Although this book looks at all eight warships to carry the name Warspite, the focus is on the seventh, a super-dreadnaught that served in both World Wars. When she was first built the Warspite and her sister ships in the Queen Elizabeth class were at the cutting edge of military technology, with oil replacing coal and newly designed 15in guns. The class turned out to be a great success, and were the most effective British battleships of the First World War. In the late 19302s the Warspite was given a major refit, which made her one of the most Royal Navy's more modern battleships at the start of the Second World War. The Warspite's career saw her fight at the Battle of Jutland during the First World War, and take part in the campaign in Norway, the evacuation of Crete, the naval campaigns against the Italians in the Mediterranean, the D-Day invasions and the Walcheren landings. This was also a period that saw the battleship relegated from its position at the heart of the fleet, and by the end of her active life Warspite had effectively been reduced to the role of a shore bombardment vessel.
The text is well supported by a large number of quotes from sailors who served on the Warspite. Perhaps the most memorable passage in the book is the account of Commander Humphrey Walwyn, the ship's Executive Officer, of a journey through the ship during the battle of Jutland, searching for damage. Many parts of the ship were devastated (her squadron came under heavy German fire in the second phase of the battle, when the surviving British battlecruisers and the fast battleships were attempting to draw the German High Seas fleet onto the guns of the British Grand Fleet). At the same time other compartments were almost completely isolated from the action, shut off behind heavy armoured doors so that even the noise of battle disappeared. Some sailors were even found quietly playing cards in the middle of the battle!
The author also includes brief histories of the first six warships to carry the same name, and a longer look at the eighth and last, a cold-war submarine.
This is a very successful work, combining a clear narrative with a good use of some very atmospheric first-hand sources (as well as a large collection of photographs).
1 - Creators and Forebears
2 - Birth of a Super Dreadnaught
3 - Jutland
4 - Armistice and Mutiny
5 - Reconstruction
6 - To Narvik
7 - Calabria, Taranto & Matapan
8 - Desperate Hours
9 - Delivering a Knockout Blow
10 - Swansong
11 - Stubborn to the End
Author: Iain Ballantyne
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime
Year: 2010 reprint of 2001 original