Book Review: To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War


by Vincent P. O'Hara, W. David Dickson, & Richard Worth, editors

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2013. Pp. x, 350. Illus., maps, tables, appends, notes, biblio, index . $37.95. ISBN: 1612510825

The neglected chapters of the Great War at sea.

Most accounts of World War I, tend to give short shrift to the maritime side, talking briefly about a handful of naval actions and the submarine war, with almost complete neglect of any fleets but the British and German.  In To Crown the Waves several specialists in naval history attempt, with considerable success, to explain the role of each of the major navies in the war, in a comparative fashion, so that the reader may better understand events at sea.

Following an introduction by the editors, To Crown the Waves book has chapters devoted to the navies of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and the U.S., plus one that gives a summary overview of the Ottoman and Japanese navies, and makes some observations about other navies in the war. 

Each chapter follows a fixed format, opening with “Backstory” (history and missions), through “Organization” (command, infrastructure, personnel), “The Ways of War” (equipment and doctrine in each warfare specialty, surface, submarine, mine, amphibious, aviation), and concluding with “War Experience and Evolution,” which gives an outline of that navy’s operations and development during the war.  This approach allows each service to be evaluated on its own terms, that is, how effective it was based on what its mission was and what resources it had, while enabling the reader to make comparisons with the missions and accomplishments of the other navies, each on its own terms. 

To Crown the Waves is a useful book for the novice or the seasoned student of the war at sea from 1914 through 1918.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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