British Submarines...

 

...In Two World Wars, from Seaforth Publishing

 

Title: British Submarines

Author: Norman Friedman

Publisher: Seaforth Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-5267-3816-5

 

I am almost unsure where to start to talk about this, another simply superb book from author Norman Friedman and Seaforth Publications. A large format hardback book of 432-pages, the first of two planned volumes on the subject. This one covers the period from the first submarines used by the Royal navy in the early 1900s, through to the end of WW2. The post-WW2 era will be the subject for the second book they have planned. While so many histories of both WW1 and WW2 talk about the German U-Boats, I suspect that the light this throws onto the British use of submarines in both world wars will come as a surprise to many.
After an introduction which sets the scene very well, the book takes us through the Royal Navy (RN) adoption of submarines in the early 1900's through to the end of WW2. From the early Holland I it goes on with the development of short range Coastal boats, and how they went through the options of just what to use them for. Observation of foreign ports, blockades, depended on the development of radios rather than any attacking role was one possibility but of course there were others. With the need for support of British interests around the world at that time, Ocean going submarines were a requirement for the RN. By the time it got to WW1, the RN was the biggest operator of submarines in the world (a simple fact which came as a surprise to me for one). There were not only those designs which went into production, but plenty of experimental boats as well. A natural result was of course the need to develop anti-submarine tactics, all of which were put to good use in WW1. There is more construction and new technology during the first war, and this led to even more development between the wars, at a time when costs were being cut/controlled as well. New Fleet Submarines and Minelayers were all in use while the Washington Treaty and arms control all had to be coped with before there was rearmament leading up to WW2. By the end of WW2 we captured and evaluated some of the late war German designs, which turned out to have both good and bad points. Many of the lessons were to be applied to submarine designs after WW2, but that will be the subject for the next book.
A magnificent book, one which I can't imagine ever being improved on. The level of detail in here, complete with not only a great collection of archive images, but with a lot of scale plans, including copies of many original builders drawings, there is just so much to see. I believe this is THE reference on the subject and will be a must for any serious submarine enthusiast/historian/modeller. A book of this size is not cheap, but once you see how much information it holds and the work that must have gone into it, then actually the price for a book which will be a prime reference on your bookshelf, I'd suggest it is remarkably good value for money. The research that has gone into this one shines through from beginning to end, so makes the prospect of another volume to come for the post-war period something else to look forward to.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin