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Engage the Enemy More Closely: The Royal Navy in the Second World War Hardcover – 1 Jan 1991

4.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1052 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; First Edition edition (1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340339012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340339015
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.2 x 5.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 567,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Correlli Barnett is a world-renowned historian with particular prowess in military, naval, economic and social subjects. Faber Finds are reissuing his four volume The Pride and Fall sequence: The Collapse of British Power, The Audit of War, The Lost Victory, The Verdict of Peace, as well as The Swordbearers, Britain and her Army, 1509-1970 (winner of the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Award) and Engage the Enemy More Closely (winner of the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I knew this of old, having the paperback version (now in two pieces, soon, I think, to be three) and having read it a number of times. We're far enough away from this period to be able to evaluate what went right, what went wrong, and who made the decisions which lead to what; he puts it all clearly into context (e.g why the UK was more or less broke after the First War), and for those paying close attention, there are streams of delightfully acerbic remarks - and pungent, apposite quotations from original signals - which bring a smile to the face; and he paints sharp pictures with his clear, economical English. A great read, and I'm extremely happy to have been able to pick up a hardback, a very good second-hand one.
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Format: Hardcover
I have immense respect for Correlli Barnett and his great insight into economic and military history but this volume has too many basic technial errors with which he berates the Navy.
For instance when describing the sinking of Force Z he states that the Japanese "used "24" torpedos with warheads of 1,210-pound, as against the 18" torpedos with 300-pound warheads used by the Fleet Air Arm..."

Only he is referring to the wrong torpedo, the one he describes is only used in Japanese submarines. The correct torpedo is the Type 91 Mod 1 or 2 which is an 18" torpedo with a warhead of 331lb or 452lb, ie exactly like the Fleet Air Arm ones.

Likewise when describing the Channel Dash " This futile attack with its tragic loss of brave men offers a bitter tactical contrast with the Japanese attacks on Prince of Wales.... Obscelete Swordfish with their top speed of 154 mph could not compare with the twin engined G3M Navy Type 96s with their top speed of 232 mph... Admiralty's and Air Ministry's peacetime neglect of martiime strike aircraft...."

So he comparing a carrier aircraft with a land based martime strike aircraft. A fairer comparison would be between the Swordfish and the B5N Kate and the Bristol Beaufort/Beaufighter and the Nell or Betty. The former flies at 265 mph and the latter at 232 mph and with better armour and defences albeit with less range, the RAF plane is the better option. What is strange is that only two paragraphs below he describes the later attack by 28 Beauforts!

Of course the real reason why the British lacked martime strike aircraft was that their main war effort was directed to bomber attacks against Germany and martime search aircraft defending convoys across the Atlantic.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A deeply researched and validated account of the Royal Navy through World War II. It underlines that the RN was the only one of the three services essentially engaged fully throughout the six years of the war. The leadership was of a very high order, lessons having been well learnt for failures in World War I Here are accounts of immense stamina and bravery, holding the key strategic maritime areas (the Atlantic and Meidterranean above all) open, supporting the Army, and frequently recovering it from disastrous campaigns (often not of the Army's choice), much second-rate equipment (compared to the USA in particular) due to the paucity oif funding during the inter-war years and the technical limitations of Britain's shipyards, and with inadequate air cover - both because Fleet Air Arm priorities were seen as secondary to the RAF's, and because th RAF considered covering RN and Army operations as a lesser priority than strategic bombing of Germany - a flaw in the RAF's 'DNA' that persists to this day, despite the clear experience that air power is endemic and must be completely intergral to virtually all operations land and sea..
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a comprehensive (over 1000 pages including the index) account of Britain’s Royal Navy during the Second World War. One has to admire the research and sheer hard work that went into preparing and writing it. It contains the first full account of “Operation Neptune” (the naval side of the Normandy landings) that I have come across. The book is worth buying just for the three chapters describing “Neptune”.

Overall, his thesis is that the Royal Navy performed brilliantly at the operational level but was repeatedly let down at the political and therefore strategic levels, and also by British industry. Barnett also argues that the British Empire and Commonwealth was a liability that had to be defended by a mother country with inadequate resources to do so effectively.

Even with a book of this length, it is perhaps inevitable that the analysis is patchy. Barnett repeatedly condemns British shipbuilding industry as being backward and antiquated, the workforce as being slothful and trade unions as being obstructive (e.g. pp 380, 438, 574). However, he does not give a single example to support this criticism; he simply self-refers to his own books.

He speaks of the follies of British policy in the 1920s and 1930s but does not say what, realistically, could have been done. Almost the only helpful thing the government could have done, in the light of British economic problems would have been to take control of the Fleet Air Arm away from the RAF and give it back to the Royal Navy. That might, at little cost, have given the Navy more and more effective carrier aircraft.

Barnett takes it for granted that, if the war had not started until 1944, Germany would have completed Raeder’s ‘Z Plan’ fleet of 13 battleships and four aircraft carriers.
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