Book Review – ‘The Battleship Holiday: The naval treaties and capital ship design’ by Robert J. C. Mowat

By Robert J. C. Mowat, published February 2021


This is a book which belies its title, and is much the better for doing so. The successive treaties that define the title enter the narrative late (p. 87) and leave it early (p. 188) but are discussed in commendable detail. The complex interplay of personalities, national objectives and priorities, economic limitations and developing technologies that underlies them is described with clarity and brevity.

Predictably and justifiably, the study of technological developments predominates in the consideration of a period which may be seen as one of consolidation upon the principles laid down and developed with remarkable speed during the period of Dreadnoughts and Super-Dreadnoughts. The exhaustively documented technical developments of these hyper-specialized warships take pride of place, considerations of manpower, training and logistics being consistently ignored. In this context, the extended citation and consideration of both successive trials and battle damage (both summarized with consistent clarity) are of particular value.

The presentation of the work is excellent. The bibliography is comprehensive but the index somewhat less so; the footnotes are of particular value, going far beyond the mere citation of sources. The illustrations are judiciously selected and well reproduced, if sometimes undersized. Those depicting specific historical figures will linger long in the memory as adding ‘impression’ to historical ‘fact’: that of the massive Commodore Dreyer with the diminutive Admiral Jellicoe leaves a particularly strong impression. The price is entirely reasonable for a book of real quality which is a remarkable summary of a complex subject, and is recommended accordingly.

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Filed under: WW1 | English Channel | North Sea | Twentieth Century
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Navies | Shipbuilding & Design

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