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Battleship Warspite by Robert Brown

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4.5
This is a technical (as opposed to operational) history of one of our most famous battleships, brought to us via the actual drawings used in the construction of the ship and the addition of her armament. It is grouped by the principal epochs of her life - initial construction; modernisation in 1924-6, including trunking of the two funnels into one; and major reconstruction 1934-7 including further consolidation of the funnels to accommodate an aircraft and its catapult. There was plenty going on below decks as well. In between there was rectification of battle damage - at Jutland she took 150 hits including 13 by heavy shell - and continuous improvements to facilities and armament. Thereafter the exigencies of WW2 required the fitting of radar and, by the end, vastly increased anti-aircraft armament. All this is described in very fine grain, intimate detail. The last part of the book gives a series of athwartship sections, rather like a monster MRI scan, and then the same deck by deck in plan view, the detail going right down to delineating each individual slinging billet.

To the lay eye the drawings appear pretty busy (many of the original master drawings have been overlaid by with more than one level of update, in various different colour inks as the ship's fit changed) but they needed to go down to this level to demonstrate that every piece of kit required could actually be fitted in. There are fold-outs and enlargements to assist understanding of the detail. There is a comprehensive accompanying narrative by the author explaining what one is looking at, but that is secondary to his researching and bringing these fascinating drawings to public view, assisted by the NMM and other repositories. The presentation of this book is extraordinarily elegant and the quality of reproduction of the drawings is absolutely superb. Some 1920s Warspite drawings are not available so those for her sister Malaya have been substituted, but this does not detract from value. Dimensions 29.5 x 25 cm.

I have a personal interest as one of my great uncles was stationed in her forward turret at Jutland in 1916. I only caught up with him in the last year of his life and managed to extract a single page out of him re that adventure.

Warspite turned up again for him in 1944 when he was 'sitting in a hole in the sand [on Omaha Beach] waiting for the Americans to sort themselves out' and Warspite, by then, since Salerno, short of one boiler room and with X turret inactive, was brought over to shoot the American Utah assault in, which had got a bit stuck. Her successor namesake, bearing her predecessors' twenty five Battle Honours that go back to 1596, will be defending us deep into this century.

Seaforth are to be congratulated on this tour de force, an excellent contribution to naval history besides being a tasty challenge to any model maker.
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