Britain’s Historic Ships – A Complete Guide to the Ships that Shaped Britain

B1596

 

A reasonably priced book that features concise text and first rate illustration with photographs reproduced in full colour. The author has selected historic vessels and reproductions of historic vessels. The conclusion is HMY Britannia which for many reasons marks the end of a period in British history her premature retirement

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NAME: Britain’s Historic Ships – A Complete Guide to the Ships that Shaped Britain
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
FILE: R1596
DATE: 190110
AUTHOR: Paul Brown
PUBLISHER: Conway
BINDING: Hard back
PAGES: 208
PRICE: GB £20.00
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: Warships, merchant ships, caravel, race-built galleon, steam ship, Mary Rose, Cutty Sark, monitor, Matthew, Belfast, Cavalier, destroyer, MTB, MGB
ISBN: 978-1-84486-093-7
IMAGE: B1596.jpg
LINKS: http://tinyurl.com/
DESCRIPTION: A reasonably priced book that features concise text and first rate illustration with photographs reproduced in full colour. The author has selected historic vessels and reproductions of historic vessels. The sub title may be misleading in that it could be read as a comprehensive selection of all British historic vessels, but the publisher and author clearly meant that the selected vessels give a complete guide to historic vessels that shaped British history. The lack of a longship as an original preserved vessel or as a reproduction means that the author has no example to include and begins with the Mary Rose and the Matthew. The Mary Rose was built for Henry VIII’s navy, capsizing and sinking in the Solent under the eyes of the King as it was preparing to sail out against French ships. She was clinker built and an early Great Castle ship carrying a heavy gun armament. The Matthew has been described as a caravel and as a carrack. The reproduction is of a ship built before the Mary Rose and essentially similar to the commercial vessels built in the Middle Ages to replace the open longship and the knar. The Matthew sailed to Newfoundland and her reproduction retraced this voyage in 1997. Vessels of this type were also used as warships with the addition of guns, but primarily relying on archers and spearmen. The basic design was expanded to produce Great Castle warships that were intended to rely on guns, some of which achieved greater accuracy and range than guns mounted in British ships in 1805. Many were breech loading to provide a higher rate of fire than later muzzle loading cannon but the method of construction produced a short life and danger of exploding. The Elizabethan race built galleon revolutionized naval warfare and made the Great Castle warship obsolete by defeating this earlier design in 1588 used by the Spanish Armada. The Elizabethan galleon is represented in this book by a reproduction of the Golden Hinde that carried Drake around the world as the first English captain to circumnavigate. By the start of the Stuart dynasty in 1603, the Elizabethan navy had become entirely a race-built galleon equipped force. The author has selected HMS Victory the surviving British First Rate that carried Nelson in his historic victory at Trafalgar in 1805. The picture of the Nelsonian Navy is completed by surviving frigates Trincomalee and Unicorn, together with the reproduction Sixth Rate Grand Turk. This means that the lack of surviving or reproduction vessels has left a gap between the Elizabethan galleon and the late Eighteenth Century warships that secured supremacy for the Royal Navy and made the expansion of the British Empire possible. In the same way the lack of survivors or reproductions of merchant ships after the Medieval Matthew reproduction and the mid to late Victorian merchantman has left a gap in the story of the development of the merchant ship. The author has picked up the merchant story with the Cutty Sark. This example of a tea clipper is a hybrid in that it combined timber construction with the use of iron frames and reinforcements to produce a relatively light but strong vessel giving high speed for a sailing ship. The bark Glenlee, schooners and the ketch Garlandstone, together with the Thames barges complete the story of the sailing merchant ship. Curiously, the author has not included the sailing trawler Excelsior or the surviving Broads Wherries that are as much a key part of the story of British maritime history. The Wherry is an ancient design dating back through the Keel to the longship and although it was primarily used on inland waters, it did undertake coastal voyages and serve as a lighter taking cargoes out to merchant ships moored off the coast. It was essential to moving cargoes and is similar in many respects to the Thames Barge. Excelsior is the last survivor of the huge fleets of British sailing ships that fished the North Sea contributing to strongly to the British economy and shaping Britain. The revolutionary steamship Great Britain takes the merchant story forward. Examples of coastal and harbour vessels are included while naval history is traced through the wooden steam warships to the age of steel including surviving submarines. Also included are examples of the Coastal Forces vessels that have survived and which were built in large numbers during WWI and WWII. Sadly some important classes of these vessels have no survivors even though they were built in large numbers and in recent times. The conclusion is HMY Britannia which for many reasons marks the end of a period in British history her premature retirements forming part of a failed attempt by Tony Blair to minimize the Queen and usurp her position as Head of State. In all this book reads well and captures the essence of the maritime history that shaped Britain. There will be those who feel aggrieved that a particular vessel is omitted but there is a point at which every author has to call time to keep a book to a reasonable size. With the exception of the Wherry and the sail and steam fishing boats, the author has not missed any examples of change.

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