The publisher is to be commended for bringing back into print a best seller that was last seen 80 years ago. The author served in destroyers during WWI and therefore had a first hand experience of the subject. This is a very important book that describes the technology, tactics and deployment of the smaller warships that served in great numbers and with great distinction. Highly recommended, a must read book about a hugely important part of WWI naval history.
NAME: Endless Story, Destroyer Operations in the Great War
AUTHOR: ‘Taffrail’, Captain Taprell Dorling DSO RN
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Seaforth
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: World War One, WWI, First World War, Great War, 1914-1918, destroyers, coastal forces, convoy escort, commando attacks, English Channel, Gallipoli, Pacific, Atlantic, technology, tactics
DESCRIPTION: The publisher is to be commended for bringing back into print a best seller that was last seen 80 years ago. The author served in destroyers during WWI and therefore had a first hand experience of the subject. This is a very important book that describes the technology, tactics and deployment of the smaller warships that served in great numbers and with great distinction. Highly recommended, a must read book about a hugely important part of WWI naval history.
In many respects, the naval war during WWI was similar to WWII. The major difference was that WWI saw the introduction to battle of a number of very effective new weapons. The locomotive torpedo caused a revolution in naval warfare in the latter part of the 19th Century, but was not used in anger until WWI. Any major navy was immediately faced with enormous challenges because the torpedo only required a small fast surface vessel, or an aircraft, which was relatively low cost and required only a small crew. This nimble and hard to spot attacker could threaten the largest warships and the scale and implications of the new threat could only be fully appreciated once it was committed to battle on a widespread basis. For example, all major warships were promptly fitted with anti-torpedo nets that could be retracted on booms. The theory was that this would prevent attacks in port from achieving any success, and then be lifted out of the water once the ship was ready to proceed to sea. The reality was that these nets were far more trouble than they were worth and were rapidly taken out of service once war began and highlighted their weaknesses.
They Royal Navy successfully dropped a torpedo from an aircraft weeks before the outbreak of WWI. Defence against this weapon had yet to be developed and the real defence was to be the use of other fighters, launched from carriers. The torpedo boat was a different story because it was a surface vessel that was not much faster than large armoured warships, and could be engaged with guns in a conventional manner. The main challenge was that the torpedo boat was a small target that could creep up on a target and then increase speed quickly, drop its torpedo and run for cover. The answer was seen as the torpedo boat destroyer. That was initially not much larger than the torpedo boats.
In the decade leading up to WWI, many types of torpedo boat and destroyer were developed. They all tended to be wet boats with low free-board and poor accommodation. The main difference between them was that wood was the common material for building torpedo boats and the internal combustion engine was the most common power plant. The destroyers were built in steel and powered by steam turbines, also requiring a larger crew. The size of destroyers contained to increase and their armament also increased. By the start of WWI, the fleet destroyer was being developed as a smaller version of the cruiser, having turret mounted main guns and starting to be fitted with torpedo tubes, making the vessel both a torpedo boat destroyer and a torpedo boat in its own right.
As this development and counter development proceeded, significant advances were being made in the construction of submarines which were in effect submersible torpedo boats, spending much time on the surface and submerging prior to a stealthy attack on much larger warships and merchant vessels. The destroyer was consequently developed to address this new form of torpedo boat. It meant the addition of depth bombs and the development of detection equipment to locate and range on submerged submarines.
The result was that WWI was to see a major building program for coastal forces vessels and destroyers. It also required the development of new tactics, the training of a large number of seamen, many never having been to sea before, and the deployment of these vessels in a wide range of duties, including convoy escort and even for commando raids on enemy ports. It was an exciting time for the new crews and often a cold and uncomfortable duty. Although the development of fleet destroyers and destroyer leaders was to see some very large destroyers built, most during WWI were small vessels that gave priority to engines, weapons and fuel, at the expense of crew comfort, or even basic human consideration. If required to operate at full speed, they had relatively short range and, in any sort of a sea, they had to slow down to have any chance of firing effectively on a surface ship or in locating and attacking a submarine.
In Nelson’s Navy, the frigate was the ship in great demand and its duties were largely copied in the destroyer. Fast enough to escape most heavily armed large warships, and capable of out-gunning most other vessels, the destroyer was a natural replacement for the Napoleonic War frigate, requiring courage and dash from its crews and fighting some of the most aggressive battles of the war.
The author had the great advantage of being there for many battles. Combining direct experience, and thorough research, with an attractive writing style, and writing about some exciting and adventurous battles, this was bound to be a best seller.. It was also bound to become a classic in its genre. The only mystery is why it has been out of print for 80 years.
The writer has placed emphasis on the North Sea and the Channel which is only natural because destroyers and the smaller coastal forces craft were most active in these waters. He has however given a very compelling account of these vessels and their crews across what was a global conflict. This has meant that the Australian crews are particularly acknowledged in their Pacific Ocean activities, and he has paid tribute to the American destroyers which made such an important contribution later in the War. He has described eloquently the many duties that fell to destroyers in convoy escort, mine-laying and sweeping, U-boat hunting and convoy escort.
There are good images in the form of photographs and maps to support the text and the book has such a fresh feel to it that it could have been making its debut in this edition, rather than covering conflict of more than one hundred years ago.