Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard

Conway Maritime Press

The Destroyer Campbeltown

Edition: 2004 (1st Published 1990)

Author: Al Ross

ISBN: 0851779972

Publishers: Conway Maritime Press

Price £25

Publication Date: This Edition 2004

This is the story of one of the 'Gift-horses'. One of the obsolete flush-decked destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy in exchange for extended leases on a number of British bases along the Atlantic seaboard.  Even if you didn’t serve on a 'Town' you will have some idea of what a flush-decker is if you served in a British Battle Class.

 This is about one particular ship of a class called 'Towns'.  A factual account of the service of all these ships, which were acquired in late 1940 can be found in 'Destroyers for Great Britain' (A History of 50 Town Class Ships Transferred from the United States to Great Britain in 1940) by Arnold Hague, published by the Naval Institute Press in 1990 (revised and extended edition).

All of the towns were names common to both countries eg Leeds, Newport, Leamington, Reading, Salisbury and of course perhaps the best known HMS Campbeltown (ex-USS Buchanan), which is the subject of this book.

Like all books of this series, there is a very complete and detailed introduction which covers, design history, service history of USS Buchanan (DD 131), service history of HMS Campbeltown, general arrangement and hull structure, boilers, particulars of ship’s machinery, turbines, steering, fuel tank capacity, ground tackle, fire control, Sonar (she was fitted with ASDIC in the UK), searchlights, gun armament, torpedo arrangement, depth charges and projectors, ship’s boats, camouflage, and alterations for the St Nazaire raid.

This is followed by a very detailed list, which contains cross-reference of USN-RN names and pennant numbers of all the towns and their fates.  It is notable that only seven were sunk by U-boats.

There are 26 large black and white photographs, many of which are probably rare and make this book worth owning.  It has to be acknowledged how difficult it must have been to acquire photographs.  Indeed Arnold Hague in his book tells us that some shots were illicitly taken by crew members.  I would like to believe that there are still some out there undiscovered.  I was recently sent a brief cine-camera film of a few seconds frame of HMS Apollo passing through Tower Bridge out of the Pool of London; so it does happen.

The rest of the book is taken up by drawings to a scale of 1/256 3 /64" = 1ft.

One of the boats is familiar, the good old 27 foot whaler, which, with it’s centreboard is well known to older Royal Naval personnel.  The notes do admit that it is not actually known that she carried the 27 foot RN version, it could have been a USN 24 foot type.

This book is worth having and of course if you are a model maker, a must.

Rob Jerrard

Anatomy of a Ship Bismarck

Author: Jack Brower

ISBN: 0851779824

Publishers: Conway Maritime Press

Price £30 RRP UK

Publication Date: 2005

As a boy in the 1950s I can vividly remember family visits to my paternal grandmother's house being dominated by the adults having whispered conversations, the subject of which appeared to be a proud young sailor whose smiling and carefree portrait hung in pride of place above the living room hearth. We children were never privy to these mysterious huddled conferences, and it was only much later I learned that the young sailor was, in fact, my father's elder brother George who, in May 1941, had been a Telegraphist on the staff of Vice­Admiral L E Holland on board HMS Hood. Tragically, at 06.01 hrs on 24 May 1941, along with 1,415 other members of her ship's company, he perished in the freezing waters off Greenland's Cape Farewell, when the elderly battlecruiser was quickly dispatched by the infinitely more powerful German battleship Bismarck, This revelation has given me a lifelong personal interest in all aspects of the tragic events which took place over 60 years ago and which brought terrible sadness to the lives of thousands of families in both Britain and Germany.

This highly acclaimed series of books, with the battleship Bismarck being the latest ship to be dissected and examined in detail, provides a most comprehensive insight into the vessel whose name today is synonymous with that of HMS Hood. The Canadian author has spent many months in Germany researching the Bundesarchiv Kriegsmarine and poring over the original records of the Blohm and Voss shipyard. Without doubt it was time well spent, for we have the ship's history in the form of a chronological schedule, which covers events from the laying of the keel, right through to the discovery of the wreck of the Bismarck on 8 June 1989. Surprisingly, this section includes a great deal more information than one would normally expect of such a schedule, and in respect of "Operation Rheintibűng", the codename for the breakout of Bismarck and Prinz Eugen into the Atlantic Ocean to conduct a surface campaign against British mercantile shipping.  The events are recorded on a 24-hour basis. The descriptions of Bismarck's action against Hood and Prince of Wales are vivid and in the final battle, when Bismarck was faced with the overwhelming superiority of the Royal Navy and after her steering gear had been irreparably damaged by aircraft from HMS Ark Royal, the author gives us what is virtually a minute-by-minute account of events.

The second section of the book covers the design specifications and every aspect of Bismarck's building, down to the most detailed measurements, covering her hull, armour, armament and machinery, as well as all her boats and most of the specialist equipment aboard what was in 1941 one of the most modem and powerful battleships afloat. Although the pages contain a wealth of technical information, the author has written it in an easy and straightforward style and one does not need any specialist knowledge to understand all there is to know about Bismarck.

For many readers one of the highlights of this book will be the photographic section which, although confined to six pages, contains 12 superb photographs of the ship or on-board scenes. Two of them are particularly fascinating and dramatic, the first of which, taken only minutes after the sinking of Hood, shows Bismarck in the half-light of dawn in the Denmark Strait, firing devastating broadsides at Prince of Wales. The second shows 16-inch salvoes from HMS Rodney falling astern of what is now the blazing wreck of Bismarck. Just to the right of the shell splashes, thick black smoke can be seen belching from the once proud battleship.

By far the biggest section of the book are the 30 pages of scale drawings which, in previous volumes of the series have been the model-makers' "bible". They will certainly not be disappointed with this volume. Apart from the modellers, the drawings are of great interest to the general reader, and it is both fascinating and exciting to be able to browse through the pages of detailed plans and see exactly where everything was in the ship, from the Admiral's Day Cabin and the messdecks, right down to superb scale drawings of all the ship's main and secondary armament. The detail extends to intricate drawings of specialist equipment, and even to the ship's scuttles. For me the most interesting were the side-section cutaway plans of the main gun turrets, barbettes and ammunition hoists, and the detailed deck plans showing the ship's company accommodation. As an additional bonus the book's dust jacket hides a superb fold-out 1:500 general arrangement and hull structure plan.  A shame that it has been folded to function as the dust jacket.

Perhaps the final words on Bismarck - Hood should go to Admiral-of-the-Fleet Lord Chatfield who, in a letter to The Times of 28 May 1941 summed up the power of Bismarck, and the relative weakness of Hood, thus: "The Hood was destroyed because she had to fight a ship 22 years more modem than herself. This was not the fault of the British seamen. It was the direct responsibility of those who opposed the rebuilding of the British Battle Fleet until 1937, two year before the second Great War started. It is fair to her gallant crew that this should be written." There must be, in that quotation, a lesson for the politicians of today.

This totally comprehensive and visually exciting book, "The Battleship Bismarck", is a must for historians, warship buffs and model-makers alike, and it comes highly recommended to grace any bookshelf.

Neil McCart.

The Ships of Trafalgar The British, French and Spanish Fleets October 1805

Edition: 1st

Author: Peter Goodwin, Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory

ISBN: 1844860159

Publishers: Conway

Price £35 RRP UK

Publication Date: September 2005

Press Release

‘A must for serious students of Nelson and one which will set the standard for years to come’. Julian Stockwin, author of the best-selling Thomas Kydd series.

The first major work to examine, in detail, every single British, French and Spanish vessel that was present at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Based almost entirely on new primary research and interpretation by a leading expert.

The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, remains one of the defining actions in naval history. The decisive nature of the engagement, the death of Nelson and the outpouring of national grief in the aftermath have inspired a wealth of literature on the battle and many narratives have retold this famous action. However, until now no work has attempted to provide an in-depth history of each of the British, French and Spanish vessels that were at the engagement. Dividing the fleets into the relevant classes by their rating, this keystone work then proceeds to provide a service history of each individual vessel, including specification tables, list of commanders, casualty lists and refit histories. Each class of vessel is illustrated by original plans drawn specially by the author alongside contemporary and modern images of the ships.

Vital contextual information is included, on design and construction, styles, relative merits between the British and Combined fleets, trends and developments in armament and fighting techniques, and a comparison of the pound-for-pound effectiveness of the rival fleets. This book is a complete standard-setting guide to the essence of the greatest naval battle, the ships at Trafalgar.

About the author

Peter Goodwin has been Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory for over 10 years and is placed in an ideal position to write this definitive work. His previous publications include the widely-acclaimed Nelson's Ships, The Construction and Fitting of the Sailing Man of War: 1650-1850 and most recently, Nelson's Victory: 101 Questions and Answers about HMS Victory.


This is a book which I had very much looked forward to owning.  We cannot know the history, the fate of all the men who fought, but of the ships we know much more, what became of  Pickle? (“I have urgent dispatches"), Temeraire (the fighting Temeraire, I’ll thank you Captain Harvey to keep your proper station, which is astern of the Victory), Belleisle (defiant and dismasted), Britannia (showed an inability to get into the thick of the action), Bellerophon (became a prison ship) and Mars, Royal Sovereign et al?

As you read the full history of each ship you learn so much more.  The extracts from the ships logs at Trafalgar make exciting reading in some cases, others are routine entries.  Some questions will never be answered,  eg Northesk's inability to get Britannia into the thick of the action where her guns could have made such a difference.

Some of the ships that served so well at Trafalgar seem to have had the same fate.  We are reminded of this with Bellerophon laid out near the hulk Retribution (a prison ship) in the Thames, "Like your wicked Noah's Ark cribbed and barred and moored by massive rusty chains".  What a pity we could not have preserved at least one more of the Trafalgar fleet (up until 1949 we did indeed have the opportunity), we do retain at least one other link to sailing ship days, HMS Trincomalee, which for a time was called Foudroyant after Nelson's flagship of that name.  That was the name she bore all the years I remember her in Portsmouth Harbour.  Sailing into this same Harbour 90 years ago you could have seen the impressive sight of HMS St Vincent near the Gosport side. She was in fact the boys’ training ship launched in 1815 during the lifetime of John Jervis.  HMS St Vincent returned to Gosport in 1927 when the shore establishment was opened at the old RMLI Barracks in Forton Road.

British built ships fought on both sides; this was because of the taking of prizes.  Listed in the French fleet are Berwick and Swiftshore, these were captured from the British.  The Berwick was lost in the storm because their crew cut the cables and she was driven onto the shoals of San Lucar.

The final fate of the French ship Dauguay Trouin is described as "an act of destruction infamous in the annals of maritime ship preservation", and so it should be, to our shame in 1949 we actually blew this ship up; captured at Trafalgar she served in the Royal Navy under the name HMS Implacable, quite rightly the motto of the World Ship Trust is "Never Again".

This is a magnificent book and no serious student of Trafalgar can afford to be without it

Rob Jerrard 18th Nov 2005

The Battle of Trafalgar

Edition First

Author Martin Robson

ISBN 0851779794

Publishers Conway Maritime Press

Price £20

Publication Date August 2005

In the Introduction the author asks the question, perhaps trying to pre-empt any reviewer’s comment, "this begs the question, one that all historians working in this field must asks themselves, is there room for another book?"  The author then goes on to give us his answer, his reasons.  Amongst his reasons are:-

"Many of the existing studies are out of date; since their publication new material has come to the fore, allowing us to approach the battle from a more complete viewpoint. Biographies of Nelson, appearing with increasing regularity over the past few years, concentrate on his role in the battle without examining the wider experience of the French, Spanish and British crews who fought and died that day.  Of course one cannot examine Trafalgar without the shadow of Nelson looming over the subject. Nearly 200 years after his death he remains one of the greatest Britons, an iconic, larger than life character, whose story still has many things to say to the twenty-first century.  Yet, as this book will prove, there is much more to Trafalgar than the story of Nelson. Recent studies that attempt to examine the battle as a whole do just that, without any reference to the wider strategic context of the campaign.  The events that led to Trafalgar began several years before, and the effects of the battle have echoed down through almost 200 years of naval history."

I liked this book right from the start.  If you want to consider all the factors which led up to Trafalgar then this approach of the Introduction, with maps and boxed-out themes to explain the persons involved and key issues is easy and relaxing to absorb. 

The maps on the Introduction pages set the scene, however only one has Cape Trafalgar indicated.  I would have liked to have seen a large scale map of the area because I would be interested to know, if questions regarding the location of Cape St Vincent and Cape Trafalgar were posed on a television programme, how many people would know where they are?  Does it matter?  Well it mattered very much to severely damaged ships that faced a four-day storm trying to get back home to England. 

Before reading about Trafalgar, the scene had to be set in the mind of the reader with knowledge of previous major fleet battles - the Glorious 1st of June (1794),  St Vincent (14 February 1797), Camperdown (11th October 1797),  Nile (1st October 1798), Copenhagen (2nd April 1801) and finally Trafalgar (21st October 1805).  The chapter entitled "The British Defence Against Invasion" does just that, with a boxed-out theme on Admiral Sir William Cornwallis and a very good boxed-out theme on sailing ships ie what is a First Rate down to an unrated ship.  Victory was of course a First Rate.

It is enlightening to have the opportunity to read of the exploits of names that are familiar because they now bear the names of ships or classes of ships eg, Sir Henry Blackwood (1770-1832), Blackwood Class 14 Anti-submarine frigate, and Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy, again this was a Blackwood Class.  Two others  were Dundas, Captain Thomas Dundas of Naiad (38 guns) in Collingwood’s lead column and Pellew, Sir Israel Pellew (Lord Exmouth) (1758-1832).  

Whoever drew the painting of the naked French woman from the French ship picked up by the crew of HMS Pickle, must have had some imagination.  She doesn’t look the type to have been onboard a ship masquerading as a man.

Nelson’s death and funeral are well covered.  Since Portsmouth is my home town I have of course been on board HMS Victory, but I wondered as I read this book, how many ex-RN men have stood in the Great Crypt at St Paul’s before the great hero?  I must admit my first time was a bit casual.  As a City of London Policeman on duty at St Paul’s, I had gone down the Crypt for a break and wandering around I found myself in his presence.  I thought, "Well here we are at last and you were right all along St Paul’s is still standing, but then again, so is Westminster Abbey".  

What a difference a rank makes.  Most of the dead were thrown overboard and many of the survivors were to become victims of the Vagrancy Act 1824, when the Government of a grateful Nation made offences of, sleeping rough, wandering abroad and begging, and wandering abroad and exposing wounds.

Part of Nelson’s Prayer for Victory was,".May no misconduct in anyone tarnish it; and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature of the British Fleet."  The Crews kept their part.

Cuthbert Collingwood later joined Nelson in the crypt.  

I hope we all remember them on the 21st October 2005.  All those killed or wounded and those who carried on afterwards.   They do not lie in Gray’s Country Churchyard as they should have, " Let not Ambition mock their useful Toil, Their homely joys and Destiny obscure; Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful Smile, The short and simple Annals of the Poor. The Boast of Heraldry, the Pomp of Pow'r,  And all that Beauty, all that Wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike th'inevitable Hour. The Paths of Glory lead but to the Grave."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It is one you don’t necessarily need to read front to back.  You can just select items which interest you.  

I look forward to the other planned books in this series and hope they keep to the same format.

Rob Jerrard

The Island Nation

Author: Brian Lavery

ISBN: 1844860043

Publishers: Conway Maritime Press

Price £20 RRP UK

Publication Date: 2005


Foreword by Ellen MacArthur

Official book of the SeaBritain

From invasion to Empire and World War, the story of the British and the Sea

Author Brian Lavery is one of the UK's leading maritime historians and a curator at the National Maritime Museum

Throughout her history, Britain has been defined by the sea.  Giving the British people protection and reinforcing their sense of separateness and isolation, our island geography has defined our national character and produce our most memorable characteristics of insularity, individualism, eccentricity and our distinctness from our European neighbours.

So what lies behind our complex relationship with the sea and our coastal heritage? In this age of globalisation, European integration, and increasing migration is it any longer possible to talk about an Island Nation.  Brian Lavery looks at the key events in our maritime history from early invasion that introduced the English people to trade, empire, emigration and World War.  Coming right up to the present day with an examination of Britain and her place in the global world.  The Island Nation explores how the sea inspired artists, scientists, inventors, and heroes like Brunel, Nelson, Britten and Turner.

Including a Gazetteer of over 100 heritage sites to visit (all part of the 2005 Sea Britain festivities) this is both a celebration and examination of a unique people and their heritage.  The Island Nation is published as part of the major SeaBritain 2005.  Partners include The National Maritime Museum, The National Trust, English Heritage, the Royal Navy, the RNLI with the support of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The Author:

Brian Lavery is a Curator at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and a renowned expert on the history of the Navy. His earlier title for Conway, Jack Aubrey Commands, was an international bestseller. Brian was the technical adviser to Peter Weir and his crew during the filming of Patrick O'Brien's novel, 'Master and Commander.

What does it mean to be an island nation and why is it so important to Britain? There never was a time when the boundaries of state coincided with its coastline, even if one ignores the small offshore islands.  Yet for all our cultural differences, the island, peoples of Britain became for a while the most successful maritime nation in modern history, creating the largest empire of all time, backed for more than 200 years by the strongest navy and the largest merchant fleet.  And Britain is still a maritime nation.

This magnificent volume explores our rich and complex relationship with the sea through several thousand years of history.  Author Brian Lavery moves with consummate skill between topics as diverse as the rise of the Royal Navy or the development of specialised fisheries, the motives behind exploration and emigration or the protection' of our shores from invasion, to deliver an all-encompassing account that is accessible and revealing,.

The book expresses the British seafaring spirit, not just remembering the legendary figures of Drake and Cook, but continued in our Olympics successes in sailing and epitomised in Ellen Arthur's record-breaking, single-handed round-the-world voyage that so captured the public imagination.

And beyond this the sea has been a vital inspiration to so many artists and writers, which is beautifully reflected in the wealth of paintings from the collection of the National Maritime Museum that illustrate the book.  Additional photographic imagery comes principally from the picture archives of VisitBritain and Conway Maritime Press.

Each chapter includes features on preserved ships, classic boats, museums and other notable sites, both coastal and inland, such as lighthouses and canals, and the book is rounded off with a Gazetteer listing attractions.  For sailors and landlubbers alike, The Island Nation is a glorious reminder that our maritime heritage is, something we can all engage with.

The Sailor’s Word-Book

Author: W H Smyth

ISBN: 0-85177-972-7

Publishers: Conway Maritime Press

Price £9.99

Publication Date: This Edition 2005

This book was first published in 1867.  You would have to read it with that in mind. The reader of English literature who is unfamiliar with the development of the language often fails to recognize that a word in use today may have had a totally different meaning for its sixteenth-, seventeenth-, eighteenth- or even nineteenth-century writer.  The difficulty is not with those words that have dropped out of normal circulation but with those words whose meanings have undergone considerable change through the centuries.

Take the following as an example.  This is an undated newspaper cutting, which I came across.

"The deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester has received an unusual kind of publicity because he said in a public statement 'I wish to refute here and now . . .'something he wanted to deny.  Refuting is not denying, say the critics.  Refuting is disproving; producing evidence that something is wrong. 'Refute' has come under attack as 'the prime weasel-word of our day,' which probably means that it's a word in the process of taking on an additional meaning. There's a lot about 'refute' in the big Oxford English. Dictionary, and if the deputy chief constable's critics had looked at that they might have been warier as to its developing meaning.

If refute doesn't mean deny today, it pretty soon will, considering the speed and variety of changes going on in our ever-changing language.  Anyway what (you might ask) is a 'weasel-word'?  It's a word used to dodge a question; and it comes from the weasel's reputed habit of getting all the contents out of an egg without changing the egg's appearance.  Living as we do in times when any instrument seems designed for belabouring or pelting the police, and the police themselves issue more and more public statements, any word can be a weasel-word and any kind of target can be a communicator"

I am not sure where that came from but I think it was CH Rolph writing in Police Review at least 20 years ago.  Well what does ‘refute’ mean now?

THE SAILOR'S WORD-BOOK is an incomparable alphabetical digest of nautical terms - some 14,000 in all.   It defines a huge range of common and rare words, some of which, though now antiquated or obsolete, nevertheless appear regularly in contemporary works, because it remains one of the principal sources for many of the foremost writers of maritime non-fiction and fiction of our times.

With the change in meaning firmly in mind take page 1 and the term AB

The rating of Able Seamen on the ship's books: these two letters are often used as an epithet for the person so rated.   He must be equal to all the duties required of a seaman in a ship-not only as regards the saying to "hand, reef, and steer," but also to strop a block, splice, knot, turn in rigging, raise a mouse on the mainstay, and be an example to the ordinary seamen and landsmen.

This definition is as we see completely out-of-date since ordinary seamen are carried on ship’s books and during my service in the Royal Navy, so were junior seamen, presumably these days AB’s do not reef, or splice as we did, and the only mouse they are likely to raise wasn’t even dreamt of in 1867, not even Jules Verne thought of that one. This Word-Book does not of course define,'Submarine', Was it Jules Verne who said of it, ‘In god’s good time all this will come to pass’? Or was that just made up for the film?  It may be hard to tell since the original translation of the book left so much out. Landsmen these days keep their feet firmly on land, now that the Press-Gangs are no longer about.

However anyone interested in the sea will welcome a copy of this book in which the author deals with every aspect of ships and the sea - with warships, merchant vessels, small craft, seamanship, navigation, meteorology, naval architecture, ship construction and fittings - the author included 'galley slang', relevant natural history terms and even birds and fishes which were considered good eating.

Much more than a period piece, this new edition is an invaluable tool for maritime historians, model-makers, sailors and indeed anyone with enthusiasm for all things maritime.

What’s in a word?  The author puts it this way in his Introduction.

"WHAT'S in a word?  I s a question which it is held clever to quote and wise to think unanswerable: and yet there is a very good answer, and it is-a meaning, if you know it.  But there is another question, and it is.  What's a word in?   There is never a poor fellow in this world but must ask it now and then with a blank face, when aground for want of a meaning.   And the answer is-a dictionary, if you have it.   Unfortun­ately, there may be a dictionary, and one may have it, and yet the word may not be there.   It may be an old dictionary, and the word a new one; or a new dictionary, and the word an old one; a grave dictionary, and the word a slang one; a slang dictionary, and the word a grave one; and so on through a double line of battle of antitheses.  Such is assuredly matter for serious cogitation: and voluntarily to encounter those anom­alous perplexities requires no small amount of endurance, for the task is equally crabbed and onerous, without a ray of hope to the pioneer beyond that of making himself humbly useful".  

If of course you are in any doubt you can always revert to Alice

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them - particularly verbs: they're the proudest - adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs - however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

'Would you tell me, please,' said Alice, 'what that means?'

'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'

'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

Rob Jerrard

Nelson's Victory, 101 Questions & Answers about HMS Victory

Author: Peter Goodwin

ISBN: 0851779883

Publishers: Conway Maritime Press

Price £9.99 RRP UK

Publication Date: December 2004

As the Publishers point out, “with the approach of the 200th anniversary of the Royal Navy's greatest battle off Cape Trafalgar on October 21st 1805, much attention will be given to our most tangible symbol of that most ferocious engagement, Nelson's fully preserved flagship HMS Victory”.

I have a number of books about Nelson and the Victory, but Peter Goodwin’s 101 Questions & Answers about HMS Victory is such a handy reference that it fills a gap I think was much needed.  

Myths and stories do abound about Nelson.  Perhaps Portsmouth being my hometown and joining the Royal Navy at fifteen brought me into contact with memories of these tales.  

Even in the Navy I served in from 1956 – 1968, Nelson or his memory lived on and there was always a feeling that he was still around.  

Do you know, why is rum called grog?  What did they preserve Nelson’s body in?  What really were his last words?  Is HMS Victory still in commission?  What did the crew drink and what were slops?  Where is Trafalgar?

Do you know, or do you just think you know the answers?  

The inevitable problem with 101 Questions & Answers is there will always be somebody (a British Matelot) who will ask question 102, eg was it Nelson who had a patent bridge for boarding enemy ships or was that the other Horatio?  

A lot will be said in the lead-up to the 200th Anniversary of Trafalgar.  Peter Goodwin we are told is hard at work on his next book, (The Ships of Trafalgar” to be published in 2005.  I look forward to that book and in the meantime if there is ever anything you are not sure of concerning Nelson or Victory there is a strong possibility it will be found in this book.

The Author:

Peter Goodwin is widely acknowledged as one of the leading writers on the sailing warship.  His published titles include the classic The Construction and Fitting of the Sailing Man of War (Conway, 1990), The Naval Cutter Alert' (in the Conway Anatomy of the Ship series) and the acclaimed Nelson's Ships (Conway, 2002).  He is Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory, in HM Naval Base Portsmouth, and lives in Southsea, Hants.

Rob Jerrard


Author: John Blake

ISBN: 085177945x

Publishers: Conway Maritime Press

Price £30 RRP UK

Publication Date: 2004

In his note and acknowledgement the author quotes, "How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is clearly Ocean Sir Arthur C Clarke, English fiction writer, Nature, 1990".

The author then goes on to say, "Sailing the Seven Seas in the Royal Navy has given me an essential experience of our planet, which no amount of armchair research could have done. The story of mankind's expansion across the globe is bound up in the history of the sea, with the spectrum of emotions, good and bad, that drove the explorers to discover, under­stand or exploit the lands beyond. The tool was the chart. But dogma has no place in the face of Nature's elements. Galileo Galilei, after his enforced recantation in 1632 that the Earth moves around the Sun, reverted to his belief when he said ‘Eppur si muove’ (but it moves). In understanding our world we can start to under­stand ourselves" as the historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) noted ‘Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbour’.

The world took shape through the development of the sea chart and its visual representation of European exploration and trade, conquest and colonization. While the early maps and charts are interesting in their often fantastic and distort­ed views of newly discovered lands, the surveying work in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by men such as Cook, Vancouver and Flinders, in small open boats along treacherous stretches of coastline, are fascinating in their acute level of accuracy.

This book examines the history of the sea chart in both aesthetic and scientific terms. Chapters are organized along chronological and geographical lines. Each one opens with a succinct history of the charting of a particular area, and is fol­lowed by a sumptuous plate section of significant charts that support the text. Stand alone feature boxes explain key figures and themes.

What makes this book so impressive is the outstanding selection of charts that the author, John Blake, has carefully gathered together from some of the most important archives in the world. The collection includes the early portolan charts of the fifteenth century, original manuscript charts of Europe, India and the Orient, and nautical maps that show the medieval view of the known world.

Others illustrate the ships' tracks of the Arctic and Antarctic explorers, the buccaneer's view of Colonial South America, and the meticulous surveys of the coastlines of North America and Australia. Pages are further enhanced with navigational views, extracts from masters' remark books and sailing directions, and accounts of voyages.

This volume features examples from famous sets of charts, such as The Mariner's Mirrour, the English translation of the celebrated Spieghel der Zeevaerdt, Dell' Arcano del Mare, Le Neptune Franlois, and the Atlantic Neptune, together with rare examples of individual charts, such as Benjamin Franklin's Chart of the North Atlantic. Collections represented include the Hydrographic Office and The Admiralty Library Manuscript Collection in the UK; the Hispanic Society of America, the South Street Seaport Museum and Library of Congress in the USA.

This certainly is a extraordinary book full of coloured charts, it will make interesting reading for those who served in what was the Executive (seaman) Branch as Officers, and perhaps also Radar Ratings, since both were involved in navigating the ship; Officers from the bridge backed up by a small team of Radar people one deck below in the operations room, bent over the PPI and the plot table – memories of the rule by which we could tell the officer of the watch how close a ship would pass by working out its course and speed relative to our own, what was it now?  Something to do with six minutes and 10 comes to mind.

It was always warmer in the operations room wasn’t it?  Before you contact me – I did the sea boat as well.

If you sail boats or still have an interest in navigation this is a book for you.

The Author LIEUTENANT COMMANDER JOHN BLAKE served nearly twelve years as a sea-going officer in the Royal Navy, followed by five years in the Reserve, with extensive service in ships across the world.  Born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, educated at Brighton and Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, he left the service in 1973 and opened his own sizeable gift stores, Naturally British, in Covent Garden, London, Boston, Massachusetts and Osaka, Japan.

In 1996 he and his wife initiated the licensing of the archives of maritime cartography in the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, producers of Admiralty charts, gaining a comprehensive knowledge of them.

John writes and lectures on maritime history and is an enthusiastic small boat sailor. He is married with four children, and a granddaughter, and lives in Wiltshire.

Conway Maritime Press

Naval Weapons of World War II

John Campbell

Hardback £45.00 Published October 2002

           In depth descriptions of every weapon, its characteristics, design history and performance

           Summary of factor affecting naval armament design and procurement

          Technical introductions to each weapon type, covering fire-control, propellants and projectiles

Over 350 specification tables and more than 500 illustrations including detailed plans and drawings.

There is no shortage of reference books on the warships that fought the Second World War, but the weapons they carried have often been ignored. This situation is rectified in this classic work, which is encyclopaedic in scope and largely based on original research. Divided by country (including minor powers not directly involved in the war), the book covers all the major weaponry of the period. Weapons of earlier vintage that were employed during the war, and those that were at an experimental, trial or design stage in 1945 are also included.

The size, scope and originality of this work make it one of the most important reference works available on naval warfare during the Second World War.

The late John Campbell was an authority on naval weaponry and this book is the culmination of a lifetime's research. He was a regular contributor to the Warship journal and is the author of Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting as well as works on Queen Elizabeth class battleships, First World War battlecruisers and he was a major contributor to the Conways All The Worlds Fighting Ships series.




The Story of Seafaring from the Earliest Times to the Present Day

An important best-selling source (over 20,000 copies) for maritime enthusiasts - NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK

Highly-acclaimed award winning author drawing on over 30 years of maritime experience

Fully illustrated using world-wide sources.

PUBLICATION DATE          October 2002

ILLUSTRATIONS     250 colour and b&w

BINDING Paperback FULL PRICE £ 19.99 352 pages

Ships have been among the most powerful artefacts produced by the hand of man. They have transcended mere practical use and become instruments of great influence, furthering causes for good or evil, acting as manifestations of political power, of military puissance, or of commercial exploitation.

The purpose of this new volume is to present the informed reader who has an interest in ships, with a full account of the development of this most fascinating, important and influential invention. The book in general follows the arguments propounded in Conway's highly-praised twelve-volume History of the Ship series: these are underpinned with the author's many years of sea-going experience and numerous writings on maritime topics. Whilst dealing with a hugely complex subject the author presents his truly international thesis in a highly readable manner. The book is complete with over 250 colour and black and white illustrations ranging from ship plans, engravings and diagrams to marine oil paintings and photographs of both ships and ship models.

Richard Woodman qualified as a navigating officer with Blue Funnel serving in cargo-liners trading principally to the Far East, before joining Trinity House in 1967 working on Corporation's lighthouse tenders. After 31 years at sea he now works in operations management. His first historical novel was published by John Murray in 1981. Since then his popular Nathaniel Drinkwater series has grown to twelve volumes. Along with six other novels Richard has also produced a number of highly successful non-fiction titles including View from the Sea (1985) and the widely acclaimed Arctic Convoys (John Murray, 1994). In 2001 he was awarded the Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for his contributions to maritime history.

The Ship is one of the greatest accomplishments of the human race. That we have used it to travel to new and mysterious, lands, vanish our enemies an trade for exotic goods in distant  ports makes its history very rich indeed. The purpose of this book is to present the informed reader, who has an interest in ships, wit full account of both the technical and cultural development of this most fascinating and influential invention. The auth Richard Woodman, has drawn together the historical strands of each ship-type to produce a thoroughly compelling account culminating in a summary of contemporary developments and speculation about the future.

Whether for good or evil, we have used the ship in our struggle to dominate the world around us, accomplishing spectacular feats of courage and exploration, exploitation and destruction. From the development of the dugout canoe the very large crude (oil) carrier (VLCC), we have created the largest mobile structures on the planet. The book starts w descriptions of primitive craft, leading to the early trading vessels and warships. From there the transition to the first f rigged ship, the carrack, is discussed. The introduction of steam is clarified with details on how this gradual proc, although finally allowing the steamship to usurp the sailing ship in many of her former roles, allowed sailing vessels reach their final and prolonged heyday in the colourful tea clipper races. The upheavals of the twentieth century with arrival of the big-gun battleship, aircraft carrier and the nuclear submarine arc given comprehensive coverage.

Throughout the book, the impact of technology on the evolution of the ship is dealt with logically to t developments in their economic and political contexts, and changes in the design of both warships and merchantmen ; outlined. Entwined with this history are the stories of the characters who influenced ship design and the men w commanded them.

The book in general follows the arguments propounded in Conway's highly-praised twelve­ volume History of the Ship series: these arc underpinned with the author's many years of seagoing experience and numerous fiction and nom-fiction writings on maritime topics. Whilst dealing with a hugely complex subject, the author presents his truly international thesis in a highly readable and enlightening manner. The book is complete with a full glossary and extensive bibliography and illustrated with more than 250 colour and black and white images ranging from ship plans, engravings and diagrams toy marine coil paintings and photographs of both ships and ship models.


All the World's Fighting Ships

Publisher's title Information

The four volumes of Conway’s All the World's Fighting Ships cover the whole history of iron and steel warships, from the first ironclad to the present day, and between them give a degree of detail and completeness hardly matched by a whole library of previously published naval books.

As well as detailing every ship, type by type and class by class, introductions and extended texts give the reader a deeper understanding of why, as well as how and when, naval developments took place.

This volume covers the period 1860-1905 which witnessed the introduction of armour plate, breech ­loading guns, the turbine and the torpedo. It saw the victory of steam over sail and iron and steel over wood; and by its close there were signs that the submarine and aeroplane would change the face of naval warfare still further. This volume represents the only standard work on the period and is likely to remain the reference work for many years to come.

"Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905 must rank with the all-time great naval reference books ... the size and originality of the undertaking is immediately apparent.'           The Navy

"The importance of this book cannot be over-estimated, for it tills a huge void in naval knowledge . . : ' Defence

"Now and again a really superlative book comes along, one that stands apart from the rest either because of its authoritative content or sheer quality of printing and packaging. Conway's World's Fighting Ships fills all these conditions."    Scale Models

"This volume will undoubtedly be the standard reference work."   Navy International

' ... impressive, well-printed and beautifully laid out ... much new data included ... one of the most important reference books yet published."

Ships, Monthly

"An invaluable and impressively produced reference

book . . . "       Navy News

The first volume was also the Library Association's joint 'Reference Book of the Year' in 1979, and was chosen by the US Naval Institute Proceedings as one of the 'Notable Naval Books' of the year.

Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships is an important series which involves both a major revaluation of published information and the wide-­scale use of unpublished sources now becoming available for the first time. With the advantages of hindsight it is now possible to put this detailed and reliable data into its proper historical context, and this information is complemented by extensive illustrations, with photos and/or accurate standard-­scale drawings for most classes. Each volume covers a logical period in a degree of detail and completeness hardly matched by a whole library of previously published naval books, and is written by an international team of naval experts.


Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905

Roger Chesneau

ISBN: 0-85177-133-5  

Conway Maritime Press

Published 3 September 2003

A complete reference library in one book.

Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905 is the first in a series of 4 books which, as the title suggests, lists all the worlds fighting ships built in that period between the first ironclad warship and the Dreadnought battleship. This was a time when the world’s first great arms race was running at full speed.  In short, as one country built a big battleship, so another would simply design one that was even bigger.

Conway Maritime Press are well known for their factual books on ships; especially warships, in which they provide the finest technical documentation. "All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905" is hardback measuring 12½" x 8¾" with 440 pages of detailed and factual information. After a brief foreword and an explanation of abbreviations used, the navies of the world are divided into three main headings, 'the world’s great powers', 'coast defence navies' and 'minor navies'. Under each of these headings all the relevant ships are then listed by country. Displayed by "class," each section then commences with the largest battleships and progresses all the way down to the smallest torpedo boats (or whatever) with the oldest vessels mentioned first. For each class there is one or more of those profile line-drawings which have become Conway’s trademark. These are followed by all the usual technical details such as; Displacement, dimensions, machinery, armour, armament and complement followed by the names of each ship within that class; its builder, date laid down, date completed and fate. These are accompanied by a very "readable" text from which we learn of the political intrigue of the day, variations between vessels, refits, new equipment, whatever defects or other problems that beset either the class or a specific ship and a short résumé of the fate of each vessel.

Altogether, the book is well illustrated with an excellent selection of historic black and white original photographs throughout with at least one picture on almost every page.

In summary, this is an excellent technical work of reference and one which will continue to stand the test of time. Put another way, this is one of those books you will wish you had bought; after it becomes out of print.


Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946      

Roger Chesneau

ISBN: 0-85177-146-7

Conway Maritime Press

Published 16 September 2003


Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946 is the third in a series of 4 books which, as the title suggests, lists all the worlds fighting ships built during the period in question.  Initially, these were post WW1 years in which some countries favoured disarmament whilst others harboured expansionist plans. This was also a time when the Aircraft Carrier would totally eclipse the mighty Battleship as "King of the Seas." Eventually, the advent of WW2 and the way in which the USA entered that war added a whole new dimension to warship design and production.

Conway Maritime Press are well known for their factual books on ships; especially warships, in which they provide the finest technical documentation. "All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946" is hard-back measuring 12½" x 8¾" with 456 pages of detailed and factual information.  After a brief foreword and an explanation of abbreviations used, the navies of the world are listed by country in order of their size and importance at the beginning of the period in question - i.e. Great Britain and Empire Forces, USA, Japan, Germany, etc and continuing right down to the world’s smallest navies from the Middle East, Far East and Latin America. Each country’s ships are then displayed by "class" commencing with the largest capital ships and progressing all the way down to the smallest torpedo boats (or whatever) with the oldest vessels mentioned first.  For each class there is one or more of those profile line drawings which have become Conway’s trademark. These are followed by all the usual technical details such as; Displacement, dimensions, machinery, armour, armament and complement followed by the names of each ship within that class - it’s builder, date laid down, date completed and fate. These are accompanied by a very “readable” text from which we learn of the political intrigue of the day, variations between vessels, refits, new equipment, whatever defects or other problems beset either the class or a specific ship and a short résumé of the fate of each vessel.

Altogether, the book is well illustrated with an excellent selection of historic black and white original photographs throughout with at least one picture on almost every page.

In summary, this is an excellent technical work of reference and one which will continue to stand the test of time.


Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1947-1995      

Various Editors

ISBN: 0-85177-605-1

Conway Maritime Press  

And finally the last complete reference library in one book.

Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1947-1995 is the fourth and final book in a series which, as the title suggests, lists all the worlds fighting ships built during the years in question. The beginning of this period marks the post-WW2 years and a time when the principle navies of the world were busy assimilating the many lessons learned and new technological discoveries made from the hard fought conflicts which had gone before. From now on, the Aircraft Carrier would reign supreme as "King of the Seas" - none more so than the mightiest of them all which are found in the US Navy.

Conway Maritime Press are well known for their factual books on ships - especially warships, in which they provide the finest technical documentation. "All the World’s Fighting Ships 1947-1995" is hard-back measuring 12½" x 8¾" and the largest book in a series of four with 675 pages of detailed and factual information.  After a brief foreword and an explanation of abbreviations used, those countries of the world which possess a navy - however small, are then listed in strict alphabetical order. Each country then commences with an introduction to the naval situation surrounding that country and, for the sake of comparison; these vary from 6 lines for the Dominican Republic to 22½ pages for the USA.  The country’s ships are then displayed by "class" commencing with the largest capital ships and progressing all the way down to the smallest fast attack craft (or whatever) with the oldest vessels mentioned first.  In almost every case, for each class there is one or more of those profile line-drawings which have become Conway’s trademark. These are followed by all the usual technical details such as; displacement, dimensions, machinery, armour, armament and complement followed by the names of each ship within that class - its builder, date laid down, date completed and fate. These are accompanied by a very "readable" text from which we learn of the political intrigue of the day, variations between vessels, refits, new equipment, whatever defects or other problems that may have beset either the class or a specific ship and a short résumé of the fate of each vessel.

Altogether, the book is well illustrated with an excellent selection of historic black and white original photographs throughout with at least one picture on almost every page.

In summary, this is an excellent technical work of reference.



GREAT BRITAIN Volume 5: 1808-1811 Volume 6: 1811-1827

William M. James

Published by Conway Maritime Press Hardback, £25.00 each, December 2002

The standard reference work for the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

Six volume reprint of the 1837 edition including additions and notes bringing the work down to the battle of Navarino in 1827: Vols 1-4 already available

Each volume individually indexed for the first time

Introduction by the distinguished naval historian Andrew Lambert

William James' Naval Historyis one of the most valuable works in the English language on the operation of the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The original five volumes were published in 1822-24, with a six-volume edition appearing in 1826. Previously the work has only been available to scholars through specialist libraries. Now this edition, reprinted from the 1837 edition, with each individual volume indexed separately for the first time, provides scholars and students with an accessible and affordable edition of this important work.

'The most perfect and comprehensive naval history ever published'.

Edinburgh Review April 1840

William James's six-volume masterpiece The Naval History of Great Britain remains the most comprehensive history of the operations of the Royal Navy between 1793 and 1815. Exhaustively researched, utilising despatches, logs, gazettes, foreign reports and eye-witness accounts this narrative chronological history, charts all the fleet battles, minor engagements and single ship actions. This new edition includes an introductory essay by the distinguished naval historian Andrew Lambert and previously unpublished correspondence between James and many of the major political and naval figures of his time. Each individual volume also contains a new index.

Volume 5

Volume (5) covers the years of 1808-1811. During 1808 Royal Navy fleets operated in the Mediterranean and the Baltic, securing British commercial interests. After the summer of 1808 the Navy directly assisted the Spanish uprising and the campaigns of the British army during the Peninsular War (1807-1814). In 1809 a major attack under the direction of Lord Cochrane was undertaken on a French fleet in Basque Roads and in 1811 Captain William Hoste won a notable victory at Lissa, hoisting the signal 'Remember Nelson: Throughout these years the Royal Navy continued its less glamorous duties of blockade, commerce protection and commerce attack on a global scale, carrying out many single ship and boat actions.

Volume 6

This final volume (6) covers the years of 1811-1827. In 1812 a new enemy entered the war at sea, the United States. As a result there were many famous sea fights during these years, the USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere, Chesepeahe and Shannon, United States and the Macedonian. It was these very actions that prompted James to write his naval history. Also examined are Sir Home Popham's famous campaign along the North coast of Spain in 1812, which allowed Wellington to shift his supply line and begin to push the French out of Spain. The additional sections cover the Burmese War of 1824 and the volume concludes with an account of the battle of Navarino in 1827, the last major action fought solely under sail.


William James was a lawyer by profession before turning his hand to naval history in reaction to the 'vaporising' and suspect accounts of the 'famous' victories of the US Navy over Royal Navy ships during the War of 1812. Implementing rigorous research methods he produced The Naval History of Great Britain 1793-1827. James concluded that no Royal Navy ship was ever captured by an American vessel of equal force. The contemporary American press, unable to criticise his methodology, reacted not with informed debate but with personal abuse trying to defame his character but in Britain his work attracted praise from naval officers and politicians. He is now regarded as the father of modern naval history thanks to his masterpiece The Naval History of Great Britain.


Andrew Lambert is Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London. He is Hon. Secretary of the Navy Records Society, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Director of the new Laughton Naval History unit in the Department of War Studies. He is the author of The Crimean War. British Grand Strategy against Russia 1853-1856, The Last Sailing Battlefleet. Maintaining Naval Mastery, 1815-1850, The Foundations of Naval History. Sir John Laughton, the Royal Navy and the Historical Profession and War at Sea in the Age of Sail. He is an Honorary Research Consultant of the New Dictionary of National Biography, to which he contributed numerous entries, including the essay on. William James.

These books are a must if you are researching any aspect of Royal Naval History

Trafalgar and the Spanish Navy, The Spanish Experience of Sea Power

Author:John D Harbron

ISBN:  0851774776

Publishers Conway Maritime

Price:  £25 RRP UK

Publication Date: May 2004

Contrary to popular opinion, the defeat of the Armada was not the end of the Spanish Navy as a major maritime power. Indeed it underwent a renaissance in the eighteenth century, and at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars was the third largest navy in the world. Its ships were well designed and superbly built, and were officered by brave and dedicated professionals, who were nowhere near as ineffective in combat as often represented.

This is the first English language book to look at Spanish naval forces in the century before Trafalgar, and provides a long overdue reassessment of the aims and achievements of the service.  Following a brief overview of the factors which shaped development and the main maritime events, more detailed chapters cover Spanish warship design and construction, and the much-maligned officer corps, concluding with sections on the battle itself and its significance to Spain.

Originally published on the 400th anniversary of the Armada, this book remains an important contribution to the resulting interest in Spanish history.  It is illustrated throughout with contemporary plans, paintings and ship models, and will prove stimulating reading for layman and specialist alike.

The Author

John D Harbron is Foreign Affairs Analyst for the Thomson Group of newspapers in Canada, specialising in Caribbean and Latin American affairs.  He served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Korean War and later worked for the Department of National Defence in Ottawa.  A fluent Spanish speaker, whose postgraduate work was done at the University of Havana, he has been decorated by the government of Spain for his written contributions to Hispanic American studies.

Apart from a myriad of reports and features in some of the world's foremost newspapers and periodicals, he has written four books, including Communist Ships and Shipping (1964).

The Jacket illustration is `Battle of Trafalgar, 21st Oct. 1805', by Thomas Whitcombe (1760-1824), Christie's Images, London, UK, via Bridgeman Art Library (CH 19504).