Only six light cruisers served in the German Navy during the Second World War, all but one of them designed and laid down during the 1920s (the exception was the Nürnberg, laid down in 1933 and completed in 1935. Plans to massively expand this force were in place in 1939, but were cancelled at the start of the Second World War.
The author actually served in one of these ships, and sometimes his wartime attitudes do shine through - his account of the Altmark incident being perhaps the best example. However he is impressively unbiased about the ships themselves, and is generally unimpressed with their design and in particular their seaworthiness.
These cruisers didn’t perform well during the Second World War. Only four were still intact by 1941 when they were all turned into training ships. Later they came back into service for short periods, but a habit of repeatedly changing crews around and their low priority meant that they tended to be rather ineffective when they were used.
I like the structure of this book. Instead of looking at the ships class by class or ship by ship Koop starts with a topic-by-topic examination of their design, starting with the overall design, then looking at subjects such as armour, armaments, fire control and machinery. This makes it easier to trace the changes made in each of these areas during the design of these six ships. This is followed by a ship-by-ship history of the cruisers. The text is supported by an excellent collection of plans and photographs. Overall this is a very impressive history of a fairly unimpressive set of warships.
Fire Control System
The Spähkreuzer Programme
Author: Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke
Year: 2014 edition of 1983 original