Although the Liberty ships are the most famous of the ‘standard’ types, this book reveals that there were a surprisingly large number of other standards, starting in the First World War with British ships that fell into more general ‘types’, as it was believed that shipyards would work better on ships they were familiar with. When the United States was drawn into the ship building programme a series of more standard types emerged, but the heyday of the standard ship was the Second World War, where more or less identical ships of various types were built in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, Germany and Japan.
The book could have done with more basic explanations of some of the maritime terms that are used, as it will appeal to a wider, non-specialist audience. This would include some background on the classification societies that get mentioned fairly often, exactly what a tramp steamer is, and some of the technical ship building terms (sheer, tumblehome etc).
The first two chapters look at the idea of the standard ship and give design overviews of the main types. We then look at the British, American and Canadian ships of the First World War and their interwar uses. The bulk of the book looks at the larger ship building programme of the Second World War, mainly organised by country, but with dedicated chapters for the Liberty and Victory ships. The final three chapters look at the post-war careers of the standard ships, their impact on later ship design and their successes and failures. This final chapter also includes sections on the military careers of these ships, both those that were converted into auxiliary warships (mainly transports) and those that were used as cargo ships.
This is an interesting book that covers a great deal of material in a fairly small amount of space, providing a good overview of the massive civil shipbuilding programme that played a major part in the Allied victory in both World Wars, by producing these standard ships quicker than the Germans could sink them.
1 - The Concept: Austere, Functional and Lots of Them
2 - Fit for Purpose: The Design Criteria
3 - Ships Built in Britain During the Great War
4 - The American and Canadian Great War 'Bridge of Ships'
5 - The Commercial Role of the Standard Ships of the Great War
6 - At War Again - Rebuilding, Lessons Learnt and Lend-Lease
7 - United States Maritime Commission - C, T and N Classes
8 - The Empire Ships Built in Britain
9 - The Liberty Shipbuilding Programme: Built by the Mile and Cut Off by the Yard
10 - Canadian Shipbuilding and Shipowning, and Australia's Rivers
11 - Liberty's Successor, the Victory Ships
12 - German Standard Ships Built in the Second World War
13 - Japanese Standard Ships
14 -The Big Sell-Off and Post-War Commercial Success of the Standard Ships
15 - The Influence of Standard Ship Design on the Evolution of Naval Architecture
16 - Successes and Failures - An Unparalleled Achievement
Author: Nick Robins