by David Hobbs
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2011. Pp. xviii, 462.
Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio, index. $34.95. ISBN: 1591140447
The British Pacific Fleet, the most powerful force ever to take the seas under the White Ensign is also one of the most neglected, so this work fills a serious gap in the history of the Royal Navy and of the war against Japan.
In The British Pacific Fleet Hobbs, a former naval officer and historian (e.g., A Century of Carrier Aviation), addresses the role of the “British Pacific Fleet” in the last ten months of the war, hitherto a largely untold tale. He opens with an account British planning for a war with Japan and the circumstances and consequences of the disaster that overtook “Force Z” on December 10, 1941, leading to the withdrawal of British sea power from the Pacific and the eastern Indian Ocean. Hobbs then examines British long-term planning for a return to the Pacific, looks at operations in the Indian Ocean, the complex negotiations between the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy regarding a British “return” to the Pacific, and the development of the forces, logistical base, and procedures necessary to develop a smooth relationship between the USN and the “BPF”, which although known as “Task Force 37/57”, was not only the most powerful force the Royal Navy has ever sent to sea, but arguably the single most powerful task force in the Pacific War.
There follows a detailed account of British operations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans from November of 1944 to the end of the war, from initial air strikes against in the Netherlands Indies to airstrikes and bombardment missions against coastal installations in Japan, and on to preparations for the invasion of the Home Islands. Along the way, Hobbs covers training, organization, logistical operations, changes in equipment and procedures, and much more. He ends the volume with a look at the final years of the “BPF” after the war, and the surprisingly slow process of memorialization.
An important book for anyone interested in the history of the Royal Navy or of the war against Japan.