HMS Duke of York was one of the last battleships constructed for the Royal Navy, entering service during the Second World War. The focus here in on the actual construction of the Duke of York. We don’t get much on the design of the ship other than what is needed to explain what we are seeing, and virtually nothing on her service record. Instead the focus is on her construction and her later scrapping.
The book is built around a collection of photographs taken by the shipyard as the Duke of York was being constructed, showing her at every stage from the first part of the keel being laid to her launch, and a series of regular shipyard reports that detailed progress on the ship as well as discussing problems, and sometimes other work going on. Sadly the builders took almost no pictures of the interior of the ship, so our only real views of the interior layout come in pictures where some of the walls have been installed but the next deck isn’t in place, or when they were exposed when she was being broken up. However other than that they photographed just about every stage of construction, so we get to see the battleship slowly appear before our eyes.
The pictures provide a fascinating insight into the work of the British shipyards, showing just how complex they were. They also give a much better idea than any plans of the complexity of a late battleship, and the level of planning and attention that had to go into their construction. However some also serve as a reminder that they weren’t the biggest ships of the period – in many of the earlier pictures the Duke of York is loomed over by the vast hull of the liner Queen Elizabeth, which was being built on the next slipway.
Although this is the heart of the book, we also get good sections on the shipyard itself, the workforce, how the project was funded and organised, and some of the elements of the ship – in particular the guns, armour and construction. After the construction section we get a section of plans, although on a smaller scale that in the books built around these plans, and finally a rather glum selection of photographs showing her being broken up.
I found this a rather impressive book, showing the sheer amount of effort that went into producing these battleships, and a view of a long lost industial world.
Contract and Specification Conditions
Author: Ian Buxton & Ian Johnston