Book Review-‘Spoils of War: The fate of enemy fleets after the two World Wars’ by A. Dodson and S. Cant

By Innes McCartney, published January 2021


This most interesting new publication by Aidan Dodson and Serena Cant has been aimed at filling a long-noted gap in the histories of the fleets of the defeated nations of the First and Second World Wars after hostilities had ceased, describing the ultimate fates of the surrendered vessels by destruction and accident. It serves as a long overdue corrective to much of the previous published material on this subject. Researchers who have worked in this field (including this reviewer) have long known that most of the previous texts (notably Gröner’s two volumes on the German navies of this period) are strewn with factual errors and generalizations which do not stand up to scrutiny when new archive and archaeological evidence is uncovered.

It is to the credit of the authors that they have done much to improve what was, for the main part a very unreliable record. This has been possible because they have drawn together a number of sources, including local press reports and the reported discoveries made by divers and maritime archaeologists. But perhaps the single most important new source to see its way into print in this book is the contents of the Admiralty sales ledger, 1919–39, held at the Naval Historical Branch. This contains the details on the disposal of the High Seas Fleet after the First World War. The same source was the basis of this reviewer’s study of the scuttled fleet at Scapa Flow, but it contains so much more than that, detailing the fates of virtually every surrendered U-boat and surface vessel, from which the authors have drawn deeply…

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Filed under: Interwar | Post WW2
Subjects include: Navies

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