Dictionary of British Naval Battles, John D. Grainger

Dictionary of British Naval Battles, John D. Grainger

This reference book looks at all of the naval battles and engagements that involved British (or Commonwealth to 1945) warships, from the smallest clashes between individual ships up to the major clashes of Jutland or Trafalgar. Most of the battles are given a fairly short paragraph, with eight or nine entries per page (with 500 pages of entries this gives us at least 4,000 entries!). Having used some of the same sources myself I agree with Grainger's comment that sometimes very little extra information is available, and he provides at least one reference for each entry, so anyone wanting more detail can go back to the original works. The more major battles get between a half and a full page, with the size depending more on the complexity of the battle than its importance.

The key conclusion that one can draw from this book is that naval power doesn't just depend on the results of the few big battles, but also on the constant grind of smaller actions. The vast bulk of entries are related to clashes with no more than one or two ships on each side. The scale of the Battle of the Atlantic and wider U-boat war quickly becomes apparent. Atlantic convoys get twenty six pages, each covering at least ten convoys. Russian convoys get another five pages and Indian Ocean, Malta and North African convoys also get their own sections. Single ship battles from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars make up a large part of the book. It also becomes clear that certain locations were of crucial importance, and were the site of a series of battles or other military activity.

This will be a very valuable reference work for anyone interested in British naval history, or military history in general, providing information of thousands of minor clashes that otherwise would go unnoticed. I've also found it rather interesting to drop into the book at random, and have many topics that will be worth further investigation.

Author: John D. Grainger
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 588
Publisher: Boydell
Year: 2012

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