Book Review British Submarines in Two World Wars - Friedman

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by von Poop, Oct 30, 2019.

  1. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    British Submarines in Two World Wars
    Norman Friedman

    Seaforth Publishing.
    Pages: 432
    Illustrations: 300
    ISBN: 9781526738165
    Published: 24th June 2019
    RRP: £40 (Seen for c.£30 on Amazon)
    British Submarines in Two World Wars


    Anyone familiar with P&S's Seaforth imprint will know that they seem to be aiming at a layer of 'high end' substantial hardbacks with no compromise on production quality. This title certainly hits the mark with physical presence, with a large format (rather tricky to read in bed without braining yourself), glossy paper, and top notch image reproduction. Sometimes these relatively expensive books can make you balk a little on internet purchase without physically feeling the quality. I'll stick my neck out & say I'd be surprised if anyone was disappointed on that score.

    I've quite a bit on German submarines, but have never fully grasped how the British went about things - so what we have here is a solid primer on the technological & industrial development of these boats. It isn't an operational history, it's very solidly focused on the incremental story of UK boat development over the period (though, obviously, starts at the very beginning with turn-of-the-century stuff, those boats coming only shortly before WW1).

    Friedman's a good 'development' writer. I want to know what happened in a chronological order, & I want to know why. He succeeds ably at this while having that authentic ring of someone that could expand at even greater depth & has done all his homework, but knows how important organisation & focus are in books like this. He begins with clear explanations of the basic technology of subs and then moves on in a logical way that means you don't become confused or have to keep referring back to re-read sections. Each chapter's tightly tied to specific 'related' classes or important technological moves, no dither or bloat - every single section makes sense & gives a feeling of detail & flow - not two things that always go together.

    The only thing that possibly breaks that flow are the early picture captions. They're reminiscent of ATB books in their depth of explanation. A paragraph for each shot. (Magnifying glass often required to see some mentioned feature), though these large captions do tail off somewhat later, leaving me thinking his primary interest is the really early stuff.

    I tried to find negatives, as positive reviews are quite dull, but really couldn't.
    I've only a passing Naval interest so maybe those with deeper knowledge might find fault in the detail, but as an overall survey of British Subs I came away feeling like I'd had the most thorough technological primer possible in one volume.
    I'm amazed at how fast things advanced, and how tightly the vessels followed engine developments, with every internal combustion advance being picked up almost instantly.

    Special mention for the illustrations - a great many full double-page line drawings from that Lambert chap, & at the centre some lovely fold-out colour scans. My other half may have said "All the photographs look the same", & I almost agreed before reading as I've now been briefed in Fairwaters, Deadlights & subtle differences in Conning Tower development in a way that brings the images alive.

    IMG_20191029_232855406.jpg IMG_20191029_232903512.jpg IMG_20191029_232918054.jpg

    The fiddly bits at the end of any decent book are also thorough & well presented. Nearly fifty pages of dense small print notes, a bibliography riddled with ADM files & other books that'd doubtless assist anyone really wanting to investigate more thoroughly, an appendix of data by class, full list of boats by number & (praise be) a good index.

    Well worth the price.
    Would make a cracking Christmas pressie.
    Seaforth do it again.

    Cheers to P&S for the review copy (with apologies for taking a while... big book.)

    Shane Greer, Dave55, Chris C and 3 others like this.
  2. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Great review and you hit all the important points. I’m very glad I bought this book and echo your recommendation for anyone who has an interest in British submarines.
    kopite and von Poop like this.
  3. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I have to say I've had my eye on this book for a while. Might get it for Xmas.
    Chris C likes this.
  4. hucks216

    hucks216 Member

    I have a fair few Seaforth books and every one of them is top quality. If you want a superb book on the operational side of British & Allied submarines in 1939/1940 then you won't be disappointed with No Room For Mistakes by Geirr Haarr (also published by Seaforth). There is a 'Used' copy on Amazon for £10 - bargain price.
    Orwell1984 likes this.
  5. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Couldn’t agree more. Excellent book by an excellent historian.

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