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Second World War: The War at Sea

Books - Second World War - The War at Sea

The Defenders of Taffy 3 – Analysis and Retelling of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Byron G. Como. A detailed account of the battle off Samar, taking advantage of the declassification of the American battle reports in 2012 and the use of any surviving Japanese reports to produce an accurate study of the defensive battle that saved the escort carriers of Taffy 3 from total destruction. Uncovers some previously lost details of the battle, and even traces the courses of individual torpedoes! (Read Full Review)
Hitler’s Navy – The Kriegsmarine in World War II, Gordon Williamson. Based on the same author’s fourteen earlier volumes on the German navy, but with a chapter on the operational history of the Kriegsmarine added. As a result we get good sections on less familiar types of vessels – the minesweepers, patrol boats and sub-chasers, as well as sizable sections on the S-Boats and U-Boats, which were in many ways the most effective part of the Kreigsmarine, as well as a look at the more famous surface warships (Read Full Review)
US Submarine vs IJN Antisubmarine Escort – The Pacific, 1941-45, Mark Stille. A look at the clash between US submarines and purpose build Japanese convoy escort vessels in the Pacific, a rather one sided battle in which the Americans overcame a slow start to almost wipe out Japanese merchant shipping while the Japanese escorts arrived late and appear to have been largely ineffective. Includes length sections on the development of the submarines and escort vessels and their technical specifications, followed by a year by year and base by base look at the exploits of the US submarines (Read Full Review)
Liberty Factory – the untold story of Henry Kaiser’s Oregon Shipyards, Peter J Marsh. A detailed examination of the Kaiser Ship Yards of the US Pacific North-West, newly built war emergency yards that ended revolutionising ship building and producing hundreds of Liberty Ships, Victory Ships, Escort Carriers and other essential vehicles in an area that had previously focused on high skilled wooden ship building rather than the large scale production of metal merchant ships. A good text, supported by excellent contemporary photographs, covering the ships themselves, the working end of the yards, and the massive support effort required to keep the work going. (Read Full Review)
U.S. Aircraft Carriers 1939-45, Ingo Bauernfeind. A photographic history of the US Aircraft Carrier of the Second World War, covering the Fleet, Escort and Light carriers with a background history of each class, and a brief history and at least one photograph for every carrier that saw service during the war. Also includes a detailed diving tour of the Saratoga, a guided tour of the Hornet (now a museum ship) and a look at the post-war career of the Essex class carriers (Read Full Review)
Kongo-Class Battleships, Lars Ahlberg and Hans Lengerer. An excellent photographic history of the Kongo class of battleships, originally built as pre First World War battlecruisers but modified twice to turn them first into battleships, then into fast battleships with the distinctive Japanese pagoda foremasts. This book combines a good history of the ships with an excellent selection of photographs, including good details on the layout of their distinctive pagoda foremasts and an honest assessment of the results of their reconstructions. (Read Full Review)
The Eastern Fleet and the Indian Ocean 1942-1944, Charles Stephenson. Looks at the difficult war experienced by the British Eastern Fleet, which was outclassed by the Japanese in 1942, largely hollowed out to help other fleets in 1943 and was only able to go back onto the offensive in 1944, once the Japanese navy had been largely neutralised by the US Navy in the Pacific. Makes a good argument that the poor quality of Fleet Air Arm aircraft in 1942 combined with the lack of any real doctrine for using large carrier air groups would have given the Japanese an advantage even against the full Britist fleet, but also argues that the Navy and in particular Admiral Somerville, actually did rather well in these difficult circumstances (Read Full Review)
Dunkirk and the Little Ships, Philip Weir. A good account of the evacuations of 1940, starting with an account of the campaign in the west which led to them, followed by an examination of the evacuation itself. This is followed by a look at the ships that actually carried it out, from the destroyers that carried the most men to the famous small ships that have since captured the imagination. Followed by a look at the other evacuations of 1940, and the efforts to commemorate them all. (Read Full Review)
North Cape 1943 – the Sinking of the Scharnhorst, Angus Konstam. A look at the last battle in which a British battleship fought against an enemy battleship, and the last clash between battleships fought without airpower. An excellent account of this battle, including a good background history, an explanation of the many advantages held by the British, and a detailed account of the battle, seen from both sides (Read Full Review)
British Town Class Cruisers – Design, Development & Performance – Southampton and Belfast Classes, Conrad Waters. A detailed look at the development, design and combat record of the Town Class Cruisers, the most modern cruisers in British service at the outbreak of the Second World War.  Includes a detailed examination of the design process, a look at the layout of each sub-varient of the class (supported by the splendid colour plans produced at the time), a history of each ships career, and a detailed look at every occasion on which they were damaged. A very useful, detailed history of these important ships(Read Full Review)
Spoils of War – The Fate of Enemy Fleets after the Two World Wars, Aiden Dodson & Serena Cant. Looks at the fate of the defeated nation’s fleets after the two World Wars, when the surviving ships were split between the victorious nations, but not after a great deal of debate about who got what, and what should happen to the remaining ships (as well as to those that might have been salvageable). Includes a clear narrative of events, and a very useful reference section, tracing the fate of each surviving ship(Read Full Review)
The Modern Cruiser – The evolution of the ships that fought the Second World War – Robert C. Stern. Looks at the most varied class of major warship, covering everything from tiny scout cruisers not much bigger than the largest destroyers up to the massive battle cruisers of the First World War. A well structured book, with each chapter looking at a particular period and the cruisers produced in response to the naval treaties in place at the time combined with reports of what each power’s rivals were building. An interesting look at a series of warships that wouldn’t have existed in the form they did without the London and Washington naval treaties(Read Full Review)
The Naval Siege of Japan 1945 – War Plan Orange Triumphant, Brian Lane Herder. Looks at the final stage of the US Navy’s war against Japan, the series of carrier strikes and battleship attacks on the Japanese Home Islands then helped devastate the Japanese war economy in the last months of the war. Often only looked at in brief, between the battle of Okinawa and the dropping of the Atomic Bombs, these raids were actually a key part of the US plan for the invasion of Japan, and the damage they caused (and the ability of the US fleet to operate so close to Japan) helped convince the Japanese leadership that the war was lost(Read Full Review)
With the Royal Navy in War and Peace, O’er the Dark Blue Sea, Vice Admiral B.B. Schofield. An autobiography of a senior British naval officer of the Second World War, covering his time as naval attaché in France and Holland in 1939-40, with the key Trade Division and sharing Eisenhower’s HQ before D-Day, as well as his time commanding several warships including two of Britain’s last battleships(Read Full Review)
Eagles over the Sea 1936-42, A History of Luftwaffe Maritime Operations, Lawrence Paterson. Looks at the origins of German naval air power during the First World War, its revival in the 1930s, the first combat tests of the Spanish Civil War and its role in the key battles during the first half of the Second World War, a period that included the battle of Norway, the battle of Britain, the forced German intervention in the Mediterranean, the battle of the Atlantic, the Arctic convoys and the period of most German success on the Eastern Front, all campaigns that involved naval aviation in some way (Read Full Review)
British Cruiser Warfare – The Lessons of the Early War, 1939-1941, Alan Raven. A very detailed study of the first two years of cruiser warfare, looking at how the Royal Navy operated against its German and Italian enemies. A detailed chronological account of the fighting is followed by a series of invaluable studies of particular topics, providing an impressive level of detail of issues from anti-aircraft tactics and damage control to life onboard ship. Also includes a useful section on the impact of code breaking on both sides, and some excellent plans of key British cruisers (Read Full Review)
British Naval Weapons of World War Two – The John Lambert Collection Vol II: Escort and Minesweeper Weapons, ed. Norman Friedman. Starts with a lengthy historical introduction looking at the development of the massive escort and minesweeping fleets and the weapons they used, written by the renowned Norman Friedman, before moving on to the incredibly detailed plans, which cover everything from full plans of the ships themselves to the tiniest details of their weapons, all supported by detailed annotations. Very useful for anyone looking to model these ships or attempting to identify particular weapons (Read Full Review)
The Dawn of the Carrier Strike and the World of Lieutenant W P Lucy DSO RN, David Hobbs. Looks at the development of British naval aviation between the wars, the damage done by the policy of dual control, the Navy’s battles to regain control of its own aircraft, and the first proper carrier campaign in history, the Norwegian campaign of 1940, where almost all of the types of carrier operations carried out later in the war were first attempted, although admittedly on a small scale. Shows how the Navy coped with the problems of dual control, and how quickly it learnt lessons during the Norwegian campaign (Read Full Review)
Aboard the Farragut Class Destroyers in World War II, Leo Block. Looks at life onboard the eight ships of the Farragut class, the first newly designed destroyers built for the US Navy after the First World War, and the prototypes for the ‘1,500 ton’ destroyers. Written by a veteran of these ships, using his own knowledge and the memories of the decreasing number of surviving crewmen to produce an in-depth picture of the life of the enlisted men on these small but hard hitting warships(Read Full Review)
Sailors behind the Medals - Waging War at Sea 1939-1945, Chris Bilham. Gives brief overviews of the careers of twenty three medal winning members of the Royal Navy during the Second World War, illustrating just how varied the experiences of different sailors could be. Covers the entire naval career of each man, rather than just their medal winning exploits, and focuses on the general experiences of their ships more than their individual life stories. (Read Full Review)
American Amphibious Gunboats in World War II, Robin L. Rielly. Looks at the creation of armed gunboats based on the Landing Craft, Infantry (LCI), at first as a weapon for use against Japanese barges and later used to support amphibious landings and to defend against suicide boats and kamikaze attacks. An impressive example of how an improvised weapon could turn into a vital weapon, playing a major part in the second half of the Pacific War, and especially at Okinawa (Read Full Review)
Seizing the Enigma - The Race to break the German U-Boat Codes, 1939-1943, David Kahn. A fascinating account of the struggle to crack the German Navy’s version of the Enigma, covering the development of the machine, the international efforts to break the code, and the long British efforts to get into the Navy Enigma, including the Navy expeditions to capture key parts of the machine and related documents. Does a good job of explaining this complex story, with the space to go into more detail of the specific naval aspects(Read Full Review)
Secret Naval Investigator - the Battle against Hitler's Secret Underwater Weapons, Commander F. Ashe Lincoln QC, RNVR. The autobiography of one of the leading figures in the battle against Germany’s increasingly advanced mines and torpedoes, a key part of the battle of the Atlantic, allowing the British to overcome a series of German ‘secret weapons’ that might otherwise have cut the vital sea lanes to Britain. This comes across as one of the most dangerous research jobs of the Second World War, and many of the author’s colleagues were killed while trying to disarm and dismantle these weapons(Read Full Review)
Forgotten Sacrifice - The Arctic Convoys of World War II, Michael G. Walling. A valuable study of the full story of the Arctic Convoys, looking beyond the most famous of the convoy battles to cover the early almost unopposed sailings, the return trips, the clashes between German and Soviet forces along the Arctic coast and the Soviet contribution to the convoys themselves. Includes many harrowing tales of Arctic survival that reminds us of the human cost of these convoys (Read Full Review)
The Japanese Navy in World War II, ed. David C. Evans. A very valuable examination of the successes and failures of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Second World War, written by some of the officers who were closest to the action. Provides a very different view of some very familiar battles, and some interesting insights into the flaws in the Japanese war effort, including a lack of a realistic war plan and the tendency to adopt over-complex plans (Read Full Review)
River Plate 1939 - The sinking of the Graf Spee, Angus Konstam. Looks at one of the earliest major British naval successes of the Second World War, the defeat and forced destruction of the pocket battleship Graf Spee by a much weaker force of British cruisers. Covers everything from the design of the warships, her commerce raiding career, and the allied hunt to the final destruction of Graf Spee by her own crew(Read Full Review)
Taranto 1940 - The Fleet Air Arm's precursor to Pearl Harbor, Angus Konstam. A useful account of the Fleet Air Arm's most dramatic achievement of the Second World War, sinking three Italian battleships in harbour at Taranto a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A good text that covers the complex series of wider operations that accompanied the raid on Taranto, along with a detailed account of the attack, and supported by some particularly useful 3D maps of the attack itself [read full review]
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Fighters over the Fleet – Naval Air Defence from Biplanes to the Cold War, Norman Friedman. A history of naval air defence from the First World War to the present day, looking at the systems used to control air defence, and the aircraft and weapons involved. Gets a bit bogged down in post-war aircraft design, but otherwise a detailed but readable account of a remarkably complex topic that has dominated fleet design since the Second World War, covering an impressive wide range of topics over a century of naval aviation. [read full review]
Despatches from the Front: Capital Ships at War 1939-1945, compiled John Grehan & Martin Mace. Reproduces a series of Royal Navy reports covering some of the key battleship actions of the Second World War, including the battle of the River Plate, loss of the Hood, Prince of Wales and Repulse, the sinking of the Bismarck, X-boat attacks on the Tirpitz and the operations of the British Pacific Fleet in 1945. Helps trace the decline of the battleship during the Second World War, a conflict in which direct clashes between battleships were very rare, but air power came to dominate [read full review]
US Navy Carrier Aircraft vs IJN Yamato Class Battleships, Pacific Theatre 1944-45, Mark Stille. Looks at the two battles that resulted in the sinking of Yamato and Musashi, the two most powerful battleships ever completed, and the US aircraft, weapons and tactics that sank them. Interesting to bring together all of the relevant technical histories – the ships themselves, Japanese anti-aircraft guns, the US aircraft and their main weapons – in a single volume, followed by detailed accounts of the air attacks that sank the two battleships [read full review]
Despatches from the Front: The War at Sea in the Mediterranean 1940-1944, compiled John Greham & Martin Mace. A selection of official dispatches describing a series of Royal Navy engagements in the Mediterranean, covering famous successes such at the attack on Taranto, the costly convoy battles and the less familiar defeat in the Dodecanese in 1943. A valuable source that tells us what the Navy thought of its own actions at the time, including interesting suggestions for improvements. [read full review]
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Survivors: British Merchant Seamen in the Second World War, G. H. and R. Bennett. This fascinating book looks at the fate of those Merchant Seamen whose ships were sunk by enemy action during the Second World War. It follows the survivors of those sinkings from the moment their ship was first hit to their final rescue. Each stage of the process is illustrated in the survivor's own words [see more]
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The German Invasion of Norway, April 1940, Geirr H Haarr. This is a monumental, hugely detailed and very impressive account of the early stages of the German invasion of Norway, focusing on the build-up to war, the initial German attack and the naval campaigns that followed, and with much more attention paid to the Norwegian point of view than is often the case. A definitive history of the naval aspects of the campaign, and highly recommended. [read full review]
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The Battle of the Narrow Seas, Peter Scott. An account of the battles fought by Britain's Light Coastal Forces in the Channel and North Sea, written by Sir Peter Scott, the future conservationist and commander of one of the Motor Torpedo Boats whose exploits are described in the text. Written in time for the Christmas market of 1945 this is one of the most immediate and vibrant accounts of service during the Second World War that you will ever read. [read full review]

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In the Wake of the Graf Spee, Enrique Dick. Looks at the life of Hein Dick, a crewman on the Graf Spee who was interned in Argentina after the Battle of the River Plate, married an Argentinean, then had to struggle to get back to the country after he was deported back to Germany at the end of the Second World War. The first half, looking at his military career is interesting, but the second half, from the internment onwards is totally fascinating, and covers a neglected area. [read full review]
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Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II, Jeffrey R. Cox. A brilliant account of the doomed desperate attempt by the Allies to defend the Dutch East Indies, focusing on the naval campaign that ended with crushing defeats in the Java Sea and the loss of most Allied warships either in battle or while attempting to escape. [read full review]
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Fight for the Sea - Naval Adventures from the Second World War, John Frayn Turner. A series of interesting snapshots of the war at sea from the British and American point of view, covering many of the major battles of the war as well as a number of less familiar topics. [read full review]
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The British Sailor of the Second World War, Angus Konstam. A concise look at the life of the British sailor of the Second World War, looking at their training, daily life on the ships (with the difference between different types and sizes of particular interest), the activities of the Home Fleet, Mediterranean Fleet and various Far Eastern fleets and the eventual process of demobilisation. [read full review]
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The SBS in World War II - An Illustrated History, Gavin Mortimer. Follows the history of the Special Boat Squadron from a fairly disastrous start to its later successes across the eastern Mediterranean. The small size of the unit allows Mortimer to include detailed accounts of many if not most SBS operations, including some disasters amongst the many spectacular successes. [read full review]
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Secret Flotillas: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany 1940-44 Vol 1, Brook Richards. Looks at the efforts to maintain a clandestine sea link between Britain and Brittany, transferring agents and supplies to France and rescuing a wide range of people from France (including members of the resistance on the run, Allied airmen and other evaders). A splendid account of a difficult and bold series of operations. [read full review]
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The Silent Service in World War II, ed. Edward Monroe-Jones and Michael Green. A collection of first-hand accounts of life in American submarines in the Pacific during the Second World War, from the early days in a handful of out-of-date subs to the eventual dominance of the fleet submarines and the destruction of much of the Japanese merchant marine. [read full review]
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The British Pacific Fleet: The Royal Navy's Most Powerful Strike Force, David Hobbs. A history of the most powerful fleet in British naval history, tracing its rapid development from shaky early days in the Indian ocean to its involvement in the invasion of Okinawa and operations alongside the Americans off the coast of Japan. [read full review]
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Clydebank Battlecruisers, Ian Johnston. An impressive collection of photographs taken at John Brown & Sons during the construction of the battlecruisers Inflexible, Australia, Tiger, Repulse and Hood during their construction between 1906 and 1920. The pictures are very crisp and provide a fascinating view of these powerful warships under construction. [read full review]
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German Capital Ships of the Second World War, Siegfried Breyer & Miroslaw Skwuit. A splendid photographic history of the seven completed capital ships to serve with the German navy during the Second World War, with an impressive collection of photos showing each of the ships under construction, in service and showing their eventual fate. [read full review]
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Axis Warships: As Seen on Photos from Allied Intelligence Files, Colonel Roy M. Stanley II. Based around an impressive collection of aerial photos of Axis and Vichy warships collected by the author, a professional aerial photo interpreter for nearly thirty years. The author examines each picture, providing a professional view of what we are seeing. [read full review]
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Warspite, From Jutland to Cold War Warrior, Iain Ballantyne. A history of the super-dreadnaught HMS Warspite, a warship that played a major part in both World Wars, fighting at the battles of Jutland and of Cape Matapan. An interesting story, well supported by a large number of quotes from sailors who served on the Warspite. Also includes brief histories of the other seven warships to carry the same name. [read full review]
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German Commerce Raider vs British Cruiser, Robert Forczyk. A look at the series of six battles between German commerce raiders and British and Australian cruisers and armed merchants cruisers during 1940 and 1941, a period that saw the converted German warships perform surprisingly well against more powerful opponents while at the same time taking a toll of Allied shipping [read full review]
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US Coast Guard in World War II, Alejandro de Quesada. A good look at the surprisingly impressive contribution made to the American war effort by the U.S. Coast Guard, which included air-sea rescue, anti-submarine work and the manning of landing craft that took part in the island-hoping campaign in the Pacific and the D-Day landings. [read full review]
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Arctic Convoy PQ8: The Story of Capt Robert Brundle and the SS Harmatris, Michael Wadsworth. Combines an autobiography of the author's grandfather with the story of Arctic Convoys PQ8 and QP14 to produce a very human view of the arctic convoys and the struggles and suffering of the crews that helped get essential supplies to the Soviet Union. [read full review]
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British Official History

 The War at Sea, 1939-1945, Volume I: The Defensive, S. W. Roskill. This first volume in the British official history of the war at sea covers the period from the outbreak of the war through to the first British disasters in the Pacific in December 1941. Amongst other topics it covers the Norwegian campaign, the evacuation from Dunkirk and the first two years of the Battle of the Atlantic. The text is meticulously researched, and is rooted in a detailed study of wartime records, both British and German. [see more]
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Biographies

In Action with the Destroyers 1939-1945 - The Wartime memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN, ed. Anthony Cumming. A very engaging autobiography, covering the author’s wartime experiences in destroyers, and in particular his time on the Griffin, a modern destroyer, but with limited AA capability. Dennis’s wartime career included the Malta convoys, the Arctic convoys, anti-invasion duties in 1940, the D-Day landings of 1944, a brief foray into the Indian Ocean at the height of the threat from Japan, the evacuation from Crete and an impressively wide range of other battles and theatres(Read Full Review)
Erich Raeder - Admiral of the Third Reich, Keith W. Bird. Looks at the full career of the first commander-in-chief of Hitler’s navy, a man who was often overshadowed by his successor Donitz and his U-boat war, but who played a major part in shaping the Kriegsmarine, both physically and politically. Undermines his claims to have been a non-political leader, and shows how close he was to the Nazi leadership, before eventually their different views of Germany’s war aims, and Hitler’s rather unrealistic expectations of the Navy forced his resignation(Read Full Review)
Diving Stations - The Story of Captain George Hunt and The Ultor, Peter Dornan. Follows the wartime career of Captain George Hunt, commander of a U-class submarine in the Mediterranean theatre where he sank more enemy ships than any other British submarine. A fascinating insight into life on a small submarine, carrying only eight torpedoes and with a tiny crew, operating in difficult waters. [read full review]
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The Quiet Admiral, A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Thomas B. Buell. This is widely considered to be the best biography of Spruance, currently available in this reissued edition. Buell nicely contrasts Spruance with Halsey, his co-commander of the combined third and fifth fleets from 1944, as well as looking at his handling of Midway, the battle that made his name.
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In Bitter Tempest: The Biography of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, Stephen D. Regan. A much needed biography of one of the most important American admirals in the year after Pearl Harbor. Regan had rare access to Fletcher's papers, as well as to a wide range of interviews given before his death, and has produced a very valuable work on a neglected figure.
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Ships - General

Soryu, Hiryu & Unryu Class Aircraft Carriers in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, Lars Ahlberg & Hans Lengerer. A detailed examination of the Soryu and Hiryu and the closely related Unryu class medium carriers, with good sections on the reasons for their construction, their physical layouts, their aviation facilities, where they fit in the overall history of Japanese carriers, and for those that actually had one their combat careers. Very detailed, with some very technical sections, but generally readable, and providing a good operational and design history of these important Japanese carriers (Read Full Review)
The Battleships of the Iowa Class, Philippe Caresse. An impressive history of the Iowa class battleships, translated flawlessly from French, and with the space within its 500 pages to contain a detailed technical history of the ships, accounts of each of their long service careers and to have more photographs than most pictorial guides could ever hope to have! The photographs benefit greatly from the survival of all four of these ships, to show us fascinating views of their interioirs, of the type that almost never survive for their contemporary warships (Read Full Review)
Black Swan Class Sloops, Les Brown. An excellent look at the Black Swan and Modified Black Swan class sloops using the Navy’s original high quality working drawings, to give an incredibly detailed view of the layout and internal arrangements of these high quality anti-submarine warfare vessels. Provides plans from four different ships, including the Amethyst, famously trapped in the Yangtze after coming under fire from Chinese Communist forces(Read Full Review)

 

German Destroyers, Robert Brown. A guide to the German destroyers of the Second World War targeting those who wish to build models of these modern but flawed warships. Lots of good detail on their technical specs, physical appearance and how it changed over time, along with reviews of the various kits available, and examples of some high quality builds. Could do with brief service histories, but otherwise useful (Read Full Review)
Battleship Warspite –detailed in the original builder’s plans, Robert Brown. Fascinating study of the Warspite based around the original builder’s plans, both from her original contruction and the 1930s reconstruction. Shows the ship in incredible detail, showing just how complex these massive warships were. The details plans are accompanied by excellent explanatory notes, following the design, development and modifications of the Warspite over nearly forty years. Benefits from the use of a magnifying glass to pick out the impressive wealth of fine details!(Read Full Review)
Wartime Standard Ships, Nick Robins. Looks at the surprisingly wide variety of ‘standard’ ships produced by the Allied and Axis nations during the two World Wars, covering their design, construction, civil service and military usage. Could have done with more basic info for those without a background in maritime matters, but is otherwise an interesting look at the massive industrial effort that defeated both German U-boat campaigns and produced many of the ships used in the inter-war and post-war periods(Read Full Review)
The Boat that Won the War - An Illustrated History of the Higgins LCVP, Charles C. Roberts, Jr. A detailed examination of the history, design and construction of the LCVP, the most famous landing craft of the Second World War and an iconic vessel that played a key part in amphibious operations from Normandy to the Pacific. Supported by a huge array of detailed plans, contemporary photographs and wartime documents, and written by someone who has restored one of these boats, this is a very valuable look at this key weapon (Read Full Review)
US Standard Type Battleships 1941-45 (2): Tennessee, Colorado and Unbuilt Classes, Mark Stille. Looks at the 'Big Five', the last standard-type battleships built for the US Navy, and the most powerful ships in the US Navy for much of the interwar period. Covers their design, original purpose and actual Second World War service, where their limited speed meant they could no longer serve with the battle fleet. Despite that limit they played a major part in the Pacific War, and four fought in the last battleship action of the war. [read full review]
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Japanese Battleships 1897-1945 - A Photographic Archive, R A Burt . Looks at the battleships, battlecruisers and some of the heavy armoured cruisers that served with the Japanese navy between the purchase of the two Fuji class ships from Britain in the 1890s to its destruction in 1945. A splendid selection of photographs that trace the evolution of these warships, both from ship-to-ship and after the major reconstructions carried out on many First World War era Japanese ships. [read full review]
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Warships after Washington - The Development of the Five Major Fleets 1922-1930, John Jordan. Looks at the impact of the Washington Naval Treaty on the development of the British, American, Japanese, French and Italian fleets and the types of ships designed and built during the 1920s. Fills a gap in the literature on warship development, and helps explain the 'why' of interwar ship design, as well as looking at the successes and failures of the treaty. [read full review]
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Cruiser HNLMS Tromp, Jantinus Mulder. Looks at the design, construction and wartime career of the light cruiser HNLMS Tromp, one of the most famous Dutch ships of the Second World War and the ship the Japanese claimed to have sunk more often than any other. Contains a good selection of photographs and plans of the Tromp and an account of her wartime career that focuses on the more dramatic moments of her career in Far Eastern seas. [read full review]
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The Littorio Class: Italy's Last and Largest Battleships 1937-1948, Erminio Bagnasco and Augusto de Toro. A splendid study of the four Littorio class battleships, looking at their development, design, construction and service history, with a focus on the way in which the design of the ships affected them in combat. Supported by hundreds of excellent photographs and line drawings. [read full review]
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Yamato Class Battleships, Steve Wiper. Aimed at the modeller, this volume contains reviews of the best kits of the massive Yamato class of battleships and book reviews written from the point of view of their usefulness for the modeller. Also contains a good section on the design, construction, service record and eventual fate of the two battleships and one aircraft carrier in the class. [read full review]
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Battleships : Allied Battleships of World War Two , Robert O Dulin
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Battleships : Axis and Neutral Battleships of World War Two , Robert O Dulin and William H Garzke
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Ships - Britain and Commonweath

British Naval Weapons of World War Two – The John Lambert Collection Vol III: Coastal Forces Weapons, ed Norman Friedman. The third and final of three impressive books built around plans and drawings produced by John Lambert, looking at the small boats used by British Coastal Forces and the weapons they carried, accompanied by a useful introduction to the topic by Norman Friedman. A very impressive selection of detailed plans covering just about every element of these boats, from the radar antenna to their depth charges and torpedoes as well as the weapons carried by submarines. (Read Full Review)
Battleship Duke of York – An Anatomy from Building to Breaking, Ian Buxton & Ian Johnston. Largely focuses on the construction of the Duke of York, using a collection of photographs taken by the builders combined with their regular shipyard reports. Gives a really impressive view of just how much effort went into building these battleships, and how impressive the shipyards that produced them were. Also includes useful plans of the Duke of York, and photographs from when she was being broken up, to give a good idea of the birth and death of a major warship. (Read Full Review)
Battlecruiser Repulse: detailed in the original builder’s plans, John Roberts. A fascinating set of details plans of the battlecruiser Repulse, looking at her when newly completed in 1916 and after her major modification of 1933-36. Reveals the complexity of these major warships, as well as the small scale domestic details needed to maintain their crew, so we get to see the massive structures associated with the main guns, details of the armour protection, the layout of the engine rooms, but also the location of the bread cooling room, book stall and soda siphon!(Read Full Review)
Destroyer Cossack detailed in the original builders’ plans, John Roberts. A splendid entry in this series based around builders plans of warships, looking at the Second World War Tribal class destroyer HMS Cossack. Includes the normal series of deck and side plans taken from the massive ‘as fitted’ plans, along with more unusual plans, including detailed plans of the engine room and bridge, diagrams showing the water supply system and internal fuel pipes and extra plans showing other members of the class, as well as a design history of the class, and a more detailed look at the Cossack’s own short service life.(Read Full Review)
Destroyer at War – The fighting life and loss of HMS Havock from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean 1939-1941, David Goodey and Richard Osborne. HMS Havock was one of the most active British destroyers of the Second World War, taking part in the Norwegian campaign, the fall of Holland, the battle of Matapan, the evacuation from Greece and Crete, the campaign in North Africa and the efforts to keep Tobruk and Malta supplied, before eventually being lost after running aground while attempting to escape from Malta (Read Full Review)
Commonwealth Cruisers 1939-45, Angus Konstam . Looks at the cruisers that fought with the navies of Australia, New Zealand and Canada during the Second World War, playing a part in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean theatres. Focuses heavily on the navies and the ships themselves rather than their operational histories, so good if you want to know what the Dominions had, less so if you want to know what they did. Supported by excellent photos and illustrations.  [read full review]
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British Aircraft Carriers - Design, Development and Service Histories, David Hobbs. The definitive history of the British aircraft carrier, written by a former RN officer who served on carriers and was deeply involved in the work of the Invincible class carriers. As a result the author has a much more in-depth knowledge of the technical background to carrier design that most, and we get a much better understanding of the thinking behind each new type of carrier, their abilities and limitations and how that affected their service careers. [read full review]
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Battleship Ramillies: The Final Salvo, ed. Ian Johnston with Mick French . A series of first-hand accounts of life on the Ramillies, almost all during the Second World War, where she served on convoy escort duty, was badly damaged during the invasion of Madagascar and fired so many 15in shells in support of the D-Day invasions that her main guns had to be replaced.  [read full review]
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Nelson to Vanguard, Warship Design and Development 1923-1945, David K Brown. A study of the design of British warships during the period of the Naval Treaties and the Second World War, written by a post-war Deputy Chief Naval Architect. A fascinating and invaluable book that greatly benefits from the expert knowledge of the author. [read full review]
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The Ultimate Sacrifice, David Turner. Written by a nephew of one of the officers lost on HMS Royal Oak, this book looks at the loss of that battleship, sunk at anchor in Scapa Flow on 14 October 1939. After setting the sinking in context, Turner focuses on the fate of the crew of the Royal Oak, reminding us of the terrible price paid by the 833 victims of the sinking. [see more]
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British Destroyers From Earliest Days to the Second World War, Norman Friedman. A very detailed look at the design of British destroyers from their earliest roots as torpedo boat destroyers, though the First World War and up to the start of the Second World War, supported by vast numbers of plans and well chosen photographs [read full review]
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The Design and Construction of British Warships 1939-1945 - the Official Record Vol I: Major Surface Warships , D.K.Brown, RCNC
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The Design and Construction of British Warships 1939-1945 - the Official Record Vol III: Amphibious Warfare Vessels and Auxiliaries , D.K.Brown, RCNC
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Ships - France

French Destroyers 1922-1956, John Jordan & Jean Moulin. A splendid study of the French Torpilleurs d'escadre and Contre-Torpilleurs (large 'super destroyers') of the interwar period, impressive warships that had limited wartime careers. Covers both the technical features of the ships and their service careers, supported by excellent plans and contemporary photographs. I can’t imagine anyone every publishing a more detailed book on this topic in English. [read full review]
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Ships - Germany

Battleship Bismarck – A Design and Operational History, William Garzke Jr, Robert O Dulin Jr and William Jurens, with James Cameron. The most detailed book on a single ship I’ve ever read, covering the entire history of German capital ship design after the First World War, their service records before the Bismarck’s fatal cruise, followed by a massively detailed account of the Bismarck’s one war cruise, including the battle of the Denmark Strait and the final sinking of the Bismarck, covering just about every shot fired by every ship, every bit of damage suffered by the Bismarck, all supported by evidence from the German survivors, British eyewitnesses and the dives to the wreck(Read Full Review)
Hitler's Forgotten Flotillas - Kriegsmarine Security Forces, Lawrence Paterson. Looks at the role played by smaller warships in the German war effort, covering minesweepers, patrol ships, mine layers, submarine hunters and fleet escort ships - the ships that fell between the fast 'E-boats' and larger destroyers and above.  Combines good background information with a clear narrative framework of their activities and a good selection of accounts of individual engagements [read full review]
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Heavy Cruisers of the Admiral Hipper Class, Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter SchmolkeHeavy Cruisers of the Admiral Hipper Class, Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke. Looks at the three heavy cruisers that served with the German Navy during the Second World War, and the two members of the class that were never completed. Includes development histories, service histories and an impressive collection of photographs and plans. [read full review]
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Battleships of the Scharnhorst Class, Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke. Looks at the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, the first interwar German battleships to ignore most naval treaty restrictions, and the most active of the German battleships of the Second World War. An excellent history of these two ships that pulls no punches about the flaws in their designs. [read full review]
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German Light Cruisers of World War II, Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke. A detailed history of the six light cruisers of the German Navy written by an author who actually served on one of them, this is an impressively unbiased examination of a fairly unimpressive set of warships that were never quite able to live up to the demands made of them. [read full review]
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German Destroyers of World War II, Gerhard Koop and Klaus-Peter Schmolke. A very useful history of the forty two destroyers that served with the German Navy during the Second World War, organised first by design feature, then by combat engagement and finally destroyer-by-destroyer to paint a complete picture of these hard working but temperamental warships. [read full review]
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Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, Steve Backer. A modelmaker's guide to the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, including a brief history of the ships, reviews of the best models and accessories, a showcase of some very impressive models, some useful plans of the two ships and an examination of the various camouflage schemes used and changes to the ship's appearances. [read full review]
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Killing the Bismarck - Destroying the Pride of Hitler's Fleet, Ian Ballantyne. A compelling account of the hunt for the Bismarck, told almost entirely from the British point of view, until the final battle between the crippled Bismarck and the British home fleet, when we are taken onboard the doomed German battleship for a graphic account of her fate. [read full review]
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Ships - United States

USS Enterprise (CV-6), David Doyle. A splendid pictorial history of USS Enterprise, with an impressive selection of photographs that trace her from construction to scrapping, along with all of her combat experiences. This is an impressive collection of photographs, allowing us to see every aspect of her career, including her fairly extensive battle damage, as well as a good selection of detailed photographs of individual aspects of parts of the ship(Read Full Review)
US Navy Light Cruisers 1941-45, Mark Stille. Covers the five classes of US Navy light cruisers that saw service during the Second World War, with sections on their design, weaponry, radar, combat experience. Nicely organised, with the wartime service records separated out from the main text, so that the design history of the light cruisers flows nicely. Interesting to see how new roles had to be found for them, after other technology replaced them as reconnaissance aircraft [read full review]
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US Destroyers 1934-45 Pre-war classes, Dave McComb. A look at the design, construction and service record of the ten classes of destroyers built for the US Navy between the resumption of destroyer construction in the early 1930s and the American entry into the Second World War, from the Farragut class of 1934 to the massive Gleaves class, of which sixty-six were funded between 1938 and 1942. [read full review]
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US Heavy Cruisers 1941-45: Pre War Classes, Mark Stille. Looks at the 'treaty cruisers' built in the US between the wars, limited by treaty to 10,000 tons and 8in guns. Five classes of treaty cruisers were produced and they played a major role in the fighting during the Second World War, despite the limits imposed on them by the treaty restrictions. [read full review]
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Iowa Class Battleships, Lester Abbey. A modeller's guide to the four ships of the Iowa class, the best American battleships and the longest serving capital ships of the modern era. Includes a history of the ships and their designs, a section of model reviews, a modellers showcase showing some very impressive models, and a section on the changing appearance of these ships over time. [read full review]
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Battleships : United States Battleships of World War Two , Robert O Dulin and William H Garzke
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The U-boat War

U-Boat Assault on American - Why the US Was Unprepared for War in the Atlantic, Ken Brown. Looks at how the doctrine and leadership of the US Navy and Air Force left the US East Coast almost entirely undefended when the U-boats arrived early in 1942, leading to the ‘Second Happy Time’, the period in which the U-boats were at their most destructive, despite the US having been increasingly involved in the Battle of the Atlantic throughout 1941. The result is a very useful addition to the literature on the battle of the Atlantic, tracing a series of developments that led to this near disaster (Read Full Review)
Hitler’s Attack U-Boats – The Kriegsmarine’s WWII Submarine Strike Force, Jak P. Mallmann Showell. Focuses on a physical description of the three main U-boat models in German service during the Second World War, the Type II, Type VII and Type IX. Includes good sections on their development, but the main strength are the three chapters on the external features, internal features and crew positions on these boats, which include many details I hadn’t seen elsewhere, and which give a fascinating picture of life in these cramped and dangerous weapons(Read Full Review)
Churchill's Greatest Fear: The Battle of the Atlantic 3 September 1939 to 7 May 1945, Richard Doherty. Covers the full length of the battle, bringing in topics that are rarely covered, such as the important of realistic training or the role of operational research in the improvement of Allied countermeasures, helping to prove that most attacks came from within the convoy or that larger convoys were safer. Also good on technological developments on both sides, and the strengths and flaws of the many weapons used during the long battle (Read Full Review)
U-Boats Beyond Biscay - Dönitz Looks to New Horizons, Bernard Edwards. An account of selected exploits of the U-Boats operating away from the normal North Atlantic battle, looking at 1941-January 1943. Starts and ends at somewhat random points, and lacks much context, but within those limits the accounts of individual U-boat battles are good, with interesting material on the previous experiences of both the U-boats and merchant ships [read full review]
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Critical Convoy Battles of WWII - Crisis in the North Atlantic, March 1943, Jurgen Rohwer. Focuses on the successful U-boat attacks on convoys HX.229 and SC.122, looking at how earlier convoys were able to avoid attack, why those particular convoys were hit so hard, the methods being used by both sides, and their impact on the longer term result of the Battle of the Atlantic. A useful study, despite its age (first published in 1977), in particular because of its focus on the successful German attacks of March 1943, which thus get the attention they deserve rather than being seen as a precursor to the Allied victories later in the summer. [read full review]
No Room for Mistakes - British and Allied Submarine Warfare 1939-1940, Geirr H Haarr. An excellent detailed history of Allied submarine warfare during the first sixteen months of the Second World War, a period of dramatic changes in the situation at sea, in which the British submarine service had to find a suitable role and absorb heavy losses, while coping with the Norwegian campaign and the sudden expansion of their duties after the Fall of France. [read full review]
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German U-Boat Losses During World War II, Axel Niestlé. An excellent well documented and credible summary of the current state of knowledge on U-Boat losses during the Second World War, reflecting the discoveries made in German archives and in underwater explanation in the sixty years since the original post-war assessments were made. Each change is supported by a clear explanation of why the original assessment is wrong, and the evidence for the new assessment [read full review]
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Black Flag: The Surrender of Germany's U-Boats, 1945, Lawrence Paterson. A fascinating and well balanced look at the surrender of the German U-boat force, the only part of the German armed forces still to be stretched out around the world at the end of the Second World War. Paterson covers the surrenders at sea and in Allied ports, the Allied occupation of the remaining U-boat bases in France, Norway and Germany and the surrender of those men from the U-boat force who found them selves involved in the fighting on land in the last days of the war. [read full review]
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Grey Wolves - The U-boat War 1939-1945, Philip Kaplan. A thematic approach to the U-boat war, looking at elements such as the crews, captains, protected shelters, individual aspects of the U-boat campaign itself, their weapons and their opponents. Provides some interesting insights into the Battle of the Atlantic, although is best used along a more conventional history of the Battle of the Atlantic. [read full review]
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Dönitz, U-boats, Convoys, Jak. P. Mallmann Showell. - The British Version of his memoirs from the Admiralty's Secret Anti-Submarine Reports. Takes the monthly British reports on the U-boat war and compares them to Dönitz's memoirs to give an idea of how both sides saw the progress of the battle of the Atlantic and how that related to actual events on the oceans. [read full review]
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Teddy Suhren, Ace of Aces, Teddy Suhren and Fritz Brustat-Naval. The memoirs of one of the most successful U-boat commanders of the Second World War, covering his early training, his time at sea, where he was one of the most successful U-boat aces, and the final years of his wartime career, when he was given a series of shore commands in a deliberate attempt by his superiors to make sure he survived. [read full review]
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The Wolf Packs Gather: Mayhem in the Western Approaches 1940, Bernard Edwards. A study of the fate of four convoys hit very hard by the German U-boat wolf packs in the autumn of 1940. Forty-eight merchant ships were lost, hundreds of trained merchant seamen were lost and hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo sent to the bottom of the Atlantic, threatening Britain's ability to stay in the war. [read full review]
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U-Boat Tactics in World War II, Gordon Williamson. A well focused look at the offensive and defensive tactics used by the U-boats, focusing mainly on the Battle of the Atlantic but also covering the smaller number of U-boats that operated further afield. Well illustrated and well organised, the book provides a good overview of U-boat tactics and how they evolved during the Second World War. [read full review]
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Periscope View, George Simpson. Autobiography written by the commander of the 10th Submarine Flotilla from 1941-43, focusing on his time in command of a unit that sank or damaged over one millions tons of Axis shipping in the Mediterranean but at a very heavy cost, losing half of its submarines [read full review]
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Business in Great Waters: The U-boat Wars 1916-1945, John Terraine. This is a classic account of the struggle between the German U-boat and the Allied navies during the First and Second World Wars, seen from both sides of the battle, and with excellent coverage of the intelligence and technological aspects of the fighting. [read full review]
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