Spoils of War – The Fate of Enemy Fleets after the Two World Wars, Aiden Dodson & Serena Cant

Spoils of War – The Fate of Enemy Fleets after the Two World Wars, Aiden Dodson & Serena Cant

There is a clear difference between the situations at the end of the two wars. At the end of the First World War the main enemy fleets were still largely intact – the Germans in particular still had a powerful battlefleet, which still had the potential to be a military threat. In contrast by 1945 the German and Japanese surface fleets had been swept from the oceans, with most of their larger vessels sunk or otherwise incapacitated. The only significant threat was posed by the German U-boat fleet, which was still sizable despite suffering very heavy losses, and included a number of newer ships that might have posed a real threat if they had entered service earlier.

The book is split into two parts, one for each world war. For the First World War there is one ‘Endgame’ chapter looking at how the war ended for the defeated fleets, followed by a look at how the remaining ships were split then a chapter on their post-war fates. For the Second World War there are three ‘Endgame’ chapters – Germany, Japan and ‘other’, but otherwise the structure is the same. Both sections include a detailed list of the ships and their post-war careers.

There are some interesting little snippets scattered throughout the text. It had never occurred to me that the intended fate of the German warships scuttled by their own crews at Scapa Flow was to have been scrapped or scuttled anyway. Some of the uses found for former U-boat engines after the First World War were also rather unexpected, with some of them serving as electicity power stations or powering tram systems around Britain! The motives behind insisting on the scrapping of most surviving enemy ships are also interesting – as well as the obvious desire to prevent German and Japan from re-arming with their old ships, there was also a desire to make sure that their remaining ships didn’t flood the world market for warships!

There is sometimes a bit of overlap between the chapters, with the various ‘Endgame’ chapters also including some material that more properly belongs in the ‘under new management’ sections – for example Endgame 1918 includes a section on the British use of U-boats on fundraising tours. Other than that the book is well organised, and tells an interesting story. The reference section is well researched, and should answer some of the mysteries surrounding the fates of some of the more obscure ships, although in some cases certainty might not be entirely possible.


Part I: The First World War
1 – Endgame 1918
2 – Dividing the Spoils
3 – Under New Management

Ships and Fates
1 - The German Navy: 11 November 1918
2 - The Austro-Hungarian Navy: 4 November 1918
3 - The Bulgarian Navy: 30 September 1918
4 - The Ottoman Navy: 27 October 1918

Part II: The Second World War
4 – Endgame – Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Finland 1943-45
5 – Endgame – Germany 1945
6 – Endgame – Japan 1945
7 – Dividing the Spoils
8 - Under New Management

Ships and Fates
1 – The German Navy: 8 May 1945
2 – The Italian Navy: 9 September 1943
3 – The Japanese Navy: 15 August 1945
4 – The Romanian Navy: 24 August 1944
5 – The Bulgarian Navy: 9 September 1944
6 – The Finnish Navy: 19 September 1944

9 - Retrospect

Author: Aiden Dodson & Serena Cant
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Seaforth
Year: 2020

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