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Follow the Author
British Battleships 1919-1945: New Revised Edition Hardcover – March 15, 2012
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About the Author
- Publisher : Naval Institute Press; Reprint edition (March 15, 2012)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1591140528
- ISBN-13 : 978-1591140528
- Item Weight : 4.7 pounds
- Dimensions : 10 x 1.25 x 12 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,254,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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The quality of the photographs in Burt's book is definitely superior to R&R. As you'd expect from a recent Seaforth/Naval Institute title, most of the photographs are extremely crisp and detailed, presumably the result of them being scanned directly from the original negatives. R&R suffers from being published in the mid-70s on poorer quality paper, and many of the photographs are rather muddy or feature excessively high contrast. Although Burt's line drawings aren't quite as sharp looking as John Roberts', many of them actually more detailed, especially in the cross-sections of the King George V- and Nelson-class battleships, the transverse sections, and the depictions of battle damage.
Burt's book is also superior to R&R's when it comes to the histories of individual ships. Each ship here receives a fairly detailed timeline of its career post-1919, as well as detailed reports of each instance these ships received damage, accompanied by lengthy official reports and detailed diagrams. R&R features a well-written distillation of British capitol ship operations during World War II, but not as much history as Burt. There are some intimate photographs of life onboard, and of calm moments between the World Wars, giving this book a more humanistic feel. There's even a few ships covered here but not in R&R, including the ex-battlecruisers Furious, Glorious, and Courageous", which receive two chapters, and the old battleship Iron Duke, in commission until the end of the war.
In some respects, however, R&R is vastly superior. The devil is in the details, and Burt never approaches the same level achieved by R&R. R&R included numerous chapters on the lessons learned in both world wars, comparisons with foreign battleships, British capitol ship design between the wars, including chapters on the Lion-class and the genesis of the King George V-class, and the impact of the Washington and London naval treaties. Burt largely focuses on the finished ships and their histories, pushing the more detailed nitty-gritty stuff aside. I prefer the layout of R&R to Burt; R&R is helped immensely by having a detailed table of contents and a fairly comprehensive index, something which Burt lacks.
I think it's safe to describe "British Battleships of World War Two" as a rather dense technical study, while "British Battleships 1919-1945" is a beautifully illustrated tribute to these ships. Burt's only really galling omission is the HMS Vanguard, the last battleship ever launched. After spending $160 on R.A. Burt's revised and updated "British Battleship" trilogy, I now own a beautifully illustrated, detailed study of every British armored fighting ship since the HMS Devastation of 1869 - except one. R&R featured an entire chapter on Vanguard, complete with a fold-out plan. Speaking of plans, many of those in R&R are presented as foldouts, and all of the plans in this book have large gaps in the middle so detail doesn't get lost in the gutter. Catch-22, I suppose.
In the end, you might want to vote with your wallet on this one. I've seen copies of R&R going for reasonable prices on Ebay, but anyone not willing to wait months for that perfect bargain to pop up might want to buy Burt's instead. Both books have their positives and negatives. R&R is a masterpiece starting to show it's age, and Burt's is beautifully illustrated and informative, but nowhere near as ambitious. Both belong in the collection of any serious warship enthusiast.
The pattern of the book is fairly simple. After some introductory chapters Burt follows each class of ship and each ship in the class until its final disposal whether in action or in the breakers yard. There is a fairly brief background, design, and development history followed by a fairly detailed technical description. Then the appearance changes of the ships are enumerated. Brief histories of each ship are given except when the ship was damaged or sunk in action. In these cases the histories become quite detailed. All is supported by tables, black and white photographs, and especially Burt's quite detailed line drawings which are numerous and quite detailed. Especially interesting are the one's detailing the battle damage reports that can be quite difficult to follow otherwise. Camouflage is also covered in depth supported by colored endpaper drawings.
Interestingly, the aircraft carrier conversions of Furious, Glorious, and Courageous are also covered in precisely the same detail even after their conversions all the way through to their final fates. There is even a short chapter describing the development of the aircraft carrier in the Royal Navy.
This book basically describes the "what" of these ships although it doesn't completely ignore the "why". Raven and Roberts' "British Battleships of World War Two" is superior in the "why" respect although Burt is preferable otherwise. Neither however can be considered the definitive history of the British battleship. Both books are aimed more to the "rivet counters" than the historically minded. Hopefully, Norman Friedman's attention will turn to battleships once the second book of his history of British cruisers is published.
The book could have also used a glossary and a more comprehensive index. Numerous three letter abbreviations are used with abandoned and the reader is assumed to be intimately familiar with them all. This is not a book for the complete naval tyro.
Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in this subject despite the high retail price. If you missed it the first time around don't miss out this time. Burt's books command high prices on the secondhand market. A revised edition of his "British Battleships of World War One" is in the works as well.
Top reviews from other countries
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 27, 2019
It is amazing how much information was crammed into a book covering such a vast subject. Having said that, obviously single class, or single ship books would expand on the information here greatly. But for a very good overview, I highly recommend this book. Thumbs up.