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Battle on the Seven Seas: German Cruiser Battles 1914 - 1918

Gary Staff

First published in 2011 this book has been reprinted in 2018.
The cruisers of the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserlische Marine) were active throughout the First World War and saw action all around the globe, tying up valuable Allied naval resources out of all proportion to their number. Drawing on first-hand accounts and original research in German archives, the author here describes in detail some of their most significant and/or audacious battles. Some are well known, such as their role at Jutland, Goeben's attack on the Russian fleet (which brought Turkey into the war) and the sagas of Konigsberg and Emden; but others have been unduly neglected.

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First published in 2011 this book has been reprinted in 2018. The cruisers of the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserlische Marine) were active throughout the First World War and saw action all around the globe, tying up valuable Allied naval resources out of all proportion to their number. Drawing on first-hand accounts and original research in German archives, the author here describes in detail some of their most significant and/or audacious battles. Some are well known, such as their role at Jutland, Goeben's attack on the Russian fleet (which brought Turkey into the war) and the sagas of Konigsberg and Emden; but others have been unduly neglected. Gary Staff deliberately focuses on the latter to bring new material to the attention of the reader and to demonstrate the global span of the cruisers' activities. The blow-by-blow accounts of the action (drawing heavily on first-hand Allied and especially German accounts) are supported by dozens of photographs, many previously unpublished, from the author's own impressive collection. The battles described include: Helgoland Bight, August 1914; Coronel, November 1914; Falklands December, 1914; Doggerbank, January 1915; Goeben and the Russian fleet, Black Sea, May 1915; Ostergarn July 1915; Jutland, 1916; Second Heligoland Bight, November 1917; Imbros, January 1918.

ISBN: 9781526743855
Format: Paperback
Author(s): Gary Staff
First Publishment Date: 2 May 2018

Additional Information

Coming Soon No
  1. Every cruiser or Great War aficionado who does not yet have this volume on his bookshelf should get it now. review by HH on 07/03/2019

    It pays to read the full title of this book carefully: it is not about German cruisers as a type – in fact, it covers warships ranging from light cruisers (Kleine Kreuzer) with 4-inch guns to dreadnought-type battle cruisers (Grosse Kreuzer, in the German budget classification). It does not even contain a table of key technical data of the respective vessels. But ‘it does exactly what it says on the tin’: it deals very specifically with engagements of the First World War involving German cruisers.

    The author’s aim is a “narrative” (Introduction), and he most certainly succeeds in this. The battles described, chapter by chapter, are Helgoland Bight 1914, Coronel 1914, Cape Sarych 1914, Falklands 1914, Dogger Bank 1915, Östergarn 1915, the Emden and Königsberg exploits, Skagerrak (Jutland) 1916, second battle of Helgoland Bight 1917, and Imbros 1918. Each chapter provides the wider context, a detailed description and a brief overall assessment. The narrative includes extensive quotations from German documents and publications in English translation which is often a bit too literal for my taste, but the general approach works very well. In most chapters, British and German accounts are quoted side by side, and it is these quotations that give the book its distinctive flavour and balance – there is no partiality here, and while there are still heroes and villains, the author finds them on both sides. Biographical sketches of the main protagonists help in understanding their attitudes and actions. In keeping with the aim of the book, the 43 photographs put an emphasis on battle damages and the computer-generated maps, while not always easy to read, make it possible to follow the development of each engagement (there are, for example, three maps for Dogger Bank and Östergarn each).

    It is obvious that this book is based on extensive archive research and wide multilingual reading. The endnotes cite German and British publications and unpublished archive materials, as well as Russian published material (including memoirs, reports etc.). Readers may be intrigued to learn that the author rates German official accounts and documentary records higher than their British counterparts. But then, he is an Aussie, not British. Being a retired airline engineer, he has had an impressive output of well-researched and well-written books, at the rate of one book every two or three years over the last 15 or so years – surely the most productive retirement any naval enthusiast could wish for. His ‘production line’ also demonstrates his track record of research on the Kaiserliche Marine, with books on the battle for the Baltic Islands (Pen & Sword Maritime 2008), German battlecruisers (Seaforth 2014), and Jutland ‘through German eyes’ (Pen & Sword 2016).

    But the research background does not make this a ‘heavy’ book – it is an absorbing read, the text flows, and even on battles which I thought I knew well, the author manages to find a fresh angle or a hitherto neglected aspect. And his balanced outlook does not mean he does not hold strong views. His narrative is punctuated by strong statements such as: “This was not the case” (p. 85) or “This statement is just untrue” (p. 65), followed by precise figures about speed or gun ranges correcting widespread misconceptions. The end of the book is somewhat abrupt because it is not rounded off by some kind of overall conclusion or retrospect. The only real oddity I could find in the entire book was in the bibliography where publications are listed in alphabetical order – of titles, not of authors’ surnames! None of my students would get away with that, but then, as the author states in his Introduction: “This book is not an academic book.”
    Originally, the book was published in 2011 (Pen & Sword Maritime in the UK, Barnes & Noble in the US), and has been re-issued in paperback and e-book in 2018, at a price which is just over half that of the hardback edition.

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