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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2013
The Battleship Builders : Constructing and Arming British Capital Ships
by Ian Johnston & Ian Buxton Published by Seaforth, ISBN 9781848320932

There are a myriad of military history books churned out each year, yet very few are of true national or international importance within their field. This book is one of those exceptional publications, a book for which both authors should receive high praise from amongst their peers, the historical & academic communities and general public alike.

This book charts the British industrial shipbuilding and arms manufacturing conglomerates, that helped forge & construct the 50 odd battleships that gave the Royal Navy a global presence & strength from the early years of the 20th Century, through to the eve of WW2 where it was over-taken by the industrial might of the USA and the ships of the USN. We see how these huge industrial concerns rose to the challenge posed by Germany prior to WW1, the technological advancement of production techniques, the physical expansion of facilities and the merry dance of financial priorities played by both the Admiralty & the various ship builders. After WW1, the passing of various naval treaties and the global financial depression saw many famous names disappear or merge to survive. How the Admiralty tried to keep the yards busy and skilled labour employed, whilst balancing its treaty obligations and its dwindling budget working as best it could. All these facets would have far reaching consequences when new Battleships were needed to provide a defence against a resurgent Germany and the growing menace of both Italy & Japan.

To tell this story of how Britain built more Battleships than any other nation in history, the authors have broken the book into some 13 chapters. The first 3 chapters gives us the broad historical foundations & backdrop from 1860-1945, when these momentous events took place. Chapter 4 The Builders, details out all the main ship builders yards, with detailed schematic maps of there building operations. The information is priceless, especially since many of these companies no longer exist, and their archives destroyed, lost or scattered in the wind. Chapter 5 concentrates on the actual construction & construction techniques. Chapter 6 looks at the facilities such as dry docks, cranes, covered sheds & berths etc. Chapter 7 deals with the powering requirements of Battleships, whilst Chapter 8 gets to grips with the procuring of guns for them. The other essential element of Battleships, Armour, is covered in Chapter 9. How the armour was produced from plants (mainly around Sheffield) and how the requirements changed over time and its onward effects. The vital export market in Capital ships is covered in 10. The key element of money is analysed in Chapter 11 and how the companies tried to win contracts, where they made & lost money on the contracts, which all dovetails in nicely to the subject of manpower in Chapter 12. The conclusion being the final and shortest chapter of the book.
There are 3 appendices of which the third deals with the British Battleship Breaking Industry, where a lot of money was made & lost.

The book is crammed full of fascinating (many unseen & unique) B/W photographs on almost every page, plus numerous maps & line drawings to help describe plant layouts or a pieces of equipment. The book is Indexed with a Bibliography and Notation pages.

If you have any interest in this period of Naval history, Battleships, the Royal Navy or Naval shipbuilding , then you will do well to get hold of this book at your earliest convenience. This book will soon become a out-of-print classic that will demand large payment figures in the future.

5 stars
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2013
I have not read any of Buxton's books, but have Johnston's earlier book "Clydebank Battlecruisers", and anyone expecting a similar type of book will be surprised and delighted. "The Battleship Builders" is less a book about ships and more a book about the industries, builders, and technologies required to build these ships. After an introduction and brief historical overview from 1860 to 1945, the book has chapters on the builders, building the ships, the facilities required, power plants, armaments, and armour and steel production. It finishes with chapters on exports, financing, and the work force and skills required to construct the ships.

Each chapter is fairly technical or technical enough for a non-naval engineer such as myself. However, they give a fair idea of the sophistication and at times difficulties encountered in building these warships. My favourite chapters were on power plants, armaments, and armour production, but even reading about the ancillary equipment required to build these ships was interesting. As you would expect there are numerous photographs, tables, and diagrams - some of which I have seen before. Sadly, some of the diagrams such as those of HMS Agincourt's 12-inch turret on page 192 are too small to make out the fine detail. However, this should not put anyone off buying the book

Nevertheless, this book is a fine addition to the library of anyone interested in these ships, and well worth the price.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2013
This is a superlative piece of work, with a wealth of detail, knitting together what I suspect is a fast-disappearing understanding of the subject. It provides a wonderful capping piece from which the reader would be able to conduct more detailed research into various aspects of battleship design and construction in the various surviving archives. Without this expert overview, I suspect the archive material will, over time, become impenetrable.

While the technical descriptions are fascinating, the discussion and explanation of the commercial development of the supporting industry is at least as interesting and possibly of more value. As a naval engineer working in the UK industry, it is an eye-opener to discover what some of today's companies were actually doing a century ago.

The illustrations and photographs are similarly impressive and well selected.

I doubt there is a finer book on the subject and would be surprised if this book was ever surpassed.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2013
This is an obsessive, fascinating, unputdownable work of scholarship that is not only a definitive statement of who by and how these massive machines were built, but also a threnody to Britain's lost industrial might. The pictures alone are worth the price.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 2 June 2013
When I was a young lad, my dad told me about the time when he was a young lad. HMS Hood visited bay of Capetown and, he told me, that virtually everyone ran down just to catch a glimpse of the most famous, most beautiful and most powerful `battleship' of all time. We know of course that a more modern, better-protected German battleship `did for it' with superior armour and (I suspect) superior gun control. However, for millions, the world over, and certainly for my dad, this rather missed the point: for this was the embodiment of wonderful British engineering, a show of benign power coupled to awesome strength and of course the very essence of Empire. Without doubt, Hitler knew, and Churchill too, that as soon as Bismark first ran up steam in her boilers to act against Britain, then it was only a matter of time before she was destroyed and I suspect very knowledge of this fear affected adversely the naval strategies of Hitler and Raeder alike.

This book is a wonderful, rich, cornucopia of the manufacturing, technical, financial and political expertise concerning the design, manufacture and deployment of the `modern day' battleship. It is almost a metaphor for the British Empire itself and the debacle that was Force Z must have reinforced the view that sadly the age of the big gun ship, as well as the Empire itself was drawing to a close. Do not let this dissuade you, however, from this excellent publication which showcases our ingenuity, our hard work, our excellent engineering skills and of course ability to respond favourably, when we stand alone against tyrannical powers. It also contains many excellent photographs and charts, which are worth the cover price alone.

If you are new to Battleships and wish to read an amazing overview of such delights, as well as how Britain used to have two full-time Battleship salesmen! Then I would recommend
"The Battleships by Ian Johnston and Rob Mcauley"
If you are more interested in the political machinations of the coming of the Dreadnought and Jutland, then "Dreadnought" and its sequel "Castles of Steel" by Robert Massie.

My dad decided to leave the nasty apartheid state at the age of 17 and of course the obvious choice was to study in the home of Empire where the promise of a life that was hinted at by Hood's presence was made real. He never forgot his gratitude. His greatest wish; to become more and more English, and when out shopping, before making any purchase I used to see him turn the item over and if it was stamped `Made in England' then it would be bought, and if not, it would be replaced on the shelf. Seems as distant now as those wonderful Battleships- but something of which we can all recapture via this amazing book and the others as above. Excellent: read it with pride.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2014
Gives an insight into the workings of the Victorian and Edwardian steel and shipbuilding industries
This is not a book about the ships that fought at Jutland but it is about the men who built them
and the companies throughout the country which employed them
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2013
This book contains a vast amount of information that is not available elsewhere. The pictures are well chosen, maps and plans really interesting. One minor point - I might have been happy to pay a bit morefor higher quality paper.
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on 21 March 2014
Brilliant book. Ian Johnston at his best.

Well researched, well presented, facts and figures and anecdotes and histories and pictures.... the whole lot.
The history of twentieth century industrial Britain in a nutshell. From the Liberal Government's spending budgets and priorities of the 1900s, through the manufacturing processes of heavy industry, to the depression and decline of 1970s Britain. It's all here. A hundred years in the making.

A wonderful book. And my prediction...? Glasgow's new Maritime & Transport museum won't stock it. Shame.
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on 8 June 2014
The book was well worth the purchase price. It is well written and informative and is obvioulsy based on extensive research from primary sources. Much of the information has not been published previously. The illustrations are also excellent drwing again on very m,nay sources and most were new to me. I would reccommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the subject. It deals with a fascinating era of our industrial history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2013
Just what I wanted to enhance my collection. Fantastic and unique photographs. What a gem, I could not put it down.
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