David K. Brown, who died in 2008, enjoyed a successful career as a professional Naval Architect. Also universally regarded as a brilliant commentator on Naval Design, he was widely published on the subject. In this final part of a trilogy which, as the title suggests, combine to explain the subject of Naval Design from the days of HMS Nelson (1860) right through to 1945, this volume deals with 1923-1945.
Whereas some might confine their research to, say, a specific type of ship, a particular shipping company or country, my own area of study is determined by the wide variety of shipwrecks found in diveable waters around the world. Today, divers are becoming more and more interested in the minutiae of technical details of the ships they visit. To this end, I find myself studying all types of ship in whatever format is available. As a Layman (albeit one with 40 years experience of studying and visiting shipwrecks), I can only judge this book by my own limited criteria.
The book is professionally organised into 12 Chapters; Battleships, Fleet Carriers, Smaller & Cheaper Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, Submarines, Escorts, Misc. Vessels, Modernisations-Updates & Scrapping, Wartime Damage, Production & Repair and finally What is a Good Design. In addition there are a further 20 Appendices.
I immediately warmed to the work when I saw the first two sub-headings in the Introduction. These are `The Ten Year Rule' and `The Washington Treaty of 1921.' Both imposed a direct effect on the production of Warships in the UK between the First and Second World Wars and, if not already fully understood, need to be appreciated from the outset. The Introduction continues to lay the political ground and other circumstances of the period in question with great skill and knowledge of the subject. In short, the scene is well set for what now follows.
Each of the Chapters is well supported with plenty of facts, figures, diagrams, line drawings and plenty of supremely well-selected black and white photographs - with every one being relevant to the text.
With regard to the text itself, my big fear was that Brown would be far too technical to be interesting - but not so! I am delighted to report that there is much to learn from this work which is simply not found in Jane's or other excellent works which simply provide the details of what `was' built. In other words, we get the thinking and rationale behind the decisions and how those decisions were reached. For example; in 1935 (when another War in Europe was becoming a distinct possibility!), the first ELEVEN studies into 35,000 ton Battleship design included various options for 16in, 15in and 14in guns. HMS Duke of York was subsequently fitted with 14in guns (for political reasons) which were soon proved by the Bismarck to be far from adequate.
There are similar lessons at every stage of the development of each type of vessel as described in the Chapter Headings mentioned earlier. Brown adds plenty of anecdotes to reinforce the various points he portrays and, in so doing, gives the work a fascinatingly human feel. Whereas, I shall still describe what ship I encounter underwater in the usual fashion according to my own style of writing, I now feel able to add significant background as to `why' that particular vessel was produced in that specific way.
Altogether, a first rate job of work.