Capital Ships At War 1939-1945 by John Grehan and Martin Mace

  • Capital Ships At War 1939-1945. Is a fascinating insight into some of the most famous battles fought by the Royal Navy in the Second World War, alongside some of those that are less prominent. The first thing that I feel it necessary to mention, is that the book is not a narrative account of these battles as such. It is a collection of the despatches written by senior Officers about the actions. In this it gives a lucid and factual insight into the thought processes and battle plans of those Officers, providing a unique perspective of these combats probably not revealed to all save the most dedicated of Naval scholars.

    The book is divided into six chapters each detailing a different action. These are , The Battle of the River Plate, the sinking of the Bismarck, the loss of HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse, the X-Craft attack on the Tirpitz, the sinking of the Scharnhorst, and lastly an account of the British Pacific Fleets contribution to the landing on Okinawa. All I can say is that each account is loaded with detail of thousands of aspects of Naval warfare from this time, logistics, dispositions, ammunition usage, tactics, strategy, Commanders intentions, and lastly after action reports.

    Most of us with a passing interest in Naval conflict know the basics of these actions, however these dispatches take the detail to another level. The picture painted shows nothing but the professionalism of the Second World Wars Royal Navy and its collective sense of purpose. I can only feel a sense of awe at the courage of the men involved in the sometimes virtually suicidal actions required and calmly carried out without question. The X-Craft attack on the Tirpitz is a prime example of this, as is the Cruiser action against the Graf Spee on the River Plate.

    The authors have succeeded in detailing a wealth of information accompanied by a selection of supporting photos, in a way which carries the reader through each chapter in a logical and chronological sequence. A novel it is not but no less entertaining and absorbing for that.

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