British Warship Recognition, Vol 2

...The Perkins Identification Albums: 2. Armoured Ships 1860-1895, Monitors and Aviation Ships


Title:  British Warship Recognition, Vol 2...

Author: Richard Perkins

Publisher:  Seaforth Publishing

ISBN:  978-1-84832-386-5

...The Perkins Identification Albums: 2. Armoured Ships 1860-1895, Monitors and Aviation Ships

This large new hardback book from Seaforth Publishing is part of a joint project between Seaforth Publishing and the National Maritime Museum.  This is the second of 8 volumes of these and is a set of high quality images that capture the original pages of a series of profiles and sketches, along with hand written notes done over many years by Richard Perkins, who donated his collection to the National Maritime Museum, along with many original photographs, before his death in 1985.

This is the second of the albums and covers a fascinating range of Royal Navy vessels, from the days when the Royal Navy was the strongest Navy in the world, and still undergoing huge changes in technology. The ships from the earlier period covered by the book include masts that Nelson would have recognized at Trafalgar, but there are also armoured hulls, more powerful armament, and coal powered steam engines, often with collapsible funnels. One of the other things to strike me were the number of ships where we see them not just when in sea service, but also later in live with lasts and equipment removed, when they were uses in various ports as training rooms or stores hulks, even coaling stations.  There are many famous names from Royal Navy history in here, even before you get to the final couple of pages where you find the famous profile of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal in 1939, let alone the previous vessel which bore the name, a seaplane carrier.

There are a variety of ships in here, many of which I had never heard of, but which this book would enable anyone to identify in old photographs.  As for the various types, this is what splits up the sections.  There are Old Battleships, Turret Ships (which includes Dreadnought), Central Citadel Ships, Barbette and Battery Ship, Central Battery Ships, Broadside Ships, Floating Batteries, Monitors, Old Monitors, Torpedo Ram, Observation Balloon Vessel, Kite Balloon Ships, Catapult Vessels (just the one experimental vessel, and appropriately named 'Slinger') and finally Aircraft Carriers, which includes Sea Plane carriers as well as the later conventional full flight deck carriers.  Most, though not all, with multiple profiles and plenty of little extra detail sketches showing various detailed changes that were made over the service history of the ships.  The level of detail is quite stunning.

Richard Perkins was a warship enthusiast and between the wars he was a photographer who took a particular interest in Royal Navy ships, leading up to 1939 when he was essentially prevented from continuing due to the security situation of the war.  As well as taking photos he also collected them, and made a point of being able to identify not just a class of ship but also the individual vessels within each class.  This went on as he was also to identify the small details, such as funnels and masts, which had changes over the years that if you knew them could enable you to identify a particular vessel and the date the picture was taken.  These are all noted, showing the changes for individual ships over their service history.  Some ships are only illustrated once or twice, as they didn't change much over their career but others have multiple entries as they changed with refits and length of service.

The coloured profiles of all these ships, some famous and other not so famous, are delightful to see in their own right, with the obvious care and attention to detail that a real enthusiast has devoted to them over many years.  What they make is pretty much a recognition bible for anyone wanting to identify individual ships in old photographs, and the whole collection would therefore be a museum photo curator's dream reference.  In saying that it would be very easy or them to remain just that, a valuable resource hidden away in a museum collection and accessible to only a few.  By the National Maritime Museum and Seaforth working together to produce these excellent quality copies, anyone can have access to this marvelous resource.  Not only is it an invaluable photo interpretation reference, but the volume and detail all carefully noted and coloured by hand over many years of an individual's obvious passion is simply delightful to see in its' own right.  With this first one looking at Capital Ships, the remaining 7 volumes are certainly to be looked forward to, and there are notes in the book of just what is included in each of the other albums to come.

A real gem for any enthusiast of an era when the Royal Navy did 'Rule the Waves' and if you examine period photos, an unrivaled reference.