The battlecruiser was one of the most controversial warships of the First World War, at least on the British side, with their entire service overshadowed by the dramatic loss of three British battlecruisers at Jutland. Individual battlecruisers have been studied in some detail, but this is the first book that I've seen that focuses on the type as a whole.
The battlecruiser was a fairly short lived type of warship. It carried similar guns to the all big gun Dreadnought battleships, but was lighter armoured and faster than normal battleships. As a result they were often just as large as contemporary battleships, but they weren't originally designed (at least on the British side) to fight other capital ships. One of this books many strengths is the detailed examination of the original plans for the first British battlecruisers and what the Royal Navy expected to use them for (destroying commerce raiders, defeating less powerful cruisers and some scouting in major battles, where their speed would allow them to get out of trouble).
The big flaw with the original British concept for the battlecruiser was the failure to consider what might happen if opposing battlecruisers clashed. It was just that scenario that led to the loss of Invincible, Indefatigable and Queen Mary at Jutland, destroyed by the heavy shells of their German counterparts. However it is worth remembering that these were the only British battlecruisers to be lost during the First World War, despite their being heavily involved in all of the major naval clashes.
The authors have produced a wide ranging book. We begin with a look at the origins of the Anglo-German naval rivalry, Admiral Fisher's decision to build the all-big-gun HMS Dreadnought, and the impact this had on cruiser design. The battlecruiser is thus placed in context as a replacement for the Armoured Cruisers, which were themselves powerful, heavily armed warships. We then look at the design process in both countries, the political, financial, industrial and technological restrictions on the battlecruisers, and the different design philosophies. We then move onto their combat careers, looking at every significant use of the battlecruisers, not just those that saw the opposing battlecruisers clash (as a result we look at the battle of the Falklands, where the success of the British battlecruisers against German heavy cruisers proved that the original concept was valid and also unrealistically raised expectations of what the battlecruiser could achieve). Finally there is a comparative examination of the battlecruisers – were they a good investment, how did the resources committed on the two sides compare, how did the designs compare.
This is an excellent single volume history of an important but controversial category of warship, and suggests that despite the dramatic loss of three British battlecruisers at Jutland the type was actually a useful warship in the circumstances of the First World War.
1 - Collision Courses: British and German Policy from 1870 to the First World War
2 - Birth of the Battlecruiser - Strategic, Economic and Technological Challenges
3 - The Battlecruisers of the Royal Navy
4 - The Battlecruisers of the Kaiserliche Marine
5 - Operational Use
6 - British and German Battlecruisers: A Technical and Operational Comparison
Appendix - Battlecruisers of Other Nations
Author: Michele Cosentino & Ruggero Stanglini