"Royal Navy & Maritime Book Reviews" provided by Rob Jerrard

Fan Publications(Books by Neil McCart)

All Fan books take you through the entire career of each ship in detail. They are amply illustrated with good quality photographs - many in colour. The hard-back books come complete with laminated dust jackets.

Daring Class Destroyers
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Neil McCart
ISBN: 978-1-904459-33-0
Price: £25
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher's Title Information

During the 1950s and 1960s the handsome Daring-Class destroyers served both the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy in every theatre of operations, from the stormy seas of the Arctic Ocean to the spiced tropical waters of South-East Asia. The ships represented the ultimate in warship design, capable of carrying out duties normally assigned to light cruisers. As their Official Logs proudly proclaim, they were originally classified not as destroyers, but as warships of the "Daring Class".

This book charts the story of each of these ships from their beginnings in the late 1940s to their demise. Today there remains only the museum ship HMAS Vampire in Sydney Harbour.

Of all the Royal Navy's post-war destroyers, the class which epitomized the 1950s and 1960s was, without doubt, the Daring class. As part of the Admiralty's 1944 programme for modified Battleclass destroyers, it was originally intended that the new Daring class would comprise 16 warships. The, first requests for tenders went out in January 1945 to four shipbuilding companies: Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, at Wallsend-on-Tyne; John Brown and Co Ltd, at Clydebank; Messrs J. S. White & Co Ltd, at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and Vickers Armstrong Shipbuilders. At that time, although the end of hostilities in Europe was in sight, no one could foresee an imminent conclusion to the war in South-East Asia and the Pacific.
However, on 14 August 1945, before any building work had started, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought a sudden end to the Second World War, and peace meant an inevitable reduction in the Admiralty's warship building programme. Every class of warship was affected by the cuts, from aircraft carriers down to auxiliaries, and the requirement for the "modified Battle-class" destroyers was halved. In the event, the eight destroyers of what became known as the Daring class were completed in two stages, with over two years elapsing between the completion of the first of the class, the name ship HMS Daring, and the last, HMS Diana, which did not leave Yarrow's shipyard until March 1954.
With a full load displacement of 3,600 tons, an overall length of 390ft, a beam of 43ft and a maximum draught of 17ft, the Daring-class destroyers were powerful ships with a main armament of six Mk VI 4.5-inch guns in fully enclosed twin turrets, two forward and one aft, controlled by a Mk VI, Type 275 radar director. Designed in the later years of the Second World War the guns overcame many deficiencies which had been experienced in the early years, and they were used extensively on destroyers and frigates right up to the early 1970s, with some 300 being manufactured. The guns were intended for automatic aiming and for a sustained high rate of fire. Ammunition was supplied from two magazines, each with a separate shell hoist, one for anti-aircraft shells and one for other projectiles, with a third hoist supplying the cartridges. They were designed to give a rate of fire of 24 rounds a minute, but in practice the complex automatic loading system was prone to breakdowns and the guns' crews often loaded by hand, keeping up a rate of fire of 12 to 14 rounds a minute. With an elevation of 45 degrees the guns had a range of 20,750 yards, and at an elevation of 80 degrees a range of 41,000 feet. For the first time in the Royal Navy an all-welded construction was used for the gun mountings, with the turret being supported by a cantilever structure which provided a circular gun bay clear of obstructions, which made for an easier transfer of ammunition to the revolving turret. In addition to the main armament the new destroyers were fitted with either four or six 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns, which were also radar controlled. As originally built they were also armed with ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, in two quintuple mountings, but these were never a success. For anti-submarine warfare they were fitted with a Squid triple-barrelled depth-charge mortar, which was located aft.
The main propulsion machinery was of an advanced design for the early 1950s, which had been developed by Parsons & Marine Engineering Turbine Research and Development Association (PAMATREDA), and consisted of two sets of double reduction geared steam turbines, each set driving one of the twin propellers. The superheated steam, at a temperature of 850°F and 650psi, was provided by either two oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox (Daring, Decoy, Delight and Diana), or two Foster Wheeler (Dainty, Defender, Diamond and Duchess), water-tube boilers. Altogether the machinery developed 54,000 SHP, giving them a maximum speed of 34.75 knots. In four ships of the class, Decoy, Diamond, Diana and Duchess, the electrical plant differed from previous ships of the Royal Navy in that it was an alternating current installation, operating at 440 volts, 3-phase, 60-cycles-per-second. The other four ships were fitted with the conventional direct current at 220 volts. Fitted with twin funnel uptakes, the forward funnel was built into the lattice mast, and the after funnel was small and narrow, which enhanced the appearance of these handsome ships, although at the design stage there had been some discussion about the appearance of the after funnel, and one proposed design shows a much wider and larger uptake, reminiscent of the single funnel of the Battle-class destroyers. Fortunately, this design was dropped at some stage prior to building.
Internally the Darings incorporated a number of innovations, including all-electric galleys, fluorescent lighting and a laundry. At the time of their construction the accommodation for both officers and ratings was described as being of a high standard, but in practice with complements of between 295 and 308, most of those who served in them considered them to be cramped and uncomfortable ships. Both senior and junior ratings ate, slept and lived on the messdecks, and there was little room for recreation. For officers conditions were a little better, but multiple berth cabins were extremely cramped and one officer remembers that he and two colleagues occupied a two-berth cabin, with him sleeping on a camp bed which left no room for anyone to move about the cabin. Nevertheless, despite the lack of comfort, those who served in the Darings look back on them with pride and Reunion Associations for all eight ships are strong and thriving, with great camaraderie among both officers and men.
For the Royal Navy of the early 1950s, however, the new class represented the ultimate in warship design, comprising eight powerful destroyers which were capable of carrying out duties normally assigned to light cruisers. Each of the Daring-class ships was in commission for less than 20 years, but during that time they saw the final transition from the big-gun era, to the age of the guided missile. During their early years of service at least one ship of the class operated with the Navy's last big 15-inch gun battleship, HMS Vanguard, and in their closing years they operated with the Navy's first guided missile ships, the County-class destroyers. As their Official Logs, which are preserved at the National Archives, proudly proclaim, they were originally classified not as destroyers, but as warships of the "Daring Class".
Neil McCart Cheltenham, 2008

The Daring Class Destroyers remain very vivid in my mind because they had the look of a real Destroyer about them and during my service they were considered modern. As Neil McCart says, 'they epitomised the 1950s and 1960s and they were a modified Battle Class' and if ever a class needed modifying it was the Battle Class. As one who served in HMS Aisne I would have swapped it for a Daring any day.
In the mid 50s when I joined the Royal Navy, all eight RN Darings were in service, along with one of the Royal Australian Navy (Vampire and Vendetta were still being built). In fact still in service were four Weapon Class, twenty-six Battles, twenty-seven 'C'Class (C Group) and ten improved Tribal Class - need I go on? What a different Navy, Destroyers all over the world.
In February 1964 I was serving in the Aircraft Carrier HMS Victorious when we received the tragic news of HMAS Voyager. Whilst acting as planeguard escort to the carrier HMAS Melbourne, she had been cut in half as Melbourne collided with her. With all the built-in safeguards operating, it is hard to imagine how this could have happened. This book does not pursue the matter further. In fact it resulted in two Royal Commissions, with the second finding that the Captain of HMAS Voyager was medically unfit for command. See BREAKING RANKS: The True Story behind the HMAS Voyager Scandal, Random House, 1740513150 2005.
As with all Neil McCart's books, this is a clear precise history of all Darings, viz, Daring, Diamond, Duchess, Defender, Dainty, Decoy, Delight, Diana, and the Australian Daring, Voyager, Vendetta, Vampire and HMAS Duchess because after the sinking of Voyager, HMS Duchess was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 8 May 1964. She was loaned, but in fact never returned to the Royal Navy and remained a Royal Australian Navy ship until 1980.
Rob Jerrard

Nelson & Rodney 1927-1949 The Big Battleships

Edition: First

Author: Neil McCart

ISBN: 1904459161

Publishers: Maritime Books

Price £19.99

Publication Date: 2005

It is always a pleasure to review any book written by Neil McCart and this one does not disappoint.  Most of Neil’s books have been published by his own company, Fan Publications, however this joins two other titles in this series, viz, HMS Vanguard and HMS Glory, being published by Maritime Books.

Following what came to be called the "Washington Treaty of 1921/2" plans were drawn up for two 33,000 ton battleships destined to become the most powerful in the Royal Navy, with a design which became instantly recognisable. 

Lord Chatfield (Admiral of the Fleet Lord Chatfield) became Assistant Chief of Naval Staff in 1920 and in his autobiographies he explained how the 1921/2 conference was the beginning of such conferences at which he was asked by Beatty to attend in his place.  Lord Chatfield hoisted his flag in HMS Rodney, before becoming C in C Mediterranean.  His Captain at the time was ABC Cunningham, as he was generally known. 

In his Introduction to this book Neil explains how the 1921/2 conference influenced the developed of these two battleships.  For a full explanation of all the Treaties see, ‘Treaty Cruisers - The World’s First International Warship Building Competition’ Leo Marriot  Pen & Sword, 2005.

The book is then divided up into eight chapters and six appendices with a black and white photograph on almost every page, in fact 101 illustrations make this book a real collectors item and it should also serve as an excellent source of material for those researching their family history of personnel who served on either ship.

The saddest photograph is as always the end, Rodney leaving Rosyth on 27 March 1948 to make the all too often short journey to Inverkeithing, where many great ships before and since have ended their days.Nelson had the indignity of being bombed to test fuse delays, before she too made the same journey. 

Appendix 2 lists all Commanding Officers and Admirals in command.  What an Appendix we would need to list all who served on both ships!  Appendix 4 lists battle honours.  Rodney's motto is worth recording ‘Non generant aquitae columbas' which translates to ‘Eagles do not breed doves'.

This book will find a place in the library of anyone with an interest in the Royal Navy during this period and many of the photographs will stir the memory of many old sailors, eg Page 113, 'for exercise - away sea boat's crew', oars I would think, none of your fancy modern engines in 1945.  Also Page 22 'up spirits', I can hear you all now 'stand fast the Holy Ghost, virgins turn part of ship'.  There is also a photograph of HMS Nelson, 'Stuck on Hamilton Bank', this promoted the amusing signal from the C in C Portsmouth, 'Delighted to see Nelson on Hamilton Again'.  The Wardroom of Fort Blockhouse invited the officers of Nelson to consider themselves 'Members of their mess during their stay'.

In his introduction to his book 'Battleship Barham', Geoffrey Jones says that he deeply regrets not having had the unique experience of serving on a battleship.  I am sure many others feel that way.  I was too late, the nearest I came was being taken around HMS Vanguard as a fifteen year old Junior Seaman from HMS St Vincent in 1956. 

Neil McCart cannot transport us back in time, but such books as these help us to understand what the experience must have been like.

Rob Jerrard 

Harrier Carriers Vol 1 HMS Invincible

Harrier Carriers Vol 1 HMS Invincible

Author: Neil McCart

ISBN: 1901225089

Publishers: Fan Publications

Price £19.95 RRP UK

Publication Date: Nov 2004

Neil McCart’s latest book from Fan Publications is of the high standard one has come to expect.I have some of Neil’s other books in my collection and I was not disappointed with this one.  Even those of us who left the Royal Navy before (I left in 1968) the advent of the Harrier Carriers will know the name of Invincible and her role in the Falklands War.

Many ex-navy men will say that they preferred small ships.  Having served in HMS Victorious I think there is something special about having served in an aircraft carrier and I have often wondered if these modern carriers are as exciting as the older ones.  In the seven chapters, the story is told of her career from the early 1970’s when she was known as a "through–deck-cruiser", to the beginning of the 21st Century. 

Throughout the book there are many superb colour and black and white photographs that will remind many people of the years they served in the Royal Navy.  Since this is Volume 1, I look forward to Volume 2.

The Illustrious and Implacable Class Carriers 1940 - 1969 For the first time in one volume, here are the comprehensive histories of the six fleet aircraft carriers which dominated the Royal Navy's aviation between 1940 and the early 1950s: ILLUSTRIOUS, FORMIDABLE, VICTORIOUS, INDOMITABLE, IDEFATIGABLE and IMPLACABLE.

HMS Victorious 1937 - 1969

Edition: HB

Author: Neil McCart

ISBN: 1901225011

Publishers: Fan Publications

Price: £21

Publication Date: 1998

Publisher’s Title Information

Fifteen chapters of highly readable text tell the story of the Royal Navy's most remarkable aircraft carrier, from the laying of the first keel plates in 1937 to her controversial decommissioning in 1967 and her departure to the shipbreaker's yard in the summer of 1969.

The in-depth research has allowed the author to cover the Victorious' long career through each year of her operational service with the Royal Navy, and the story is enlivened by memories from ex­members of her ship's company, from senior officers to junior seamen, as well as reminiscences from the late 1940s when the Victorious, after a distinguished wartime career, acted as a troop transport and passenger ship.

There are over 150 illustrations covering the Victorious' career from launching to her departure for the breaker's yard.


HMS Victorious, in her 27 years of service in the Royal Navy, had a life of such variety and distinction as few of HM ships could equal.

In action shortly after she first commissioned, in the North Atlantic at the sinking of the powerful German battleship Bismarck, and later against that ship's sister Tirpitz in Arctic waters where she also provided help for the grim Murmansk convoys attacking airfields and destroying aircraft threatening them. She served in the Pacific with the US Fleet after Pearl Harbor and later, in the Mediterranean, protected vital convoys relieving Malta and supported the Allied landings in North Africa. In South-East Asia she struck crippling blows against the Japanese with her attacks on oil refineries and storage tanks. In the British Pacific Fleet she supported the US taking of Okinawa and in the preparation for the final assault on the Japanese heartland. She survived hits by kamikaze aircraft, operating her aircraft again within hours.

With the end of what for her was a very active war, her peacetime duties were varied and wide­ranging covering humanitarian and peace­keeping, and peace-enforcing, activities across much of the world. Indeed in war and peace it can be said that she was, in Richard Hakluyt's words, ‘compassing the vast globe of the earth’.

The reader of this admirably researched account which is both detailed and succinct will be saddened to read of the loss of so many young aviators in peace as well as in war. This does highlight the fact that flying from an aircraft carrier, even in what always seemed to be rare favourable weather conditions, is a dangerous business and this country is fortunate that in the Fleet Air Arm it has young men of courage and outstanding skills to carry out the tasks which contribute so much to the achievement and maintenance of peace. I should add that I have never come across any aircrew who would wish to change - not even to become one of their three­dimensional colleagues, the submariners.

This is a book not only for those who had the good fortune to serve in this great ship or for those who have a particular interest in the history of the Royal Navy, much pleasure and information though they will gain, but I commend it also to that wider readership for whom the dedication and gallantry of men are counted as qualities worthy of praise and emulation.

Ian McIntosh KBE DSO DSC Vice-Admiral

Tiger, Lion & Blake 1942 – 1986, The Royal Navy’s last Cruisers

Edition: HB

Author: Neil McCart

ISBN: 1901225038

Publishers: Fan Publications

Price: £21.50

Publication Date: 1999

Publisher’s Title Information

For 20 years between 1959 and 1979 the cruisers Tiger, Lion and Blake took their place in the fleet as the last big-gun warships. This is the first book to tell the full stories of all three ships in detail, In-depth research has allowed the author to cover their careers through each year of their operational service, and the story is enlivened by memories from ex-members of their ships' companies from senior officers to junior seamen.

There are 125 photographs covering the careers of the three cruisers from their early days at the shipbuilding yards, to their departure for the breakers' yards, including seven in full colour.

I served in Lion during the 1st Commission, I have a very large collection of photographs some of which are shown here, others will be on my Lion page on this website
HMS Lion taken at Gibraltar 1960 or 1961
Capt John E Scotland DSC, as he was then, Capt 1st Commission HMS Lion

Foreword by Rear-Admiral M. L. Stacey CB

I enjoyed immensely the privilege of commanding HMS Tiger from 1973-1975 and thus was delighted to be invited to write the foreword to this story of the Royal Navy's last cruisers, HM Ships Tiger, Lion and Blake.

Lacking the majesty of the battleship or the glamour of the destroyer, cruisers have until recently traditionally provided the means whereby Britain's maritime influence has been deployed throughout the oceans of the world to maintain the naval presence required in support of our foreign policy, to protect our vital trade routes and to defend our essential interests in war. To meet these criteria the design requirement for these ships has generally produced a vessel of about eight to ten thousand tons with high speed and endurance and capable of operating worldwide. Surface and air defence gunnery was a prerequisite with an operations and communication capability able to command and control additional forces deployed in support. Overall there was a need for a large ship's company ensuring maximum self-support with minimum dependence on dockyard or external overseas support facilities.

The service of these ships spanned nearly four decades, from 1942 to 1980, which were particularly momentous years in the Navy's history, since it was during this period that the current strategic roles and structures of the Navy as we know them today were developed. These ships started their- lives in the days when battleships still reigned supreme when they played their traditional role of providing a presence in distant waters. Thereafter in a changing Navy they became more integrated with the fleet providing seagoing flag officers with accommodation and command facilities, heavy surface and air defence gunfire support and in the case of Tiger and Blake the ability to deploy into deep water the increasingly potent Sea King anti-submarine helicopter. This extremely important capability went some way to filling the gap between the demise of the anti-submarine warfare capability of the large fleet aircraft carriers and their replacement by the smaller Invincible-class carriers of today.

This book tells the story of these three ships in an accurate and highly readable style, some of which now belongs to the Navy of yesterday, but much of which has continuing application and relevance to today. Ship's programmes have always been tight with exercises interwoven with foreign visits aimed at maintaining readiness for war within our international treaty commitments and sustaining our relationships with friendly and allied nations. And our sailors have always been busy, flexible and slightly stretched with the ability quickly to change from battle dress for action stations to pirate's rig for a children's party.

It also tells - with its many personal recollections - how much of the detail has changed over the years, but how the greatest single factor - the sailor - remains generally unchanged. He continues to stand as high as ever in terms of his professionalism in the art of maritime warfare as well as his ability to act overseas as a cheerful and diplomatic representative of our country. We owe to him a great deal as well as to his wife and his family - who are so frequently left for long periods on their own at home.

And finally, to any readers who served with me in Tiger I send my best wishes and join in happy memories of the old lady we loved - ugly though she undoubtedly may have been in her later years.

Michael L Stacey


Thirteen chapters of highly readable text tell the story of the Royal Navy's biggest post-war warship from the date that the Admiralty ordered the ship in the spring of 1942 to the first week of 1979, when she lay at the shipbreaker's yard in Scotland.

The in-depth research has allowed the author to cover the Eagle's career in great detail through each commission, and the story is enlivened by memories from ex-members of her ship's company. There are over 170 photographs covering the Eagle's career from her launch up to her arrival at the breaker's yard.


It is with much satisfaction that I write this foreword to a narrative of the life of a great ship that has played such an important part in both Royal Navy, and British Maritime, history.

As the last operational Captain of HMS Eagle, I have, since giving up my Command of twenty-four years ago, almost every day thought of all those Officers and men who, in modern terms, knew that 'the Company was going into liquidation', yet strove, day and night, to ensure that there was no diminution of the high operational standards set by their predecessors.

These standards saw us through the Falklands War. I hope, and pray, that the present political, and judicial, processes will not erode them for the future.

I am inordinately proud to have served in the Royal Navy, and flown with the Fleet Air Arm, in a whole life's career, and in particular to have played a modest part in this fine aircraft carrier's noble past.

If a ship's motto has real meaning, then this book has certainly shown it.

I G W Robertson CB DSC Rear-Admiral

A Royal Launch

On 19 May 1942, just eleven days after the Battle of the Coral Sea and as German troops completed the capture of the Kerch Peninsula in the Crimea, a secret letter was dispatched from the Admiralty offices in Bath addressed to the directors of the Belfast shipbuilding company Harland & Wolff Ltd. The letter was headed: 'Fleet Aircraft Carrier', and the first paragraph read: 'I have to request that you will proceed with the construction and completion in all respects of the hull and machinery of one aircraft carrier for HM Navy.' The letter went on to explain that preliminary information regarding the vessel would be ready on Thursday 28 May that same year, and it requested that the company send a representative to the Admiralty offices at Bath in order to discuss the contract, which was numbered CP8/45174/42. Even in those grim days of the Second World War it was clear that the aircraft carrier had superseded the battleship as the Fleet's new capital ship, and the final wording of the letter gives an indication of the importance of the contract: The date by which you anticipate that you will be able to give delivery of the vessel should be stated as soon as possible.

So began HMS Eagle.

HMS Glory 1944-1961 Hardcover

HMS Hermes 1923-1959 Neil McCart, Brian Conroy (Illustrated)Hardcover For the first time in one volume, here are the comprehensive histories of the two aircraft carriers named HERMES. The stories take the reader from the 1920s into WW2, the late 1950s and 60s through the Falklands campaign and into the Indian Navy where the last HERMES still serves as INS VIRAAT.

The Colossus-Class Aircraft Carriers 1944 - 1972

Edition: HB

Author: Neil McCart

ISBN: 1901225062

Publishers: Fan Publications

Price: £24

Publication Date: 2002

Publisher’s Title Information

For the first time in one book, here are the comprehensive histories of the Royal Navy's eight Colossus­ class light fleet aircraft carriers: Colossus, Vengeance, Venerable, Glory, Ocean, Theseus, Triumph and Warrior. The eight aircraft carriers, which were designed for the duration of the Second World War only, went on to pioneer the use of jet aircraft at sea and, between 1950 and 1953, four of them bore the brunt of the Royal Navy's commitment to the Korean War. To those who served on the Far East Station in the latter half of the 1960s, Triumph became a familiar sight in Singapore Naval Base and in Mombasa's Kilindini Harbour, but in a role which was very different from that for which she had been designed. This is the story of the eight aircraft carriers and their service with the Royal Navy.

HMS Colossus December 1944 - August 1946

HMS Vengeance December 1944 - August 1946

HMS Vengeance August 1946 - September 1952

HMS Venerable December 1944 - May 1948

HMS Glory February 1945 - January 1948

HMS Glory January 1948 - October 1951

HMS Glory November 1951 - August 1961

HMS Ocean May 1945 -July 1948

HMS Ocean July 1948 - November 1952

HMS Ocean December 1952 - December 1957

HMS Theseus January 1946 - January 1948

HMS Theseus February 1948 - May 1951

HMS Theseus June 1951 -January 1957

HMS Triumph April 1946 - November 1950

HMS Triumph December 1950 - April 1956

HMS Triumph May 1956 - February 1972

HMS Warrior  October 1948 - February 1958

Author’s Introduction

When the Second World War broke out on 3 September 1939, the Royal Navy had only seven aircraft carriers and of those just one, HMS Ark Royal, could be said to be modern. Only she and the small, obsolete Hermes had been designed specifically as aircraft carriers, with Argus and Eagle having been converted from a merchant ship hull and from the hull of what was to have been a battleship for the Chilean Navy respectively. The other three, Furious, Glorious and Courageous, had all been converted from light battlecruisers in the 1920s. During the pre-war years the Fleet Air Arm was controlled by the Royal Air Force, and subsequently it had suffered a great deal of neglect as resources were used to build up the RAF's fighter and bomber forces. In 1937, when the Admiralty gained full control of the Fleet Air Arm, an expansion programme was initiated, but it could not be completed before war came in 1939. Only 14 days after the declaration of war the fleet carrier HMS Courageous, which was carrying out an anti­submarine patrol in the South West Approaches, a role for which she was totally unsuited, was sunk by a U-boat. Nine months later, in June 1940, her sister ship HMS Glorious was sunk by gunfire from the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during the Allied withdrawal from Norway. At this early stage of the war the battleship still reigned supreme as the Navy's capital ship.

Fortunately, it had been recognized that air power at sea was vital to the fleet, and in April 1937 the keel had been laid for the first of six large 23,000-ton fleet aircraft carriers. However, with their heavily armoured flight decks and hangars, and their 4-inch defensive armament, each ship would take over three years to build and it would be 1944 before the final two, Implacable and Indefatigable, were commissioned. As the Second World War progressed the vital importance of air power at sea became even more apparent. In November 1940, 20 Swordfish aircraft from HMS Illustrious attacked the Italian naval base at Taranto, and for the loss of only two of the outdated biplanes, three enemy battleships were crippled, keeping them out of action for most of the war. Six months later it was aircraft from Victorious and Ark Royal that disabled the German battleship Bismarck, allowing units of the Home Fleet to then catch and sink her. Without the Fleet Air Arm it is likely that this mighty battleship would have reached the safety of north-western France. Later that year, on 7 December 1941, carrier-borne aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy delivered a devastating blow to the US Navy's Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, when they sank four

battleships and seriously damaged four others. Just three days later, on a calm and sunny day in the South China Sea, one hundred torpedo bombers of the Japanese Navy's First Air Force, based at Saigon, settled the `battleship v aircraft' argument once and for all when they sank the elderly battlecruiser Repulse and the modern battleship Prince of Wales. In 90 minutes the Japanese had delivered a stunning blow to British power and prestige in the Far East, and the action marked the first time in the history of naval warfare that capital ships under way were sunk by an attack carried out exclusively by aircraft. It convinced even the most sceptical, who had scoffed that the battleships sunk at Pearl Harbor had been `sitting ducks' for aerial attack. Without doubt it signalled the end of the battleship as the Navy's capital ship, and aircraft carriers took over this role.

For the Royal Navy the answer came in early 1942 when it was decided to design a small, unprotected, class of aircraft carrier, which was capable of a speed of 25 knots and which could carry at least 35 to 40 fighter aircraft. The basic design work was entrusted to Vickers Armstrong Shipbuilders, who had experience of both merchant ship and warship construction, for it had been decided that the new carriers would be built largely to merchant ship standards. This would allow the vessels to be constructed quickly and it would enable more shipbuilding companies to tender for contracts. In the event, to expedite the completion of the ships it had been decided to limit the defensive armament to anti-aircraft weapons and, apart from splinter protection for exposed personnel, they were to have no conventional side armour. Instead there would be a complete sub-division of the main machinery compartments and the steering gear. It was also decided that the operational life of these new carriers would be limited to just three years, or until the end of the war which, at that time, could not be foreseen. With a displacement tonnage of just over 13,000, an overall length of 695 feet and a beam of 112 feet, the vessels would give the appearance of being smaller versions of the Illustrious­ class fleet aircraft carriers. Altogether there were to be 16 light fleet carriers, but only the first eight, the Colossus class, would serve with the Royal Navy. The fact that two of these carriers served with foreign navies until the last decade of the 20th century, one of them opposing the Royal Navy in the South Atlantic in 1982, is a tribute to the fact that they were one of the most successful classes of warship ever built for the Royal Navy.

This book covers the lives of eight Colossus Light Fleet Carriers, viz, Colossus, Vengeance, Glory, Ocean, Theseus, Triumph, Venerable and Warrior, whose lives span 1944 until 1972. However that does not take into account extensions of life with other navies, firstly HMS Colossus served the French Navy having been renamed FS Arromanches. There is a photograph of her in June 1948 flying the French tricolour. How ironic when you think that for hundreds of years the only way that could have happened would have been if she had been taken as a prize in battle!
HMS Vengeance served with the Australian Navy and ended her days in 2001 under a Brazilian flag as Minas Gerais. HMS Venerable finished as flag Ship to the Argentine Navy Veinticinco de Mayo in the Falklands War. If a ship has a soul she must have felt ashamed! HMS Glory served with distinction in Korea but finished her days rusting away for five years until 1961. Ocean another Korea veteran was also scrapped.
HMS Theseus became a familiar sight at her buoy in Fareham Creek between 1957-1961. The last to be built, I remember HMS Triumph at Singapore where she was performing her role as a Fleet Maintenance ship. Warrior was another of the class to finish her days with the Argentine Navy, she became Independencia. Your Reviewer remembers seeing a carrier in Buenos Aires in 1958 when serving in HMS Chichester, but cannot now remember which it was but believes it was the Vincentino e Mayo - ex-Venerable.
It is a pleasure to see books of this type because other than that it would be necessary to obtain individual commissioning books, which are very rare. I have a copy of the commissioning book of HMS Theseus 1950-51 during Korean War operations. She was very heavily involved as the record from this commissioning book shows.
Here are some statistics for the period 18th August, 1950 up to 19th April, 1951, when she finished operations in the Korean Campaign:-
(a) Number of Deck Landings ...4,594
(b) Number of Catapult Launchings3,593
(c) Number of Hours Flown ...10,189
(d) Number of Flying Days...114
(e) Average number of Hours per Pilot ...268
Miles steamed on operations ...36,401
Sorties flown...3,446
Commissioning books are very scarce, which makes the books of Neil McCart all the more valuable for providing a record of these and other carriers which are covered in other books, such as 'The Illustrious and Implacable Classes of Aircraft Carriers 1940-1969' and books on many individual ships.
If you want the fuller individual history, books are available on Albion, Glory, Victorious, Centaur, Eagle, Ark Royal and Hermes, however many are now out of print and have become collector's items.
Rob Jerrard

Fearless & Intrepid 1965-2002: The Royal Navy's First Purpose - Built Assault Ships 1965-2002(Illustrated)Hardcover

SS Canberra 1957 - 1997

Edition: HB

Author: Neil McCart

ISBN: 1901225003

Publishers: Fan Publications

Price: £21

Publication Date: 1998

Publisher's Title Information

Twelve chapters of highly readable text in this first complete history of P&O's most famous passenger ship tell the story of Canberra from the laying of the first keel plates in 1957, to her withdrawal from service and her final voyage and arrival at the shipbreaker's yard in the autumn of 1997.

The in-depth research has allowed the author to cover the Canberra's long career through each year of her service and the story is enlivened by memories from passengers and ex-crew members.

There are over 120 illustrations, covering the Canberra's career from the builder's yard to the breaker's yard, including a magnificent profile scale drawing, and a selection of colour photographs depicting Canberra at various stages of her long career. Also included is a fold-out section containing full deck plans of the ship.

Introduction by the Author

For 37 years the Canberra has been a very familiar sight in Southampton's Western Docks and in ports the world over, particularly Sydney which, it could be said, has been her second home. In April 1982 the unthinkable happened when Britain went to war in hopefully the last colonial campaign in her history and for the first time in 42 years a P&O liner was requisitioned for service as a troop transport. During the three months of the Falklands campaign she made headlines the world over, and she became a household name as she continued her peacetime role. However, her career had not always been so secure and for a few months in 1972 it seemed she was destined prematurely for the scrapyard. Had that come about she would probably be remembered today as P&O's `great white elephant', the liner which it had been thought would shape the future but, instead, had fallen victim to the age of the jet airliner and steeply rising oil prices. Fortunately she was reprieved and over the next 25 years she weathered the difficult transition from mail liner to cruise ship. She became the country's favourite, with a faithful clientele who would not sail in any other vessel. More importantly, as Australia sheds her ties with Britain, the Canberra represents the last in a long line of P&O passenger ships which were built to serve that continent. Not only does her passing represent the end of an important chapter for the P&O Company, but it brings down the final curtain on 145 years of British maritime history.

Neil McCart Cheltenham April 1998

SS Canberra can be described as one of P&O's most famous passenger ships, but many will associate her with the Falklands War. P&O are no stranger to war. On 24 August 1939 a telegram delivered to 122 Leadenhall Street in the City of London read, 'Your vessel Rawalpindi is hereby requisitioned for Government service'. Neil McCart's book covers her entire career in twelve chapters with Chapter 9, 'Preparation for War' in 1982, when she was twenty-five years old and not the first P&O liner to see war service. The war history of the P&O 1939-1945 is written up in 'Business in Great Waters' by George F Kerr, Faber & Faber Limited, where many of the famous names are recorded, viz, Rawalpindi, Viceroy of India, Strathallan and her sisters, and Empress of Canada to name just a few. During that period P&O lost seven passenger ships, one troopship, nine cargo vessels and two coasters.
This book is a fine record of the life of a ship that became very familiar to us all since her birth in Belfast, but before that Chapter 1 'Before Canberra' tells us some of the history of this world-wide company which began with 'Chusan' and 'Formosa' in 1852. Canberra was finally launched 16 March 1960 with a bottle of Australian wine smashing across her bow.
On Monday 5 April 1982 the operations Director of P&O received a letter requisitioning Canberra.
She was to proceed to Southampton. She was prepared for war and men of the Royal Marines, 40 and 42 Commando and 3rd Parachute Regiment were welcomed on board by the Captain.
`...To the South Atlantic, Up the gangway, Quick march!' Captain Scott-Masson welcomed the men on board and part of his speech is recorded in the book: 'Now that embarkation is complete, I should like to welcome you on board P&O's SS Canberra. This is an unusual role for this ship and we hope you will be as happy as the passengers that we normally carry - but of course with the added advantage that you are not paying for it. The P&O has a long history of association with Her Majesty's Services and we are delighted to welcome on board the Third Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. 40-42 Commando and all the embarked services personnel. We believe this voyage to the sunshine cruising area, for which we are well adapted, will provide a unique experience for those on board. Nobody knows exactly what the future holds for us, but I have no doubt that working together we shall accomplish everything that is asked of us and, believe me, you have the full support of all the ship's company which I command. It has been most encouraging to receive an enormous amount of good wishes for the unusual deployment that we are about to embark on. You have all had time to notice a few printed "Welcomes on board" and I quote: "P&O Sunshine Cruises Welcomes 40-42 Commando, Third Paras, across the Atlantic with dry feet courtesy of the Canberra", and this includes all other personnel embarked.'
For the next ninety-four days she would be at war and the exploits are recorded here along with some excellent photographs. One of her duties was to transfer 1,121 POWs back to Argentina. According to some members of the crew they were less trouble than many paying passengers.
At 6.30am on Sunday 11 July, the Canberra was off St Catherine's Point on the Isle of Wight and an hour and a half later she passed the Nab Tower where, as always, the pilot embarked. That morning the troops had been awoken by the harsh sounds of a bugler playing 'Reveille', which was then followed by the gentler tones of Junior Assistant Purser Lois Wheeler making a morning broadcast that all cruising passengers would immediately recognize: 'Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It promises to be a fine day, with every prospect of a warm welcome when we dock. Now if you would care to make your way to the dining halls you will find an early breakfast awaits you. We hope you have enjoyed your cruise and that we might have the pleasure of your company again. Good morning.'
Neil records that 'The Great White Whale' looked more like a rusty old steamer than a smart passenger liner; she was the pride of the British Isles and as she appeared through the mist hundreds of thousands of people lining the shores, and manning the small boats, roared with delight as she moved slowly up Southampton Water.
No home coming was ever like that for me on one of HM ships, however I can still recall that first sight of home, rain or sun it was always good to feel and smell that fresh land again. And 'so the 'Great White Whale' came home, covered in rust but with pride.
'The statistics of the Canberra's 94 days at sea with the task force make impressive reading. She steamed 25,245 nautical miles, and did not suffer a single mechanical failure of any major machinery. Her evaporators produced 39,522 tons of fresh water; the galley served 650,000 meals with the bakery producing over one million bread rolls. It can be proudly claimed that the Canberra landed most of the ground forces who went into action on the Falkland Islands and, as well as operating as a troop transport, she acted as a hospital ship and prisoner transport, and provided much needed rest and recreation for hard-pressed task force units.'
Canberra then went back to her 'day job' and resumed cruising, but her days were numbered. She was replaced by SS Star Princess and on 30 September 1997 the party was over. Captain Roy Smith rung 'Finished with Engines' and her thirty-seven year career was over. She went to a very sad end at the Breakers.
This book is a fine tribute to a very famous liner.
Rob Jerrard

Three Ark Royals 1938 - 1999 by Neil McCart Hardcover
This is the first, and only book to tell the full stories of the last three ARK ROYALS in detail; the wartime ARK which saw so much action in the first 2 years of WW2; the ARK of the 1950s, 60s and 70s which, during the years of intense antagonism between the superpowers, projected British maritime air power all over the world; and the present ARK ROYAL which will take the Fleet Air Arm into the 21st century.

Now out of Print

HMS Albion The Old Grey Ghost

HMS Centaur 1943 - 1972(Illustrated)Hardcover Nine chapters of highly readable text tell the story of one of the Royal Navy's major post-war warships form the date that the Admiralty ordered the ship in the summer of 1943 to the last weeks of 1972, when she lay at the shipbreaker's yard in Scotland.

Titles coming soon

County-Class Destroyers 1962-1985
ISBN 1 901225 09 7

The careers of the eight County-Class destroyers of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Devonshire, Hampshire, Kent, London, Fife, Glamorgan, Antrim and Norfolk, described in detail.

Neil McCart developed his interest in shipping whilst living in Singapore as a boy. After leaving school at 15 he joined the Royal Navy and served for eleven years, his last ship being the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. Since leaving the Navy he has written extensively for maritime magazines and is the author of over 30 books on British passenger liners and warships of the Royal Navy.


"Royal Navy & Maritime Book Reviews" Copyright Rob Jerrard 2008