Books on First World War Naval Warfare

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Books - Naval Warfare - First World War

First World War

US Navy Protected Cruisers 1883-1918, Brian Lane Herder. An interesting look at the first steel warships built for what became the Steel Navy or New Navy, a group of largely experimental protected cruisers that were mainly significant for their impact on US industry, but that also played a major role in late 19th American Imperialism, the Spanish-American War and the conquest of the Philippines (Read Full Review)
German High Seas Fleet 1914-18, The Kaiser’s challenge to the Royal Navy, Angus Konstam. Looks at why the Germans chose to build the second most powerful fleet in the world, what sort of ships they filled it with, what its purpose was, and how it performed when war broke out. Paints a picture of a Navy that was equipped with some of the best warships in the world, generally well organised and led (although did suffer from interference from the Kaiser), but that lacked a clear purpose. This was a fleet that could inflict some defeats on the Royal Navy, but never managed to serious challenge British naval dominance (Read Full Review)
Warships in the Baltic Campaign 1918-20 – The Royal Navy takes on the Bolsheviks, Angus Konstam. A useful account of the little known British led intervention in the Baltic which saw a small Royal Navy fleet play an important role in establishing the independence of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, helping fight off Soviet and German forces. Covers the campaign itself, and the ships and men of the Soviet Baltic Fleet and the Royal Navy and allies (Read Full Review)
French Warships in the Age of Steam 1859-1914 – Design, Construction, Careers and Fates, Stephen S. Roberts. A valuable reference work that looks at the development and technical specification of some 1,400 warships that were built for the French Navy between the launch of the first ocean-going ironclad Gloire and the outbreak of the First World War. Also includes very brief overviews of their careers, mainly looking at the key dates in their construction, when they went in and out of commission and when their careers ended (Read Full Review)
Southern Thunder – The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One, Steve R Dunn. A study of the difficult relationship between Britain, German and the Scandinavian neutrals during the First World War, and the impact that had on the naval war and the problems faced by the Royal Navy, including the grudging introduction of convoys across the North Sea, a move that helped prove that convoys were indeed an effective way to stop the U-boats inflicting unacceptable losses on British and neutral merchant ships (Read Full Review)
Years of Endurance – Life about the battlecruiser Tiger 1914-16, John R Muir. A fascinating autobiographic account of life onboard a British battlecruiser in the North Sea during the first half of the First World War, including the response to the German raid on Scarborough, the battle of Dogger Bank, and the battle of Jutland. Written from the point of view of her Chief Medical Officer, so we get a very unusual view of life onboard a warship, including his experiences below decks during Jutland, with no idea of what was happening outside his armoured sick bay. The title was well chosen – the key emotion that comes across throughout the book is one of frustration – sometimes with the tedium of life onboard, sometimes with the inability to get to grips with the German fleet, and sometimes with the wider reaction to the Navy’s performance (Read Full Review)
The Kaiser’s Cruisers 1871-1918, Aidan Dodson and Dirk Nottelmann. Looks at the small cruisers that served in the navy of Imperial Germany, from its formation in the 1870s to the aftermath of the First World War, a period that saw the last sail powered cruisers replaced by recognisably modern steam powered turret armed warships after a prolonged period of debate, and Tirpitz come to dominate the Navy with the support of Wilhelm II. Splits the design process and service records into separate sections, so we can trace the development of the cruiser and then get a good overview of how the type performed in combat (Read Full Review)
The Last Days of the High Seas Fleet – From Mutiny to Scapa Flow, Nicholas Jellicoe. Looks at the dramatic last few months of the German High Seas Fleet, from the mutinies that saw the officers lose control of most of the fleet, through the trip into internment at Scapa Flow and on to the famous scuttling of the fleet. Includes an excellent account of the dramatic day of the scuttling, which makes one realise that it was a truly massive event, and helps one understand the apparently over the top reaction of the handful of British sailors in Scapa Flow at the time. Also goes on to look at the post-war salvage operations, an impressive story in its own right. (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)
The Kaiser’s U-Boat Assault on America – Germany’s Great War Gamble in the First World War, Hans Joachim Koerver. Looks at the reasons why the German Navy’s High Command was so determined to be given permission to conduct unrestricted submarine warfare rather than obey the existing cruiser rules, going as far as disobeying direct orders from the Kaiser and distorting the evidence that cruiser rules actually worked perfectly well. A fascinating history of the First Battle of the Atlantic, painting a very different picture of the story and placing the blame for the failure of the U-boat campaign firmly on the shoulders of the German admirals who had campaigned against the cruiser rules and refused to operate in the western approaches unless they got their own way(Read Full Review)
Armoured Cruiser Cressy, detailed in the original builders’ plan, Andrew Choong. Looks at the Cressy class armoured cruisers, using the beautifully drawn ‘as-fitted’plans produced after they were completed, to illustrate their actual layout in great detail. Part of a splendid series, this is a good example of a particular type of armoured cruiser, with many of its guns carried in two layers of casemates along the sides. By 1914 the armoured cruiser was almost obsolete, and the Cressy class is most famous for the loss of three to one U-boat on a single day, but when new they were were powerful modern ships. As with all of these books, this answers all sorts of questions about the layout of these ships, and is fascinating to look through.(Read Full Review)
Battle in the Baltic – The Royal Navy and the Fight to Save Estonia and Latvia 1918-20, Steve R Dunn. Looks at the Royal Navy’s involvement in the Baltic after the Russian Revolution, where it played a significant role in securing the independence of Estonia and Latvia, against threats from the Bolsheviks, expansionist Germans, White Russians who wanted to restore the entire Tsarist Empire, all the time working without any significant political support at home, or any clear idea what the British government policy actually was. Despite the limited resources available the Navy still managed to carry out a motor boat attack on the main Soviet fleet, as well as providing invaluable support for the fighting on land, despite poor conditions that even triggered some minor mutinies.(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)
French Armoured Cruisers 1887-1932, John Jordan and Philippe Caresse. Looks at a group of ships that when first built posed a real threat to Britain’s naval lines of communication, but that have been largely forgotten because they were seen as badly outdated by the outbreak of the First World War. Includes a great deal of detail of the often complex design process, and some of the best plans of warships I’ve seen. An excellent study of some of the most powerful warships of their time(Read Full Review)
Bayly’s War - The Battle for the Western Approaches in the First World War, Steve R. Dunn. A fascinating history of the first battle of the Atlantic in the Western Approaches, the waters around Ireland, looking at the overall course of the battle, the role of Admiral Bayly, commander-in-chief on the Irish station, and the impact of the American arrival in Ireland. Paints a picture of a very different battle to the more familiar one from the Second World War, with the key difference being the lack of any way to detect a submerged U-boat, leading to very heavy shipping losses. Also includes interesting material on the problems caused by Irish nationalism, peaking with the Easter uprising, but also causing more low key problems for most of the war (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)
The Liberation of Europe 1944-1945 - The Photographers who Captured History from D-Day to Berlin, Mark Barnes. A photographic history of the campaign in north-western Europe, as seen by the photographs of the newspaper group that owned The Times during the Second World War. Covers a wide range of topics, from the D-Day landings to the post-war Nuremburg Trials, with interesting notes on the technical aspects of war photography in the period, as well as detailed captions often based on the original wartime notes(Read Full Review)
Battles on the Seven Seas - German Cruiser Battles 1914-1918, Gary Staff. Looks at the activities of German cruisers during the First World War, covering the major naval battles in the North Sea, the exploits of the surface raiders early in the war, the role of the two German cruisers in Turkish service and the limited fighting in the Baltic. A useful counter to the tendancy to see these events from the British point of view, made possible by the author’s impressive use of German sources(Read Full Review)
Before the Battlecruiser - The Big Cruiser in the World’s Navies 1865-1910, Aidan Dodson. Looks at the development and careers of the ‘big cruiser’, the most heavily armed cruisers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a type that eventually evolved in the battlecruiser. Covers the development of the type, its combat experience while still state of the art, its role in the First World War, as well as looking at the technical specifications of all of the ships that fell into this category (Read Full Review)
Formidable - A True Story of disaster and courage, Steve R. Dunn. Looks at the full story behind the loss of HMS Formidable, a British battleship sunk by a U-boat on 1 January 1915 while under the overall command of an Admiral who at that point didn’t accept that the submarine posed a threat to his fleet. Sections on why she was lost and who was to blame are balanced by detailed examinations of the fate of her crew, the dependents of those lost with her and the public reaction to her lose to produce a useful account of this naval disaster(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)
German Commerce Raiders 1914-18, Ryan K. Noppen. Looks at the surface vessels that operated against Allied shipping during the First World War, a mix of warships, converted liners and converted freighters, including one fully masted sailing ship. Although nowhere near as successful as the later U-boat campaign, these surface ships did embarrass the Royal Navy, especially early in the war, and forced the diversion of sizeable RN and Allied naval forces, so they are well worth studying [read full review]
Austro-Hungarian Cruisers and Destroyers 1914-18, Ryan K. Noppen. Looks at the largest Austro-Hungarian warships to see regular action during the First World War, four light cruisers and eighteen destroyers and the less valuable armoured cruisers, an obsolete type by 1914. Begins with a look at the ships themselves, before moving on to an examination of their generally successful use in the Adriatic during the First World War, one of the more successful theatres for the Austro-Hungarian armed forces. [read full review]
Merchant Seafaring Through World War 1 - 1914-1918, Peter Lyon. Looks at the fate of British merchant seaman during the periods of German surface raiding and the U-boat war. Rather firmly takes sides, with a hostile view of the U-boat commanders and their tactics, although one that is supportable by the evidence provided. Contains a series of impressive tales of survival against the odds, as well as tracing the development of U-boat tactics and the British countermeasures.  [read full review]
British and German Battlecruisers - Their Development and Operations, Michele Cosentino & Ruggero Stanglini. A useful volume that covers the development, design and construction of British and German battlecruisers, their wartime deployments and both side's plans for the next generation of battlecruisers, of which only HMS Hood was ever completed. Having all of this material in a single volume gives a much better overview of the two Navy's battlecruisers, their advantages and flaws, and their performance in and out of battle. Concludes with a look at other nation's battlecruisers and battlecruiser designs [read full review]
The Coward? The Rise and Fall of the Silver King, Steve R. Dunn. A look at the life and mistakes of Admiral Ernest Troubridge, a British admiral best known for his failure to intercept the Goeben in the Mediterranean at the start of the First World War. The aim is to try and work out why Troubridge acted as he did in 1914, examining the late Victorian and Edwardian navy, his own career and decisions he made elsewhere in his life to try and work out what made him tick [read full review]
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British Submarines at War 1914-1918, Edwyn Gray . Looks at the costly exploits of the young British submarine service during the First World War, including their daring exploits in the Sea of Marmora and the Baltic, as well as the costly routine of operations in the North Sea, where a constant stream of submarines were lost without the same chances for success. Focuses on the exploits of individual subs, but also covers their development and the debates on how they should best be use. [read full review]
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Germany's High Seas Fleet in the First World War, Admiral Reinhard Scheer. Memoirs of the longest serving commander of the German High Sea Fleet during the First World War, written in 1919 to justify the performance of his fleet and the controversial U-boat campaign. Not always historically accurate, but a very useful insight into the attitudes and motives of this key German commander, and the reasons behind his actions. [read full review]
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German Battlecruisers 1914-1918, Gary Staff. This book gives a very good history of each of the seven Battlecruisers that served with the Germany navy during the First World War, looking at the reasons they were built the way they were, the details of their construction, and their service careers before and during the war [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 Scapegoat: The life and tragedy of a fighting admiral and Churchill's role in his death, Steve R. Dunn. Fascinating biography of Admiral Kit Cradock, the defeated commander at the battle of Coronel in 1914. Also serves as a history of the late Victorian and Edwardian Navy, looking at its strengths and flaws in the period leading up to the First World War, the Royal Navy's first serious trial since the Napoleonic Wars. [read full review]
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Naval Battles of the First World War, Geoffrey Bennett . Although this was first published in the 1960s it is still a good account of the major surface clashes of the First World War, looking at the early clashes in the world's oceans and the series of battles in the North Sea, ending with Jutland. The final part of the book looks at the U-boat war, although not in as much detail as the earlier surface sections. [read full review]
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British Battleships 1889-1904 New Revised Edition, R A Burt. Magnificent study of the Royal Navy's pre-dreadnought battleships, amongst the most powerful ships in the world when built, but seen as obsolete by the outbreak of war in 1914. Traces the development of the 'classic' pre-dreadnought design and the slow increase in the power of the secondary armament, leading up to the all-big gun ships that followed. [read full review]
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The Defence of the Dardanelles - From Bombards to Battleships, Michael Forrest. An excellent history of the British and French naval attempts to defeat the defences of the Dardanelles and reach Constantinople, supported by a wider look at the fortifications, earlier attempts to breach the defences, the role of the navy during the Gallipoli campaign and the post-war occupation of the Dardanelles [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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Naval Weapons of World War One, Norman Friedman. A very high quality reference work looking at all of the naval weapons in use during the First World War and a number of weapons that appeared just after the end of the conflict. Also covers the tactics used by different navies and the crucial technology of gun control. [read full review]
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Through all the Changing Scenes of Life, ed Susan Harrison. The memories of William Edward Jones, a career Navy man who joined up in 1899 and served during the First World War. An interesting account of life in a navy that still had some old 'three deckers' (mainly as training ships) operating alongside turbine driven destroyers and the great dreadnoughts. [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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Fishermen Against the Kaiser 1: Shockwaves of War, 1914-1915, Douglas d'Enno. The first part of a two-part examination of the role of British fishermen and their boats during the First World War. As well as the obvious risks of fishing in a war zone, the fishermen served as minesweepers, in home-waters and at Gallipoli and in the Adriatic, and on anti-submarine duties, suffering very heavy losses of men and ships. [read full review]
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The Great Edwardian Naval Feud: Beresford's Vendetta against 'Jackie' Fisher, Richard Freeman. Admiral 'Jackie' Fisher was one of the greatest naval reformers in British history, but his first term as First Sea Lord was effectively ended by his feud with Admiral Charles Beresford. This book traces the relationship between the two men, from its friendly beginnings in the Victorian navy to its dramatic end in the years before the First World War [read full review]
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Official History of the War, Naval Operations Vol. I, Sir Julian Corbett. Volume one of five in the British Official History of the First World War at sea, this book covers the first five months of the war, from the period of tension before the fighting began to the battle of the Falklands. This was the period that saw the most action on the surface outside the North Sea, with a number of German cruisers at large. [see more]
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Official History of the War, Naval Operations Vol. II, Sir Julian Corbett. Volume two of five in the British Official History of the First World War at sea covers the naval attack on the Dardanelles and early months of the Gallipoli campaign. On the home front it includes the German raid on the Yorkshire coast of December 1914 and the battle of Dogger Bank [see more]
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The Hunters and the Hunted - the Elimination of German Surface Warships around the World, 1914-15, Bryan Perrett. A study of the fate of the warships of Imperial Germany's that found themselves posted overseas at the start of the First World War, most of which undertook campaigns as surface raiders, attacking Allied shipping around the world. Some had dramatic careers, but all were tracked down and sunk by early in 1915, after a major effort by the Royal Navy and other Allied navies. [read full review]
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