The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 was the first of a series of inter-war attempts to limit naval construction, and thus prevent another arms race like the Anglo-German rivalry before the First World War. Amongst its provisions was a 'battleship holiday' in which very limited new construction was allowed, and size limits on battleships, aircraft carriers and cruisers. These artificial limits shaped all of the warships built over the next decade, and led to a great deal of arguments within each of the five navies involved.
Jordan begins with a look at the Allied fleets that emerged from the First World War, and the new projects that were put in place in the post-war period. It was these plans, and in particular the appearance of a series of plans for massive battleships and battlecruisers, that triggered the treaty negotiations and produced the Washington Treaty. This is followed by a chapter on the treaty itself and then by an examination of who emerged as winners and losers from the treaty. This is followed by individual chapters on the main types of ships involved - capital ships, aircraft carriers, treaty cruisers, aircraft carriers, the super-destroyers built in Italy and France, submarines and finally destroyers. This is the heart of the book, looking at how each nation responded to the limits, both in terms of fresh construction and politically (with Japan and France in particular being unhappy with the limits imposed on them). Finally there is a look at the failed Geneva naval negotiations and the London Treaty, which attempted to solve problems with the Washington Treaty, and limited the last generation of pre Second World War warships for most fleets.
This book fills a gap in my collection. There are plenty of books that discuss the technical features of warships and their service careers, but while these are good at explaining the 'what' of these ships, they aren't as good as the 'why'. Others focus on individual types (battleships, cruisers, destroyers etc) that look at the behinds the scenes discussions that produced various classes of ships, but again these rarely explain how their subject fitted into the wider plans of their navies. This book neatly fills that gap, looking at the reasons for the features of the different types of treaty cruisers - what each country was trying to achieve within the Treaty limits. We thus look at the impact of these limits on the British Nelson class ships, powerful in their day but too slow by the time the Second World War broke out and the unexpected construction race in 10,000 ton Treaty Cruisers (ended as much by the Great Depression as by the London Treaty).
This is an excellent book that gives us a real insight into the thinking within the five major world navies during the 1920s, and the reasoning that led to the various classes of warships constructed during the period, and that in many cases went on to play a major role in the Second World War.
1 - The Navies of the Victorious Powers 1918-1921
2 - Postwar Projects 1918-1921
3 - The Washington Treaty, 6 February 1922
4 - Winners and Losers
5 - Capital Ships, 1922-1930
6 - The Treaty Cruiser
7 - The Development of the Aircraft Carrier
8 - Esploratori, Contre-Torpilleurs, 'Condottieri'
9 - Submarines
10 - Destroyers
11 - Geneva and London
Appendix 1: Text of Washington Treaty, 1922
Appendix 2: Text of London Treaty, 1930
Author: John Jordan