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Big Gun Monitors: The History of the Design, Construction and Operation of the Royal Navy's Monitors [Hardcover]

Ian Buxton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Mar 2008
In the history of naval warfare probably no type of ship has provided more firepower per ton than the monitor - indeed they were little more than a huge gun mounting fitted on a simple, self-propelled raft. Designed and built rapidly to fulfil an urgent need for heavy shore-bombardment during World War I, they were top secret in conception, and largely forgotten when the short-lived requirement was over. Nevertheless, they were important ships, which played a significant role in many Great War campaigns and drove many of the advances in long-range gunnery later applied to the battle fleet. Indeed, their value was rediscovered during the Second World War when a final class was built. Monitors were largely ignored by naval historians until Ian Buxton produced the first edition of this book in 1978. Although published privately, this became an established classic and copies of the first edition are now almost unobtainable, so this new edition will be welcomed by many. It has been completely revised, extended and redesigned to a generous large format which allows material deleted from the original edition for lack of space to be restored.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Seaforth Publishing; Second Revised Edition edition (20 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844157199
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844157198
  • Product Dimensions: 25.6 x 29.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,250,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought the first edition of this book thirty years ago - and considered it to be my ideal of how a warship type book should be written . Mr Bradley's excellent review above tells me that modern readers also appreciate it.

I was delighted when another, expanded version, was announced and eagerly awaited publication.

Am I pleased or disappointed with the changes ?

The text revision and expansion are good and alone worth the price of the new edition .

The number of photographs has been increased by around fifty, and a few replaced with different views. A few photographs have been dropped, including regrettably the aerial views of both M24 and Gorgon. The photo of Humber as a crane ship has also disappeared.
The old edition suffered greatly from the photos being slightly too small and printed too dark in most cases. The new edition has much larger photos - but printed slightly too contrasty and too light ! But on the whole they are an improvement.

The plans are a different matter. The original edition had almost all the plans as full page - and printed to perfection. (Probably at the expense of photo quality) . The new edition tends to split the plans in many cases, and prints them smaller , and slightly too light. There are a few new ones - in particular John Roberts's double page drawing of General Wolf with the 18" gun mounting has been replaced by a three-quarter page new set of drawings showing just the stern area. I must admit that I prefer the new drawing as this gives greater detail of the gun arrangements which is the significant part.

The author's preface to the second edition states "The designers at Seaforth have created a more attractive layout than I did in my first amateur attempt in 1978".
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive work on the subject. 30 May 2008
By Ned Middleton HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Speaking as someone who spends his entire day immersed in research, research and even more research, I am instantly able to recognise a kindred spirit. From the moment I opened this book and began to scan through its 250 pages, I knew I was in possession of an item of considerable quality which had been thoroughly researched by the author.

This is a large coffee-table size book laid out in the best way possible. For those who are not quite sure of exactly what is a "Big Gun Monitor," what better than to commence with its origins. This is followed by sections devoted to the 14 in., 12 in., First 15 in., Ex Brazilian River Monitors, Ex-Norwegian vessels, Small Monitors, Second 15 in., Last 15 in. and the guns they used before the author offers a retrospective view. Altogether, I view this book as a most complete and competent work.

Not only does the overall standard of photography do the author and publisher much credit, we are largely treated to a large collection of images not previously published alongside a few which might be familiar to some. Alongside these, throughout the book, we also have the technical pleasure of line drawings and blueprints of a type of vessel of which there are no surviving examples anywhere in the world!

Whilst most readers will enjoy the complete history of this type of ship, I have no doubt that others will doubtless buy the book in order to make models of these intriguing vessels,

Whilst I cannot claim to have read every single word (yet!), I have cross-referenced a great deal of the material found within this book with other learned sources and have found no errors or omissions.

This is a lot of book. It contains a lot of history, a lot of information, a lot of line drawing and a lot of photography for the asking price.

Worth every penny.

NM
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book without a flaw? 1 May 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The great thing about buying on line is that you occasionally get mail asking you if you'd like to order this or that item. This is a mixed blessing because often you can't for the life of you imagine why you'd want most of the stuff out there. It was with little trepidation however that I ordered the new edition of Ian Buxton's classic that was printed privately some 30 years ago. The original is difficult to access and very expensive if found. I needent have worried howver as the new edition has beeen expanded to contain information and additional material not found in the original. This is a very nice book indead and anyone interested in 20th Century warships should grab a copy soon! It is well printed on glossy paper on the lines of the Chatham histories in terms of size. The history of these strange vessels is laid out in a logical and interesting manner. I feel that enthusiasts, be they historians, naval buffs, model makers or whatever will find plenty to interest themselves within its covers. For each class there is plenty of history concerning the design, construction and service. All these facts are backed up with dozens of well executed plans, clearly drawn and annotated. There are profiles and split deck views, machinery drawings and much more; especially the anti torpedo protection. Many many photographs support this material and of these, most I have not seen before and were taken during the Great War. They are crisp and were often taken during construction depicting everything from building to launching, fitting out, active service and so on until eventual breaking up or loss. Everything is here from builders numbers to where parts of the ships ended up after disposal! As a warship type I originally came across the big gun monitors many years ago. Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive work on the subject. 30 May 2008
By Ned Middleton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Speaking as someone who spends his entire day immersed in research, research and even more research, I am instantly able to recognise a kindred spirit. From the moment I opened this book and began to scan through it's 250 pages, I knew I was in possession of an item of considerable quality which had been thoroughly researched by the author.

This is a large coffee-table size book laid out in the best way possible. For those who are not quite sure of exactly what is a "Big Gun Monitor," what better than to commence with it's origins. This is followed by sections devoted to the 14 in., 12 in., First 15 in., Ex Brazilian River Monitors, Ex-Norwegian vessels, Small Monitors, Second 15 in., Last 15 in. and the guns they used before the author offers a retrospective view. Altogether, I view this book as a most complete and competent work.

Not only does the overall standard of photography do the author and publisher much credit, we are largely treated to a large collection of images not previously published alongside a few which might be familiar to some. Alongside these, throughout the book, we also have the technical pleasure of line drawings and blueprints of a type of vessel of which there are no surviving examples anywhere in the world!

Whilst most readers will enjoy the complete history of this type of ship, I have no doubt that others will doubtless buy the book in order to make models of these intriguing vessels,

Whilst I cannot claim to have read every single word (yet!), I have cross-referenced a great deal of the material found within this book with other learned sources and have found no errors or omissions.

This is a lot of book. It contains a lot of history, a lot of information, a lot of line drawing and a lot of photography for the asking price.

Worth every penny.

NM
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best single source on the subject 4 July 2007
By Terry Sofian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Royal Navy monitors were coastal attacke vessels designed and built during two world wars to strike at enemy held coastlines. They were never glamourous vessels and did not often get more than a mention in popular histories or period newspaper articles. They did perform yoeman services and provide gunfire support to British and Allied troops in many theaters during both world wars. Expendable and designed to survive in close to the shore they fought duels with powerful shore batteries, torpedo boats and may have been the first vessels ever successfully attacked by guided weapons during actual combat.
Buxton's book is the best work on this subject and will remain such. It gives the reader the overall strategic and logistical picture that lead to the construction of these vessels, describes their building in detail and launches into well organized discussions of their lives in wartime and peace. The section on their weapons is highly detailed and the book would be valuable for that alone.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Gun Monitors by Ian Buxton 17 Jan 2012
By Brian49 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
During the period 1914-1965 the Royal Navy had constructed some forty-odd specialized, limited-role vessels termed "monitors". Since this type of vessel was so limited in scope, as soon as wartime need for them was over they usually were scrapped. This fact of short life and few numbers has resulted in a lack of satisfactory documentation in the literature on this type of vessel.

It was to correct this literary oversight that Dr. Ian Buxton wrote his book Big Gun Monitors. Dr. Buxton wished to compile a comprehensive account of the design, construction, and operational histories of this most singular type of vessel; in this he has succeeded admirably. His book should appeal not only to the professional with its detailed account of the evolution of design, but also to the general military history buff with its intriguing accounts of the operational histories.

The British monitor came into being due to a WWI need for a potent bombardment vessel that could be used in shallow water close inshore. Precious capital ships were inappropriate for the task; such a vessel had to have capital ship armament but shallow draft and expendability. Thus, the monitor concept was formulated: maximum armament on a minimum hull, strong torpedo and mine protection, good gunfire protection, fair seakeeping, and modest speed and endurance. Due to the pressures of war and the expendable nature of these vessels, they were to be designed and built with extreme rapidity, utilizing the simplest type of construction.

Considering the urgency and the design limitations, it should not be surprising that the history of these vessels provides many interesting examples of what can go awry in ship design projects evolving under such conditions. Monitors seldom achieved their design weight and stability; displacement was generally much more than intended, with subsequent deleterious effect on draft and performance. While draft itself never proved to be a serious limitation, with only one ship of this type running aground, speed on the earlier examples tended to be abysmal; headway often could not be maintained against even moderate wind or current. Stability tended to be good to exceptional on the larger torpedo-bulged monitors, but some of the smaller non-bulged ones were atrocious. Roll in one case was as much as 50 degrees; a salvo fired athwart-ship could roll the deck edge under water. All manner of design deficiencies could be found in some specimens, from structural weaknesses to recurrent propulsion fires, etc.

However, as the monitor evolved, its worst deficiencies were corrected. The mobility, accuracy, and sustained rate of fire that monitors were to develop made them invaluable in support of shore assaults. Compared to cruisers and battleships, when utilized for the same purpose, monitors were to prove themselves much more cost-effective. It was the general march of technology, and perhaps in particular the advent of truly awesome air bombardment capability, that was to render these vessels ultimately obsolete, but in their time they were quite relevant. We shall not see their like again, but we may read and wonder about them, thanks to Ian Buxton's remarkable book.
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