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Warships After London

John Jordan

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A masterly exposition that is surely the book to consult on the subject. Review by Warship World reader
Warships after London – End of the Treaty Era in the 5 major fleets 1930-36
by John Jordan
In his preface to ‘Warships after London’, Jordan says that his aim was to “bridge the gap between the political and the technical” in looking at the ways that the 5 major navies (UK, US, Japan, France and Italy) handled the fallout from the 1930 London Treaty which extended the quantitative limitations of the 1922 Washington Treaty.
The opening two chapters bring the reader up to speed with the implications of the Washington Treaty and, in 1930 the concern of the British and Americans at the growing Japanese navy. The book covers the impact of the London Treaty tonnage limitations which now covered cruisers, destroyers, submarines and smaller combatants and auxiliaries. With new construction limited, modernisation of the older British and American battleships became paramount, particularly to counter the growing air threat, and improved machinery. Both France and Italy each had the right to build 2 new battleships with the Littorios clearly exceeding the 35,000 ton limit. One interesting observation is that no nation built a satisfactory battleship that met the Washington Treaty limits – KGV ended up nearly 45,000 tons.
If the battleships were seen as the “capital ships” that needed limiting, what was the impact on the actual next generation of capital ships – the aircraft carriers – which were only viewed as “force multipliers” at the time? British carrier development was hampered by the RN/RAF in fighting, whereas the Japanese and US built operationally more capable ships. The British emphasis on “ship first, aviation second” meant that the Ark Royal and later Illustrious class carried fewer aircraft than the US Yorktowns. Although the Japanese air groups were restricted by hangar capacity in line with British thinking, their air groups were vastly superior.
To many, the Washington Treaty is epitomised by the 10,000 ton 8” gunned cruisers built to the Treaty limit. The London Treaty introduced new qualitative and quantitative limits which meant a trade-off in size and numbers, resulting in lighter gunned ships. Inevitably national tactical requirements impacted on design with the French and Italians building moderately armed ships around 7,000 tons whilst the US and Japanese continued to build ships of up to 10,000 tons but with more 6” guns. The British faced the problem of trying to fit a quart into a pint pot, trying to keep weight down along with the demand for increased AA fits, aircraft and armour.
This review can only skim the surface of a book that addresses the differing national requirements and approaches to what is best described as arms limitation. John Jordan is known to many as the editor of the Annual Warship book and this is another example of his exhaustive research. He guides you through complex issues of design, exposing national interpretations on measurement in a clear, easily understood, and readable manner. Highly informative, with tables and diagrams of ships designs, this is a masterly exposition that is surely the book to consult on the subject.

(Posted on 25/11/2020)

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