Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Review - Naval Warfare by John Creswell

Just finished this book by Commander Creswell of the Royal Navy. It was originally published in 1936 but I have the revised edition from 1942. It is an examination of the strategy and tactics of the naval war during World War I, with most of the emphasis (obviously) on the British Navy. What I find especially interesting is that, as late as 1936, just three years before the outbreak of WWII, and even with some updates based on early WWII experience, his conclusions are that the battleship still reigns supreme on the high seas. He believes that submarines and aircraft are not serious threats to the battle fleet. He argues that a fast battleship well screened by destroyers should be immune from submarine attack. As for aircraft, while believing the jury is still out on their potency, still feels that the battleship can keep the sea and fend off all but the most concentrated of aircraft attacks. Certainly the battleship Prince of Wales and battle cruiser Repulse, which were sunk on the high seas by Japanese aircraft three days following Pearl Harbor, demonstrated that even fast battleships would be at risk when operating without air cover of their own. Creswell's conclusion that... "there seems strong grounds for believing that a fleet of battleships is a more effective basis for the control of sea communications than a force of aircraft embodying a similar or even a substantially greater proportion of national effort," seems unrealistic given the dominance of aircraft during WWII. It is interesting, however, to read a contemporary assessment to put the period into historical context.

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