BookPick: Beyond Jutland
With this year seeing the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the Royal Navy’s last great set-piece sea battle, a number of important books on Jutland have been published. I reviewed a selection of these in a previous blog. There have also been some excellent other titles forthcoming this year on various aspects of The Great War and naval policy between the two world wars. It is commendable that some of these books are reprints, bringing these classics to a new generation of readers of naval and military history many years after they first appeared.
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Endless Story by ‘Taffrail’
Although first published in 1931, Endless Story remains the only comprehensive account of the services of the Navy’s small craft destroyers, torpedo boats and patrol vessels during the First World War, and the only one written by an officer personally involved. It was a bestseller in its day, and now deservedly enjoys the status of a classic. The emphasis is on the North Sea and Channel, which saw the most famous battles, but the book includes the Gallipoli campaign, warfare in the Mediterranean, ranges as far as the Pacific, where Australian destroyers were actively employed, and pays tribute to the work of American destroyers in British waters after 1917. It covers every kind of operation, from U-boat hunting and convoy escort, through minelaying to the Zeebrugge Raid. This new edition makes this classic work available for the first time in more than eighty years.
South Devon in the Great War by Tony Rea
Dr Rea has long-standing interests in the First World War and local history. Illustrated with a number of fascinating old photographs, this succinct little volume provides a history of events in south Devon during the Great War. Among other topics, the book deals with the social changes brought to the region at that time – for example, by 1915 many of the young men and significantly almost all the horses had gone away to war. Older men and many women farmed the land and many large country houses were converted into hospitals and convalescent homes. Within the pages, too, are moving tales of sacrifice and loss, and the endurance of the human spirit. The book is part of the ‘Your Towns & Cities in the Great War’ series
The Victoria Cross at Sea by John Winton
Naval VCs have been won in places as far apart in time and distance as the Baltic in 1854 and Japan in 1945, in the trenches from the Crimea to the Western Front, in harbours from Dar es Salaam to Zeebrugge, from the Barents to the Java Sea, from New Zealand to the North Atlantic, and from China to the Channel. The 628 awards of the Victoria Cross given for action during the First World War account for almost half the 1356 Victoria Crosses awarded throughout its history. This book tells the stories of the men and officers whose uncommon valour at sea earned them Britain’s highest military honour, and salutes those who may not be so well known as Boy Cornwell.
Naval Policies Between the Wars by Stephen Roskill
First published in 1968 and 1976, the two volumes of this work still constitute the only authoritative study of the broad geo-political, economic and strategic factors behind the inter-war development of the Royal Navy and, to a great extent, that of its principal rival, the United States Navy. The main themes of the first volume are: the after-effects of the Armistice; the struggle to prevent a renewed naval arms race, despite the challenge from the USA and Japan, which culminated in the Washington Naval Treaty; and the broader attempts at peace-keeping through diplomacy and the fragile vehicle of the League of Nations. Picking up the story in 1930, the second volume covers the rise of the European dictatorships on the one hand, alongside continuing attempts at controlling arms expenditure through diplomacy and treaties. How the Royal Navy used the precious few years leading up to the outbreak of war is a crucial section of the book and forms a fitting conclusion to this important study.