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am 19. November 2013
I recently described two more books in this series by R. A. Burt as works you would want to own and this is no different. The extent of the detail given to every aspect of technical information really is most impressive.

By the mid 1880s the Royal Navy’s ability to conduct a modern war at sea was being openly questioned. The resultant Naval Defence Act of 1889 led to a programme of an astonishing 52 battleships being constructed over the next 22 years. With such a vast empire to police and protect, the Royal Navy always maintained a fleet of ships equal in size and disposition to the next two largest naval fleets in the world so that it would be equal to the task should any two of those fleets join forces in opposition. This programme of complete reconstruction, however, was only spoiled by the introduction of the new Dreadnought design which was as revolutionary to the future development of warships as the jet engine would become to aircraft many years later.

This book, however, deals with the pre-Dreadnought British battleships 1889-1904 and is such an exceptional work it stands mast and funnel above all other books in my own library. By repeating the chapter headings, one gets an idea of the scope of the vessels covered; Royal Sovereign class, Hood, Centurion and Barfleur, Renown, Majestic class, Canopus class, Formidable class, Bulwark class, Duncan class, Queen class, King Edward VII class, Swiftsure and Triumph, Lord Nelson class, Appearance and changes, Battleship Forts and Battleship Exterminators, Conclusion, Bibliography and finally, Index.

Personally, I came to the work through my own ongoing research into the loss of two Duncan class battleships and, in order to give the reader an idea of the immense value of the work, the following detail is explained just for this single class of battleship. Altogether 21 pages are devoted to the Duncan class. Commencing with Design, we find technical details (as intended) for HMS’ Duncan and Albermarle with a rare photo of the former in Victorian colours. Line drawings of profile and deck plan accompany another photo of HMS Russell with the text continuing to describe every element of these vessels. Armament is followed by a sequence of photographs showing HMS’ Cornwallis completing in 1904, Duncan and a closer view of the latter’s guns being replaced in Malta in 1909.

With the remainder of the section also accompanied by even more excellent historic photographs, we find; technical details (as completed); brief details of all 6 ships of the class by name, displacement, dimensions, armament, armour, machinery, ship’s boats, searchlights, anchors, wireless, complement and the cost of each vessel and guns. Various cutaway sections (profile and a number of cross sections) with each internal compartment numbered and explained. The vessels’ stability is followed by an in-depth appreciation of the Cornwallis’ steam trials of 1903 and the class collective steam trials. Appearance changes is followed by a potted history of each of the 6 individual ships of the class.

Commencing with HMS Duncan, we find a bullet list of events by date from ‘laid down’ to ‘towed to Dover for scrapping.’ HMS Montagu follows in similar format but with a particularly descriptive narrative relating to her grounding and eventual loss. HMS’ Cornwallis, Russell, Albermarle and Exmouth are then given their own similar treatment.

If this extensively detailed information relating to a single class of pre-Dreadnought battleship were then to be multiplied by the remaining classes found within this outstanding work, I would suggest most readers will find the answers to all the questions they may have.

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