Book Review: British Cruiser Warfare: The Lessons of the Early War 1939-1941


by Alan Raven

Barnsley: Seaforth / Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2019. . Pp. 320. Illus., maps, plans, biblio., index. $64.95. ISBN: 1526747634

An Overview of Early War British Cruiser Operations

British naval historian Raven has produced a survey of British cruiser operations during the first two years of World War II. This very well illustrated work is not a narrative history, but rather a chronology of cruiser operations on almost literally a day-by-day basis, which takes up about half the volume. For some days, of course, there’s no entry at all or a very terse mention of routine movements. For other days, however, an entry can run on for several pages, setting the scene of an engagement, detailing the events, offering a critical analysis of various tactical decisions, damage inflicted, weapons effectiveness, ammunition expenditure, and more, plus a short discussion of the results of the action.

The second half of the book is essentially a series of brief appendices that look at many different aspects of the cruiser war, including an interesting overview of proposed cruiser operations in the event of an invasion of Britain, as well as the role of cruisers in shore bombardment, and matters of damage control, ship’s organization, living conditions, radar, weather, and the like.

Raven is, unfortunately, very Anglocentric. He is not as critical as he should be, for example, failing to note that British marksmanship, particularly early in the war, was quite poor. In addition, he generally neglects the other side war, including only unfortunately short pieces on the German and Italian fleets, which limits the value of the book as at times it’s impossible to fully understand what happened without knowing the other side of the story.

Specialists may find this of some use.


Note: British Cruiser Warfare is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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