British Cruiser Warfare 1939-41

British Cruiser Warfare 1939-41

British Cruiser Warfare 1939-41 by Alan Raven
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
The first half of the book is a minute chronology of every action involving a British cruiser during the period. These vary from isolated air attacks, to the part played by cruisers in actions involving capital ships, to the activities of cruisers acting without support in hunting down raiders in far-distant oceans of which the apotheosis of cruiser warfare per se, excellently described, has to be the Battle of the River Plate.

The most significant impression that I took away is of an enormous amount of air and naval ordnance expended on all sides with no result at all, and the catastrophic results for ships (described in great detail, including actual cruiser losses) when a rare bomb or torpedo hit did occur.

More detail on the radar sets mentioned - aerial types, power output, frequency etc. - even lobe diagrams - would have helped understand that side of the topic. Similarly spotting methods - zigzags, ladders and so forth - need explanation for readers not qualified in pre-radar surface gunnery. I was left wondering if the author had a real grip on these things himself.

Where he scores is in his analysis of intelligence impacts on operations and his chapters on wireless techniques including traffic analysis and direction finding. There is also a most informative disquisition, chiefly from medical sources, on human factors involved, particularly fatigue, and another on northern and Arctic weather factors for which even our deep-sea Navy had problems.

The excoriating analysis of the Italian navy and its leadership was a joy to read; the account of the mechanical deficiencies of the German surface fleet was fascinating. Not, as the narrative shows, that our own performance was perfect; it seems to have taken a while for some commanders to get into a 'war' mindset.

The section on Sources is particularly valuable in its own right - what is, or more pertinently is not available - as it reaches out to researchers in all fields of RN history.

The book carries many photographs of cruisers, pertinent to their time, showing variations in fit as the war progressed, and four pull-out deck diagrams of Norfolk, Exeter, Sheffield and Jamaica. The overall production standard is very high as one comes to expect from Seaforth. 10 1/2" x 8 3/4". A valuable addition to anyone's naval history library.

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