Although Friedman is perhaps best known for his work on American warships, he has also spent a great deal of time in the British archives. This is his second volume looking at British destroyers, and is a prequel to British Destroyers and Frigates: The Second World War and After. In this volume Friedman looks at the earlier story of the destroyer, from its origins to the outbreak of the Second World War.
About half of the text focuses on the pre First World War period. This is the era that saw the development of the destroyer, originally as an answer to the threat posed by small torpedo boats, which appeared to pose a very real threat to the Royal Navy, especially when the most serious naval threat came from France. The Channel was an ideal battlefield for short range torpedo boats and early destroyers,
The focus is very much on the boats themselves rather than their wartime exploits. The First World War chapter looks at the destroyer's wartime service in some detail, while the Second World War chapter focuses on the changes made to pre-war destroyers as a result of new experiences. Look elsewhere for tales of daring-do or flamboyant destroyer captains.
Just over half of the text looks at the period before the First World War, a period that saw the Navy attempt to develop a new type of ship without any real combat experience to give guidance. The result was a period filled with experimental boats, commercial designs and controversies, each of which is detailed in the text. This is one of the many strengths of this book - rather than simply describe each class of destroyer as it was built, Friedman takes us through the discussions and compromises that were involved in producing each new class, and in some cases each individual ship.
The text is incredibly well supported by hundreds of detailed plans, and at least as many well chosen photographs showing how the designs evolved over this period (with an emphasis on clear side-on views that show the overall layout of the ship).
This is a excellent piece of work that will be of great value to anyone with an interest in the history of the Royal Navy or in the design and development of warships.
1 - Introduction
2 - Beginnings
3 - Torpedo-Boat Destroyers
4 - The Changing Role of the Destroyer
5 - Fisher's Destroyers
6 - A Standard Type
7 - War, 1914-18
8 - Lessons Absorbed
9 - A New Standard Design: The A-I Series
10 - The Second World War
Date List (specifications)
List of Ships (building dates and fates)
Author: British Destroyers From Earliest Days to the Second World War, Norman Friedman