Top positive review
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Destined to be a Classic
on 8 January 2014
This book, by an ex-Fleet Air Arm pilot and later curator of the FAA Museum, will undoubtedly become regarded as THE authoritative book on British Aircraft carriers and naval aviation.
Cdr Hobbs previously published books include "Aircraft Carriers of the Royal & Commonwealth Navies " and "Royal Navy Escort Carriers" which are already established as standard works. This book virtually supercedes, and greatly expands them to cover the entire history of British naval aviation and it's carriers.
It combines the technical and operational history of the carriers, in far more detail than any prior work, plus considerable information on carrier procedure and comparisons with foreign navies
The Good Points
(which far outnumber the weaknesses)
The book uses the narrative of British naval aviation development as the basis for the ship details, in a very easy to follow way, while still enabling each class and ship to be individually examined. Sometimes by splitting a ship's history etc into sections through two or three chapters - which has been very skillfully done indeed. A considerable improvement on Norman Friedman's otherwise excellent but sometimes difficult to follow " British Carrier Aviation"
The photographs and plans are apposite, well chosen and well captioned. And there are plenty of them. Glossy paper helps.
The author's experience is well used to explain many features of naval operational procedure on board which until now have been unfamiliar to most of us. This is one of the book's great virtues
The degree of technical detail, both in the text and the tables far exceeds that previously available, especially in the post 1960 period. Indeed I am somewhat surprised that much of it has now been made public. And most is of great interest , and very little is too dry, for the average reader.
Indeed the entire post Second World War period is covered extremely well, with much new information, which at last makes sense of a confusing period. The author shows his biases in an unconcealed manner, but as most readers, including myself, will probably agree with his views over the political mismanagement, I see this not as a fault but a virtue! The details of the Queen Elizabeth class are good, and give a good overview of the current state of play.
The Bad Points
The author seems, perhaps deliberately, to have largely avoided the major difference between the American and British navies over the use of the flight deck for permanent aircraft storage. As it affected dramatically the aircraft capacity (the USN carriers had far more capacity due to accepting this) I feel it should have been given more coverage
The photographic reproduction, although acceptable, is not to Seaforth's usual quality. It would seem that most of the out-of-copyright material (all marked, unhelpfully , "Author's Collection" ) is from second generation prints and is slightly "grainier" and of poorer contrast than it should be.
The book sports several beautiful fold-out ships Admiralty profile drawings - the best reproduced I've ever seen. But the reduction in size has rendered illegible most of the captioning and made an always difficult task of interpretation largely impossible.
Seaforth's Attempts to Ruin the Eyesight of its Readers ( SARTER) continues. The typeface has had to be reduced in size to accommodate a vast amount of text. Consequently it can be somewhat tiring to read , especially by artificial light, for prolonged periods . The photo captions are in even smaller type, albeit mercifully in bold. But given the choice of less data or bigger type, I certainly prefer the former. Perhaps Seaforth should have considered a slightly bolder version of this size. But one cannot have everything.
A Personal Quibble
The author's Introduction states that it covers "all those ships which had the operation of aircraft as their primary purpose ". The book includes , quite rightly in my opinion , HMS Ocean, but omits RFA "Engadine " (1967 -1989). Although a Royal Fleet Auxiliary I think her long service deserves at least a footnote. My first helicopter flight was made in 1969 from this ship so perhaps I'm prejudiced!
This is still however a magnificent book and a "must buy "