This is the third volume in an outstanding account of the development of the Royal Navy’s ships from 1850 to the Falklands War. The respected author provides an absorbing account of the Royal Navy from the end of World War Two.
NAME: Nelson to Vanguard, Warship Design and Development 1923 to 1945
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: David K Brown
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Naval architecture, 1923 to 1945, Royal Navy, post WWI, technology, weapons systems, deployment, WWII
DESCRIPTION: This is the third volume in an outstanding account of the development of the Royal Navy’s ships from 1850 to the Falklands War. The respected author provides an absorbing account of the Royal Navy from the end of World War Two.
This period was marked by the effective death of Empire, although Britain continued to be a major world power and the Royal Navy operated from bases around the British Empire. WWI had taken an incredibly heavy toll on the finest of British youth as millions were slaughtered in the trench warfare of the Western Front. The Royal Navy had been robbed of its aviation as this had been transferred into the RAF, formed before the end of WWI. The RAF had little real interest in naval aviation but did not want to see a funding rival controlled by the Navy. The result was that the RN had to develop aircraft carriers without having development control of the aircraft to fly from them.
The RN also had to face the fact that naval aviation would change the face of naval warfare. A great start was made as the Royal Navy took back control of its aviation from the Army a few short weeks before the outbreak of WWI. Having control of its aviation meant that where the Army went to war with frail observation aircraft, the RN had real aerial weapons systems, having dropped the first torpedo from an aircraft a month before WWI, and having prepared detailed papers on aircraft and weapons in 1911, including depth bombs to attack submarines. Losing control of aviation greatly hampered developments in preparation for the next major war.
The Naval Treaties of the Twenties were a special threat to the RN because of the large tonnage in obsolete and obsolescent vessels, particularly battleships and battle cruisers. The RN needed to keep up with carrier development, its own submarines, and effective anti-submarine warships. The challenge was in deciding how far to delete old vessels to free tonnage for new ships in an environment where politicians would welcome the cuts but be reluctant to fund new ships in replacement.
The Great Depression and the withdrawal from the Gold Standard did not help, but the RN continued to plan and to develop technology, often adapting obsolescent hulls and seize every opportunity to win new funding to build replacement vessels.
The title of this book takes HMS Nelson as a battleship to mark the accommodation with treaty tonnage and innovative ways of building capital ships at lightest weight, and takes Vanguard as the end of era “economy” battleship built with re-used guns. However, the real development was in convoy escorts, carriers, submarines and support vessels.
This is a very readable and well-illustrated review of the period from peace to global war. An essential addition to every enthusiast’s library.