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Janes Battleships of the 20th Century

The first book on battleships that I ever read, was Jane's Battleships of the 20th Century:


From the Dreadnought to the behemoths of the United States and Japan - this battleship book, has it all!


I was first struck by the quality of this book, especially the quality of the battleship artwork: being hand-drawn, coloured and (usually) of the right-hand-side of the vessel, I have found the drawings to be suitable fuel for my battleship interest :) The larger drawings span two pages, and are crammed full of details - including battleship conning towers, primary and secondary armament arrangement, camouflage schemes, and plenty of smaller features (such as life-rafts and lifeboats). I like the fact that the battleships are laid out country-by-country, and class-by-class, allowing me to quickly lookup a specific entry. I also like the fact that each class of battleship, is presented combined, with descriptive text, and suitable photographs. A further twist, is the fact that the drawings/text, are not only for battleships that were actually made, but are also for several battleship design studies - with my personal favourite, being the post Yamato class (Japanese) battleships. When it comes to the battleship drawings/write-ups, one of the most interesting countries is the United Kingdom. From the shear number of entries, you can see why the British Royal Navy used to be so powerful ... Although you can also see the reasons why, they lost out eventually - to the industrial might of the United States. Some of my favourite battleship classes (within this book) are: the Bismarck (I like her thick armoured hull), the Vittorio Veneto (I like her turret layout and camouflage scheme), the Nagato (I like her uniqueness, power and layout), the Yamato (I like her massive imposing presence), the Queen Elizabeth (I like the idea of them as the bastions of the Royal Navy), the Hood (I like the idea of the Pride of the Royal Navy), the South Dakota (I like their citadel layout, plus triple 16 inch naval guns!) and the Iowa (I like their subscription to the battleship maximum speed - less armour, less firepower principal). I also found the books text to be quite informative, although there are some errors! For example: there's one particular photograph, showing some of the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, that actually has an incorrect caption (and initially caused me some head-scratching). Even so, there's an incredible amount of battleship facts, history and information - contained within this book, and I especially like the way, that topic specific articles, are dropped in. Of these, there's three that I particularly enjoyed reading about ... First: The Sinking of the Utah. I had not realised before, that Utah had been modified to be a radio-controlled target ship (a side effect of the Washington Treaty). As such, she was in no fit state to defend herself - when she came under fire, at Pearl Harbour. Second: Amphibious Assault. The older battleships (such as USS Texas), could not keep up with the US aircraft carrier fleets - but their big guns were highly suitable for bombarding beaches (and other land-based fortifications). As such, I liked the fact that such battleships, were modified to work in-conjunction with the Marines (who helped to direct their ordinance, from land based positions). Third: Night Battles off Guadalcanal. Unintentional perhaps, but the USS South Dakota lost power, in the middle of one particular battle! I was amazed that this could happen to a US battleship, but it seems that the US Navy, learnt a great many lessons from this experience (such that an over-reliance on technology - that when knocked out, left key personnel, unable to perform their duties: of maintaining an operational, manoeuvrable, gun platform). Overall: this is my favourite battleship book :) I have spent many an evening just flicking through, and I often pick random pages - just to read them.

06/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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Battleships - The Ultimate Guide to the Worlds Greatest Battleships

The third book on battleships that I have read, is Battleships - The Ultimate Guide to the World's Greatest Battleships:


An enjoyable battleship book - that's packed full with both history, and stunning photographs.


The first fact I noticed about this book, is that it takes a different format ... Battleships are not presented country-by-country, they are instead broken down based upon their chronological classification: The Pre-Dreadnought Era, Dreadnought, The First World War, The Treaty Battleships, The Second World War, and the End of the Line (aka the swansong). Amazingly, this approach seems to work quite well! Another difference is the fact that this book is much more reading based - and yet, the book still manages to be crammed full of many high-quality battleship photographs :) You may think that the Pre-Dreadnought Era could be quite boring - but not at all ... I'm amazed that the Royal Navy built a fourteen thousand tonne, Royal Sovereign class battleship (called HMS Hood) in circa 1889. That fact made me wonder how many battleship classes, and battleship names have been re-used throughout naval history (as those of you who enjoy reading about battleships - shall be aware that the Royal Navy, also had a 1913 Royal Sovereign battleship class, and a later/better edition HMS Hood). My favourite chapters are The Treaty Battleships, and The Second World War - for one simple reason: battleships were clearly becoming larger and more powerful (despite the so called Washington Treaty). The book features one of the best descriptions of The Washington Treaty (and related) that I have ever read: an attempt to limit the expense of battleship building programs, by con-straining the amount of battleships each nation could have, together with the size and power of future battleships ... For me, the aim of such treaties, is no more clearly illustrated, than by the book's coverage, of the Royal Navy's Nelson class. As this book's stunning photos of HMS Nelson, only serves to highlight the fact, that Nelson had all three triple sixteen inch gun turrets mounted forwards, of the main superstructure - in a bid to save weight. Even so, this book helped me realise, that there was an unexpected side effect of such treaties: that there was nothing to stop the World's navies, improving/modernising existing battleships! This was especially true of Japan, who with an eye to future war, pretty much modernised her entire fleet - especially with regard to speed and protection. In doing so, such nations hotted up the battleship building programs again, ensuring that as World War Two broke out, most battleships would be true behemoths (the like of which had not been seen before!). I feel that this book, covers all of this in great detail, which is why it can be hard to put down :) Added to this, is the fact that the book goes one stage further, as it includes specific battleship technology sections ... Of these, my favourites are: armour protection (as I enjoyed reading about the evolution of battleship armour, especially that it's all wood backed!), inside a gun turret/naval gun (as it helped to make me aware, of the tasks undertaken by gun crews) and anti-aircraft defences (as it helped me realise, that later battleships featured three levels of such defences - long range for bombers, medium range for torpedo bombers, and short range for fighters that got through, including kamikaze). Overall: I found this book to be an amazing merger of battleship fact, battleship story/spirit, battleship history/war, and battleship photographs. Of these, there's one particular photograph (that for me), captures the Heart and Soul, of a battleship and her crew (more than any other): the USS North Carolina, as she steams to war ... (ISBN-13: 978-0857342577)

05/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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Conways Battleships

The second book on battleships that I have read, is Conway's Battleships: The Definitive Visual Reference to the World's All-big-gun Ships:


An amazing battleship book - that successfully combines text and photographs (both black and white, and colour).


After reading the introduction of this book, I decided upon one simple stance: I was hooked! The introduction covers an amazing amount of topics: battleships before 1900, fire control, Dreadnought, armour, World War One, the Washington Treaty and World War Two. The introduction also features some stunning photographs ... My favourite is that of the USS Wisconsin - which immediately puts the size of triple 16 inch naval gun turrets into perspective. Another eye opening photograph is the rotating upright of the USS Oklahoma (fifteen months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour) as I had no idea that the American's possessed such salvage equipment. Its another book that lays out battleships country-by-country, and class-by-class, with each entry typically featuring four components: a profile line drawing, a statistics box, lengthy descriptive text, and decent photographs (and/or art). I first read this book in 2011, and still find it's content - to be of interesting value :) Its another navy book, where you cant help but notice, the shear number of entries that both Great Britain, and it's Royal Navy has ... I think its fair to say, that the entries for Great Britain, best illustrate the rise of battleship technology: earlier units featuring anti-torpedo nets and booms, earlier units featuring the loading of coal (as opposed to oil fuel), earlier units featuring bi-planes (on their primary gun turrets), earlier units with wrong lessons learned (the entire battle-cruiser concept!), middle units with the emergence of the first modern battleships (the Queen Elizabeth class), all units the race for bigger naval guns (12 inch, 13.5 inch, 14 inch, 15 inch, 16 inch and 18 inch), later units the quest for speed (especially the Royal Navy's Renown and Hood classes) and finally: later units featuring thicker armour and better armour disposition (with lessons learned from wartime experience). My other favourite country's battleships (within the book), is of course the United States, and it's US Navy ... As such, one important fact is immediately apparent, about earlier American battleships: their reliance on lattice masts. Whilst I understand why the Americans opted for lattice masts (weight saving and supposed better protection from blast shock-waves), I'm so glad that they eventually made the switch to (more conventional) tripod masts! My three favourite American battleship classes (within this book) are: North Carolina (with USS Washington at speed), South Dakota (with USS Massachusetts' secondary armament all aimed skywards) and Iowa (with USS Missouri in memorial at Pearl Harbour). All three entries feature text, that just keeps you turning those pages :) Overall: an amazing battleship book, that both features informative text (although there are some errors), together with stunning photographs (especially for later battleships - such as the Iowa class). And it is here, that I realised which of the book's photographs, is indeed my all-time favourite, battleship photo (thus far): the crew of the USS Missouri, on a particular VJ Day anniversary (which really serves to illustrate, both the size and the power, of an American triple 16 inch naval gun turret!).

04/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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Hood and Bismarck - Channel 4 Documentary - Part One

One of the best documentaries I've seen on HMS Hood is - The Battle of Hood and Bismarck:


Hood and Bismarck - Channel 4 Documentary


This DVD tells the story of these two massive warships, both in terms of their history, and in terms of the exploring of their wrecks. There's a fair amount of footage of HMS Hood, which only helps to build up her sense of invincibility. With the footage of Hood's World Cruise, do we realise just how famous The Mighty Hood actually was (as she was known by much of the British Empire - and had for example, been used in the early twenties for entertaining numerous dignitaries/VIPs). I became immersed with the memories provided by Ted Briggs (Hood's last remaining survivor). I felt that he honoured his fellow crew-mates, when he laid Hood's Memorial Plaque, on one of her bow anchor chains. I felt saddened when you see the wreck of HMS Hood on the bottom of the sea bed. For want of a better expression, she's in a terrible state - with the expedition leader (David Mearns) using the phrase: that a wreck is exactly what this is (to describe her). In short: Hood was blown apart by a massive explosion that spread her hull form, guns, and superstructure out over a large area. It is here that this documentary proposes an interesting idea: for it seems that Hood was destroyed by not one, but two magazine explosions (one in the stern, and one in the bow). In turn does this documentary, answer an important question: Why did so few people survive the sinking of HMS Hood? In turn does this documentary, provide an answer: If you have the whole battleship exploding, then it's surprising that any crew members survived at all. As such, I feel that this was the main reason, that Ted's memories haunted him for over sixty years. It is here that this documentary, goes to great lengths, through the use of computerised animations - to explain why ... For me, the most chilling scene, is seeing Hood's bow disappear beneath the waves (with her bow inclined vertically upwards) - and hearing the chilling tale, about how the crew in the front parts of the ship, must have died (essentially the immense pressure of water forcing it's way through the forward parts of the warship - all over in the blink of an eye). The documentary also helps to dispel, other myths about the sinking of HMS Hood. For example, I have heard that various enquiries had proposed the idea that her steel was brittle (hence hastening her sinking). This documentary proves that this was not the case: with the side of her hull form showing evidence, that her steel stretched considerably, before breaking. Even so, I'm still amazed, by the shear amount of devastation, that's present upon the sea bed ... And as you will see, in the second half of this review (see link below), what befell the Pride of the Royal Navy, is somewhat different, to the last moments of - the Bismarck.

05/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk | Web: | Read More: Hood and Bismarck - Part Two

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Hood and Bismarck - Channel 4 Documentary - Part Two

In stark contrast to the sinking of HMS Hood (which was all over in a matter of minutes), The Battle of Hood and Bismarck documentary - explains that Bismarck, took several hours to sink:


Hood and Bismarck - Channel 4 Documentary


And yet, this is not the only difference between the shipwreck of HMS Hood, and the shipwreck of Bismarck. Where as Hood is in a terrible state (with wreckage blown over a large area), Bismarck's wreck is a totally different story. Rather amazingly, her hull form sits perfectly upright, on the side of an underwater volcano. Her hull form also appears to be amazingly intact, as the documentaries underwater footage shows ... With for example, her bow swastika - being clearly visible. One of the most amazing scenes (for me), is the underwater footage of an open barbette, as it drops away to the dark depths, of the innards of this once mighty battleship. The documentary also explains an important difference between how HMS Hood, and Germany's battleship - the Bismarck, were sunk. In essence, the Royal Navy stood back and pounded the Bismarck for over an hour (with heavy calibre shells from the battleships HMS Rodney, and HMS King George V). The Royal Navy wanted revenge for the Hood, and the Bismarck's crew paid - the ultimate price. As such, it seems that the Bismarck's above deck areas were utterly destroyed - which was fundamental to the reasons of her loss: she lost the ability to fight, and as such, was unable to return fire with her eight 15 inch guns. The documentaries underwater footage provides evidence of this, as for example, the large superstructure, together with various range finders, are found separate to the main hull form, on the bottom of the sea bed. There is also a difference between how the crews of both HMS Hood, and Bismarck awaited their fates. On Hood, the catastrophic explosions, probably gave little to no time at all - to know what was happening. On Bismarck, her crew knew full well what was happening, as her rudders had been damaged (by a Royal Navy Swordfish air-strike) - which meant that she eventually meandered towards her awaiting fate (the heavy pounding by available British battleships). The documentary concludes by laying a Memorial Plaque on Bismarck's superstructure, and overseeing a memorial gathering, with both Hood and Bismarck survivors. Overall: Hood and Bismarck - an informative DVD to watch, on one of the last great sea battles ... Both Hood and Bismarck were for me, the Space Age of their time - as they must have been as far beyond, the Ships of the Line, as a 15 inch shell is beyond, the power of a cannon ball. It is somewhat fitting then, that this documentary, levels the playing field so to speak - as undersea exploration, is still very much, in it's infancy ... Yes, David Mearns finds the wrecks of both ships, but it is a real challenge. In finding those wrecks, do I feel that he helps to remember - the spirit of the men, that served on them. And it is for us to remember, that such wrecks are still tasked with an important duty - the homes of the sailors that lost their lives, lay undisturbed, looked but never touched, for all of time.

05/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk | Web: | Read More: Hood and Bismarck - Part One

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Battleship Artwork - HMS Hood 1937