The aim of this book is to provide an account of one battleship or large gun armed capital ship from every nation that operated at least one of them from the era of the pre-dreadnaught to the end of the age of the battleship after the Second World War.
The ships covered aren’t all battleships in the generally accepted sense. Amongst them are a number of coastal battleships (Peder Skram), battlecruisers (notably Goeben/ Yavuz Sultan Selim and Hood) and armoured cruisers (Georgios Averof). In most cases the ships in question were the most powerful in their country’s service, while the Hood was for a time the largest capital ship in the world and the most famous ship in the Royal Navy. This approach also allows the inclusion of more countries, and thus gives us a much wider view of the impact of the largest capital ships of the age of the battleship. The majority of the nations are European, but we also get the United States, Australia, China, Japan, Turkey, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, demonstrating that these powerful ships were operated by powers all around the world.
Each of these chapters has a different feel, reflecting the different impact of the battleships on their respective nations. Very few of them are purely military in nature – indeed many of these ships rarely or never entered combat (the Swedish Sverige being the most extreme example). Instead we focus on the political processes that led to their being ordered, their technical specifications, and the impact they had on their countries. In some cases the impact was largely political, as with the Brazilian Minas Geraes, which was caught up in the racial tension that characterised the Brazilian Navy, and in a series of mutinies and rebellions. Others were the product of national pride and played a part in their nation’s armament (or re-armament in the case of Scharnhorst).
A key theme in most chapters is the experience of life on board – how the day was organised, how the crew was structured, what the key relationship between officers and men was like, in some cases even the exact types of food consumed onboard. What emerges from this is just how different the experiences of the normal sailors could be depending on the country, with some experiencing quite brutal conditions and harsh discipline, others working in a far more professional environment.
This is a splendid book that gives us a real idea of just how widespread the battleship was as a weapon, how varied the type of ships involved were, and how different the experiences of their crews could be, as well as how significant even a single capital ship could be for its country.
China – Chen Yuen (1882), Qing Feng
Argentina – Garibaldi (1895), Guillermo Andres Oyarzabal
France – Iena (1898), Philippe Caresse
Norway – Eidsvold (1900), Jacob Borresen
Russia – Slava (1903), Sergei Vinogradov with Stephen McLaughlin
Denmark – Peder Skram (1908), Tom Wismann
Brazil – Minas Geraes (1908), Joao Roberto Martins Filho
The Netherlands – De Zeven Provincien (1909), Leon Homburg
Greece – Georgios Averof (1910), Zisis Fotakis
Turkey – Yavuz Sultan Selim (1911), Gokhan Atmaca
Austria-Hungary – Viribus Unitis (1911), Lawrence Sondhaus
Australia – Australia (1911), Richard Pelvin
Chile – Almirante Latorre (1913), Carlos Tromben Corbalan and Fernando Wilson Lazo
Spain – Alfonso XIII (1913), Agustin Ramon Rodriguez Gonzalex
Sweden – Sverige (1915), Ulf Sundberg
Great Britain – Hood (1918), Bruce Taylor
Japan – Nagato (1919), Hans Lengerer and Lars Ahlberg
Finland – Vainamoinen (1930), Jari Aromaa
Germany – Scharnhorst (1936), Thomas Schmid
Italy – Littorio (1937), Arrigo Velicogna
United States – Missouri (1944), Paul Stillwell
Editor: Brice Taylor