Book Review: The British Battleship: 1906-1946


by Norman Friedman

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015. Pp. 448. Illus., plans, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $85.00. ISBN: 1591145627

The British Battleship in the Age of the World Wars

Noted for many excellent books on naval policy, strategy, and technology, such as Fighting the Great War at Sea, Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns and Gunnery, and Naval Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era, and particularly for his volumes on U.S. warship design, in this volume Dr. Friedman applies his skills to the British battleship in the twentieth century.

This is a complex work. Friedman tackles questions of policy, diplomacy, and finance, delves into the technical details of ship design and the problems of balancing protection, firepower, speed, and more, such as the development of aircraft and its influence on ship designs, as well as the influence of various people on the evolution of the capital ship, perhaps most notably John Fisher and Winston Churchill. His treatment is generally chronological, Friedman opens with a chapter at the state of naval technology, warship design, and British maritime needs at the onset of the twentieth century. He then devotes several chapters to the origins of the Dreadnought type battleship and the battlecruiser and several more to the political, strategic, and financial issues that affected capital ship design decisions during the Anglo-German naval arms race, including the influence of foreign orders on British design. We then get three chapters that look the design trends and operations during the the First World War, which affected postwar developments.

Friedman then uses five chapters to look at the effects of interwar arms reduction efforts, the “battleship holiday,” and the evolution of capital ship design during the 1930s, as the threat of war grew again We then get a concise, but excellent overview of the surprisingly important role of the battleship in the Second World War, followed by its rapid passing afterwards.

While the focus of the book is the British capital ship, Friedman covers developments in other navies, particularly as they affected British design considerations. In addition, he covers ideas and designs that never materialized, as they were often important to the evolution of the technology, and discuses the effects of actual operations on designs.

This well illustrated volume is an essential work for serious students of modern naval warfare.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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