RogerBW's Blog

Rebuilding the Royal Navy, D. K. Brown and George Moore 10 May 2014

In 1945, Britain had a large and often hastily-constructed fleet which was clearly close to obsolete, and very little money with which to update it. This is the story of what happened next.

Brown himself worked as a Naval Constructor and in this volume writes from his own experience; Moore supplements this with declassified materials. The subtitle is "Warship Design Since 1945", but clearly not all the information is available yet (the book was first published in 2003), and things therefore get much fuzzier after the early 1970s. Overall this is as good an account of post-war British naval design decisions as one is likely to find for the moment.

This is a short book by page count, but a pleasingly dense one. After the first chapter introduces the overall situation at the end of the war, division is by ship type: "reconstructions" (severe refits and upgrades), carriers, submarines, destroyers, and so on. The political angle is treated only superficially; the process as presented here is very much one of the Navy making proposals and the Government cutting them back.

There's a fascinating section on the physical constraints of modern naval architecture, and another on other considerations (such as fire, stealth, lifeboats, and general survivability). This also deals with the lessons the RN learned from its experience in the Falklands; to me that's one of the most interesting aspects of the whole business, the feedback process from combat experience to future designs.

For me as a wargamer and alternate historian, the most valuable items here are the accounts of design studies: the original "cruiser carrier" that eventually became the Invincible class, the Type 19 frigate (which at one point was proposed as a 50,000 ton hovercraft), the various incarnations of CVA-01, and so on. Hard numbers are obviously a bit scarce, not surprising for ships that never actually made it into construction, but what there is is generally in the book.

Not particularly light reading, but highly recommended if you have any interest in post-war naval architecture.

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