The author is still the foremost authority on battleships from Dreadnought and, although now retired, he continues to research the subject. This new edition of the definitive book on battlecruisers has been updated with the latest findings from his research. A outstanding review of the subject.
NAME: British Battlecruisers 1905-1920
AUTHOR: John Roberts
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Seaforth
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: big gun warships, line of battle ships, armoured ships, battleships, battlecruisers, speed. Manoeuvrability, Royal Navy, Dreadnought, vulnerabilities
DESCRIPTION: The author is still the foremost authority on battleships from Dreadnought and, although now retired, he continues to research the subject. This new edition of the definitive book on battlecruisers has been updated with the latest findings from his research. A outstanding review of the subject.
The authoritative text is very capably supported by lavish illustration in the form of photographs and drawings. Tabular information further increases the impressive detail.
The Royal Navy shook the world when it revealed HMS Dreadnought. Overnight, battleships in all navies became at best obsolescent. A navy’s capital ships now had to be described as Pre-Dreadnought or Dreadnought. The revolution was in providing a single calibre for turret mounted main armament on an armoured hull and protected superstructure, with power provided by steam turbines and a move from coal to oil. These fast potent vessels were immediately superior to their predecessors and they triggered a viscous arms race. Navies still saw engagements as being fleet battles that would be fought in a broadly similar way to those of Nelson’s day, but at higher speeds and longer ranges. That view began to change as sailors realized that new vessels and weapons give an opportunity to introduce new tactics to fully exploit the advances.
The battlecruiser concept is attributed to Admiral Sir John Fisher, but it might be more accurate to describe it as an improved concept. From the introduction of the gun to naval warfare, the victor was likely to be the commander who laid the heaviest weight of fire, most accurately, and at longest range. As vessels increased in size, the line of battle featured ships with more guns of greater shell weight. Sailing battleships soon grew to 100 and even 120 gun ships, where the guns increased in weight of ball and provided greater range and accuracy. As the heaviest guns were 32 pounder long guns, a sailing warship had to mount its armament on a series of gun decks to fit them all into the hull size, each deck rising from the 32 pounder gun deck carried progressively smaller canon to maintain a safe metacentric height to avoid a tender vessel that could easily capsize. One of the constraints in design was the maximum length that was practical in a wooden hull and, the heavier the ship, the slower it tended to sail, and the more room it required to change direction. That meant that convoy escorts and commerce raiders needed to combine better sailing performance, whilst still maintaining a heavy armament. This resulted in cruisers that were large frigates, armed with a much smaller number of guns than First Rate line-of-battle-ships, but with heavier ball than a traditional frigate or smaller warship. One way of achieving this was to mount a few very heavy Carronades or Smashers that were close range weapons intended to end a fight quickly, but enable the fleeter cruiser to flee an battleship that might outgun it. That led to the metal navies having destroyers, cruisers and battleships. Fisher’s variation on the concept was for a ship that was lightly armoured but equipped with the same heavy guns as a contemporary battleship, inevitably resulting it this faster type being dubbed ‘battlecruiser’.
The battlecruisers soon attracted the daring commanders and achieved a reputation for dashing vessels able to mix it with any battleship. It was to be a reputation that was seriously dented at Jutland when the vulnerabilities resulted in battlecruisers blowing up and sinking with most hands. The last RN battlecruiser was to be HMS Hood, a larger handsome design that impressed in peacetime but was rapidly destroyed by the Bismark in its first engagement during WWII.
The author has provided a smooth history of the ship type and this must retain his work as the definitive work on the subject.