Casemate's Dreadnoughts and Superdreadnoughts

Author/Artists: Chris McNab




$49.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 224 pages,  hardcover, over 200 photos and illustrations. 7x10 inches.
ISBN: 978-1-63624-086-2

For centuries, the image of maritime power was the big gunned warship. During the age of sail, it was not uncommon to find major ships of the line festooned with dozens of guns of various size. It was also fairly common for sea battles to result in floating hulks as ships were often robbed of masts, steering and crew by the cannon balls of the other side. Few ships sank as wood tends to keep things afloat.

With the change to ironclad warships, so came a change in the way they were powered. Initially it was coal fired boilers that produced sufficient steam to operate turbines that moved the propellers. While this was a good way at the time, it limited the range of the ships or required them to provide a lot of space for this fuel. It also often required overseas coaling stations where stockpiles were kept if the ships needed to travel long distances.

Since the British needed a strong navy to maintain its empire and to keep the sea lanes open, they were often the innovators of things nautical. So it was with the battleship that replaced the sail powered ship of the line in the mid 1800s.

There were three major factors to building warships. Providing sufficient protection, providing sufficient armament, and providing sufficient speed. All of these affected each other. Increase weight and speed decreases. Increase armament and that weight detracts from either speed or armor protection. All something naval designers had to consider.

Prior to the HMS Dreadnought, battlships had a variety of gun sizes to deal with different situations. With the Dreadnought, it was decided to concentrate on having large guns with a minimum number of intermediate and smaller sizes. In this way, the fewer, larger, heavier guns would be able to fit to the ship without degrading speed or armor protection. It was quite an eye-opener and swayed the thought of what made a battleship with future builds basically following the same 'big gun' way of thinking. The HMS Dreadnought carried 12 inch main armament. Those that followed with larger guns were called 'super dreadnoughts'. Those battleships that sacrificed armor for speed were called battlecruisers.

This book covers the development of HMS Dreadnought as well as other ships of similar design that followed. It includes not only the ships, but delves into the switch from coal to oil to power the ship's turbines as well as changes in armament and torpedo protection. While the main concentration of the book is on British developments, it also covers other nations that operated these ships like Germany, France, United States, Japan, Chile, and Argentina. As this is part of Casemate's Illustrated History series, you are provided a mass of photos, including some of preserved ships along with a fair number of illustrations and tables to help explain the development of these ships and major systems.

In all, it is another superb edition in this series and one that I am sure you will find as interesting and enjoyable as did I.

 December 2021

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