By HP Willmott
Published Jan 2010
For the first 40 years of the 20th century, the battleship – or rather, the idea of the battleship – ruled the high seas. Britain and Germany, America and Japan, France, Italy and Russia, all invested hugely in the power and prestige which these behemoths could project, but long before the end of World War II, the battleship was dead in the water – either literally, most often sunk by carrier-borne aircraft, or metaphorically, deprived of a raison d’etre in the war at sea. It was an extraordinary and, for many, entirely unexpected reversal of fortunes. Willmott traces the story of the battleship from start to finish. He points out the fallacies underlying the Anglo-German naval race in the years before World War I. He takes issue with the orthodox view of Jutland and claims it as the greatest British naval victory. He reassesses the interwar Washington and London treaties and looks closely at the vessels which resulted from their structures. He contrasts the plans navies then made for their battlefleets, and gives a comprehensive account of the triumphs and disasters that attended the deployment of battleships during World War II.