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British Coastal Forces (Hardback)

Two World Wars and After

Maritime > Naval > Royal Navy Maritime > Seaforth Publishing Photographic Books WWI WWII

By Norman Friedman
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 400
Illustrations: 300 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399018586
Published: 24th May 2023

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The Royal Navy invented the fast motor torpedo boat during the First World War, and used it and other small coastal craft to great effect during the Second. This book tells the dramatic story of British coastal forces, both offensive and defensive, in both World Wars and beyond.

In the Second World War British coastal forces fought a desperate battle to control the narrow seas, particularly the Channel and the North Sea, and took the war to the coasts of German-occupied Europe, fighting where larger warships could not be risked. They also made a significant contribution to victory in the Mediterranean, but it was primarily warfare in home waters that shaped wartime British Coastal Forces and left lessons for postwar development.

In this book, Norman Friedman uniquely connects the technical story of the coastal craft and their weapons and other innovations with the way they fought. In both world wars much of the technology was at the edge of what was feasible at the time. Boats incorporated considerable British innovation and also benefited from important US contributions, particularly in supplying high-powered engines during World War II.

In contrast with larger warships, British coastal forces craft were essentially shaped by a few builders, and their part in the story is given full credit. They also built a large number of broadly similar craft for air-sea rescue, and for completeness these are described in an appendix.

This fascinating, dramatic story is also relevant to modern naval thinkers concerned with gaining or denying access to hostile shores. The technology has changed but the underlying realities have not. This book includes an extensive account of how coastal forces supported the biggest European example of seizing a defended shore, the Normandy invasion. That was by far the largest single British coastal forces operation, demanding a wide range of innovations to make it possible.

Like other books in this series, this one is based very heavily on contemporary official material, much of which has not been used previously – like the extensive reports of US naval observers, who were allowed wide access to the Royal Navy as early as 1940. Combined with published memoirs, these sources offer a much more complete picture than has previously appeared of how Coastal Forces fought and of the way in which various pressures, both operational and industrial, shaped them.

Recommended without any hesitation.

Read the Full Review Here

Military Model Scene

This is a wonderfully detailed book that sets out to be, and achieves, a position as a go-to reference on British Coastal Forces. The level of historical detail captured by Friedman is as broad as it is deep, and will fill many gaps in the small-ship knowledge of even the most seasoned naval historians.

As a one-stop inculcation into the evolution of British Coastal Forces, this book is now the stand-out volume.

Read the full review here.

The Naval Review

"This is a magnificent book about hard-hitting boats, their crews and creators."

Warships International Fleet Review, October 2023

"A valuable reference work that will be a highly useful resource for any naval enthusiast or student of history."

Classic Military Vehicle Magazine - Issue 268, September 2023

This is a very impressive work that is likely to remain the definitive work on the subject for the foreseeable future. Norman Friedman’s research and his analysis of the many tasks carried out by RN coastal forces over a period of seventy-five years are exemplary and this book adds significantly to his earlier ranges of books covering larger warship types in both the RN and USN. Anyone interested in fast attack craft and their development must consider this book an essential addition to their bookshelf and even those who only have a broader interest in warships will find the content fascinating. I recommend it highly.

Read the review here

Australian Naval Institute

"There is a huge amount of technical detail, it really is impressive..."

The Armourer – August 2023

I have been privileged to be given the opportunity to review this excellent publication. I have long had a fascination with coastal forces of the world and this certainly does not disappoint. As the title says it focuses on British Coastal Forces covering their operational life.

The book follows a chronological approach, but with excellent sections on some of the key actions. The author takes us through how the forces responded and the innovations in technology and weapons that followed.

For the modeller we have good technical drawings of the boats which should be sufficient for most purposes. There is also a section on the Air Sea Rescue boats which I had not previously seen in other volumes.

All in all a superb book which I am sure will become a reference work for all those who are interested in this area.

The Society of Model and Experimental Engineers Newsletter - July 2023

This book has all the hallmarks of Norman Friedman‘s previous books on British warship classes - exhaustive research, comprehensive informative text and well captioned, fascinating photos. It really is the “complete” story of RN Coastal Forces from the CMB to the final days of the Scimitar class. As I have remarked in reviewing some of Friedman’s previous books, this is not a book to read in one go but to be enjoyed in quiet study. Very highly recommended.

Peter Wykeham-Martin - Warship World

I have been privileged to be given the opportunity to review this excellent publication. I have long had a fascination with coastal forces of the world and this certainly does not disappoint. As the title says it focuses on British Coastal Forces covering their operational life. The follows a logical chronological approach, but with excellent sections on some of the key actions. The author takes us through how the forces responded and the innovations in technology and weapons that followed.

For the modeller we have good technical drawings of the boats which should be sufficient for most purposes. There is also a section on the Air Sea Rescue boats which I had not previously seen in other volumes.

All in all a superb book which I am sure will become a reference work for all those who are interested in this area.

Brian Smyth

As featured in

Cher Ami, GWSIG Newsletter – International Plastic Modellers Society (UK) – April 2023

As featured in

The Bookseller, Jan 23

Featured in

Great War IPMS Newsletter, Cher Ami - December 2022
 Norman Friedman

About Norman Friedman

NORMAN FRIEDMAN is arguably America’s most prominent naval analyst, and the author of more than thirty books covering a range of naval subjects, from warship histories to contemporary defence issues. His most recent titles in a series of successful works for Seaforth are the two volumes of his history of British Submarines.

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