Wartime Standard Ships...


...from Seaforth Publishing


Title: Wartime Standard Ships

Author: Nick Robins

Publisher: Seaforth Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-84832-376-6

I am sure I am not the only one, but the mention of wartime standard ships immediately brings the famous Liberty ships to my mind.  Of course there is so much more to the subject and this book does an excellent job in collecting together the many aspects of the story.  It starts with WW1, particularly with the National type cargo ships of WW1, which started to use pre-fabricated sections that could then simply be put together.  I found an interesting little point in this that during WW1 Japan was an Ally, and actually built some of these for the British.  That experience was clearly helpful, as during WW2 they built their own series of standard ships.  Equally, Germany also produced some standard ship designs which they built, used particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Baltic.  They included both cargo ships and tugs.

The book examines so many aspects of the subject.  War brings greater demand for cargos of food, war materials and of course troop transport.  Enemy action, by submarines in particular of course, means that losses need to be replaced and the danger comes if you can't replace them quick enough.  The established shipbuilders were losing skilled workers who volunteered to fight and established shipbuilding processes needed to be expanded.  Hence we get to the explanation of new ship designs which simplified elements of the design/construction so some of the more complex hull shapes could be changed and allow other engineering companies to use their own expertise to build pre-fabricated sections of vessels that could then be put together on a slipway.  The American industrial machine came into its' own in WW2, with new shipyards, new techniques as welding replaced the conventional riveting and the speed at which they were coming off the slipways in huge numbers.  Around 2700 Liberty ships were built during WW2.  Towards the end of the war, the even faster Victory ship was being built.

Cargo ships, Tankers, Tugs, Tank Landing Ships, Coasters were all being built to standard designs.  Some of the new techniques, such as welded construction, changed the whole ship building industry post war.  Despite being built 'with no frills' many of these ships went on to serve civilian shipping companies for many years after the wars were over.  The book gives us the story of these ships from WW1 and WW2 and is well illustrated not only of the shipyards and the wartime service but many showing the ships in private, commercial use after the war plus those still preserved as museum exhibits.  I found this not just an interesting book to read but learnt a lot, including the German and Japanese standard ship programmes.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.