Osprey's British Destroyers 1939-45: Prewar Classes

Author:

Angus Konstam

Publisher/Distributor

Osprey Publishing

Price

$18.00 MSRP

Reviewer:

Scott Van Aken

Notes: 48 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1636-8

Then end of WWI saw the UK with still the largest navy in the world. Though the US had made advancements in both ship design and numbers, the UK had so many ships that a good many had to be either mothballed, scrapped, or put on reduced operations.

Ships, however, do not last forever. There is a finite amount of time that a warship in particular is useful. One can make improvements and frequent overhauls can be used to extend the service life of a ship. This is especially true in times of austerity, which is exactly what the British and the rest of the world were facing following WWI and especially during the times of the Great Depression. With the start of WWII, there was an immediate need for warships. This was particularly true of convoy escorts. The Germans wasted no time starting up submarine warfare, leaving the Royal Navy scrambling for warships.

Fortunately, they did have a considerable number of destroyers. While many of these did not have the speed for keeping up with the fleet, they were perfect for slow convoys. There were also a number which did not have the range for convoy escort. This latter situation was resolved to some extent by removing boilers and replacing the space with fuel tanks.

The air threat was a much greater concern during WWII and so part of the moderization and conversion of these ships was to have modern A-A guns installed, while the torpedo tubes were removed as well as some of the turrets and anti-submarine weapons (depth charges and throwers) placed in their stead. Those ships that lasted long enough also got both surface and air search radars, which were a real boon to locating submarines. ASDIC (Sonar) was also a mandatory fit.

With all this additional equipment, additional crew were needed, but there was no additional space so life aboard these ships was cramped at best and miserable at worst. Especially on Arctic convoys.

This book covers the myriad of classes of destroyers operated by the Royal Navy during the war and in particular, concentrates on those classes that entered service prior to the start of the war. Some were WWI relics that were scheduled for decommissioning, but kept out of expediency. Others were 'treaty ships' while yet others were fairly modern. All are covered with the author going over the salient features of each class as well as any upgrades and modifications. Each class includes a full listing of ships as well as its eventual fate. Not surprisingly, like US destroyers early in the war, there were quite a few that were sunk in various actions. Chock full of great photos and some interesting art work, this is a must have for those wanting an overview of this rather complex subject. Well worth picking up and reading, I can quite easily recommend it for you.

April 2017

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