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Ships' names are often re-used. In one instance, for example, I confused a British WW2 Tribal class destroyer (HMS Maori) with an earlier ship of the same name and class from WW1. I mention this to explain that the subject of this book (HM Submarine X1) has no similarity to or connection whatsoever with the X-Craft which famously attacked the German battleship Tirpitz in 1943. Whereas those X-Craft displaced 270 tons, this much earlier X1 displaced a much larger 2,700 tons. In a technical though fascinating work which is occasionally hard-going as a read, I learned a great deal not only about HMS X1 but also about many of the topics on the periphery of which I already had some knowledge. I did not previously know, for example, that David Beatty achieved Flag rank (i.e. two star admiral) at the age of 39 and was the youngest officer to gain such early promotion since Nelson - but I digress!

HMS X1 was an experimental submarine (hence the `X'). Launched in 1923 and commissioned in 1925, she was dogged by bad luck and mechanical misfortune throughout her career which, author and historian Roger Branfill-Cook aptly describes at one point as a `Litany of failures.' Indeed, she was so prone to anything and everything going wrong that when she finally capsized in dry dock in 1931, the event was viewed as a very good reason to ceasxe all spending on the boat. She was finally scrapped in 1936. All of which might have lead to a very boring read about a very uninspiring boat (all submarines being boats - not ships) - but not so. Instead, what we learn is the existence of a vessel which was many years ahead of its time. Both the concept and the design of this a very large submarine sporting four 5.2 in. guns - arranged in two turrets, in addition to six forward-facing 21 in. torpedo tubes was as sound as any. The appropriate machinery to power such a vessel was not yet, however, of the standard required and caused the vessel to become a very expensive nuisance. As is so carefully explained, it was that ongoing nuisance factor which lead to everyone overlooking the true worth of the vessel as they wrongly concluded she had no real place in what was then regarded as a very modern navy.

The book begins with the history surrounding the emergence of the first really big submarines and the perception which existed in some minds at the end of WW1 that future navies would include underwater-going cruisers, aircraft carriers and possibly more. In support of this, the K class and M class submarines are afforded full exposure complete with line drawings and photographs. The M class (circa 1917) being originally supposed to carry a single 12 in. gun of the type carried by Formidable class battleships but only M1 was so equipped. M2 was converted to carry a seaplane and M3 to mine-laying duties. It is from the inclusion of this peripheral information that we come to realise the depth of research and information included on every aspect of the story of HMS X1.

The following chapters are; 2. Design criteria, 3. Propulsion machinery, 4. Handling, 5. Armament, 6. Hull, fittings & complement, 7. Trials & Tribulations, 8. A Cushy billet, 9. A Litany of failures and 10. An Unlucky fall. That fall was the incident in which the boat capsized in dry dock and, ordinarily, might have brought the book to its conclusion. Instead of this, however, we find two more exhaustive chapters in which other navies recognised the value of the larger submarine with Chapter 11 covering the US, French, Japanese and German reactions. Chapter 12 allows the author to place his own thoughts into perspective by dwelling on `what might have been' amongst other topics.

Lavishly illustrated with plenty of line drawings and plans covering every element of the different craft under discussion, artwork and plenty of relevant historic photographs, the work concludes with three Appendices, Notes, Bibliography and Index and is as complete as one might hope to find.

Altogether a definitive account of a single vessel viewed from every conceivable angle.

NM
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on 16 July 2014
A little too Technical in Places, Difficult to follow, Drawings too small and feint to pick out detail, Possibly would have benefited from the technical aspect being separate from the General History,
I would have liked to have read the general History/Story of the Sub and Crew and be able to refer to the Technical side,
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on 16 November 2013
I didn't know much about X-1 before reading this book, so I have no way of knowing whether all details are correct. I do, however, know a bit about shipwrecks, and I am afraid the author is badly confused when he writes "The wreck of the M1 was discovered off Portland in 1999...". By the submarine discovered "off Portland" the author must mean the M2, which actually lies in Lyme Bay, and way discovered in 1932; the same year that she sank. The wreck was dived by sports divers well before 1999. The wreck of the M1 lies in much deeper water south of Bolt Tail in Devon. It was discovered by Innes McCarney in 1999.
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on 3 July 2013
This book, with its historical interest in submarine cruisers and in particular the X.1, was exactly what I was looking for as part of my study into submarine history, together with both the treason and political dramas that were played out over this particular platform.
The drawings and photographs certainly bring the book to life.

For me, a very rewarding read.
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on 8 September 2014
An excellent book , well researched and illustrated covering the little known history of what was for many years the largest submarine in the world. The drawings depicting the interior of the X1 are quite unique.
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on 21 August 2015
A good account of a frequently overlooked warship. A lot of primary official sources used. Some social and historical context presented.
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on 4 October 2015
Really interesting tale about a Submarine - possibly ahead of it's time which didn't quite work as it was meant too.
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on 28 August 2015
excellent
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on 28 July 2014
Excellent near technical document.
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on 25 November 2015
VERY PLEASED
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