Shop now Shop now Shop now  Up to 50% Off Fashion  Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn more Shop now Shop now
Profile for Ralph Cook > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Ralph Cook
Top Reviewer Ranking: 865
Helpful Votes: 680

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Ralph Cook "Ralph Cook" (London)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
2 x Renata Wrist Watch battery - Swiss Made - Batteries Cells Silver Oxide 0% Mercury Free Button Cell 1.55v Renata Long Life Batteries (394 (SR936SW))
2 x Renata Wrist Watch battery - Swiss Made - Batteries Cells Silver Oxide 0% Mercury Free Button Cell 1.55v Renata Long Life Batteries (394 (SR936SW))
Offered by Amufi Gadgets
Price: £0.78

5.0 out of 5 stars If you own a few watches you can save a lot of money., 12 Jun. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I would not change the batteries of many watche makes, but Swatch provide a small cover that can be removed by a 20p coin and it is thus easy to do without risk of damage or of destroying the water proofing. The local shop charges £6 per battery change, whereas these batteries cost less than 70p each. I recently changed the batteries of six Swatch watches, thereby saving myself about £32! Renata batteries are original equipment for Swatch, so buying these is a no- brainier, as far as I am concerned.

No Title Available

3.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, but cheaply made and unlikely to survive for very long., 12 Jun. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I suppose 'you get what you pay for'. This is a poorly designed and cheaply made affair. Although the material seems tolerably waterproof it is thin and quite roughly stitched together. There's a seam running the full length down the middle of one side: this will not survive very long if you lie on it, so the product is not really reversible. An additional head cushion would be nice but cannot be expected at this price.

The material has a shiny, slippery finish and the cushion slides off of my sun lounger unless I put a towel between the two surfaces, there being no fastenings to secure it in place. I need to put a towel on top of it as well: the makers call this colour 'Red Hot' and, being made of a plastic material, that's what it becomes in hot weather, when you also stick to it! At least it should be easy to spong clean.

All considered I am not very impressed, though my criticism is somewhat tempered by consideration of price: really good lounger cushions cost twice as much as this one.

The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871-1918
The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871-1918
by Aidan Dodson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book, but too much Kreigsmarine and WW1 history, too little detail about the ships themselves., 8 Jun. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a good book and well written, but it falls down in three areas- in my opinion.

Firstly, as Mr Taylor observes in his review, grouping all the technical and career data in a 75 page long appendix at the back of the book makes it very trying to read. Nobody will want to read all the main text and then go back to the beginning again, wading through this mass of data. I have been constantly flipping between the two, 100 or more pages apart. The worst example of this concerns the many project designs that preceded the 'Nassau' class Dreadnoughts -the five pages describing these in the main text are quite impossible to follow without referring to the data and drawings, all of which are tucked away in the appendix.

Secondly, I was expecting a clear focus on the ship designs, given the title heading 'German Capital Ships'. There is coverage of armour distribution and thicknesses for the Dreadnoughts but otherwise this is almost lost amongst a general history of the Kreigsmarine: there is no in-depth focus on naval technology. The ship coverage is generally short- a bare paragraph or two for most earlier classes- and even the Derfflinger class battlecruisers receive only a page of actual text. There are only three detailed layout plans - the best being a British Admiralty plan of 'Baden'' from 1919. For every class of ship I was hoping to find drawings that really reveal internal arrangements machinery and, especially, turret Design: the small drawings in the appendix section are similar to those found in many other books, from 'Janes' onwards, and they do not do this.

The third problem concerns balance of coverage. As already noted, descriptions of early ships are generally brief - two short paragraphs for 'Konig Wilhelm', 'Hansa' and the 'Preussen' class, for example - and in fact the entire first 25 years are covered in 25 pages. It's clear the authors' main interest is in the First World War 'Dreadnought' period and for this there is coverage of preliminary designs, including many drawings (Nassau, Blucher, Von Der Tann, etc) not found for earlier ships. Perhaps it's unfortunate that this book is published during WW1 centenary commemorations, since we inevitably get the whole history of the Great War surface operations at sea, largely as can be found in a dozen other recent books. Towards the end of the volume the story is dragged out almost interminably: the Scapa Flow scuttling, disposal and scrapping of the Fleet, plus the post war history of the few old survivors, is given in great detail covering 40 pages. This may be what you will want, but from the promotion of this work I expected ship design and technology above all else and hoped the earlier, little recorded period, would receive generous coverage. One further complaint(!) - there are many excellent photographs, but in the modern style they are scattered about. Some are large and imposing, such as 'Furst Bismarck' (page 50), but there are many tiny ones, for example Vice- Admiral Graf Von Spee's flagship 'Scharnhorst' (page 68). At least only a few photos are printed across the binding.

I seem full of adverse criticism, but actually this is an interesting book and it's good to find any volume that covers the ironclad and pre Dreadnoughts period at all. It is pleasing that the first class cruisers of the period are included, in Germany most of these being smaller and lighter facsimiles of the contemporary battleships, and for.once German designs are not presented as 'wonder ships'.

The last chapter presents a good but very short critical appraisal of German design philosophy. From the mid 1890's onwards this focused on small guns with high rates of fire in mistaken anticipation of short range battles. Again, the Dreadnoughts get most attention and I would have liked more on the earlier designs. For example, the 'Kaiser Friedrich 111' class has always fascinated me since although these were armed with a huge number of quick firing guns they had almost no armour protection against such weapons, but there is no real discussion about that curiosity here. The appendix section presents interesting drawing of the ships at different times in their careers though there are not many plan views. There is also substantial coverage of wartime construction that was never completed (eg the 'Mackensens') or ever even laid down, such as the 1918 battleship projects: in fact there's there's more here on the 'ships that never were' than on some major commisioned battleships.

By attempting a complete Kreigsmarine history plus a thorough account of the Great War at sea the author cannot also go into great detail about the ships themselves- there simply is not enough space. I suspect the publishers dictated what they considered would be most popular with the more general reader. For me however 'less would be more'- that is, less general 'history' and more about the anatomy of the major fleet units.. As it is, the sub heading 'German Capital Ships' should perhaps instead read 'A German Naval History'.

I must add that at about £23 the book is excellent value, as are most of Seaforth Publishing's major works. These days, without Seaforths contribution the UK's naval history enthusiasts would have little to read.

A History of the British Merchant Navy: vol. 3: Masters Under God: Makers of Empire 1816-1884: Masters Under God: Makers of Empire 1817-1884 (History/Brit Merchant Navy 3) by Richard Woodman ( 2009 ) Hardcover
A History of the British Merchant Navy: vol. 3: Masters Under God: Makers of Empire 1816-1884: Masters Under God: Makers of Empire 1817-1884 (History/Brit Merchant Navy 3) by Richard Woodman ( 2009 ) Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely informative and entertaining, yet also poorly organized, difficult to read and rather overly opinionated, 23 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is quite an extraordinary book. Mr Woodman is clearly very knowledgable and tackles an enormous subject with gusto. He identifies key events, personalities, companies and ships and brings the subject vividly to life. To do this he has to 'pick and choose' and so his own particular enthusiasms become apparent. The romance of sail clearly captivates the author, who rarely mentions steam before page 214. Still, as he points out, even in 1870 steam 'only' accounted for 1,112,034 tons of British shipping whereas the figure for sail was 4,577,855 tons, and the 19th century had almost ended before steam tonnage finally overtook sail.

There are only five chapters here but nearly all of chapter two- and much of chapter five- is devoted to China and the opium trade - a trade we would regard as outrageous today but which at that time Britain twice went to war to preserve (albeit somewhat reluctantly).It is certainly fascinating to learn about Jardine and Matheson, two sea surgeons who saw their opportunity and took it quite ruthlessly, amassing a fortune running into hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time when an ordinary sailer earned about £1.10 shillings a week. There were pompous idiots like Admiral Napier who almost single handedly started the first Opium War, and brilliant administrators like Sir Stamford Raffles who on his own initiative, established the city state of Singapore - and got little thanks for doing so. Many personalities were 'wheeler dealers' from whom you would not want to buy a used car, but who created fabulous commercial empires- men like James Bains of Liverpool and Duncan Dunbar of Blackwall Frigate fame. The sea captains could also be awesome characters and bore huge responsibility. There are several anecdotal tales here written by frightened passengers as they endured hair raising passages in frail sailing ships that were 'running their easting down' in the great Southern Ocean. Several of these people demonstrate vivid literary skills that rival those of Charles Dickens, who personally endured a dismal and frightfening Atlantic voyage in an early Cunard paddler.

And yet the book is also quite 'trying' to read. It is virtually one continuous narrative and the author often changes the subject completely, more or less in mid paragraph- as when introducing the Great Eastern steamship, which then occupies the following twenty pages. You have to concentrate hard to read the very small print and individual paragraphs can be more than a page long. The chapter titles tell us little - 'A complete disgrace to the British Nation', for example, is actually completely inappropriate for the real content of chapter one. If you wish to refer back to something you read earlier it is almost impossible to find it and important detail is buried within several pages of notes at the end of each chapter. The frequent use of rare or obscure words becomes very irritating: I may have heard of most of them, but many still profited from a visit to Google. How about expectoration, manumission, quondam, eponym, eutrophic, animus, and autodidacticism? Although I am quite well read in 69 years I've never before heard of a pregnant woman being referred to as 'gravid'. Perhaps this demonstration of a very broad vocabulary is not a conscious one, but in my opinion it is more creditable to make the best use of plain English. Mr Woodman is also very opinionated and his assessments can often be challenged. For example, Isombard Kingdom Brunel is quite roughly treated, being dismissed as a meddling nuisance who wasted time and money whilst refusing to delegate. There is doubtless truth in some of this and It is certain that he has often received credit for other men's genius, but the later is the fault of modern commentators, not of Brunel himself.

This is just one of five books in the series and it represents an enormous effort of research. It is a gripping tale, although my attention began to wander in chapter five, probably because there was much factual detail about steam companies but fewer anecdotal stories than in earlier chapters. My overall impression is that the great personalities were usually flawed in many ways, but the virtue shared by nearly all of them was their willingness to take enormous risks- for the seamen that often meant risk to life and limb and for the entrepreneur the risk of prospective commercial disaster.

It is unfortunate that this is a very poorly organized book. It should have been broken down into many more chapters, or at least into sub sections under intelligible headings. There should have been shorter words (!) much shorter paragraphs and fewer notes. Clearly, in order to make this volume manageable in size and price the narrative has been crammed into 370 pages whereas about 500 were really required, the small print causing strain to the eyes. It may seem somewhat churlish to drop a star for these diverse reasons, but the faults do detract from enjoyment of what is otherwise a remarkable and, indeed, very exciting story.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 12, 2016 10:24 AM BST

Petzl Elios Men's Helmet Red red Size:2
Petzl Elios Men's Helmet Red red Size:2
Price: £47.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Very smart and robust in ABS plastic. I now have a colourful collection of three., 14 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Petzl Elios Men's Helmet (Sports)
I like these helmets so much that I now have three of them- white, blue and red! They are designed for caving and rock climbing but I use them as cycle helmets: they are a bit 'bulkier' than conventional cycle helmets but as an older person they do not look as silly when I wear them. Moreover the Elios's adjustable vents effectively shut out the rain and keep the head warm in inclement weather- of which we have a lot! I This is a big advantage over conventional cycle helmets. The vent shutters are somewhat stiff to adjust, but they can be positioned anywhere between fully open and fully closed when desired. The wide range of bright colours helps ensure that cyclists will be seen by sleepy motorists.

The white helmet has paid for itself by preserving my head and left ear intact when I ran into a metal fence (how did I do that? Don't ask...!). Remarkably, the helmet was not damaged at all. I used to deal in plastic materials and I firmly believe in ABS. Although it does not absorb bumps as easily as polycarbonate it is ultimately much stronger. These helmets are not liberally padded inside, but I do not think they need to be and the weight is only a little more than that of a conventional cycle helmet.

I have a big head (or so I have been told!) and many helmets do not fit, even in the larger sizes, but these do (size 2) and the adjustable band at the back proves ideal. I have small ears- the straps may interfere if you have large ones, but that is true of many helmets. The chin strap fastens at the side instead of beneath the chin, which makes it is both easier to secure and more comfortable to wear. This chin strap could be a little longer, though since it is just long enough for me it will also fit nearly everyone else.

Overall, this is a quaity product, built with care, For example, the rather intricately designed straps are all exactly the same length on all three of my helmets and there is no variation in general fit and finish. The Elios is popular in both Europe and North America and at less than £50 it is good value. Be careful when you buy though- some sellers offer a good selling price but then charge a fortune of delivery - often from Germany.

Bloody Paralyser: The Giant Handley Page Bombers of the First World War
Bloody Paralyser: The Giant Handley Page Bombers of the First World War
by Rob Langham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting to read, good contemporary accounts, but a poorly produced and edited book., 28 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The notion that the big Handly Page bombers have been 'forgotten' is not true. There are three books in the Albatros 'Windsock' series and also an excellent large format volume by Chaz Bowyer that was published in 1991, which on technical grounds is better than this one and is better illustrated. Mr Langhams book presents a chronological, interesting but somewhat rambling account. In truth the Handley Page company had not designed a really successful aircraft before this one, which was a somewhat hefty affair that owed success largely to the patronage of the RNAS and to its excellent Rolls Royce Eagle engines. The early history of Handley Page and the development story of the big bomber is well described here.

Subsequently the author relies heavily on accounts from flyers of the time, which is good in itself and tells you something of the personalities of those brave men - including characters such as lieutenant Hugh Monaghan and corporal Wardrop, even presenting the latter's colloquial style of speech. Unfortunately If there are no such accounts available to the author his descriptions become quite sketchy. For example, the flights to the Dardanelles and Damascus were actually really dramatic and eventful, but little of that really 'comes across' here.

Whereas the early Gothas got up to 16,000 feet or more in the long flight to London the larger 0/100 and 400 were limited to about 8,000 feet. Still, these were more rugged aircraft than the lightly built Gothas and less prone to disastrous crash landings, though there were certainly plenty of crashes from many causes A remarkable revelation is the number of flyers who survived these. On the night of 16- 17 September 1918 ten 0/400's were lost, but only two of the thirty airmen involved were killed. The low landing speeds and a tendency to gradually collapse around the crew saved lives (a sort of accidentally designed- in 'crumple zone'!). The aircraft were used for 'area' bombing but also for precision attacks on U boat pens, bridges, railway junctions, etc. For these latter tasks dive bombers would be used in later wars and the HP pilots often had to 'go in' with their huge machines at less than 2000 feet, so it's no wonder there were losses.

As more squadrons acquired these big bombers it becomes more difficult to follow the author's account. Moreover a book like this needs maps and diagrams to support the text. We at least need to see the airfields used by the British 'Independant Force' plus the major German targets. All the actual illustrations are gathered in in the centre of the book: the quality of these is not great and most captions are hard to read without a magnifying glass. Also, there are many spelling and grammatical errors in the book: I am not obsessive about these things, but there are enough of them here for it to become annoying.

I have the impression production of this book was rushed and in a modest 181 pages it was clearly very much done to a price. It is less technical than Chaz Bowyers book, but is a better one to read from 'cover to cover'. It is also quite a small volume: in itself no bad thing since I have enough enormous tomes, so despite its faults 'Bloody Paralyser' is worth buying and it is modestly priced.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190A
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A
by Dietmar Hermann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £49.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb to look at, but not a lot to read, 8 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Focke-Wulf Fw 190A (Hardcover)
This book would have been more acceptable if entitled 'The FW190A, an illustrated history of its development' because, as in Mr Hermanns books on the 'FW190 Long Nose' and te 'TA152', the photographs and illustrations are superb but the text is brief in the extreme- I got through all 224 pages in little more than a day. There is no comparison with, say, Alfred Price's thoroughly detailed 'The Spitfire Story. - but that was published in 1982, in the pre internet age, at a time when people were still prepared to really read such books provided they were well written.

The best feature is a series of interviews with personalities in the story, including pilots and Kurt Tank himself. Most of the book deals with development of the aircraft and getting it into production: the chapter 'Production begins' ends at page 148. Subsequent to that there were seemingly hundreds af variations, all given torturous names, like 'FW190 A-1 / UI W Nr 001 SB + KA, The 'A' designation indicates the engine and airframe whilst the 'U' number identifies such things as armament and equipment combination. There were 24 Marks of Spitfire but somehow the Germans made everything seem much more complicated. Perhaps it's as well that the author does not bore us to death by trying to explain all these things in detail, but the narrative seem to just peter out somewhere in late 1942.

It is quite interesting to read the book though. We learn that the BMW 801 engine was really quite a rough and noisy thing and that in early aircraft cockpit temperatures could reach 140 degrees. The big radial had a fancy integrated control system- an early version of the 'black box' that controls modern motor car engines and equally perplexing even to experts when something went wrong. Still, this was a rugged aeroplane and, overall, a much less temperamental machine than the Messerschmitt BF109. However, effort came to nothing in the end and Impenetrable bureaucracy did its best to defeat the war effort even without the help of the enemy: one young pilot tells how his great operational experience was wasted when he was sent to test torpedo dropping gear for months on end - though that was preferable to ending up on the Russian front.

The glory of this book lies in the photographs, all reproduced on a large scale. They include factory assembly shots and many of them show close- up detail. Some photo's are a bit fuzzy and are over- enlarged from fairly poor originals, but in those times people had greater concerns than perfect photography. The atmosphere of the period is captured very well.

This book asks more questions than it answers, especially about the late war period. It is titled 'FW190A' so perhaps we should not complain that it does not go into much detail about the later varients, which ended up at the 'G' model. One is thankful not to be drowned in a sea of statistics but at the same time frustrated at not getting the full story. Still, I enjoyed the personal anecdotes and would probably buy the book just for the photos and illustrations. Like all Schiffer publications this one is produced to a very high standard using gloss paper.

FOCKE-WULF TA 152: The Story of the Luftwaffe's Late-war, High Altitude Flyer (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
FOCKE-WULF TA 152: The Story of the Luftwaffe's Late-war, High Altitude Flyer (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £28.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Lavishly produced, fascinating photo's, but not much content- just like the actual TA152's service history., 5 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book and its companion on the FW190D 'Long Nose', are really for those who are besotted with the subject, since these two related aircraft could have been more than adequately described in books of 50- 60 pages (or, more sensibly, in a single volume covering both). Despite the lavish production and large format I easily read both of these books from cover to cover in a day. This is, though, strangely appropriate, since the real aircraft were subject to a huge amount of hype and anticipation, yet in practice they hardly got into the war. Only 35 TA 152's reached operational status and about eight were in service simulataeously in the single staff unit that was set up to operate them. Perhaps ten allied aircraft were shot down (including five Russian YAK's) whilst two TA 152's were lost in combat. It was never used in its intended high altitude role at all. Fourteen newly completed aircraft, parked outside the factory, were wiped out in a single daring low level raid by Mustangs. Most poignant was the tale of two pilots who risked their lives to collect two new aircraft on the 8th April 1945: the Americans overran the factory two days later. It was as though a dedicated theatre troupe determinedly continued their performance even after the audience had rushed out and the roof had caved in. This, though, is how most wars end.

The German authorities lived in a fantasy world in which it was OK to spend an enormous amount of time, effort and resource developing Zerstorers, fighter bombers, high altitude fighters- even reconnaissance and torpedo carrying variants. Given the hopeless supply situation there was little chance even a single model could be produced in quantity; for example, there was not enough good quality rubber to build a pressurised cockpit. Mr Harmann presents separate chapters on all of the proposed models and dutifully repeats the same information under the same headings every time: fuselage, undercarriage, wing assembly, power boosting, etc, whereas a few lines detailing the actual differences between the models would have sufficed. There is thus a huge amount of repetition. How many times do I need to learn about the 80 litre fuel tank for the MW50 boost system, or the differences between DB603E and LA engines? Much is repeated yet again, only in German, on the numerous original charts and graphs from surviving company archives. There are many photographs, but they nearly all illustrate different bits of just half a dozen prototypes. Somehow, the strange illusion is created that this aircraft contributed as much to the Luftwaffe effort as did the 20,000 FW190 A's that really were sent to war.

And yet all this is indeed strangely appropriate. Modern enthusiasts are as mesmerised by this 'nearly plane' as were the officials at the RLM in 1945 and will go to any length to find information about it. Actually, it appears that the TA152 really was a fine aircraft: fast (though without the troublesome MW50 or GM1 boost not fast enough), very manoeuvrable and possessing a great rate of climb; it was also pleasant to fly and the few in service proved to be surprisingly reliable. However, none of this prevented two TA152's from being shot down by Spitfires, a plane designed ten years earlier and progressively developed over 24 marks until the end of the war. If the Germans had not wasted all of 1943 and half of 1944 designing and planning for their Jummo and Diaimler Benz powered FW190 successors, instead of actually building them, then Mr Harmann may have been able to find many photographs of real operational aircraft, not just fuzzy pictures of a handful of prototypes. However, that said, I give full credit to the author for hunting down virtually all the data available when he wrote the book in 1999, at which time it was still possible to interview some of the personalities involved in the story. I dare say the enthusiasts eagerly rushed out to buy it, regardless of its rather thin 'real' content and high cover price.

British and German Battlecruisers
British and German Battlecruisers
by Michele Cosentino
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.00

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Large, beautifully produced book with interesting and well balance text. Great value for money, too., 3 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm sorry this review is rather long, but this is a substantial history. The book is a rather magnificent, large format tome, lavishly illustrated with excellent quality photographs which, pleasingly, are not taken across the spine in the more usual (and annoying) modern fashion. Ruggero Stanglini's superb plan and elevation drawings are a feature, though there are no drawings showing internal organization or armour layout. Most particularly though, this is a good book to read: it is in double column format and is full of background detail, including the naval politics of the time. In the introduction the authors declare their intent to provide 'originality and completeness which, as a whole, are lacking in previous books' and I would say they have succeeded in this objective very well. I do not claim to have read every word as yet (impossible for me at this early time) but I have read enough to give an appreciation.

The book opens with an assessment of the economic and industrial strengths of the two nations and of their emergent colonial rivalry, tensions being heightened through the formation of two opposing power blocks in Europe. It is shown that German naval expenditure doubled between 1904 and 1914, whereas the British commitment 'only' rose by 40% and not at all until 1910. In chapter two the technical background is traced back to British armoured cruisers 'Imperieuse' and 'Warspite' of 1886/ 8, and all nations building this ship-type are mentioned. A comparison between early 20th century British and German armoured cruisers already showed similar characteristics to their later battlecruisers, the British ones being larger and faster whilst the Germans presented lighter - built versions of their contemporary battleships. Key personalities Tirpitz and Fisher occupy much space. The role of future battlecruisers as cruiser- destroyers and powerful scouts dominated British thinking, but although the authors do not emphasise the point it is hard to understand how the British so completely ignored the small matter of what would happen when opposed battlecruisers met each other in wartime. However I may personally have been too critical in the past of Fisher: although he always emphasised hitting power and speed above all else, I learned here that he did actually propose a 'merged' battleship- armoured cruiser design, effectively a fast battleship, but that this was rejected because of the cost. The Germans had a similar debate - with the Kaiser favouring the fast battleship. This was also rejected because of cost. Tirpitz championed a powerful armoured cruiser type, but the resultant ships nevertheless came closer to the battleship concept than the British designs. This was at least in part because the Germans built significantly lighter hulls and machinery and this freed up displacement for heavier armour protection. German dry docks could also accommodate much beamier hulls than could the British ones.

Every chapter covering the ship- classes starts with a detailed design background and construction history, followed by sections headed 'General Features' 'Protection' 'Machinery' 'Armament' and 'Service History': this is comprehensive, but it involves a certain amount of repetition. Interestingly, I learn that the RN decided on the large 12 inch gun as late as March 31st 1908, which at least in part explains why British Battlecruiser protection was only to earlier armoured cruiser standards. A table of specifications for each ship- type is provided.

The authors conclude that poor magazine protection procedures and the volatility of British cordite was the main cause of ship loss: German armour was often penetrated, despite the poor quality of British shells, but their ships did not blow up. However, the German ships do not escape criticism: their low freeboard was a major handicap, though they were not designed for the world - wide role (such as the dramatic voyage of 'Invincible' and 'Inflexible' to the Falkland Islands in December 1914). This fault, combined with large forward compartments, caused the actual loss of 'Lutzow' at Jutland, whilst 'Seydlitz' effectively sank in shallow water close to home. We see how the poorly protected 'Renowns' and the three 'Courageous' class ships were a consequence of Fishers return to the Admiralty and of misguided conclusions from success at the Falkland Islands and the First Battle of Heliogland Bight- both of which pitched battlecruisers against lesser armoured and light cruiser types.

The account of British ships ends with 'Hood' (as completed, effectively a fast battleship) whilst the authors conclude the German account with the 'Mackensen' and 'Ersatz Yorck' classes, of which no example reached completion. The authors do not mention that these German ships provided the design basis for the battlecruisers 'Scharnhorst' and 'Gneisenau' of the 1930's, which were to demonstrate very similar strengths and weaknesses.

Wartime operations occupy pages 187 to 236, though much operational coverage is also found in the preceding account of ship- types. Similarly, the chapter titled 'Technical and Operational Comparison' also repeats some earlier comment, though it does draw the strands together (this repetition has also induced me to be somewhat repetitive in my review!). The book frequently refers to relative industrial and shipbuilding capacity. The 'cost per ton' of shipbuilding in the two countries was similar. In earlier years the French could not compete with the RN because it took them twice as long- and so cost a lot more money- to build their ships: overall the Germans competed in efficiency terms, though their average construction time was 35.8 months against the British 27.3. The authors concede the individual superiority of the German ships, but also note that between 1908 and 1918 the RN built and operated fourteen battlecruisers to confront just seven German ones. The British also demonstrated superior preparedness, or 'recovery' time: two months after Jutland the RN had seven barttlecruisers available whereas the Kaiserliche Marine could only muster one.

There is a brief summary of other people's battlecruisers- notably the Japanese 'Kongo's', Russian 'Borodino's' and US 'Lexington's' - only two being launched, but originally planned as a class of no less than six ships. There are interesting drawings of French and Austro-Hungarian designs. The authors conclude that the Battlecruiser concept began to lose credibility after Jutland. It is noted that some of the last examples were eventually converted into aircraft carriers and that in this guise they assumed a role in some ways analogous to that of battlecruisers in the First World War.

This is a good book, partly because it is balanced in its approach. We are bombarded by books that emphasise the deficiencies (some of them unsubstantiated) of the British ships whilst lauding German designs. Here, the faults of RN battlecruisers are not 'glossed over' and the German examples are for once assessed objectively: they were fine ships, but did have design faults of their own and were certainly sinkable. A lot is learned here about the background to the sea war in general, including the essential role of economics and industrial muscle- also the inevitable impact of the personalities who fatefully made- or were lured into- the key constructional and operational decisions of the day.

You should find much here to interest you. I would have liked additional detailed layout drawings but the only real annoyance is the repetition, which is a consequence of the chapter layout. Overall, this is a fine effort on the part of its Italian authors and the book cost me only £26 to buy (the cover price being £40), which represents remarkable value for such a major work.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2016 8:26 PM BST

"Old Hoodoo" The Battleship Texas: America's First Battleship 1895-1911
"Old Hoodoo" The Battleship Texas: America's First Battleship 1895-1911

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brave effort. Poor reproduction, but a labour of love., 16 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book rather resembles a huge 'scrap book' of photographs, diagrams and drawings -all contemporary and the result of a great deal of research. Although this is a large format 400 page tome the authors text is quite short and largely a matter of linking all the illustrations through a modest narrative. Unfortunately many illustrations have been reduced to the point that original captions cannot be read- often even defying a powerful magnifying glass. Since the quality of reproduction is usually very poor and the photos are mostly woefully under exposed it can be hard to determine what, exactly, you are looking at: the authors do not enlighten us very much, so many of the engineering drawings remain rather a mystery. I gather the American Naval Institute Press narrowly rejected this book, but I can see why. It needs very high quality reproduction on top quality paper, and that would have made it unaffordable.

The first 167 pages cover background, construction and early history, pages 168 - 296 cover the Spanish American War and 297 - 345 later life and expending as a gunnery target. There is a great deal about the Cuban naval operations generally, including interesting detail describing the Spanish ships and rather more tedious details of numerous shore gun batteries. The faults of the Texas herself are recognized, but of course a decade passed between design and completion: being the first US battleship, Texas provided a major learning curve for the shipyard and US industry generally.

I found the careers of the officers interesting, Men like captain Philip progressed quickly during the Civil War but later languished for many years little employed until becoming captains in what, for the day, was old age. I note that rather sadly Captain Philip died only 18 months after the battle- presumably from natural causes.

I feel the authors learned as they progressed with this book. For example, there is a little confusion over the definition and role of barbettes as opposed to turrets and for an Englishman reference to 'the' HMS Inflexible, etc, becomes rather infuriating - one of those very little things that shouldn't matter but somehow do! Still, I admire the great effort made here. Too many naval books are commissioned by publishers on a conveyor belt, employing just a few 'famous' authors (notice how their books all run to 252 pages!). Here, however, Messrs Cowan and Sumrall wrote the book and then tried to get it published, so I forgive the poor paper quality and reproduction: we need a few more people prepared to have a go and accept private publishing if the money making publishers fail to support them.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2016 2:37 AM BST

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20