European Ironclads 1860-75...

...The Gloire sparks the great Ironclad arms race, from Osprey Publishing

Title: European Ironclads 1860-75

Author: Angus Konstam

Publisher: Osprey

ISBN: 978-1-4728-2676-3

This new book brings the New Vanguard series up to number 269 from Osprey. It covers the European nations' involvement in the developments that brought about great change in the design of warships, from the wooden sailing ships to steam powered, armoured warships with modern weaponry. It sees the building of wooden ships covered in wrought iron which were proof against the older wooden hulled vessels. Armament also changed, with larger and often fewer guns, some muzzle loaders but others the newer breech loading weapons. Mountings for the guns include the older style 'broadside', along with alternative 'casemate' and 'turret' designs.

Everything was sparked off by the French, when they launched the 'Gloire' in 1859. The Royal Navy in the UK responded a little later with HMS Warrior, but the story of Britain and the Royal Navy is the subject of a separate title. In this one we find out about the reaction from other countries, specifically Austria-Hungary; Denmark; France; Germany; Italy; The Netherlands; Russia; Spain; and Turkey. I found it an interesting story to see what happened to warship design over a quite short but important part of the evolution in warship design. It is also beautifully illustrated by Paul Wright. One of the elements which surprised me the most was the incorporation of Rams within the designs, that as recently as the 1860s it was felt that simply ramming an opponent was a worthwhile option.

As well as commentary on the various designs, and how some countries which did not have their own industry to produce these modern designs turned to France and Britain in particular for their expertise.

At the end of the book there are details of the one major action which these ironclad designs did take part in during the period, that of the Battle of Lissa, between the Austro-Hungarian and Italian fleets. A very interesting period of naval development and a useful guide to the story, without getting over technical.

Thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review copy.

Robin