British Battleships 1919-1945: New Revised Edition Hardcover – March 15, 2012
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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.
In my opinion, this is one of the two masterpieces on this subject, the other being Alan Raven and John Roberts' (R&R) British Battleships of World War Two: The Development and Technical History of the Royal Navy's Battleships and Battlecruisers from 1911 to 1946. Other works pale in comparison. The two books have many things in common, in particular their focus on the design of the ships and their changes over time. Thus, it does not surprise that the contents of the two books overlap quite a bit, and both contain a lot of excellent information, photos and line drawings. Nevertheless, I still believe any BB/BC enthusiast like me could not be wrong getting both Burt's book and R&R's book.
Both books cover Renown, Repulse and Hood in addition to the Queen Elizabeths, Royal Sovereigns, Rodney, Nelson, and King George Vs. Highlight of the key differences between Burt's and R&R's:
(1) The BB/BC classes pre-dating the Queen Elizabeth class BB are covered by Burt but not by R&R, i.e. the 13.5" gunned BB/BCs such as the Iron Dukes and Tiger. R&R starts with the QE class BBs.
(2) The light battlecruisers (Glorious, Courageous, and Furious) and their new lives as aircraft carriers are covered by Burt but not by R&R.
(3) R&R has a lot of details on the designs that were never built/completed, e.g. G3, N3, and the Lion Class BB. Only the G3 is briefly mentioned in Burt's book.
(4) Vanguard is covered by R&R but not by Burt, who ended his book with the King George V class BBs.
(5) Burt covered the ships class by class. R&R first by the time period and then class by class. Both ways have their goods and bads.
(6) Burt gave a rather short conclusion and spent paragraphs defending the British designs, with virtually no comparison with foreign counterparts. R&R provided a much more in-depth comparison of post-treaty British BB with foreign counterparts together with his conclusions, though some new information became available after the book had been written.
(7) While there are many excellent drawings in Burt's book, they span at most just the two adjacent pages with a gap in between. On the other hand, R&R has many even larger profile and deck plan drawings in fold-outs, of a similar high quality.
It also puzzles me a bit why sometimes there are minor discrepancies between the two books, even though this revised edition by Burt is more than 30 years later than that by R&R. Neverthless, most of the times they agree with each other. They both have details/opinions that are not found in the other and complement each other quite well.
All in all, this book contains lots of information. Get this book and you would not regret, as long as you are interested in BB/BC of this period. If you do not already have R&R's book, this book is an absolute must. It worths every dollar spent.
Top international reviews
I won't waste readers' time in attempting to describe the excellent contents of the book, which most potential readers will be familiar with, but will only say that a particularly treat is the way in which the author has delved into various trials carried out in the aftermarth of the first and second world wars, which have not been widely covered elsewhere.
That said, this book is not above criticism. Photos and drawings carried across two pages do not work very well and at times the arrangement of material could perhaps be improved; for example, would the individual ship histories be better placed in an appendix? In other places there is sometimes a lack of detail that the reader might have found useful; it would, for instance, have been interesting to have had some material relating to the postwar deliberations as to the fate of the KGVs. And there is an interesting summing up chapter at the end of the book that might easily have been expanded.
The major complaint, however, is that for want of extending the period covered by another year, Vanguard is not included as she should have been, thus concluding the battleship story with the type's final British development. The ship can hardly warrant a book to herself, yet it is hard to see how this ship can be now be integrated into Mr Burt's existing series of books.
Nonetheless, this is certainly a book to buy if you have any more than a superficial interest in major British warships or naval history in general. It is good vaue at the price and even considering its minor flaws, will not disappoint even the most critical reader.
a) too many typos, all trivial ones, could have been avoided with a more careful proofreading.
b) Vanguard is missing, after all she has been planned and her construction started during the time period covered by book
c) a little more pages about KGV class would have been highly appreciated, maybe at expense of Furious & co as carriers
The book itself is excellent, containing many images that I've never seen before and a very comprehensive history of the British Battleship between the years specified. As a model enthusiast and Naval enthusiast this is a definite essential in any collection.
As he says, pity at least one was not kept as a museum ship. (In the USA they have many). My vote would have gone for HMS Warspite!
I do not think that anyone, in after years, will produce a better work on this subject. It has been meticulously researched, and gives detail beyond expectation, and almost beyond belief. The comparison with contemporaneous ships of other nations adds much to the debate held about the respective merits of the many vessels..
This work is a must for naval historians, war researchers and, not the least, warship modellers.
Images and drawings alone make it money's worth. The photograps are treasures, most of them never seen before. Moreover, the photographs have been brilliantly re-worked making them invaluable sources of information and a great pleasure to look at.