British Cruiser Warfare...

 

...The Lessons of the Early War, 1939-1941, from Seaforth Publishing

 

Title: British Cruiser Warfare

Author: Alan Raven

Publisher: Seaforth Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-5267-4763-1

 

As the title tells us, this new book from author Alan Raven and Seaforth Publishing provides an excellent and detailed picture of how the Royal Navy developed the use of Cruisers in the early years of WW2. A large format hardback book with 320 pages, I learnt a lot from it.
The first section of the book takes us through a Chronology of events, from September 1939 through to December 1941. These were years when generally, the war was not going well for Great Britain and her allies. Yes despite some setbacks on the Naval front, it was also one theatre of the war when certain events did go our way. British cruisers were heavily involved with the hunt for both the Graf Spee and the Bismark. They also played a significant part in the Battle of Matapan against the Italians and were able to shell shore targets in North Africa as well as vital convoy protection duties. The Royal Navy was strong, but peacetime was not the same as war, and add in the latest technological developments, there was still a lot to learn.
The next significant element to the book are a series of Summaries of the various lessons that were drawn from the events covered in the Chronology. These include Surface Gunnery, Shore Bombardment, Anti-Aircraft Tactics, Fighter Direction as well as the new technology of ASDIC, Radar and operating Shipborne Aircraft. If this isn't enough, there were additional lessons for Crew Conditions, referred to as Human Condition in the book, Weather and more. Then there is the impact of radio and communications, coupled with the breaking of both German and Italian Codes, as well as their breaking of British Codes. Intelligence played a significant part in the story, and for the years to come. It considers both the German and Italian Navies before we get to a closing section listing the various classes of British Cruisers of the period, with essential facts and figures about each one, and including some scale drawings. In addition to the inforative, and very readable text, it is supported by plenty of archive photos of a large number of vessels throughout the book. The lessons learnt in this early part of the war went on to be applied to operations later in the war.  For anyone with an interest in WW2 naval warfare, this will be a helpful addition to your bookshelf of references.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin