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

Pen & Sword Books & DVD's Reviewed in 2012

British Battleships of World War One
Maritime History Books,
Edition: This Edition 2012 First Published in 1986
Format: Hardback
Author: Ray Burt
ISBN: 9781848321472
Price: RRP 45, Introductory Offer 36.00
Publication Date: 22nd Oct 2012

Publisher's Title Information

This superb reference book achieved the status of 'classic' soon after its first publication in 1986; it was soon out of print and is now one of the most sought-after naval reference books on the secondhand market.
It presents, in one superb volume, the complete technical history of British capital ship design and construction during the dreadnought era. One hundred years ago at Jutland, Dogger Bank, Heligoland Bight and the first battle for the Falklands, might squadrons of these great armoured ships fought their German counterparts for command of the seas. Beginning with Dreadnought, the book continues to the end of the First World War, and all of the fifty dreadnoughts, 'super-dreadnoughts' and battlecruisers that served the Royal Navy during this era are described and superbly illustrated with photographs and line drawings.
Each class of ship is described in detail so that design origins, and technical and operational factors, are discussed alongside characteristics, with special emphasis on armament, armour and machinery. Fully detailed data tables are included for every class, and more than 500 photographs and line drawings illustrate the text.
A delight for the historian, enthusiast and ship modeller, it is a volume that is already regarded as an essential reference work for this most significant era in naval history and ship design.


This book is destined to become one o the primary reference works on the capital ships of the British Fleet during World War 1. It has a relatively short introduction and then the real work,

rtlchDr Stuart Blank, Military Archive Research
The Dreadnought capital ships up to the Courageous-class - their history, detailed technical background, many fine line drawing and photographs, Naval History.net

The Author

Ray Burt has researched the design, construction and service histories of British battleships for many years, and has also assembled one of the most outstanding collections that exists of photographs of the ships. He is also an accomplished draughtsman and illustrator, and many of his superb drawings appear in this book.

Seaforth World Naval Review 2013
Found in: General Seaforth
Edition: 2013
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781848321564
Publishers: Seaforth
Price: Introductory Offer
RRP 30.00
Get this title for just 20.40 by becoming a Platinum Member. Whats this?
+4 UK Delivery or free delivery if order is over 30

Publisher's Title Information

Launched in 2009, this annual has rapidly established a reputation as an authoritative but affordable summary of all that has happened in the naval world in the previous twelve months. It combines the standing features of regional surveys with one-off major articles on noteworthy new ships and other important developments. Besides the latest warship projects, it also looks at wider issues of importance to navies, such as aviation and electronics, and calls on expertise from around the globe to give a balanced picture of what is going on and to interpret its significance.
Planned special features for this year include in-depth studies of the navies of Italy and Ireland, plus analyses of significant new warship classes: the French Aquitaine class frigates, Indian Shivalik class Project 17 frigates, and US Bertholf class national security cutters.
Intended to make interesting reading as well as providing authoritative reference, there is a strong visual emphasis, including specially commissioned drawings and the most recently released photographs and artists' impressions.
For anyone with an interest in contemporary naval affairs, whether an enthusiast or a defence professional, this annual has become required reading.


The now much awaited Seaforth World Review 2013 does not disappoint. For those in these Islands it contains an article on Ireland, "A modern Constabulary Navy". Europe is not left out with Section 3 including, France, Germany and Italy. The Regional Reviews include, North & South America, Asia, Indian Ocean and Russia. Another good volume to add to your bookshelf.

Rob Jerrard

Secret Flotillas
Vol. I: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany, 1940-1944
Edition: 2004 Reprint 1st Published in 2004
Format: Paperback
Author: Brooks Richards
ISBN: 178159080x
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Price: 16.99
Publication Date: 2012

Publisher's Title Information
With the fall of France almost the entire coastline of Western Europe was in German hands. Clandestine sea transport operations provided lines of vital intelligence for wartime Britain. These 'secret flotillas' landed and picked up agents in and from France, and ferried Allied evaders and escapees. This activity was crucial to the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) and the SOE (Special Operations Executive).
This authoritative publication by the official historian, the late Sir Brooks Richards, vividly describes and analyses the clandestine naval operations that took place during World War II. The account has been made possible through Sir Brooks' access to closed government archives, combined with his own wartime experiences and the recollections of many of those involved.
First published in 1996, the original version included descriptions of naval operations off French North Africa. The history has been amended and expanded by Sir Brooks and is now published in two volumes. This first volume now concentrates on the sea lines to Brittany. Operations from French North Africa now form part of the second volume, which also includes operations in the Adriatic around Italy.

Table of Contents
Introduction. Acknowledgements. Preface. Foreword Part 1: Clandestine Sea Lines to Brittany - 1940-1944 1. May-June 1940: The Lost Battle for France 2. The British Clandestine Services in the New Strategic Context 3. Slocum's Section and the First Operations to Northern France 4. First Contacts with the West Coast of France 5. August-October 1940 6. November 1940 - March 1941 7. Did the Abwehr Allow L'Emigrant to Escape? 8. SOE's Aspirations and Operations: August 1940 - June 1941 9. SOE's Endeavours to Set up Independent Sea Transport to Brittany, 1941 10. April - November 1941 11. October 1941 - February 1942 12. November 1941 - June 1942 13. January 1942 - March 1943 14. West Coast: November 1942 - October 1943 15. North Coast: Winter 1943-44 16. The Aber-Benoit Saga: November-December 1943 17. North Coast and the 'Var' Line: August 1943 - April 1944 18. The 'Shelburne' Escape Line: January-March and July-August 1944 19. July-August 1944 20. Operations for SIS: January-August 1944 21. Escapes by Sea from Brittany: 1940-44. Footnotes. Appendix A: Clandestine Sea Transport Operations to North and West Coasts of France, 1940-44. Appendix B: Clandestine Escapes and Contacts at Sea by Vessels from Breton Ports, 1940-44. Appendix C: Recommendations by Captain Slocum for awards to members of the 15th MGB Flotilla and Inshore Patrol Flotilla. Appendix D: Comments on MARIE-LOUISE Rendez-Vous

The Author
Sir Brooks Richards was born in 1918 and died aged 84 in 2002. He was educated at Stowe School and Magdalene College, Cambridge. On the outbreak of war, Sir Brooks joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and won a DSC while serving in minesweepers. His second boat, Sena, exploded under him off the south coast. While recovering in hospital, he and Bill Luard wrote a paper on the potential of using fishing boats to carry arms to the French Resistance. This led to Sir Brooks' spending the rest of the war with the Special Operations Executive (SOE). He operated out of Penzance in Cornwall, landing agents and stores in France and bringing out men and intelligence. In 1942, he sailed to Gibraltar and earned a bar to his DSC by leading a detail of Free French troops to defend a Tunisian lighthouse. Thereafter he took over as the head of SOE's French section in Algiers. He had two postings to the embassy in Paris, one following the liberation of France and the second in 1959. He was appointed HM Ambassador to Saigon in 1972 and his final posting was as HM Ambassador to Athens in 1974. After his retirement, he was recalled to serve as security and intelligence co-ordinator in the Cabinet Office and then in the Northern Ireland Office. In his final retirement, Sir Brooks was chairman of the Friends of the Imperial War Museum. He was also chairman and then President of the Special Forces Club. In 1996 he published Secret Flotillas: The Clandestine Sea Lines to France and French North Africa, which was translated into French in 2000. In 1999, he undertook the revision of the book to cover naval operations around Italy and in the Adriatic. This he finished shortly before he died in September 2002.

Preface to the Second Edition
This second edition of Secret Flotillas differs from its predecessor in two respects:
1. Whereas the 1996 book covered only the clandestine sea lines to France and what was in 1940-44 French North Africa, the present one includes operations to and from Italy in 1943-45.
2. Though written in two parts, covering missions from United Kingdom ports and those from Gibraltar and other bases in the Western Mediterranean, respectively, these were published as a single volume. This has now been divided into two.
The reasons for these changes are that the ships and crews operating to the south of France in 1943 and 1944 from Corsica were working at the same time to the west coast of Italy and the adjacent islands, and that the same flotillas operated in the Adriatic and the Tyrrhanean.
To have included all this in a single volume would have made an already large and expensive book unmanageable and too costly. The division will also provide visitors to the coasts of the West Country and Brittany with a conveniently sized account of the part of this epic likely to be of the most interest to them.
A further consideration which weighed heavily with the author in deciding to include Italy in this edition is that more than half of the 390 operations in Italian and adjacent waters were carried out by Italian vessels with Italian crews. It was a contribution to the Allied war effort that, like the shelter and the succour of the contadini to Allied ex-prisoners after the Armistice of 1943, ought not to be forgotten.

Sir Brooks Richards wrote most of this book in the early 1990s - that is, half a century or so after the events described in it took place; but he had the enormous advantage of having been present in person at many of the crucial occasions he discussed. In an age when not many military historians have had a chance to hear shots fired in anger, it is an extra delight to find a participant who thinks so clearly and writes so well.
He took part in running agents to and fro across the Channel between Cornwall and Brittany, and earned the first of his two DSCs for gallantry under fire while doing so. The second of them was awarded for operations behind the German right flank in the Tunisian campaign. He could still, when he wrote this book, recall precisely the difficulties that in the pre-satellite age attended on navigation close to shore, when Breton rocks and tidal streams, or Moroccan surf and indistinguishable dunes, not to speak of enemy land, sea and air patrols, presented incessant dangers. Every sortie had to be most precisely timed, to fit in with the known perils; for the unexpected, one could do nothing but improvise and hope.
He moved on in 1943 from his seaborne career to land-based work for SOE, running agents into southern France from Algiers, and next year began a long and distinguished diplomatic career, which culminated in his own embassy in Athens from 1974 to 1978. Retirement from the diplomatic service, on reaching the age of sixty, did not mean for him retiring from public life: he had held several responsible posts in Whitehall already, and became the Crown's adviser on security in Northern Ireland.
Sir Brooks Richards never forgot those who had served with him in the war. He was long one of the pillars of the Special Forces Club. In this book, he recaptures with wonderful vividness the minute details of secret sea operations; and in this second edition, which alas he did not live to see in print, he expands it beyond the Tunisian campaign to cover small boat work on to the coasts of Italy, both before and after the Italian change of sides. Some of this was conducted by his friend Andrew Croft, from bases in Corsica, with exceptional daring. Over and over again, he uses his knowledge of the personalities involved to illuminate what went on.
This is one of the books that brings out the horror, the exultation and the chanciness of war, by one who knew what he wrote about from inside, and used the most secret surviving archives, sealed off from me forty years ago. This is not a piece of history that will need writing again: it is conclusive.
M. R. D. Foot

The fall of France in June 1940, coming hard on the heels of Hitler's seizure of Denmark, Norway and the Low Countries, left the whole coastline of Western Europe from the North Cape to the Spanish frontier in hostile hands. It was as great a strategic threat to the British Isles as any since the Spanish Armada. Even the Channel Islands, whose seamen had so often over the previous two-and-a-half centuries kept watch for any concentration of enemy shipping in neighbouring French ports and far down into the Bay of Biscay, had been abandoned as indefensible in the face of air power.

The British clandestine services, hastily reorganised to meet the emergency, came under great pressure: there were urgent requirements for intelligence, of which timely warning of any attempt to mount a cross-Channel invasion was the most pressing. Agents needed to be landed and picked up. Commander F.A. Slocum, the officer charged with the task of establishing physical communications with enemy-occupied territory for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), could find no relevant official records to help him.
What he was probably hoping to find was some form of report by Lt Augustus Agar VC, DSO, RN, who had between June and August 1919 used two of the then new 40-foot Thornycroft coastal motor boats (CMBs) to make nine trips from the small Finnish port of Terrioki into Bolshevik-held Petrograd, successfully landing or picking up couriers on six of these occasions. In doing so, he had re-established contact with Sir Paul Dukes, SIS's agent ST25, who had been sent into the field 18 months previously to obtain political intelligence. Dukes had been living in Petrograd disguised as a workman, a soldier or a member of the Cheka (secret police). His reports had originally been sent out by couriers across the Finnish border. But Bolshevik counter-espionage had captured many of those working for him and nothing had been heard from him for some time before Agar's arrival.
London's plan had been that Agar should transport agents across the Gulf of Finland and land them on the coast of Estonia. Once he had taken stock of the situation, Agar decided on a much more daring course of action to run agents directly into Petrograd through the chain of forts guarding the approaches. The forts mounted batteries of searchlights and guns, while between them ran a boom in the form of a chain, whose maximum immersion of three feet could be crossed even by a shallow-draught CMB with only a few inches to spare. There was also an ever-present danger from floating mines, but Agar succeeded in the hazardous enterprise he had set himself. On his last expedition, CMB 7 came under fire and crashed into the boom, losing both rudder and propeller shaft. He got back to base only after 12 hours at sea, with an improvised mast and sail and a cable streamed astern to steer the boat.
As though these risks were not enough, from an early stage Agar involved himself in offensive action when opportunity offered. It was for sinking the 6,000-ton cruiser Oleg on his second mission that he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). In August 1919, he was joined by a small flotilla of seven 55-foot CMBs. In a combined operation, they destroyed the whole of the Bolshevik battle fleet lying in the Kronstadt naval basin - an action for which Commander C.C. Dobson, RN, senior officer of the flotilla, and Lt G.C. Steele, his second in command, were each awarded the VC while Agar received the DSO (Distinguished Service Order).
It is hardly surprising that soon after this, Agar's operations for SIS came to an end. In the Second World War motor gun boats carrying out operations for the clandestine services were strictly discouraged from indulging in heroics.
If anyone in 1940 had had leisure to look for even earlier precedents in the age when sail and oar were master, they would have found that when war broke out with Revolutionary France in 1793, Jersey became a main base for collecting intelligence about the situation on the mainland. Its importance was enhanced when Royalist revolts occurred in the Vendee, Brittany and Normandy. The central personage in what became known as 'the Channel Islands correspondence' was a Jersey-born Royal Navy post-captain named Phillippe d'Auvergne, Prince de Bouillon, who had French emigre connections. From a hut below the ramparts of Gorey Castle d'Auvergne commanded a small flotilla of fast-sailing local craft, some manned by Royalist Frenchmen. These vessels carried secret agents to and from the French coast. Intelligence collection was their primary task and they were allowed to engage in offensive action and join in the defence of the islands only when this responsibility had been discharged. D'Auvergne had a dispatch vessel standing by to carry his reports to England. He addressed them directly to William Wyndham, Secretary at War, rather than to any naval authority. In addition to the intelligence that his own flotilla brought him, a procession of Royalist small craft arrived from French ports with information and collected arms and ammunition from stocks held by him.
By the time counter-revolutionary resistance had collapsed, in 1797, fear of a French invasion of the Channel Islands, Ireland or England lent fresh importance to Jersey as a base for intelligence collection. D'Auvergne, a key figure as spymaster and local naval commander, was promoted to Commodore in 1801 and Rear-Admiral in 1805. He retired from the Navy only in 1812.
For nearly 20 years, d'Auvergne provided a centralised control, which had been lacking earlier in what has been well called the Second Hundred Years' War with France. At that period a swarm of small privateers, mostly based on Guernsey, preyed on French coastal shipping, ranging deep down into the Bay of Biscay and, posing as local craft, ventured far enough into French harbours to look for strategically threatening concentrations of vessels. Though this combination of free enterprise and self-defence had previously been effective in detecting any build-up of French forces in the neighbouring harbours of Granville, Saint-Malo, Treguier or Morlaix, it failed spectacularly to prevent a French invasion of Jersey in the winter of 1781. The Governor was surprised in his bed and forced to order all British forces in the island to surrender. The situation was redressed only by the action of one regular officer of the garrison, Major Pierson, who refused to obey the Governor's order and attacked the French. In a short, sharp action both Pierson and de Rullecourt, the French commander, were killed, but the French were defeated and the island was saved. This episode may have had something to do with the institution of more systematic intelligence arrangements in Jersey under d'Auvergne when France and Great Britain were next at war.
Notwithstanding the advent of the internal combustion engine, aircraft and radar, fishing vessels and craft which could pass as such played an important part in clandestine sea transport in the Second World War. One big difference from previous occasions when a line of war separated England and France was that parachuting from aircraft and the clandestine landing of aircraft by moonlight now provided alternatives to infiltration and exfiltration by sea. Air landing and pick up of agents had been pioneered by the French intelligence services in the First World War, but the Royal Air Force (RAF) was not ready for a first such operation to France until October 1940. Only five took place in 1941. The build-up of the RAF's Special Duties squadrons was swift thereafter, but, as weather not infrequently bedevilled flying, clandestine operations to France by sea retained their importance until the Liberation.
When the French edition of Hugh Verity's We Landed by Moonlight was published in 1982, Jacques Maillet, one of General de Gaulle's Compagnons de la Liberation, wrote in a preface that it was surprising and regrettable that the subject of clandestine air landings in France during the Occupation had before then been treated only incidentally in accounts of the clandestine struggle. Group Captain Verity's record of these operations was an extraordinary adventure story, but the author had also striven to achieve meticulous historical accuracy. He had drawn on official RAF records and a great deal of evidence from British and French participants: his book was therefore a valid contribution to historiography. Moreover, these operations had exercised a profound influence on the course of French history. The flights were few in number: no more than a few dozen pilots had been involved and passengers amounted to a few hundred at the most. But their historical importance was immense.
They were significant, firstly, for military reasons. It was essential that those responsible for radio communications and for intelligence and those designated to take charge of the secret army should be able to report back to London. In the fighting that led to the Liberation, the excellent cooperation between the French Forces of the Interior and the armies that had landed owed much to the contacts thus established.
But, above all, Maillet pointed out, one must not forget that these were the links that made it possible to unite French internal Resistance and General de Gaulle's Free France in a single combat force. Without them the Jean Moulins, the Brossolettes and the Morandats could not have built the structures by which the French Resistance movement organised itself under General de Gaulle's command. If France was able, notwithstanding the armistice of 1940 and the Vichy regime, to reclaim its status as a great power, it was because de Gaulle was, and had in the end to be recognised as, the man who spoke for all of France. That was possible only because men who had come out of France had been able to unite around him.
Without clandestine air operations, the Free French would have remained a group unquestionably a heroic and admirable group of combatants, but one isolated from evolving attitudes in France. The air operations, however, enabled men and ideas to be exchanged between London and Algiers on the one hand and the French Resistance on the other. He might well have added that France was thereby spared the fragmentation and confrontation of internal and external resistance that embittered the liberation of, for example, Greece and Yugoslavia.
It was, Maillet concluded, no exaggeration to say that clandestine air operations had modified the course of French history. Those associated with the Special Duties squadrons were equally deserving of Sir Winston Churchill's tribute to the airmen of the Battle of Britain: 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.'
As head of SOE's (Special Operations Executive) North African French country section in 1943 and 1944, I was a customer of the RAF's Special Duties squadrons and my admiration of them is as great as that of Maillet. But from two years' earlier service in SOE's Naval Section, I know that their seagoing counterparts, the Secret Flotillas, made a far from insignificant contribution to the historic process he describes. It is high time that their story be recorded, not as a series of incidental episodes, but as a subject in its own right.
Brooks Richards
21 March 1995
Blandford Forum, Dorset

For more Information go to the Pen & Sword Website:

Take the link for "Secret Flotillas Vol 1"

Nelson to Vanguard
Warship Design and Development
Edition: Paperback Edition 2012
Format: Paperback
Author: David K Brown
ISBN: 9781848321496
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Found in: Maritime History Books
All Seaforth Books
Price: RRP 19.99
Get this title for just 13.59 by becoming a Platinum Member. Whats this?

Publisher's Title Information

Nelson to Vanguard is the third volume in D K Brown's bestselling series on warship design and development looks at the Royal Navy's response to the restrictions placed on it by the Washington Naval Treaties in the inter-war years, and analyses the fleet that was constructed to fight the Second World War.
He focusses on the principal pre-war developments such as the first purpose-built aircraft carriers and the growing perception of the threat of air attack to warships. All the wartime construction programmes are covered, such as the massive expansion in escort ships to counter the U-boat menace, and the development of the amphibious warfare fleet for the D-Day landings in 1944. Full analysis is also provided of the experience of wartime damage, as well as the once top secret pre- and post-war damage trials.
Illustrated throughout with a superb collection of contemporary photographs and numerous line drawings, this now classic work is required reading for naval historians and enthusiasts.

The Author

D K Brown led a distinguished career as a naval architect. He published widely on the subject of warship design and built a reputation as a clear and brilliant commentator on the development of the ships of the Royal-Navy. He died in 2008.


I remember as a Junior Seaman 2nd Class in 1956 visiting HMS Vanguard at Portsmouth. I only wish I had paid more attention that day; or is it just the passing of the years that have dimmed the memory. What I do recall is the size. She was moored at Fareham Creek, so it wasn't much of a trip from Gosport. However I had the privilege to see her there until she was decommissioned on 7 June 1960 and sold for scrap. Portsmouth (Southsea) seafront was packed with people who came to see her off. As Vanguard was being towed towards the harbour entrance, she slewed across the harbour and ran aground near the Still & West. She was pulled off by five tugs and an hour later, and made her final exit from Portsmouth. I recall cartoons in the local papers. Isn't it a pity she isn't moored near HMS Belfast? What an opportunity we lost of saving the last Battleship. You cannot really explain the people what it is like to walk about a Battleship! I am glad I didn't miss it.

It is easy to deduce that this book covers a period before my Royal Navy service, however I am pleased that it will help fill a gap and take its place alongside other books on warship design.

It is very well presented and contains numerous photographs and design plans.

Rob Jerrard

Rebuilding the Royal Navy - Warship Design since 1945
Found in: Maritime History Books
Edition: 2012, 1st Published 2003
Format: Paperback
Authors: David K Brown & George Moore
ISBN: 9781848321502
Publishers: Seaforth
Price: Introductory Offer
RRP 19.99
Get this title for just 13.59 by becoming a Platinum Member. Whats this?
Publication Date: 17 September 2012

Publisher's Title Information

This design history of post-war British warship development, based on both declassified documentation and personal experience, is the fourth and final volume in the author's masterly account of development of Royal Navy's ships from the 1850s to the Falklands War. In this volume the author covers the period in which he himself worked as a Naval Constructor, while this personal knowledge is augmented by George Moore's in-depth archival research on recently declassified material.
The RN fleet in 1945 was old and worn out, while new threats and technologies, and post-war austerity called for new solutions. How designers responded to these unprecedented challenges is the central theme of this book. It covers the ambitious plans for the conversion or replacement of the bigger ships; looks at all the new construction, from aircraft carriers, through destroyers and frigates, to submarines (including nuclear and strategic), to minesweepers and small craft. The authors pay particular attention to the innovations introduced, and analyses the impact of the Falklands War.
At the start of the twenty-first century the Royal Navy is still a powerful and potent force with new and a number of innovative classes, both surface and sub-surface, coming on stream. This book offers a fascinating insight into how the post-war fleet developed and adapted to the changing role of the Navy.


Since I qualify as having served in the Royal Navy since 1945 I was hoping that this book would cover the ships I served in. I was not disappointed; indeed it goes into great detail on all the classes I served in and all the others that remain so vivid in my mind. From my personal point of view my old ships are well covered, viz, Grafton, a type 14 Second-Rate Anti-Submarine Frigate, Chichester, Aircraft-Direction Type 62 Frigate, Lion, a Tiger Class Cruiser, & the Carrier Victorious. The final thrill was to find on page 52 a Photograph of HMS Aisne, a Battle class Radar Picket Conversion Destroyer. I say thrill because the Photograph is dated 1966 and one of those tiny black figures may be me. On page 181 the Authors show a Type 22 junior rates bunk space with the caption, "A far cry from the hammocks of the Second World War" I would add , and beyond because I slept in a hammock in Grafton and Chichester.

This is a super addition to any Maritime enthusiast's library.

Rob Jerrard