The author has established a well-deserved reputation as a naval historian. From a shipbuilding family, his career was in graphic design. In writing about Clydeside shipyards and their ships, his eye for shape and form has produced some stunning illustration. This new book is no exception and provides a strong photo essay of a class of ship that some will argue was a serious mistake.
NAME: Clydebank Battlecruisers, Forgotten Photographs from John Brown’s Shipyard
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Ian Johnston
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword Publishing
BINDING: Hard back
SUBJECT: Technology, battlecruisers, Jutland, John Brown’s Shipyard, armoured cruisers, pocket battleships, heavy guns, speed, light armour
DESCRIPTION: The author has established a well-deserved reputation as a naval historian. From a shipbuilding family, his career was in graphic design. In writing about Clydeside shipyards and their ships, his eye for shape and form has produced some stunning illustration. This new book is no exception and provides a strong photo essay of a class of ship that some will argue was a serious mistake. Britain pioneered the all heavy gun armoured battleship that was branded Dreadnought after the mould-breaking HMS Dreadnought. That ship triggered an arms race as major navies sought to catch up. With long sealanes to police, the Royal Navy thought of two types of major warship. From Dreadnought developed a series of new classes that were intended to serve as line-of-battle ships, the heavy cavalry of the formal fleet engagement. They were intended to provide a heavily armoured and armed capital ship that could slug it out with the best that an enemy could put to sea. The other capital ship type became known as the battlecruiser. It carried the heavy guns of a battleship but was designed for speed by reducing armour. It combined the élan of a Nelsonian frigate, the grace and speed of the cruiser, without reducing weight of shell. Some have suggested that it was a poor compromise in every category, being too large for convoy escort, two thin skinned for fleet actions, and equipped with more firepower than it needed. Certainly, at Jutland, it proved vulnerable to the guns of German battleships, but unable to make much of a mark on their armour, and commanded with the careless élan that the Army demonstrated in the Charge of the Light Brigade. When the ultimate battlecruiser Hood met the ultimate battleship Bismark, she survived only for minutes and sank with an almost total loss of life. Other battlecruisers faired poorly in WWII because they were lightly armoured and carried poor anti-aircraft armament, making an ideal target for bomber aircraft. The controversy of their fitness aside, they were handsome ships. HMS Hood was an impressive symbol of naval power. Other battlecruisers were used as VIP transports, providing adequate quarters for a Royal Tour in an impressive vessel that exuded power and grace. The author has concentrated on Clydebank battelcruisers and covered their construction and trials. Inflexible, Australia, Tiger, Repulse and Hood are covered. The text is more than adequate and introduces new insights, because the construction phases of these ships have been largely ignored by other historians, who have concentrated on the in-service careers. The photographs are outstanding and are well-captioned. This is a lavishly illustrated book and makes up for all the books on these ships that have been sparsely and poorly illustrated. For a book of this size and quality, it is aggressively priced. No serious enthusiasts can avoid adding this book to their libraries and model engineers will find a wealth of detailed illustration that has until now been hard to find. Anyone with an interest in ships and shipbuilding will find this a rewarding source of information from the period when naval shipbuilding on the Clyde was at its peak.