Book Review: The Battleship Holiday: The Naval Treaties and Capital Ship Design


by Robert C. Stern

Barnsley, Eng.: Seaforth / Naval Institute Press, 2017. Pp. 272. Illus., plans, diagr., appends., notes, biblio., index. $42.95. ISBN: 1848323441

Naval Arms Control and Capital Ship Design

Stern, the author of Big Gun Battles: Warship Duels of the Second World War, The U.S. Navy and the War in Europe, and other works on naval history, takes a look at the effects of the naval arms limitation treaties of the interwar period on the design of battleships and battlecruisers, defined at the time as “capital ships”. In addition to new ships actually added to the fleets, also examines many more projects that were never realized projects, important because the experience of designing these ships, which always incorporated new and evolving technology, helped hone the skills of the designers, toward the time when construction of real ships was resumed.. And Stern does not ignore how the treaties influenced the remodeling or reconstruction of existing older ships, which in the test of war often proved as useful as the newest ones.

Stern not only looks at the technical aspects of ship design, but also at how the treaties and the new vessels built in accordance with them, affected naval planning and operations during the interwar period and on through the end of the Second World War. Setting his treatment firmly within the broader the history of the big gun capital ship in the twentieth century, covering trends in ship design and operational experience, from the Washington treaty of 1922 on through the post-war era.

Particularly when discussing trends in ship design, Stern cleverly uses a chronological approach. So rather than cover warship policies, projects, programs, and technical progress by each of the principal navies – Britain, Germany, France, the U.S., Japan, and Italy – individually, he weaves them together. In this way, the reader gets a nuanced picture of the general trends and how developments in warship design by each country influenced and were influenced by those in the others.

Very well illustrated, The Battleship Holiday is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the final age of the big gun warship.


Note: The Battleship Holiday is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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