimes decried as being less than satisfactory performed better than expected whilst warships that were regarded as being iconic examples of good design did not always fulfil their predicted potential.

It was therefore with great pleasure that I received the following three books via the post yesterday as they fill some empty niches in my collection.

The first book is YANGTZE RIVER GUNBOATS 1900-49 (written by Angus Konstam, illustrated by Tony Bryan, and published by Osprey as part of their 'New Vanguard' series No. 181 [2011] ISBN 978 1 84908 408 6).


The navies of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States maintained a presence on the Yangtze and other major rivers in China from the late nineteenth to the mid twentieth centuries. The gunboats they used to protect traders and missionaries from the ravages of various warlords and pirates were very active during this period, and this book describes those gunboats and gives examples of the sort of incidents in which they were involved.

The second book is FRENCH BATTLESHIPS 1922-1956. It was written by John Jordan and Robert Dumas, and published by Seaforth Publishing in 2009 (ISBN 978 1 84832 034 5).


The book has an introduction that covers the history of the French battleship building programme up to the signing of the Washington Treaty in 1922, nine chapters devoted to the design, characteristics, and service records of the various battleships that were built or projected (Dunkerque, Strasbourg, Richlieu, Jean Bart, Clemenceau, and Gascogne), and ends with a conclusion that summarises the strengths and weaknesses of each of the designs that saw service with the French Navy. It also has several very interesting colour plates that illustrate some of the colour schemes used by the French Navy.

The third book is THE LITTORIO CLASS: ITALY'S LAST AND LARGEST BATTLESHIPS 1937-1948. It was written by Erminio Bagnasco and Augusto de Toro and illustrated with drawings by Roberto Maggi, Maurizio Brescia, and Angelo Brioschi. This translation was published by Seaforth Publishing in 2011 (the book was originally published in Italian in 2008: ISBN 978 1 84832 105 2).


The book begins with a long chapter that explains Italian naval policy between the Wars. It also deals with the impact of the various naval treaties and the growing naval rivalry with France upon the development of the Italian Navy, as well as covering the re-building programmes that turned the existing obsolete Italian battleships into modern fighting units. The next four chapters cover:
  • The design and general characteristics of the Littorio class
  • A technical description of the Littorio class
  • The construction, sea trials, and commissioning of the Littorio class ships
  • The operational histories of each of the Littorio class ships
The last chapter compares the Littorio class with the contemporary battleships build by France, Britain, Germany, and the United States.

I have always had a soft-spot for the Littorio class and the Dunkerque and Strasbourg. In my opinion the Littorio class was the most attractive battleship design ever built – closely followed by Dunkerque and Strasbourg – and I am looking forward to spending many enjoyable hours reading these books.

14 comments:

  1. Bob

    Looks interesting. Any good gaming ideas in teh China gunboat volume?
    Cheers
    PD

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  2. I have actually been on the Jean Bart in Toulon back in 1968 when my ship Hms Penelope was in there for a visit by then she was in the reserve fleet. We where invited on for a tour. My 2500 ton frigate looked like a dingy to her an impressive bit of kit

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  3. Hi Bob,

    The Osprey looks useful - I have seen the French title and it is lovely. You could always rely on the Italians to build lovely looking ships!

    All the best,

    DC

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  4. Peter Douglas,

    The book does cover some gunboat operations, but not in great detail. That said, what it does cover might serve as starting points for some useful scenarios.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  5. Johntheone,

    That is a visit that I would love to have taken part in!

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  6. David Crook,

    I have found lots to interest me in all three books.

    The book about Yangtze Gunboats has given me ideas for possible simple gunboat models ... and the two other books have left me giving serious thought to possible warship designs I can use in any potential imagi-world of 1931 campaigns.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Thanks for the reviews- will have to pick up the Yangtze volume. Inter war china seems to be reading topic du jour for me.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi

    Yangtze River brings back "The Sand Pebbles". Great movie and story.

    Glad you having fun mucking about in boats...

    Regards

    ReplyDelete
  9. Spprojectblog (Pete),

    China between the wars has lots of potential for the wargamer; warlords, bandits, Japanese, Kuomintang, and Communists armies marching (and fighting) hither and thither across the country using a vast variety of different weaponry.

    What's not to like?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Arthur,

    'The Sand Pebbles' is a great film ... and a great source of potential scenarios for the use of river gunboats.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  11. Bob,

    The only thing not to like is the lack of books about the period... aside from the Ospreys their seems to be very little. Have you any good suggestions?

    Regards,

    Pete.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Spprojectblog (Peter),

    I don't have any particular books in mind other than the ones published by Osprey, although 'The Blue Lotus' by Herge does deal with Japanese involvement in China.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Been a looong time since I read any of his stuff....

    Cheers,

    Pete.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Spprojectblog (Pete),

    The Tintin books were always well researched and are well worth looking at for the later inter-war period in particular.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete