Sometimes I feel it’s hard to keep up with all the excellent maritime/military titles being published. Last year I highlighted a selection of these books that especially appealed to me and I hope you found some titles of interest in my regular BookPick blogs. I’m kicking off the New Year with three fascinating and superbly illustrated reference works on various types of sea vessels – along with a book on the Peninsular War and a moving account of the tragic loss of HMS Truculent. Happy Reading!
The World of the Battleship Edited by Bruce Taylor
This new volume presents a global vision of the development of the world’s battleships of all the maritime nations, covering historical, technical and gratifyingly their social and cultural aspects. In a collection of chapters by international experts, the design, building and career of emblematic battleships from twenty-one of the world’s navies is explored. A significant book on the great capital ships and their role in the expression of a nation’s seapower.
River Gunboats by Roger Branfill-Cook
The first recorded engagement by a steam-powered warship took place on a river, when in 1824 the Honourable East India Company’s gunboat Diana went into action on the Irrawaddy in Burma. In the 150 years that followed river gunboats played a significant part in over forty campaigns and individual actions, down to the Portuguese and American Brown Water fighting in Africa and Vietnam respectively at the end of the twentieth century. As well as the individual vessels, maps of the river systems where they operated are included, together with narratives of the principal actions involved.
They Were Just Skulls by John Johnson-Allen
Few people are aware of the loss of submarine HMS Truculent in the waters of the Thames in 1950 – and the human error that led to the tragic loss of over 60 men. Johnson-Allen, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, has put together, from many hours of recording, a personal account of the last survivor, Fred Henley. As well as the horrific nature of the disaster, the book chronicles Fred’s incident-filled Service life, providing a fascinating snapshot of the Royal Navy of that era. A touching and atmospheric read.
French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786-1861 by Rif Winfield and Stephen S Roberts
In 1786 the French Navy had just emerged from its most successful war of the eighteenth century, having often outfought or outmanoeuvred the Royal Navy in battle, and made a major contribution to American independence. Despite the quality of its ship design and fighting skills, within a few years it would see defeat after defeat. Fine ships continued to be built, but it was only after 1815 that the navy revived, espousing technical innovation and invention, to produce some of the most advanced ships of the age. A comprehensive picture of the overall development of French warships in the latter half of the sailing era, and one that has its special place on my own reference book-shelf.
The Napoleonic Wars As illustrated by J.J. Jenkins
Originally published as Martial Achievements of Great Britain and Her Allies From 1799 to 1815 this is one of the most magnificent of all period art books ever produced. The text is unashamedly British propaganda but needs to be seen in the context of the times. The inclusion of fifty-four stunning colour plates make the book a must for the collector of British or Napoleonic military art and literature.
Still looking for bookish inspiration?