Battleships - the War at Sea by Ingo Bauernfeind

Battleships - the War at Sea by Ingo Bauernfeind

Rating
4.5
The scope of the book covers the inception of the capital ship (battleship or battlecruiser) and its life from 1871 to 1999 although the battleship's primary role - to fight other battleships - only lasted from 1904 (the Russo-Japanese War) to 1944 (the Battle of Leyte Gulf); it will be seen how seldom was there actual battleship-on-battleship action. The shore bombardment role, and therefore ultimate service life, lasted to 1991.

The inception, design and steady increase in power are crisply chronicled, together with a running comparison of the internationally competitive development process, curtailed post-WW1 by treaties that reflected all nations' financial problems, and then the exigencies of war. There are intriguing glimpses of the behemoths that might have been. We then follow the ships' employment and major battles, and their ultimate vulnerability to torpedoes, mines and aircraft (and specifically a combination of the first and last of these). The gains and losses are described - the only major omission I could spot is that Taranto did not merely damage ships, it forced the Italian fleet clean out of this useful southern base back to a more distant one in La Spezia. It is also worth noting that although there were no major results from direct attack during the Channel Dash, Scharnhorst took serious damage from two mines on the last lap home and Gneisenau was knocked out of the war by an RAF raid on Kiel shortly afterwards.

The author has done well, within 160 pages, to compile such a crisp, coherent and complete narrative, particularly considering the global reach required to cover the big ships of the Royal Navy and the navies of the United States, Japan, Russia, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. He has included interesting quotes from a number of interlocutors with relevant WW2 and post-war experience. A number of b/w photographs are included in the run of the text, many from US sources. The bibliography is short - nine books of which five are by Bauernfeind.

This is a pocket encyclopaedia on its subject, close-packed, very informative and often fascinating.

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