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The Battleship Holiday - The Naval Treaties and Capital Ship Design

Robert C Stern

This book investigates the implications of these treaties on technical developments, contrasting the post-war generation of ships that were never completed or never even ordered with the new designs of the 1930s, revealing just how much progress had been made in areas like fire control and armour despite the hiatus. An analysis of how well these modern ships stood the test of war concludes this intriguing and original contribution to the literature a book that is certain to fascinate anyone interested in the final era of the big-gun at sea.

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Even as the First World War was ending the victorious great powers were already embarked on a potentially ruinous new naval race, competing to incorporate the wartime lessons and technology into ever-larger and costlier capital ships still seen as the ultimate arbiters of sea power. This competition was curtailed by the Washington naval treaty of 1922, which effectively banned the construction of such ships for years to come, and mandated the scrapping of those under construction. This holiday was to have profound effects on design when battleship building was renewed in the 1930s, as later international agreements continued to restrict size and firepower. This book investigates the implications of these treaties on technical developments, contrasting the post-war generation of ships that were never completed or never even ordered with the new designs of the 1930s, revealing just how much progress had been made in areas like fire control and armour despite the hiatus. An analysis of how well these modern ships stood the test of war concludes this intriguing and original contribution to the literature a book that is certain to fascinate anyone interested in the final era of the big-gun at sea.

ISBN: 9781848323445
Format: Hardback
Author(s): Robert C Stern
First Publishment Date: 27 November 2017

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  1. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for your bookshelf. review by Warship World reader PB on 20/01/2021

    Battleship. The word conjures up all manner of emotions. Fear, awe, inspiration and in some cases desperation too. Today, lazy journalists in search of an easy attention-grabbing headline use the term loosely in hackneyed, usually ill-informed, sentences to describe any vessel designed for war. Readers of this magazine, however, are more knowledgeable about battleships. Battleships are, or were, awe-inspiring feats of engineering, construction and imagination. Their creation defined navies and careers and established the status and pecking order of nations on a global scale.

    Battleships also ruined nations and led to self-destructive arms races that saw nations fall, inevitably, into the chasm of all-out total war. Battleships defined an era, a military strategy and a philosophy that lasted for just over seven decades of the late 19th century and first half of the 20th. A series of treaties to curtail the size and capabilities of new battleship designs and to limit the numbers of ships in service was organised throughout the early 1920s at London and Washington. This book takes a close look at how these treaty limits led to innovative designs and work arounds, but also led to outright breaking of the limits by the Japanese and Germans. Still, a construction ‘holiday’ of sorts was arranged and had profound and long-lasting efforts for battleship design and deployment throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

    This superbly illustrated book from Seaforth Publishing brings together all the various threads of the development of these leviathans. The writing is descriptive, concise, informative and entertaining in equal measure and provides a contemporary overview of a period of unimaginable technical progress set against a backdrop of political and military instability. A period full of nationalistic pride and self-importance. The famed, “We want eight and we won’t wait” was part of the British mentality to battleship/battlecruiser construction in the 1910s and 1920s. Robert C Stern’s book has been thoroughly researched and detailed charts, diagrams and indexes are included to provide useful help to anyone interested in researching the subject more extensively. A theme running through the book is the link between international politics, national pride, shipbuilding excellence and the ultimately futile pursuit of building bigger, better, faster, more powerfully armed battleships than rival nations.

    Battleships, in the terms of this excellent book, started with the launch of the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought in Portsmouth Dockyard and ended with the last broadside fired from the massive 16inch guns of the USS Wisconsin on May 16th 1991. Battleships remain such emotive, visceral, and powerful symbols of a nation’s pride and prestige, yet today no nation has any of these amazing warships in active service because modern warfare has made them completely and utterly obsolete.
    I wholeheartedly recommend this book for your bookshelf.

    Book Review by Patrick Boniface

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