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on 4 December 2011
This is an exhaustive study - it is also an exhausting one. But bear with the near 800 pages, because you will be richly rewarded and put down the book afterwards with the feeling that you yourself were involved in this chapter of the First World War. In itself, this is a true measure of a first rate writer's skill; Robert Massie again shows he is unquestionably that. He provides some astonishing revelations regarding the workings of the British and German Admiralties and very interesting explanations about the U-boat threat; how the `moving square' for convoys defrayed that threat; the real reason Americans joined the war (very late) and why the German naval forces came so close to mutiny in the closing months of 1918. Key dramatis personae such a Fisher, Beatty, Jellicoe, Hipper, Scheer and Ludendorff are less fully drawn than those Massie so comprehensively describes in his Dreadnought, which is perhaps a shame. However, one does get a workable indication of the personalities - Lloyd-George comes out as a petulant, unpleasant, `Welsh Windbag' of a man and Beatty seems a duplicitous fair weather friend. But Jellicoe is undoubtedly the true and modest hero whose grasp and retention, against all arguments, of the Grand Strategy is the true measure of the man who won the war at sea. That he was so shabbily treated at the closing stages does some of his colleagues plus British government generally, and Lloyd-George in particular, no credit whatsoever. The battles are describe in immense detail, almost as blow-by-blow accounts - they would become boring without Massie's skill in setting the stage and progress of the engagements, coupled with his insights and descriptive power regarding, for example, the comparative advantages of ballistics and armour, the horrifying injuries and the huge dedication of all involved at the face of battle. All in all, Castles of Steel serves to underline how shockingly awful this war was, and why, with the entrenched prejudices of the time, it couldn't possibly have been avoided by Britain if Europe, and she herself, were not to be smothered by Germany's autocracy.
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on 19 June 2014
Massie identifies the balance in ship design between guns, armour and speed. The British preferred speed with some sacrifice of armour; the Germans were happy to lose a little speed for increased protection. This was not all: German ships had more subdivided waterproof compartments than British ships and were more difficult to sink. On British ships magazines on lower decks were often left open to the gun turrets to help speed of loading (fostering huge internal explosions when gun turrets were hit allowing flash to travel into the magazines) where Germans always made use of flash barriers.

The capabilities and character crews, officers, captains and fleet admirals are explored in revealing detail.

Just as telling is Massie's exploration of the role of the Admiralty in London. Modern means of communication meant that the Admiralty could keep in contact with the fleets at sea. The problem here was that orders, guidance and other information from London were too frequently incomplete or out of touch with reality. One positive feature was room 40 - the 1st World War equivalent of Bletchley Park - giving British admirals information about the disposition of German ships. This decoding service - perhaps oddly - was not matched by Germany.

Massie identifies how the Admiralty became an almost personal fiefdom for Winston Churchill - until he was sacked following the Dardanelles failure.

Attempts to block shipping supplies both to Britain and Germany by their respective navies are given due attention. It was the German decision to make indiscriminate use of U-boats to do this (violating neutralities) that finally brought the USA into the war. At a time when German manpower was at its limit, Massie argues that the resulting influx of new Allied forces (albeit at first very green) was enough to turn the scales.
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on 26 July 2017
An absolute must read for strategy and naval history buffs alike.

Massie gives impressive detail on the war at sea while placing the campaign in the context of the wider conflict. The book details both the technological and tactical differences between the two sides but also the strategic imperatives affecting the parties and their respective political masters.

It's well written and clear. I thoroughly recommend.
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on 9 August 2016
One of those surprisingly gripping history books, that focuses on key characters to humanise history, looks at multiple viewpoints (British and German) and has a view. A great read
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on 9 March 2016
Having little knowledge of WW1 naval battles I decided to give this a read. I found the book extremely well written and informative and found it hard to put down. I highly recommend it.
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on 27 April 2017
An excellent read. About halfwaythrough
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on 7 June 2017
Well written historic account of the British and German naval clashes of world war 1.
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on 30 August 2017
Great book. Tried to buy it from TheGreatWar (YT channel) bookstore but pressed the wrong button and bought it from some other store. Very well written book anyway.
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on 19 May 2017
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on 7 August 2017
Well researched but easy and interesting to read.
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